WASD Live 2023 Round-up

We recently got to visit WASD Live, this year hosted at the Truman Brewery in London. We really enjoyed last year’s inaugural event, and this second outing proved to be just as good if not better thanks to a wider selection of games to play.

First though, we just want to touch on our appreciation for such events existing. Shows like WASD Live are fantastic ways to check out not only some big hitter titles ahead of release, but also games and experiences we might not have even heard of otherwise. The Game Tomb Curio section of the show offered more experimental experiences (one of which you can read about below), while the rest of the show floor mixed titles like Street Fighter 6 with Bleak Sword DX, Patch Quest, and many, many more. You can find the full list of titles here, and we’d highly encourage players to at least look up some of the more obscure titles – and get to next year’s event to discover even more! We’re very lucky at the Tavern to get our hands on a wide range of games, but WASD Live also offers us the chance to stretch our multiplatform muscles too, with games played on PC, VR, and Playstation too (again, you can read about some of these below). All in all, we came away from WASD Live having had a great day and looking forward to its return next year.

Right – onto the games. We played a decent selection of titles from the show floor, though as we were only there for one of the three days we didn’t have time to fit even half of the offerings in. Below are some of our highlights in no particular order.

Dead Island 2 – Plaion

Sharing top billing with both System Shock  and  Street Fighter 6 – and marking the first time it was playable for the public in the  UK –  Dead Island 2 was one of the few titles we had to wait in line for (though this was a respectably short queue time). In our roughly 10 minute demo, we got chance to get hands on with the combat and check out the FLESH system in action. Boiled down, this is a fancy way of calculating the damage shown on the zombies, letting us rip them apart in all manner or gruesome ways. Tavern member Graham spent a short while testing this to it’s limits, and came away impressed. In the heat of a battle it’s not immediately obviously different, though once we’re finished a quick look around the scene shows an impressive level of carnage that makes Dead Island 2 stand out.

We were given some super powered weapons to try too, with katanas, electrified gloves with daggers on them, sledgehammers, and guns. The guns predictably felt the least fun to use – to the point where we’d say they were all but useless – but smacking our way through the hordes of zombies with the melee weapons was a great laugh. Others at the Tavern have been more in favour of the previous Dead Island and Dying Light titles, though I’ve never really thought they felt fun to play. In Dead Island 2 though, I felt the melee combat was far better represented, and actually was having a blast smashing zombies faces in. We’ve got renewed hopes for this one come the end of April as a result – will the years long wait be worth it?

System Shock – Plaion

This long in development remake finally got a showing for us here, and after a roughly 15 minute demo we came far more intrigued than we’d expected.

For those unaware, the original release of System Shock back in 1994 and its sequel served as a bit of a launch pad for spiritual successors in the excellent Deus Ex and Bioshock games. Playing this remake, we can see why. It’s the former we’re most reminded of as we play, with the look and feel of exploration and combat bringing memories of Deus Ex: Invisible War. The game is packed with incidental detail and items to find, as well as a more hands off approach to objectives. We managed to get ourselves killed after finding and opening a locked pathway that threw much stronger enemies than we were ready to fight at us. We only had access to a pipe for offensive attacks in our time here, though we did pick up a few augments that buffed our health and strength too. We also filled our inventory with all manner of junk that will no doubt prove useful for selling/crafting in the full game.

It was a nice surprise to come away from our short time as intrigued as we were, but we’re going to be waiting for this Kickstarter-backed game for a while yet – the PC release has been delayed until May, with the Xbox release unknown other than it will be after that date. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this more closely now though.

England on Fire – Stanwixbuster

Sadly the only title from the Curio’s section we had chance to check out, this visual novel is based on the book of the same name. Having heard of neither before, we were immediately hooked thanks to its catchy artwork, but then sucked in further with some bizarre, surreal scenarios presented before us. As with other visual novels, we simply read the text and occasionally make a choice that may affect the outcome. A neat twist here though is that we can allow the text to continue even as options are presented to us – ignoring them will take the scene is one direction, while choosing something will take it in another. It’s a simple yet intriguing concept, and one we’re keen to return to thanks to the game being on itch.io and available to play right now.

The Dark Pictures: Switchback – Supermassive Games

I’m a big fan of VR, though sadly don’t get much time to use the Oculus Quest 2 gathering dust on my shelf. So when we got to WASD I booked a slot to check out the sequel to my favourite PSVR game, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Much as that game did for Until Dawn, Switchback takes the Dark Pictures universe and reimagines scenes and games as horror-tinged rollercoaster rides/light-gun shooters. While it’s not enough on its own to justify the £550 to pick up a PSVR2, I really enjoyed the level I played – this one based on Man of Medan. The improved hardware is naturally a big selling point, with much better fidelity and visuals on show, but the sense of speed and even leaning into the turns felt far more ‘real’ here. Dual wielding weapons, I had a blast throughout the entire shooting gallery experience. I will say I didn’t really notice any of the units higher end features (headset haptics or adaptive triggers for example) but that didn’t really matter as I was having too much fun just going along for the ride. While the PSVR2 is reportedly off to an underwhelming start, I’d really like to see VR continue to grow and even one day be playable in some form on the Xbox too.

Viewfinder – Sad Owl Studios

First person puzzle games with a twist always catch our eye at the Tavern, and Viewfinder is one such example. We initially saw the tech demo on twitter several years ago, and finally got to go hands on at the event – and came away very impressed indeed. The concept of using 2D images that then explode into three dimensional life is both mind-bending and yet easy enough to grasp in this short demo, with Sad Owl easing us in with pre-shot photos before letting us loose with the camera to take our own snaps. A handy rewind feature lets us undo any errant captures easily, and once we realise that not only does the picture expand but is granted physics too, things suddenly have the potential to become very clever/complicated later on. One example saw us needing a battery placed on top of a pillar. Snapping a picture of it, then rotating it upside down and placing it down had the battery fall down to the new earth where we were able to pick it up and take it where we needed.

We came away very keen to see more, though sadly this is a PS/PC only release for now. Here’s hoping Xbox can get in on the action soon.

Those were our top picks of the day, although we played a handful more on top of these. Shout outs go to Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom on Oculus Quest 2, Street Fighter 6, boxing game Undisputed, PSVR2 title C-Smash, and many more.

Again, we had a great day at WASD Live, with the Truman Brewery proving to be a fantastic replacement venue from Tavern favourite the Tobacco Docks. If you were there, let us know what you managed to play down below! Roll on WASD Live 2024!

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Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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