EGX 2022 – Excel, London

EGX arrived at the Excel Centre in London for its annual celebration of gaming culture, showcasing a variety of new and upcoming games in addition to panels, streaming events and an enjoyable, free to play arcade collection of titles. It was a broad church, appealing to both those who enjoy the opportunity to experiences new titles such as the upcoming Sonic Frontiers or Modern Warfare 2 before launch and a broader strata of the gaming community that just enjoy the ambiance of being in a safe and welcoming environment. It was a smaller experience than in previous years with no real visual presence from Sony or Microsoft on this particular occasion but still enough to enjoy over the space of a day. Though it may have lost a degree of its size and grandeur, there was a clear vision to bring to a wider domain the prevalence of streaming and cloud based gaming on show to explore at your leisure.

Being fortunate to visit on a weekday away from the weekend crowds, it was both a more relaxed and focused experience at the same time, smaller audiences perhaps but those in attendance eager to experience the newer releases and arriving as early as possible to get inside as soon as the doors opened on the day. Queues formed quickly as expected at the more popular games on show though that left some space in the retro and independent gaming sections to try a few games before the general entry gates opened. The usual staples of the gaming convention were on show, from cosplay entries to streaming platforms and a wealth of merchandise to spend money on. It’s always interesting to take a step back to observe what different people take from an experience like this, the rush to try every new game, the extrovert showcasing a particular costume, or just finding a little happiness surrounded by likeminded individuals. It brings out the more positive qualities of the gaming community.

It was a broad church, appealing to both those who enjoy the opportunity to experiences new titles and a broader strata of the gaming community


Merchandise, and another framed picture from Patrick’s Art Room

New Experiences

Another early start travelling across London to the Excel Centre in the East End awaited though since the last major convention back in May, the new Elizabeth Line now provides a more direct and quicker service to Custom House consigning memories and experiences of intimate journeys on the Docklands Light Railway to the conventions a thing of the past. The arrival process was the usual exercise in attrition walking long lines around snaking barriers before waiting a short time to gain entry to the exhibition halls. Many of the restrictions from previous conventions around social distancing and the use of face masks in the last year have lifted though some visible observance was still prevalent. All requirements for vaccination status lifted creating a certain sense of normalcy to the event though certainly it is a smaller experience in contrast to previous conventions before the Pandemic.

It had a different sort of energy to the general Comic Con conventions, notably a prevalence of streamers and influencers engaging in live content as they walked around the exhibition halls being filmed by others. It’s a little unsettling, a degree of showmanship to be seen to be playing a particular title in a persona of sorts, almost a façade. It’s not a style I find personally appealing but objectively an event of this nature affords an opportunity to build a presence in the digital domain so to each their own. The early queues at the premier titles and desire to be ‘the first’ afforded a degree of freedom to explore a few of the smaller independent studios and titles on show at the event away from these early entrants. I was drawn to The Last Starship, it had the feel of FTL in it’s presentation and style. Also Planet of Lana which had a more relaxed animated style on show. And a pretty intriguing robot in the centre of its display.

Given the limited size and space for the smaller independent studios, it does require an element of perseverance and opportunism to try a particular titles. The larger titles operating with controlled queue management, the smaller games more luck if you had the opportunity to find an empty seat to try a particular release. It can feel a little overwhelming on your own finding an opportunity to try these games but from personal experience it just requires an element of determination to take a seat when the opportunity presents itself to enjoy a particular game you find engaging and appealing. During the weekend, probably a more challenging situation but on the weekdays, surprisingly easy to try a variety of games with only a short queue to try the premier releases. And when your feet were tired from walking the length of the exhibition halls, the opportunity to take a seat at a panel and absorb a little knowledge on what interests you.

The organisation of the event seemed to be a little chaotic in it’s implementation, or relying too much on digital interaction through third party apps and codes. Which works when you have a reliable connection, challenging in an environment in it’s absence. In contrast to other conventions which had a more regimented design and layout, here you had the sense given the smaller size of the halls in use, there was a clear distinction and priority between the premier titles on show with controlled queues, carpeting and staff on hand and everything else that was designed around them. There were a couple of small maps positioned around but it was easier just to explore, and with poor data signals in the venue, you had to rely on your eyes more than your phone to find your way around. There was a meet and greet area I discovered at the end of the day I had no energy to wait for that was hidden away at the back of the main hall. It was an enjoyable atmosphere, it just felt chaotic in its structure and needed a little uniformity or consistency in its layout.

Given the limited size and space for the smaller independent studios, it does require an element of perseverance and opportunism to try a particular titles.


Planet of Lana and a Lit up Robot

Games

The Last Starship – Introversion Software

A really bright and engaging display caught the eye, drawing comparisons to FTL with its top down style and design of the ship though certainly more complex in its ambition and implementation. It was interesting to try the different mechanics such as power flow and design, navigation and flight controls. It had the feel perhaps in its intention on taking elements from space trading games such as Elite in the mission selection and trading but in its own, simplified way. There were systems suggestive of combat and diplomacy but it was still in an early play test state of development , on Steam currently in closed testing and some way to go before it is stable enough to release to a wider audience. It was enjoyable to play, and with a little gentle coaching from the team on hand, you were soon confident in keeping your ship powered up exploring the unknown. And them my version crashed.

Door Kickers 2 – Kill House Games

It had the suggestion and style of the early Tom Clancy games in its planning and implementation though entirely different in its execution. A sequel to the 2014 Door Kickers game which had a focus on a fictional SWAT team, this new release pivots onto the military and the Special Forces as they move through buildings and locations taking down bad guys and saving hostages. It’s a little graphic but not excessively so, with a deeper selection of tactics and weapons when you spend time scratching beneath the surface. A few of the gaming tendencies of the first which often rewarded the player for single planned executions seem to have been removed making it feel more like the tactical planning and execution games of old, having a set plan then adapting to the situation. The potential to modify and share maps and scenarios is also an enjoyable prospect.

Planet of Lana – Wishfully Studios

Revealed at The Game Awards last year, this puzzle game had a more relaxed and sedately tone in contrast to its presentation. Talking to a couple of the team on the floor before taking a seat to try it out, it was interesting to observe and discuss the game being played, no real instruction or indication what to do but each player reacting to the environmental puzzles in their own way based perhaps on experiences with similar games and dynamics. Whether there is a right way to play or approach the game the game is uncertain, but it was an enjoyable experience and brought to mind other environmental puzzle games of a similar style such as Journey or Old Mans Journey but with a slight foreboding menace in the background. Also, credit for the giant robot statue on show. There’s always room for giant robots.

Sonic Frontiers – Sega

One of the busier and more popular games on show after Modern Warfare 2, it certainly has a more open world feel that works effectively with the dynamics of the character. It’s been suggested or eluded to how it has drawn influence or inspiration from Breath Of The Wild and you do feel that influence in the opening moments of the game. It’s somewhat forlorn in tone and spirit, a world away from its earliest depictions. It has no real established connection to any other release, a consistent approach with the series in part, but just stripping you back to the fundamental basics of the character and allowing you to learn and expand your style as you explore the open world environment. Reference was made to a couple of the supporting characters and few minutes of exposition but for the most part it was just an opportunity to get comfortable with this new direction for the series that did feel enjoyable to play. Just very different from the traditional Sonic experience.


Bean bags and deck chairs

Closing Thoughts

My second attendance to this particular gaming event, it was a notably different experience to the type of show before the Global Pandemic and perhaps reflective of how studios have embraced a more closed off approach and attitude to showcasing their games in the public domain with no real unified event in recent years. It was interesting to note Nintendo were the only console manufacturer to have a presence of some merit with both a showcase of Splatoon 3 and a Switch free play area giving them some exposure or awareness of this particular release. Games with some exclusivity to specific consoles were on show but no official or visual presence from either Microsoft and Sony which going into the holiday season with a more challenging domestic market and reduced income, would perhaps have made a wise decision to try and drive some sales through exposure.

In the absence of areas reserved for grandiose illuminated logos and closed off testing areas, it did afford an interesting mix of elements of the gaming community from a broader perspective to be highlighted and experienced. A large area devoted for example to educational courses around gaming and digital design, an area showcasing the fantastic work of charities such as Special Effect who work to provide custom designed controllers and inputs to gaming for those with disabilities. A chance meeting with Kim from Later Levels though it took a tweet to realise. I had flown the day before so probably a little tired. And of course a modest space reserved for gaming merchandise though the prevalence of foam swords grew tiresome as you had to move swiftly to avoid being struck accidentally by enthused children. Did it miss the larger companies making an effort, perhaps, but on balance, this year at least it was enjoyable to just explore and experience that broader sense of the gaming community in all its wonderful ways.

Whether I would go back next year is open to debate. I enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to try a few different games I would normally be unaware of. The integration through Steam was a positive experience and having a focused landing page afforded an opportunity when I got home to bookmark a couple of games to try at a later date and pick up earlier versions of others. It just needs a little refinement and structure in its organisation. The arrival process for example could be tweaked to reflect other conventions at the Excel to avoid standing idle in long queues with no access to facilities which is always an anxious experience and allowing entry through the main doors on the concourse. On balance a largely positive experience, thanks in part to being easier to reach now and some great memories to take away but also a lament to what has come before and how it felt a shadow of its former self.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog please come and visit and ‘like’ the Comfortably Adventurous Facebook page and contribute your feedback and comments, the interaction for those that have enjoyed and found these articles informative helps beyond measure. Alternatively join me in the Twitter Universe if you enjoy a good tweet or two. Or on Instagram for a gallery of images.

If you have enjoyed this review, you may enjoy these articles:

Advertisement

6 thoughts on “EGX 2022 – Excel, London

  1. Planning to go next year (life was a bit hectic this year), hopefully see some blogger faces! Definitely seems like post-lockdown it is a slightly more subdued event, but not necessarily in a bad way; perhaps it is easier to spread your attention around the show now. 🙂

    Like

    1. I was a little hesitant this year I must admit but glad I went in the end, felt like a bit of a step up after Comic Con last year. You could definitely see more as it was a bit spread out with what they had, seeing familiar faces was certainly a treat 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.