Gamescom 2023: Top 10 Most Anticipated Games
By Eduard Gafton,2023-09-25
The annual gaming extravaganza, gamescom , never fails to surprise and delight with its vast array of titles, ranging from the highly anticipated to the pleasantly unexpected. This year was no exception. While I had the opportunity to dive deep into some titles, there were several that, due to time constraints, couldn’t be explored in depth individually.
Whether you’re a casual gamer or a die-hard enthusiast, the titles revealed promise something for everyone. Presented in alphabetical order, here’s a compilation of some standout titles from gamescom 2023 that intrigued, surprised, and promised a future of continued gaming excellence. Dive in to discover the gems of Gamescom 2023.
One of two games shown to me at gamescom by publisher Panic , Arco , is a tactical RPG boasting an art style that brings Hyper Light Drifter to mind and a combat system the developers describe as “simultaneous turn-based.” In the 30-minute-long demo I played, I went through a quick encounter tutorial, which allowed me to understand that “simultaneous,” in practice, meant that I was able to take as much as I wanted to select and commit to my character’s action but that as soon as the selection phase was done, both units would move or attack at the same time.
But, of course, not all actions are made the same in that, for example, some are instant, some need to be charged up first, and some may interrupt an opponent in some way. This took me a while to get used to, but I was well impressed once combat clicked with me. I also got to see the person who guided me through the demo play for a minute or so, and the things he was able to do had me thinking that Arco will have many gameplay intricacies to discover.
After the tutorial, I was thrust into the story, which I was told takes inspiration from classic text adventure games and is divided into multiple scenarios, each with their own playable protagonist. These scenarios are supposedly meant to converge at some point, although the dev present didn’t want to share more with me on this.
What I do know is that the campaign should take players about 10 hours or so to complete, which worries me since the narrative element left me somewhat underwhelmed. This being said, I am hoping that the story, which is firmly anchored in Mexican myth and folklore, will live up to the promise of the combat when Arco releases in 2024.
Fans of card-based video games , like me, will be thrilled by Cross Blitz, an RPGdeck builder poised to carve out its space in this crowded genre. Now, I only got to play the roguelite mode, Tusk Tales, and for twenty minutes, if that, but I can already confidently report that this is everything a game of its ilk should be: fun, thought-provoking and addictive.
What’s more, Cross Blitz will feature a story mode that will take about 30 hours to see through and over 200 cards to experiment with. It also helps that the art style is gorgeous and that the writing is sharp and funny. This is all to say that I will definitely be there when the game leaves early access in (hopefully) Q4. In the meantime, if my excitement isn’t enough to sway you over, try out the demo on Steam .
Gori: Cuddly Carnage
Gori: Cuddly Carnage is a third-person hack ‘n’ slash game that brought together Stray and Jet Set Radio and added more than a dash of nightmarish creatures, gory violence and expletives. This title, then, is both a departure and somewhat par for the course for Angry Demon Studio, which previously developed the horror games Apsulov: End of Gods and Unforgiving – A Northern Hymn . In this upcoming release, you play as the titular Gori, a mutant cat equipped with a speedy and deathly hoverboard as he battles hordes of sentient and bloodthirsty toys.
From the get-go with Gori , like with any other hack ‘n’ slash game, I needed to know how the combat feels like. And…it’s good! I wouldn’t say it’s excellent or particularly noteworthy, but coming from a studio that only did adventure games before, I would say that this is a great first effort. The traversal, too, is satisfying and surprisingly fast.
In fact, it might even be too fast, as I definitely whizzed through some sections where the platforming was meant to be challenging. Positives aside, I can’t say I’m a fan of the game’s tone or story since it’s giving…Toy Story X Five Nights At Freddy’s? The music is also not quite my tempo, but this may be just a matter of taste and not quality. Overall, I think Gori: Cuddly Carnage will be well received when it comes out later this year – just don’t expect the world of it. And maybe try out the demo, which is still available on Steam , before you buy.
House Flipper 2
I must admit, I’ve never played the first House Flipper , Power Wash Simulator or any of the games part of this new wave of cleaning sims. If you happen also to be new to the franchise, here’s the basic premise: you buy devastated houses, which you then repair and remodel for profit. Each house you buy also comes with a specific set of tasks, which may have you clean, paint, demolish and/or furnish in a certain way or pursue a particular result. In the about 15-minute demo I played, one of my tasks was to paint all the tiles in the house’s bathroom blue.
I didn’t quite get to finish before my time ran out, especially since it took me a while to fiddle with the controls, but I was able to get a good idea of the game as a whole and have been left very impressed by how much freedom I had to transform any given house.
What’s more, the developers told me that the biggest new feature is the introduction of a sandbox mode, which should, on paper at least, unlock even more options for creative players. Furthermore, the studio has also announced that they have partnered with mod.io for mod integration and support, which will be coming to both PC and console. So, the sky really seems to be the limit here.
Now, I’m not sure if this will be enough to convince players to jump from the first House Flipper to this one, as the sequel seems to me to be more iterative than anything, but, nevertheless, I still definitely think that House Flipper 2 has a lot to offer to fans of the series and to enthusiasts of this style of game.
Personally, I don’t think I’ll be giving this one a whirl when it launches on December 14th. The only thing that might maybe get me interested is if they ever do something akin to that Final Fantasy DLC in Power Wash Simulator . Who knows if they ever will, but at least the team said they are open to collaboration when I explicitly asked them about it.
Out of all my gamescom bookings, nothing had me as curious as SECRET DON’T NOD APPOINTMENT – which turned out to be the “poetic adventure game” Koira . Inspired by Journey and Princess Mononoke , Koira seeks to tell the emotional story of a forest spirit lost in a snowy forest and the puppy that they find there.
From what I could surmise from a brief hands-off demonstration, the emotional core of Koira (also the word for “dog” in Finnish) is the bond which eventually forms between the two characters as they protect each other from the many dangers they face.
Interestingly, the strength of the pair’s bond is reflected in the world around them, which will brighten up, for example, if the two are united and feel at peace and will be enveloped by shadows if there are threatening presences nearby. Also, like in Journey , the characters interact only through sound and music which, the developers told me, is meant to help as many people as possible enjoy the story.
Koira is meant to release sometime in 2025, so it is far too soon to form much of an impression so far. Still, I certainly hope that Studio Tolima , for which Koira is the debut title, can match the game’s beautiful art style with a story that resonates with players.
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
Gamers, here is where I admit I’ve failed you: I have most of the mainline Yakuza / Like A Dragon games and yet I’ve only ever played a handful of hours of Yakuza . And, listen, I know that’s disappointing, especially since this series has garnered such a cult following over the years, but after playing The Man Who Erased His Name , I do really want to get caught up.
In any case, with this latest title, the franchise returns to an action-heavy combat system after the previous mainline entry pivoted to a turn-based one while at the same time introducing a brand new fighting style: “Agent” style. “Agent” style involves mainstay Like A Dragon man, Kazuma Kiryu, who is back at dealing with the criminal world, delivering blows with a variety of gadgets such as electrified bind wires, drones and more.
This style, then, in being more focused on crowd control, is a refreshing addition to a tried and true combat system while also being reflective of Kiryu becoming a spy under the codename “Joryu” – hence the name of the game.
In my 20 minutes with the demo, beyond having the opportunity to fight in this new style, I also indulged in some of the activities of the massive theme park nestled inside Kyoto Castle…for some reason? The places available to me for the purposes of this demo, I imagine, were a colosseum, a clothes store, a cabaret club and a card room.
I started with poker, naturally, which I won twice in a row by going all in constantly because I don’t really remember the rules and then ended my time playing cards after I lost at blackjack because, you guessed it, I don’t remember the rules to that one, either.
The two card games were fun and exactly what you’d expect, but the cabaret club took me by surprise. For context, I knew that cabaret clubs were a mainstay of the franchise, but what I didn’t know or expect was that The Man Who Erased His Name features live-action models which you can try to woo over by selecting the right dialogue option and by gifting presents they might like. My interaction with Kaname, the only girl available in this demo, went well enough that she invited me to speak to her again in the future in the hopes of eventually landing a date.
Afterwards, I went to the clothes shop to take control of Kiryu’s style choices. So, after five or so minutes, out came Kiryu, donning a bodysuit assorted with the accessories to match – excellent. The last thing I did was sign up for single and team fights in the Colosseum, where I could choose my preferred fighter from a roster of fan-favourite characters, including Kiryu, perpetual villain Goro Majima, and many others.
At the end of my time with it, The Man Who Erased His Name is more of the same in that fans of Yakuza / Like A Dragon will certainly love it, and the rest will probably pass on it as they did with the many previous titles. However, for anyone willing to give The Man Who Erased His Name a chance, this will likely be a wild ride – as usual.
One Punch Man: World
I only got about 20 minutes to play the demo for One Punch Man: World while at gamescom, an action RPG adaptation of the popular animanga making its way to PC and mobile sometime soon. Developed by Perfect World , makers of Perfect World International and Persona 5: The Phantom X ( among many other online and/or mobile games), One Punch Man: World is an impressive achievement visually, especially since it is made with phones in mind. Although, as I have, some limitations are apparent when played on PC.
Gameplay-wise, the combat in this title got very repetitive in the span of just a few enemy encounters so I’m pessimistic that players will find much enjoyment outside it being based on a popular license. Although, to be fair, One Punch Man: World’s producer, Ryōta Hasegawa, did reassure me that fans of the franchise will find many of the things they loved from the animanga present in this game: key moments recreated, a plethora of outfits and locales and a good selection of playable characters. He also told me that the game would adapt the first part of the show’s first season and that it was designed with fans of the franchise and newcomers in mind.
This all sounds great, but I am concerned about the fact that, upon release, One Punch Man: World will be free-to-play. Which begs the question: how will monetization work? Will it have gatcha mechanics? Or will (some) outfits need to be purchased with real money? I regret not asking the question at the time but, after all, Perfect World is known to “ rely pretty heavily on cash shops and microtransactions ,” so it is not unwarranted to expect that players will be encouraged to spend in some way. For those interested in One Punch Man: World all the same, pre-registration is now open on all platforms.
Pepper Grinder , inspired by Dig Dug and Ecco the Dolphin, is by far one of my standout games from the show. The game follows the titular Pepper as she uses a super-powered drill, Grinder, to traverse terrain and water. The level I played in my 15-minute demo had me navigate sand dunes, which make it so that once Pepper starts drilling, she won’t be able to stop unless she exits the sand completely.
This allowed the level design to shine as I was forced to time my movements well in order to solve the game’s ingenious puzzles, overcome the enemies peppered throughout and make it through each platforming section. It also helps that the art style is vibrant and colourful and that the sound design is on point. I also greatly appreciate the haptic feedback, which kicks in whenever I’d press and hold the right trigger to activate the drill.
What makes this even more impressive is that this is the debut project of a single developer, who goes by the moniker “Ahr Ech,” who initially revealed the title in 2017 . And with the release being set to sometime next year, the wait for 7+ years to play Pepper Grinder seems well worth it.
Station to Station
Coming from Netherlands-based studio Galaxy Grove , Station to Station is a minimalist and relaxing train sim all about building railway connections, which would subsequently bring to life its voxel-art world. After spending about half an hour playing it and talking to the devs, the thing that struck me most about this title was its commitment to keeping things as cozy as possible: there is no fail state, no time limit and no opposition to get in your way. The game presents some optional challenges for those seeking a more difficult experience, but the winning condition here is for players to relax and take in the sights.
And Station to Station really delivers in the ‘looks’ category, with a variety of locomotives – all digital representations of real ones—and biomes, including desert, tundra and more. It’s only when I zoomed in really close that I noticed some models looking a bit rough, but I reckon that might change upon the game’s release in early October. And speaking of the release, the developers were keen to tell me that Station to Station is a game meant to be supported for a long time, with considerable free content to come post-release.
This is encouraging to hear, especially since the game will already have quite a lot of content to boot, with Galaxy Grove saying that they expect the average player to take about 6-7 hours for a full playthrough. Although I doubt that I personally will jump in for that long as I prefer my sims to push back a little more than Station to Station is willing to. As for those of you not yet convinced one way or the other, do try out the Steam demo, which, at the time of writing, is still available to download.
Thank Goodness You’re Here!
Thank Goodness You’re Here is the other Panic published game I saw at gamescom and the very first appointment I had this year. It was also one of the games that caught my attention at Opening Night Live , so it’s safe to say I was excited to check this one out. When I told the developers this, they told me to temper my expectations, which I’d also suggest, having now played a bit of the game. This is mainly because I found the gameplay quite lacking, regardless of how stunning its visual design is.
You see, the developers describe Thank Goodness You’re Here! as a “slapformer,” which is right on the money, considering that jumping and slapping were the only two things I was able to do. But the problem here is that jumping and slapping my way around the handful of simple puzzles the demo threw at me was not that satisfying.
Instead, I was way more enraptured by the game’s overall cartoon-like presentation, jovial tone and delightful sense of (British) humour. Unfortunately, I think Thank Goodness You’re Here! will end up being compared unfavourably to Untitled Goose Game , which is what this title most reminds me of. It also does not help that both are published by Panic AND are both set in Old Blighty.
That is it for this round-up of gamescom 2023 games! There is way more from the show scheduled to come your way so click here for a link to all of our coverage. Oh, and do leave a comment telling me about the game(s) you played/wish you had played on the show floor. Until next time, danke gamescom !