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EGX Rezzed Preview: The Black Death

EGX Rezzed 2016 has been hailed a success with a fully sold out three-day event and more than 15,000 attending the exhibition. London’s Tobacco Dock was flooded with everything from a one-man team to giants Microsoft showing off their new creations. While it was great to see what the big boys had to offer, Rezzed is a celebration of indie gaming, the smaller studios not afraid to try something new.

Developer: Syrin Studios , Small Impact Games
Publisher: Green Man Gaming
Previewed on: Windows PC

One such team is Syrin Studios and Small Impact Games, whose offering caught my attention the minute I walked into the venue. With the publishing power of Green Man Gaming behind them, The Black Death is their project and I have to say, this game got me interested from the off.

For those not familiar with the game, and I confess I was one of them, The Black Death is a multiplayer survival game with an impressively advanced RPG element thrown in, set in a Medieval Europe ravaged by the plague. The key with this game is letting the player carve their own path and not be restricted on the story they want to tell or the life they want their virtual creation to have.

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To achieve this dynamic gameplay, there are a number of different classes which you can choose from and the varying characteristics are impressive, to say the least. From the genre standard warrior-type class to a peasant farmer, there is quite literally something to interest every type of gamer and it doesn’t stop with the starter classes. The RPG elements allow for further branching and unlockable characteristics as you work your way through the skill tree, maybe your farmer would make a better hunter/gatherer?

While my time on The Black Death itself was relatively limited for a game of this nature, I was privileged to beat the crowds into the event, and so managed to have a good chat with a couple of the guys behind the game about what is available in-game and what is to come. One of the key topics during that discussion was the notion of perma-death. Some gamers like it, to others it is the bain of their existence, Small Impact Games wanted to appeal to both groups.

To do that is quite a challenge and their solution is one of the best elements of the game and what makes it stand out, the idea of inheritance. If your character sadly meets a tragic end, he/she is history, unfortunately, gone from existence and never to be seen again. All is not lost, though, as you will respawn as one of his/hers descendants and inherit a good portion of the wealth you and your original character had worked so hard to accumulate. Genius right? Perma-death and the risks associated with that for your character but some of your hard work remains. It is an interesting solution that is likely to keep players much more involved in the game without the frustration of having to start from scratch the minute that a tough bit of gameplay hits them.

The open-world is impressively detailed, at 8km squared it is a hefty size from an indie release and the European landscape looks fantastic. Much like the big budget open-world games like Skyrim and the latter half of the Fallout franchise, the environment feels alive, littered with places to explore, castles, wooden shacks, villages, and caves, if you’re an explorer then this is going to keep you busy. As survival is the key here, exploration will actually be quite a valuable part of your gameplay experience with The Black Death as you search out resources for food, drink and to use for crafting more advanced object.

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Graphically, I have to say I was impressed, on the right spec PC, this game has the potential to hold up against the more well-known offerings. The artistic work produced is, in my opinion at least, reminiscent of the Elder Scrolls, and yet it sets itself apart with it’s stunning, yet gloomy representation of Medieval Western Europe.

As The Black Death will be an online multiplayer experience, there are a number of features that I sadly didn’t get to experience first hand, but I did have a chance to find out a little about you can expect. The team aims to populate each server instance of the game with approximately 100 players, meaning that there could be as many as 99 other gamers sharing the 8km squared environment with you. While at first, the team intend to roll out only official servers, they are already considering their options for providing custom instances, meaning that in the future you may be able to create your own private environment to share with just your friends, that’ll certainly make the gameplay a little less hostile, no doubt.

Overall, while my time was much shorter than I would have liked, The Black Death still caught my attention, and for good reason. The ultra-realistic approach that the developers have taken has seriously benefitted the game. Unlike similar games of this genre, it doesn’t need a fantasy element to keep players coming back for more, the harsh landscape of plague-ridden Europe is more than enough to make fans of this type of game head out to explore.

With such a strong basis for a decent RPG, the online multiplayer elements are simply a huge bonus, and if things go to plan, there will be a rich online community ready and willing.

Visually, this game is astounding, it looks beautiful and I cannot praise the developers enough for their attention to detail, the Unreal 4 engine has really been utilised well here and it shows with every footstep you take throughout the vast open-world.

If you’re a fan of massive open-world environments, brilliant RPG elements, and MMO style play then you really need to take a look at The Black Death because this has the potential to be something special.

The Black Death will be available on Steam Early Access from April 19 and you can pre-purchase the game through Green Man Gaming.

Official Site

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A co-owner of the Palace and the Tech Guru. He also co-hosts "The Geek Show" podcast and hosts "The Unhinged Gamer" videos on TPoW TV. You can catch up by following him on Twitter or (most likely) gaming: PSN: UKMickyJay - XBOX: Micky Jay.

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