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    Just Some Dope Unreleased Video Games To Get You Excited For E3 2018

    BuzzFeed's GoodGame was on the ground at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and we saw all manner of cool shit. Here's a list of upcoming 2018 highlights just in time to kick off your annual E3 mania!

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    1. Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PC/Steam — May 31, 2018; PS4, PSVR — Spring 2018)

    Images Courtesy of Third Eye Studios

    Downward Spiral: Horus Station is a nice big step forward in the frustratingly uneven evolution of virtual reality so far. The reason for this can be summed up in one word: cooperation. Horus Station unspools a well-thought-out VR co-op experience that does more than throw two players in a virtual space to dick around. To survive Horus Station, we actually needed to work together in meaningful ways.

    A picture of yr boy proving the truth of the old saying "Nobody looks cool doing VR."

    Eric Sams for BuzzFeed

    Moving yourself through a 3D space in zero gravity is a bit tricky. There's a good amount of fumbling with hatch handles and running into walls, but once we got the hang of it (and a cool-ass grappling hook), it was exhilarating to zoom through narrow, dimly lit corridors and cavernous control rooms. We encountered some rogue maintenance droids, and I blew them up with a high-powered nail gun.

    Third Eye Studios

    But it got really interesting when we had to sneak our way past a giant hostile AI. Our enemy slowly rotated in the center of the room. If its infrared sensors caught sight of us, we'd be vaporized. Our only chance was to make a break for it when its back was turned. The problem was that we couldn't both be where we needed to be and see the enemy. Your life depends on running (floating) on your teammate's mark, and them going on yours.

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    The AI sequence didn't feel like a contrived co-op set piece; it felt like an organic situation where one person alone couldn't get the job done. Experiencing that kind of helplessness — that need to trust in a teammate because you simply have no other choice — is a whole new ballgame in VR. When my teammate hissed, "Go!" the words crackled with tension, and as my grappling hook drew me across the room, blind and in danger, I didn't feel like I was playing a video game at all.

    2. Smoke and Sacrifice (PC/Steam, Switch, PS4, Xbox One — May 31, 2018)

    Images Courtesy of Curve Digital

    During our demo, the art director of the winsome, mysterious Smoke and Sacrifice compared it to Nintendo's 2017 juggernaut The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is one hell of a reference point. But the longer we played the game, the less it seemed like a boast and more like a legit comparison.

    Curve Digital

    Both games relish the contrast between a bright, animated art style and a narrative shot through with darkly ominous lore. Smoke and Sacrifice, for example, begins with your character, Sachi, ambling through a bucolic watercolor village on her way to *checks notes* RITUALLY SACRIFICE HER NEWBORN BABY?!?

    Curve Digital

    Like BotW, Smoke and Sacrifice features an expansive crafting system that's intuitive without being obvious. Both are set in lovingly drawn interactive worlds populated with baddies you want to hug but who will 100% murder you the second you actually try. And both games lead you deftly out to the murky edges of an ever-broadening map and story. Instead of pure fantasy, though, here we have an extended allegory about the human costs of reckless industrialization.

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    It's a worthy entry in a promising new class of RPGs and platformers that seem tailor-made for Nintendo Switch: engrossing yet pick-up-and-play experiences that translate from the couch to the train, plane, or Lyft with ease. If dark, quirky, and addictive RPGs are your thing, Smoke and Sacrifice for sure deserves a spot on your 2018 "Gamez 2 Play" list.

    3. Too Many Captains and Not Enough Wire (TBA)

    Images Courtesy of Avi Romanoff and Giada Sun

    Alt.Ctrl.GDC, dedicated to experimental games that don't use traditional controllers, is always one of the highlights of the show. Tucked into the Moscone Center's North Hall is a veritable island of misfit toys (sometimes literally) as game devs enlist spray bottles, colorful masks, door stoppers, and anything else you can think of to serve as controller mechanisms for their games.

    Eric Sams for BuzzFeed

    That's where we came across Too Many Captains and Not Enough Wire, a party game hacked together by two Carnegie Mellon students. One player "engineers" the U.S.S. Frenetica, an on-screen spaceship equipped with thrusters, lasers, and shields. As engineer, you control the flow of power to the ship's systems by plugging and unplugging multicolored aux cables into jacks on a small, shiny black box representing the ship's "bridge." Following so far? Good, because here's where it gets wacky.

    Avi Romanoff and Giada Sun

    The engineer can't see the ship. It's on a screen behind them trying to dodge incoming asteroids and trading laser fire with a multicolored fleet of alien enemies. To earn points, the engineer is totally dependent on a committee of "captains" who try to communicate what's happening on the screen by barking commands like "Fire red!", "Move up! UP!", or "Yellow shields! QUICK!"

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    The experience of being the engineer is like trying to play Asteroids with a team of friends blindfolded and without a controller. The U.S.S. Frenetica is aptly named. But if you're thinking that doesn't sound like your idea of fun, you'd be wrong. For all the chaos and anxiety it produces, Too Many Captains is the kind of game that can turn any gathering into a party.

    4. Iris.Fall (Xbox One — 2018)

    Images Courtesy of Next Studios

    The "gorgeous indie puzzle game" has been a gaming mainstay since at least the launch of UsTwo's breakout hit Monument Valley in 2014 (though some date it back to Braid in 2008). Last year, the breathtakingly lovely watercolor tiles of Gorogoa carried the mantle. This year, Iris.Fall seems destined to be the subgenre's 2018 poster child.

    Eric Sams for BuzzFeed

    Pro tip: One way to cut through the wall of noise at video game conferences is to poll other developers exhibiting games as to what their show faves are. If you hear the same game pop up two or three times in these conversations, odds are good you've stumbled onto one of the sleeper hits of the show. After all, these are the pros. At GDC 2018, the answer to our question came back, as often as not, "You gotta see Iris.Fall."

    Next Studios

    We didn't actually get our hands on the game, but what we know piqued our interest. Iris.Fall is the story of a girl who follows her cat into a mysterious clock tower where she embarks on a quest to uncover a secret by solving puzzles using "shadow and light." Kind of sparse on detail, admittedly, but often the joy of the "gorgeous indie puzzle game" comprises the themes they hint at, the worlds they inhabit, and cliffhangers or narrative twists. This is definitely one to watch.

    5. For the King (PC/Steam — April 19, 2018)

    Images Courtesy of Curve Digital

    The playful RPG For the King was inspired by an actual tabletop RPG created by one of its developers. In it, co-op players take turns exploring hexagonal sections of a dynamic game board that reorders itself with each new game so that no two play-throughs are the same. The pleasures of games like For the King are the same strategic satisfactions of plotting your way through a super-engrossing round of D&D.

    Curve Digital

    The game's art helps to capture this feeling by being "tabletop-ish," too. It looks a bit like colorful molded clay. We joke with Gordon Moran, the art director, that the style is "mid-poly," neither the photo-real textures of AAA worlds nor the blocky, stylized "Lego" look of Minecraft or Superhot. "I wanted [the characters] to feel crafted," he tells me, "sort of tactile. Like you could pick them up and move them around the board with your hands."

    Curve Digital

    We spent our 30-minute demo accomplishing simple tasks. "Things get more dangerous at night," Colby Young, the game's designer says as the sun sets and shadows fall over the game board's topography. We fought from hex to hex using the game's highly customizable turn-based combat system and slowly expanded the areas of the map visible to us.

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    At the end of the demo, we felt like we barely scratched the surface of For the King's possibilities. We could picture ourselves starting a "quick game" with friends some afternoon, losing track of time, and playing long into the night, searching for that one treasure or cave that we're just sure will show up any second now.

    6. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden (PC/Steam, Xbox One, PS4 — 2018)

    Images Courtesy of Funcom

    We're not the biggest fans of tactical turn-based games. We admit it. We're sorry. But that's why we were stoked to be invited to the first-ever demo of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, a new tactical game that promised to tweak the rules of genre classics like XCOM with real-time elements that appeal to filthy casuals like us!

    Funcom

    The demo we saw of Mutant Year Zero delivers on that promise, blending tactical battle planning and character customization with stealth approaches and disruptive real-time battle moments that keep the action dynamic and unpredictable. The levels also boast a verticality that adds an extra dimension (literally) to each brawl.

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    Mutant is inspired by a pen-and-paper RPG, so you know the story is fully fleshed out, and the look of the characters and environments are pretty much the definition of the word "polished." All of which makes this a really tempting pick-up, even for gamers who are usually left cold by tactical turn-based titles.

    7. Pool Panic (PC/Steam, Switch — 2018)

    Images Courtesy of Adult Swim Games

    Billed as "the world's least realistic pool simulator," Pool Panic is what you get when you unleash the weirdos at Adult Swim on a pool hall/amusement park simulator. The result is an ever-swirling world of anthropomorphic billiard balls rolling around, breaking, screaming, laughing, and just generally acting the fool.

    Adult Swim Games

    The bright, hand-drawn animation style and spread-out macro map of playable levels calls to mind the similarly charming kingdom of Cuphead and Mugman. Levels stick pretty close to the basic physics of pool: There are balls, there's a pool cue, and you hit the balls with the end of the cue. That's pretty much where the similarities to actual billiards end.

    Adult Swim Games

    In fact, the levels of Pool Panic are so varied that we spent most of our time trying to figure out our objective rather than actually progressing through the demo. But the art and physics of the world kept us engaged as we experimented, and eventually figuring out what the hell was going on became part of the fun.

    View this video on YouTube

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    Pool Panic is yet another title that seems almost custom designed for the Nintendo Switch, both in its aesthetics and the multiple modes of play that seem to be able to translate the experience to virtually any setting. We barely scratched the surface of this game, but it's easy to imagine that a gaming world so packed to the brim with goofy ideas would be a blast to explore.

    8. This Dank Air Hockey Game That Ran on an HD Projector

    Eric Sams for BuzzFeed

    We didn't get to play this one. Hell, we didn't even get its name. What we do know is that one HD projector (not pictured) paired with a motion sensor could both project the gaming board on any surface and track your hand motions to turn them into simulated air hockey paddles. And the implications of that technology are, um, whoa.

    Hit the comments to let GoodGame know what games you're looking forward to in 2018 and beyond!

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