Gamescom 2019

Introduction

Gamescom 2019 was again a very special experience.

Each year I’m thinking, I will be there way to long but every time, Gamescom feels way to short. I met with many folks like every year and also with a few new ones that I haven’t met before. Meeting others is for me one of the main part of Gamescom as you don’t get many opportunities to meet the people you only know from the internet in person.

Gamescom again broke all records although it felt emptier than before. The additional hall 11 did probably play a big part in that. The queues were long nonetheless, especially for Cyperpunk 2077, which had queues of about 1.5 – 2 hours before the public was even let in. Need for Speed Heat also had lines up to 3 hours long. Queuing is for many part of the Gamescom experience though, the same as the easter traffic at the Gotthard. I personally can perfectly do without.

Gamescom 2019 in Numbers

Number of Visitors

2019: 373.000
2018: 370.000

Trade Visitors

2019: 31.300
2018: 31.200

Number of exhibiting companies

2019: 1.153, from outside of Germany: 70  percent.
2018: 1.037, from outside of Germany: 70  percent.

Area

2019: 218.000 m²
2018: 201.000 m²

There were also tons of awards.

My personal highlights this year were Desperados III and the new Settlers, which was not playable for the public though. The Indie game El Hijo also caught my attention again as last year. Apart from a presentation there wasn’t much to be seen from the round-based strategy game Humankind but I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing more of that.

Gamescom Awards

A. Category Group: Genre

Best VR / AR Game
– Marvel’s Iron Man, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Best Hardware / Technology
– Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, Microsoft

Best Multiplayer Game
– Borderlands 3, 2K

Best Ongoing Game
– Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, Capcom Entertainment

B. Category Group: Best of gamescom

Best of gamescom (Jury-Kategorie)
– Dreams, Sony Interactive Entertainment

C. Category Group: Consumer awards

Best Booth (Fan-Kategorie)
– Indie Arena Booth, Super Crowd Entertainment

Best eSports Experience (Fan-Kategorie)
– Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Gamescom 2019 Invitational, Nintendo

Best Streamer/Let’s Player (Fan-Kategorie)
– PietSmiet

Gamescom “Most Wanted” Consumer Award (Fan-Kategorie)
– Borderlands 3, 2K

D. Category Group: Gamescom global awards

Best Games Company (Jury-Kategorie)
– THQ Nordic

HEART OF GAMING Award (Jury-Kategorie)
– Diversity with focus on Accessibility

E. Category Group: Gamescom Indie award

Gamescom Indie award (Jury-Kategorie)
– El Hijo, Honig Studios

F. Category Group: Best of CAMPUS

Best of CAMPUS (Jury-Kategorie)
– Super Size Hero, Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg

G. Category group: Genre

Best Action Adventure Game
– Blacksad: Under the Skin, astragon Entertainment

Best Action Game
– DOOM Eternal, Bethesda

Best Family Game
– Concrete Genie, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Best Racing Game
– Grid, Codemasters

Best Role Playing Game
– Wasteland 3, InXile/Deep Silver

Best Simulation Game
– Planet Zoo, Frontier

Best Sports Game
– Roller Champions, Ubisoftf

Best Strategy Game
– Desperados III, Mimimi Productions

Most Original Game
– Dreams, Sony Interactive Entertainment

H. Category Group: Platform

Best Microsoft Xbox One Game
– Gears 5, Microsoft

Best Nintendo Switch Game
– The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Nintendo

Best Sony PlayStation 4 Game
– Dreams, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Best Mobile Game
– Battle Chasers: Nightwar – Mobile Edition, HandyGames

Best PC Game
– Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Ubisoft

Many game studios were showcasing their games again. Blizzard/Activision wasn’t one of them though and that was especially obvious in hall 7 where they usually were and with the most beautiful and most original booth.

In addition to hall 10 with the indie games, retro booth and family corner, there was also an event hall for autograph hours and similar things. Hall 5 was as always the center of merchandise where it’s really easy to get rid of your money and fill up your already way to heavy suitcase with more stuff.

Behind the scenes in the business area there was also a lot going on. I was able to get a press appointment and get a first hands-on on the new settlers game and also visited the EA Business lounge. It’s always perfect there to relax and Game Changers/Influencers and press had the opportunity to play the newest games.

Swissgames was also there with a big booth and it’s always nice to see what your home country has come up with. More details below.

I really wanted to take a closer look at the new adventure game Encodya, which currently still can be backed on Kickstarter. They were mostly showing the Demo though which is also available for a voluntary amount (0 – …)

Press Picture by Assmeble Entertainment Press Picture by Assmeble Entertainment

There was lots of swag to get. Mostly as part of a stage show, through selling your soul (aka your data) or after standing in line for hours to play a game. My personal favorite is the slingshot/pen they gave away for the El Hijo stage show, but also really liked the Bandana and the Shot glass from Desperados.

Content

Desperados III

2001 the stealth game Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive was released. A game I’ve played for many hours with a lot of excitement. The series continued with Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge and Helldorado in 2006 and 2007. After that there were no more news surrounding the game series. At Gamescom 2018, THQ Nordic finally announced the successors, this time developed by the studio Mimimi who has already proved with Shadow Tactics that they can create great games in the genre.

Desperados 3 is set as prequel to to the original game and tells the story before the characters meet. The game starts out with a tutorial level that explains the game mechanism to the player. John Cooper is still a child and we get to know more about his roots. The game will have 14-16 levels depending on whether you count the smaller levels as full levels or not. Later maps promise several hours of fun.

At Gamescom they had one level to play (everyone had 20 min to play) and in the stage presentation they showed a different level to show off the skills of the new character Isabelle Moreau.

Press Picture by THQ Nordic Press Picture by THQ Nordic

Desperados 3 will have 5 characters with different skills. All have a weapon for close range or can knock out their opponent and different to Shadow Tactics also tie up and hide. Charakters can also heal themselves. From what I’ve seen, the number of healing are not limited. More powerful skills have a limited amount of uses but it’s possible to find new ammunition on the map.

The special skills as far as I’ve seen them in streams and hands-on at Gamescom are as follows:

  • John Cooper: Throwing knives, distractions with a coin, 2 Pistols.
  • Doc McCoy: Sharp shooter, bag to lure the opponents, syringe/chloroform to kill/tranquilize and an ampule to temporarily stun/distract.
  • Hector: Bear trap, whistle to lure, shot gun which kills all opponents in a certain range, whiskey that heals Hector but harms the opponent.
  • Kate O’Hara: Seduction
  • Isabelle Moreau: Connection between two living beings. Each suffers the same. Mind-controlling living beings (incl. Animals), Cat (stelle) to distract.

Desperados 3 has a showdown mode which pauses the game to plan and execute your next move. The mode can be turned off. There will also be badges again, so the levels can be played many times with different strategies. There’s a quick save and load and several possibilities to change the difficulty level to your liking.

On a screenshot from the stream there’s also an interesting option called Headhunter but the devs haven’t given any details on that yet.

The game should hopefully be released before the end of the year for Windows, Playstation and XBox and for Windows they also plan a Collector’s Edition. The game can be preordered on Steam and several retailers.

Trailers for the game and Isabelle Moreau can be found here: Desperados III – Isabelle Moreau Reveal Trailer, Desperados III – Official Announcement Trailer,

Desperados 3 won the price for best strategic game at Gamescom and for me it’s the game I’m most looking forward to.

The Settlers/Anno 1800

Bluebyte (New: Ubisoft Mainz/Düsseldorf) showed two games in the UBI Lounge: The settlers and the already released game Anno 1800. Neither of them were availble to play on the show floor but Anno 1800 could be tested for free at home during Gamescom week.

The The Settlers presentation gave a short overview over the game and showed of some of the new stuff. As last year they showed the new Path of Honor which allows the player to easily take over whole areas of the opponent.

In addition to the old method of victory of conquest and the honor one, there should also be a third method, about which the developers are still silent.

The developer of the first part of the settlers, Volker Wertich, was also present, because he is very involved in the development process of the new settler and answered some additional questions.

Since I was lucky enough to get a press appointment in the Ubi Business Lounge, I was able to test the game for a 45 minutes. More details on that can be found in my report on the settlers: Gamescom Preview – The Settlers

The new settler combines the well-known with new elements and looks great. The Wusel factor still plays a central part and I’m really looking forward to the game, which will be released in 2020.

The latest trailer for the settlers can be found here: Die Siedler – Gamescom Trailer 2019.

The presentation of Anno was focused on the upcoming DLC and the day/night mode, which will be available as a free patch on September 10, 2019. The community also had the opportunity to ask questions.

Botanica, which will be released on September 10, 2019, is more for people that like to build a good looking city, while the third DLC: The Passage which will be released later this year, takes the player into the arctic cold. Too much has not yet been revealed, though

In the upcoming update, the plaza tiles will also come back into the game for free for everyone, so that for the botanical garden/zoo/museum not all tiles have to be connected anymore. Also the statistics center and the co-op mode are still a topic, but they are still being worked on. The release date is: As soon as possible.

For the day/night change each building was modified and also the lighting in the streets was adjusted. So the night is not just dark without the sun, but additional light sources have been added to make it as realistic as possible. Depending on the zoom level, there are more or less details. Since performance also plays an important role, the number of light sources had to be balanced. Playing at night should be a bit more difficult, but the night has no influence on the production, because this would increase the complexity by a huge factor.

There are also many setting options. The default is a natural day/night change, but the time can also be adjusted manually or stopped entirely The light doesn’t just go from light to dark but there is twilight and dawn.

There’s a new Gold-Edition for the game now that combines the seasons pass and the base game.

Press Picture by Ubisoft Press Picture by Ubisoft
Press Picture by Ubisoft Press Picture by Ubisoft

In the Q&A, Bastian Thun also addressed the concerns of the community and talked about the difficulties of designing DLC and patches in such a way that existing save games will still work (reminds you of the Sims somehow).

El Hijo

El Hijo caught my attention already last year, at Gamescom 2018. So I was curious about what progress the developers made in the mean time.

Press Picture by Handy Games Press Picture by Handy Games

El Hijo is a non-violent stealth game that tells the story of a boy who is left in a monastery by his mother so she can take revenge on the bandits who burned down their farm. Of course El Hijo himself doesn’t like this and now he tries to escape from the monastery and find his mother. The game leads us through several levels where we work with hiding, throwing things and other tricks to sneak past the monks. Later in the game he also finds his slingshot, which he had to bury at his mother’s request.

El Hijo is also the hero of a children’s revolution and can ‘collect’ other children in the game who are kept in rural areas as free workers. El HIjo gets toys from these children that he can use and in the last 10 levels they actively help him find his mother.

The game starts with a tutorial level that introduces the player to the mechanisms of the game. There are several safety points in the game, so there is no need to replay the whole level if El Hijo is caught. According to the developers, the first few levels can be played in a few minutes, the later ones between 10-15 minutes. The game should have about 30 levels and about 6-8 hours of fun.

Through the levels there are 3 different groups to avoid: monks, bandits and sheriffs. Some of the levels play by day, others by night and there are many ways to hide. The player can also help the mother with her task and control her, which is very different to play, because she has different conditions (height, behavior, …).

Beside a small presentation the game was playable in the Indie Booth, which I of course tried. The game gives a very good impression. The art style is quite different to other games and the story and atmosphere make me want to have the game in my hands as soon as possible.

El Hijo will be released Q1 2020 für Windows, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and Playstation and can be wish-listed on Steam.

The trailer for El Hijo can be found here: El Hijo – Official Trailer 2019

El Hijo won the price for best Indie game at Gamescom.

Humankind

Humankind is a turn-based strategy game in the style of Civilization created by the French game manufacturer Amplitude Studios, which is already known for its Endless game series. According to the developers Humankind is the reason why the studio was founded and they are happy to finally present it to the public.

The player leads his civilization from the stone age to the modern age and passes through different stages. A new culture can be selected for each stage, giving the game a million combinations to choose from. In total, there will be 60 real cultures to pick from, each with unique bonuses and military units. The civilization keeps the specialty of each chosen culture, e.g. military units of the Romans can be combined with the special units of the Egyptians and depending on the combination there are bonuses for the fight. Buildings from different cultures can be present in the cities.

The goal of the game is to collect as much fame as possible. Every decision made has an influence on it and leads you closer to your goal.

The player starts the game as a nomad and must first discover a certain number of curiosities (e.g. food, science or resources) before a city can be founded. The city should be strategically placed like in Civilization,as the terrain can play a big role. If you build on a hill, there are additional defense bonuses. After founding the city, you choose a legacy trait that accompanies you throughout the game.

Press Picture by Amplitude Studios

In addition to the cities, outposts can be created, which can later be integrated into the city to minimize the micro-management of each city. There will be miracles as well as natural world landmarks like Mount Vesuvius.

Press Picture by Amplitude Studios Press Picture by Amplitude Studios

Battles take place on the normal map and allows tactical play. The player can combine several units into one army, which can then act individually on the map during the actual battle in order to fight the opponent efficiently. The entire battle is under the direct control of the player.

Press Picture by Amplitude Studios

Apart from a presentation, there wasn’t much to see at Gamescom, but I’m very excited about the French version of Civilization. The presentation definitely made me want more.

The game should release 2020 for Windows and can be wish-listed on Steam.

The announcement trailer can be found here: Humankind Trailer.

Planet Zoo

The trailer of Planet Zoo had definitely caught my attention, so I wanted to have a look at the game at Gamescom. The booth in hall 7 was great in safari style and the game could be tested for about 20 minutes.

There was a tutorial available at Gamescom, so you weren’t just thrown in the deep end. A zoo in need of renovation was used to explain how to place animals in the enclosures, how to equip those and make sure the keepers actually take care of them.

The construction of an enclosure was also part of the tutorial, although I found it very difficult to get used to building them. It was probably because the mouse was on the wrong side for me or because the control was the other way round, but I always deleted the fences I had already built instead of building new ones and had to start all over again.  It also frustrated me a bit that the explanation of how to place keepers was explained on new animals so that my wild boars meanwhile starved to death (don’t know if they actually died, but their was definitely deep red)

Unfortunately there was no time for much more, so I couldn’t really see the zoo in action.

If you like simulation games with fantastic graphics, you should definitely take a closer look at the game. Personally, it didn’t capture me as much after the demo that I had to buy it right away, especially in view of the many other games at Gamescom that really impressed me.

Planet Zoo will be released on November 5th 2019 and can be preordered on Steam.

Several trailers can be found here: Planet Zoo.

Planet Zoo won the price for best simulation game at Gamescom.

Briefly Played

As always, the queues were long and there weren’t that many games I was interested in. Nevertheless, I have took a glance at some more games (for various reasons)

Fifa 20

Unlike Fifa 19, it was this year unfortunately not possible for me to test the game in the lounge. So I tried it on the show floor. It was possible to play the new Volta mode and a normal game.

The Volta mode is unfortunately too borderline for me because of my motion sickness, as it is very fast. Nevertheless, it was fun for a short time and definitely brings an innovation to Fifa. The normal game mode feels exactly the same for my skill level as Fifa 19.

Fifa 2020 will be released on September 24, 2019 for Windows, XBox and PS4 and can be pre-ordered from Origin and various retailers.

Wasteland 3

Wasteland 3 is a kickstarter-financed action role-playing game from inXile Entertainment, located in post-apocalyptic wasteland. The player controls his characters, including a vehicle, in a turn-based manner.

I looked at it in the XBox corner because I wanted to spin the wheel of fortune for a price. Although I like role-playing games very much and am a big fan of Baldur’s Gate and Pillars of Eternity, I didn’t really like the game because of the scenario, but I think if you like such games, Wasteland 3 is the game for you.

Wasteland 3 comes Q1 2020 for Windows, XBox and PS4 and can be wish-listed on Steam

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal is a film from my youth by Muppet inventor Jim Henson, which I can warmly recommend to everyone.

But what does this have to do with Gamescom?

Netflix, who also had a booth at Gamescom, will start a new series at the end of August: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. The series tells the story before the film. Something I will definitely watch.

But what does that have to do with computer games?

For some series like Stranger Things and others there is of course already a computer game. This also applies to The Dark Crystal. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is a turn-based tactical strategy game. The game will have a campaign with about 80 missions and many characters from the series.

The game didn’t catch me after 10 minutes and since I wanted to look at other things, I didn’t look at the more difficult level. The game is certainly not for me, but I’m looking forward to the series.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tacticsist is scheduled for release in 2019 for Windows, Mac, Playstation, XBox and Nintendo Switch and can wish-listed on Steam.

Foundation

Foundation is a city building simulation located in the Middle Ages. The focus is on building the city and managing its resources. You can send troops out to expand your territory, but it’s completely autonomous and you don’t have to fight.

The tutorial introduces the player to the game in a simple way. The game didn’t really manage to impress me.

Foundation has already been released for PC and can be purchased on Steam or GOG

Indie Corner

In the Indie Booth I played or watched how others played some games. It had a lot of games that made you want to play, and also a lot of people, which quickly became a tight in the small Indie area.

Press Picture by Backwoods Entertainment Press Picture by A Jugglers’s Tale
Press Picture by Grundsilav Games

A Juggler’s Tale

A play in 5 acts with tricky puzzles that takes place in a medieval puppet theatre. The atmospheric story is told by puppet player Jack. The player helps the circus artist Abby to break out of the travelling circus and to survive different adventures.

The game leaves a very good impression on me and is one of the highlights of the Indie Booth for me.

The game should be released in 2020

A Place for the Unwilling

A narrative adventure game that tells the last days of a dying city.

The game looked interesting, so I wanted to try it. Unfortunately in vain. The mouse didn’t work and I didn’t find out how it only works with the keyboard. There was nobody there to help me and there was no manual either.

The game was already released on July 25th 2019 and can be bought on Steam.

Figment: Creed Valley

Figment is a musical action-adventure game that takes the player into the bizarre world of the human mind. The player encounters memories, thoughts and nightmares that must be defeated.

Creed Valley is the sequel.

The game will release in 2019 and can be wish-listed on Steam. The Original game can be bought for Windows (Steam & GOG), as well as Nintendo Switch and Playstation.

Genesis Noir

Genesis Noir is a somewhat different adventure game in which there is much to explore and the player has to solve various types of puzzles and interact in a simple way with objects. In the first puzzle I tried (and took me forever to understand how it worked), the player had to use a slider to turn sound waves into a fluid wave.

An atmospheric game that is also characterized by its sound.

The game was successfully funded on Kickstarter and doesn’t have a release date yet. You can already wish-list it on Steam.

Lamplight City

Lamplight City is an older game that I have had on my wish list for quite some time. It’s a detective adventure game in a Victorian-inspired environment.

The game comes in the usual point-and-click manner and made an interesting impression on me.

The game can be bought for Windows or Mac on Steam or GOG.

Resort

Resort tells the story of the spa resort Laburnum Creek. The player controls journalist Laura Tanner, who talks to the locals to find out about what’s happening there.

The surreal Mystery story wasn’t really playable for me because of the view, but the few minutes I could play made me regret it. I would have liked to see more.

The game doesn’t have a release date yet but can be wish-listed on Steam.

Swissgames

The Swissgames Booth in the Business Area is always a bit of a home with lots of chocolate and nice people who speak Swiss German (sometimes also French, but you can talk to them in English).

Press Picture by Black Spoon Press Picture by Blackspoon
Press Picture by dna-studios Press Picture by dna-studios

I checked out a few games in detail.

Kukulcan

A Snake-inspired mobile game that is all about solving more than 40 levels. The snake moves through the levels and the player has to try not to cripple himself, because every time the snake pulls over itself the limbs petrify. In some levels you have to do this to overcome hills and other obstacles. In each level the snake has a limited number of limbs, which will not increase.

For each level there are also special achievements so that a level can be played several times.

A quite funny game for entertaining train rides.

The game will be released in spring 2020 for Android and iOS

Tower of Babel: No Mercy

Tower of Babel is a fun multiplayer game for Nintendo Switch that aims to build a tower as high as possible. By pressing a single button, you can place the swinging stories on the tower so that it does not collapse.

The players compete against each other, and they still play with each other. In the game there are also power-ups that help to build the tower and every few steps the tower stabilizes again.

I liked the game very much and the four guys who introduced the game at the booth were very enthusiastic about the game, so that you immediately feel like playing more.

Persephone

Persephone is a mobile level game. Persephone can actually only do one thing, running. In different directions. This makes overcoming obstacles a bit difficult. So what will Persophone do? Well, she sacrifices herself and then she appears again and can pass over the obstacle now, because she already lies as a dead Persephone in the hole.

A rather strange game not to my taste.

Persephone has already been released for iOS and Android.

Conclusion

There were again many great games to see, although I always try to avoid the mainstream a bit, because I usually don’t like these games anyway or I get dizzy. All the cosplayers who design their costumes in such detail, the Youtuber and Streamer who stand up and sign autographs for hours, as well as the work that is put into all the stands, impress me every year.

I would like to thank the organizers of Gamescom and all the employees of the Cologne fair and the volunteers. Especially the two ladies at the Press Entrance North, who every year keep the press in check until it’s time to storm the exhibition grounds in a very sympathetic way. Great work that you are all doing. I’m also looking forward to 2020.

Further Reading

Disclaimer
Pictures are important to represent the atmosphere of Gamescom. Because of the new data protection laws, everyone has the right to ask for removal of pictures that he/she is shown. My contact address for this case can be found here: Contact.