Best of EGX 2015: Eternal Step

Ben makes his selection for best of EGX 2015: rogue-like game Eternal Step. Could he beat the challenge given to him and make it past level eleven?

Title overview
Name: External Step
Developer: Once More With Gusto
Publisher: Green Man Loaded
Release date: October 2015
PEGI rating: Not listed
Platforms: PC
More information: Official website

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Ben says…

There’s an art to showing a game at conventions such as EGX. It’s never as simple as just turning up, hanging a poster and running a demo on a fancy rig. You, as a developer or publisher, are fighting for attention in a crowded hall while surrounded by hundreds of your peers doing exactly the same. This is especially so for the indie developers and publishers who won’t have the large budgets and, more crucially, the same level of public awareness as the big players.

So how do you do it? Stage one is the attention grab. This can be with a snazzy poster behind the stand, a giveaway or other gimmick, maybe even some cosplay. Stage two is engaging with those grabbed by stage one: talk to people, encourage them to try out your game in a friendly-but-not-overbearing way, be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about what is usually a passion project. Stage three is the toughest. You have to make sure that the five or ten minutes someone has with the title strikes the balance between being long enough to really get a feel for what it’s about and leaving them with the desire to play more once their time is up.

If it sounds tough, it’s because it is – and I salute every single developer, publisher and retailer at EGX for trying it. There was one developer-publisher-combo that managed to absolutely nail this and it’s my game of the show as a result: Eternal Step, created by Once More With Gusto and published by Green Man Loaded.

EGX, event, expo, video games, Ben, David, Green Man Gaming, Eternal Step

Stage one started a week before the expo, with an email announcing Eternal Step would be playable at the show. There was just enough in that to pique our interest and leave enough curiosity to arrange for some one-on-one time with the title. Throw in a challenge the night before from the Head of PR & Communications at Green Man Gaming and also the Founder & Editor of n3rdabl3 and it was well and truly game-on. All I had to do was clear level eleven and bragging rights would forever be mine.

Stage two was easy with Eternal Step being demoed by Green Man Loaded’s new Community Manager in conjunction with one of my challengers from the night before. Needless to say they had the enthusiasm, ability to engage and passion boxes ticked. We had a good conversation about the game, the company’s growth and future plans. All good stuff.

Then came stage three and I can safely say it was the most impressive of the lot. the title feels like one of the great Flash games of the past and wouldn’t look out of place alongside Alien Hominid or Castle Crashers. And, just like those before it, Eternal Step starts simple but soon becomes deceptively clever. The goal is clear: guide your knight through a hundred randomly-generated rooms killing everything in your path. You have one life and one life only, and once it’s gone you have to start all over again.

The action starts off slowly, with the early rooms introducing the player to the basics of the combat which is then enhanced by cards that can be picked up. Each represents a weapon and armour type that can be equipped at the end of the level. Weapons have skills and special attacks that can be swapped between cards. It’s a clever mechanic that starts off as a simple risk / reward choice that soon evolves into deeper, strategic approaches to weapon and armour selection.

No matter how armed and dangerous you make your character, a quick response to your commands is vital when the screen is frequently full of monsters that need dispatching. Thankfully during my time with the game it all felt spot on. The sounds are suitably atmospheric with monster groans and sword clangs all in the right place, and it compliments the graphic aesthetic well.

What nailed it for me was as soon as I put the controller down I immediately wanted another crack at the game. Yes, admittedly I’d been beaten by an unexpected boss on level eight but that didn’t stop me from wanting to pick up my sword once more and venture back into the depths. On my second go I got to level fifteen and had beaten the challenge laid down before me.

EGX, event, expo, video games, Ben, Eternal Step

But now I want to play again, and again, and again until there’s only me sitting atop a hundred levels of beaten game. I can think of no better endorsement at this stage and that’s why it was my game of EGX 2015.

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