Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, developed by Bulwark Studios for Kasedo Games, is a turn-based tactical game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. But players don't need to know anything about the franchise -- everything they need to know will be revealed in time. The game has been worked on by a small team of eight developers for over a year, but its E3 demo was an impressive introduction.
The demo skipped cut scenes in the interest of time, however, there is a commitment to a rich story written by Black Library author Ben Counter. Players control technologically advanced Adeptus Mechanicus forces on expedition to salvage ancient technologies from mysterious tombs on the planet Silva Tenebris. As Magos Dominus Faustinius of Mars, players' decisions will shape missions and have far reaching consequences.
Fans of Warhammer will pick up on small things that other players won't. Still, the story is intended to be easy to follow for newcomers and features compelling storylines involving betrayal and people caught breaking rules. Players, for instance, will choose how to deal with a character found incorporating alien tech despite prohibitions. Player choice, in fact, can influence which one of several endings they experience.
The game hub allows players to upgrade characters, manage resources and loot, and choose which missions to undertake. The hub includes not just weapons but also blueprints of weapons that can be found throughout missions. Blueprints allow 3D printing of weapons over and over if players have enough resources to craft it.
Players begin the game with a priest who has nothing equipped. Only one or two weapons can be equipped at any given time, such as one weapon and one support item like a healing item. There are also disciplines to choose from, though players don't have to remain in one class like in other tactical games. The choice of roles means players can create an attack-healer with five levels in attack and five in healing.
Changes to characters will be cosmetic as well. Equipped weapons and items will appear attached to characters. Disciplines likewise can be reflected in a character's head, arms, body and legs. As soon as players have one point in a given path, it opens access to different body parts. Multi-class characters therefore can have data-miner legs, a damage healer head and mech dentrites (extra arms or tentacles).
The demo represents an early game level with mid- to high-level characters. The ship has a large crew to select from for deployment. Players can choose four troops and two priests, for instance. Tech priests represent higher command. Troops are foot soldiers. Troops can help out or be used as cannon fodder, so it's useful to take a lot of them on missions.
Players also select from unlocked prayers, cants and litanies, which can be used at the start of a fight. They are unlocked through challenges such as killing 100 necrons (enemies), 50 of one type, etc. The demo includes three unlocked prayers, though that might increase. The canticle system might allow the choice of one at the start of every turn, but it won't be available again during the battle.
Adeptus Mechanicus communicate with a kind of WiFi signal between each other, so the player on the ship is fed a holographic projection of what's going on down on planet. A gauge (timer) will increase as the squad progresses from one room to the next. When it hits full circle, the enemy will start getting buffs like increased movement, armor, damage or numbers. The longer in a dungeon, the harder it gets.
Unlike normal tactical games, squads can move, attack, move, attack, etc., in a single turn until all such capabilities are exhausted. Players can choose from ranged or melee attacks in the movement area. If a melee weapon is equipped and a foe moves away, players get a free attack. Players should attack downed necrons who are kneeling, as the living-metal foes are in self-repair mode and can revive.
Players can use attacks, such as with heavy weapons, to score a critical hit on an enemy. If it results in death, the enemy can't self-repair. Heavy weapons include the flamer, a blaster, and more to come. Each enemy has different mechanics, but they all attack on a reactional basis. If squad members move anywhere within the enemy's awareness arc it will draw an attack. When wounded, players will have to choose to heal or attack.
Cognition points are an important element of combat and allow for doing a variety of things, like firing heavy weapons (which requires at least three points) or enabling more freedom of movement. Killing an enemy or visiting cognition reserves gathers cognition points. Servo skulls also can obtain cognition, but can only collect one point per turn; whereas characters can collect all the points available at a reserve.
Servo skulls are the heads of soldiers who died in battle, polished and outfitted with tech. Each class has a servo skull, and different disciplines have different skull buffs, i.e. the tank servo skull gives the user more armor. Some buffs can make it attack or improve enemy scanning. Such enemy scans, conducted by flying the skull to an enemy, can reveal health and armor levels that otherwise are too far to detect.
Another means of collecting cognition points is using servitor troops (lobotomized prisoners). Such troops have a passive ability, so whenever they're hit, players gain cognition points. Deploying them becomes a tactical move. Placing them in harm's way during a fight not only can distract opponents but if these troops are killed, tech priests can use the cognition points they gain to fire off heavy weapons right away.
At the demo's end, there is a fight with a mini-boss who changes the environment, such as wall placement. Unlike a lot of tactical games, there are impassable objects but no cover system, which can slow down the game. In a nod to Doom, players are encouraged to move forward and engage enemies with their melee weapons, pistols and massive heavy weapons, and use cognition points for better weapons and faster movement.
Likewise, there is no overheat feature or reload option. Instead, an angry machine spirit -- or broken sentient AI that's inside every weapon -- can get pissed off if pushed too far. Consequences include damaging the user by backfiring or targeting the nearest units such as allies. That's the risk of overusing one's weapons. It's a gamble that's meant to make tired mechanics of overheat or reload more fun.
In between moves, the game camera can be adjusted. However, camera freedom during moves is something that is planned for implementation. Game creators want fans to be able to take screenshots of the action from different perspectives. Another view, via a keyboard's space bar, allows players to see important data, such as whom a servo skull is attached to and how much health characters have.
All rooms and fights are hand-crafted by the developers. For instance, six different tile sets can allow for totally different visuals: Generic, or completely destroyed with rubble everywhere, spiderwebs or broken bridges that need to be activated. There are also different scenarios where players might be tasked with fighting or with escaping overwhelming odds by running from one side of the room to the other.
Connection between rooms, on the other hand, is randomly generated. An optional event might emerge after a match or while traveling through a dungeon. These can have positive or negative outcomes or both. Or nothing might happen. They can affect the game by restoring health points for the team, increasing/decreasing the timer, injuring squad members or giving resources.
The demo was a compelling mix of traditional tactical controls and more action-oriented combat. Instead of cover system tactics, the collection and use of cognition points is a tactical consideration for each fight. Random events in between rooms add to the entertainment. Add solid controls, a quality presentation and cool cosmetic elements, and Mechanicus is a game to watch for on PC, Mac and Linux.
Cybershoes, created by a company of the same name, are intended to provide an affordable and easy to use virtual reality accessory that enables increased player movement for deeper immersion. The booth had chairs, VR equipment and monitors set up to allow visitors the opportunity to traverse titles such as Skyrim VR or Fallout 4 VR in the relative comfort of E3.
The "shoes" are akin to hard plastic soles with a single small wheel -- perhaps a little larger than a roller blade -- that sits inside the widest part of the sole and slightly protrudes above the surface. The shoes strap to the bottom of one's feet or footwear while users sit in a swivel chair, and work when seated users move their feet along the floor in a walking/running motion.
The design is effective, as the wheels spin smoothly in their wheel wells, and the smooth sole surfaces mean one's feet glide easily even over carpet. When applied correctly, movement translates into relatively fluid on-screen motion with no framerate issues and players can traverse across in-game terrain with the only impediments being obstacles in one's path.
However, applying Cybershoes correctly, at least for this user, was an imprecise endeavor. Whether due to my inexperience with the product, to the somewhat small wheels imbedded in the shoes, or a combination thereof, movement had an element of trial and error. Sometimes movement was fluid and other times intermittent despite constantly moving my feet in a walking or running motion.
This was actually less frustrating than it was tiring, as I had to move my feet quite a bit more than my in-game progression would suggest. It didn't help that the Fallout 4 VR saves that my handler loaded had practically no enemies to engage with. Most of my time was spent just walking, so I ended up running to try and find something that would add more variety and help test them in an action scenario.
Another issue for me was that Cybershoes necessarily require smooth movement. I'm more at home with snap turns in titles like Skyrim VR and Farpoint where I can play for hours on end. But smooth turns in particular increase my discomfort so my playtime was limited. That said, I can see where this product will have appeal, especially for gamers who prefer playing while seated.
For myself, I've always preferred standing while playing VR games. The greater freedom of movement it allows helps immerse me in the game. However, Cybershoes should allow those who prefer sitting to experience a greater degree of freedom than otherwise, especially when used in combination with a swivel chair that allows for turning while venturing in-game.
The shoes are designed to be compatible with any Steam application that utilizes touchpads or motion controllers, as well as Microsoft Mixed Reality via the Steam platform and any application that supports gamepad, such as Sketchup, Autodesk Revit, Enscape, and Robot Studio. Specifically, they're made to function with SteamVR, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Reportedly calibration and linking to a VR rig is simple and getting ready to play is as easy as sitting in a swivel seat and strapping on the Cybershoes. Directional tracking is inside the device for a small footprint. Analog tracking is designed for high accuracy and small or fast steps. Cybershoes have been tested by virtue of more than 2,000 individual users.
I like the concept behind Cybershoes, the simple design and the fluid implementation in VR games. I did have an issue with intermittent movement, though more familiarity and practice could help overcome that. I would like to see a larger wheel inside each shoe for increased traction, as well as applications with other locomotion such as snap turning. But this is very promising and welcome tech that should find a market among VR equipment.
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