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New York Comic-Con 2017 and Gaming

New York Comic-Con, naturally, goes well beyond comics. It is about movies and books and toys and posters and games. Yes, most definitely games. A whole lot of games were on display this past weekend and I got the chance to have some hands-on time with three different titles at the event, and each is unique in its own way.

Marvel: Contest of Champions, interestingly, was present at the Javits Center despite the game not being new. In fact, their press release indicated that 2017 marked their fourth year(!) at the con. Of course there was new content out for the game (like a new character, Morningstar, whom the game team has co-created with Marvel). The game’s design lead, Tim Molyneaux, told me that they’re looking at even more new content down the road, and doing so with no end to the title in sight.

Although I played Contest of Champions prior to NYCC, the iPads in the booth featuring the title showed just how much more can be unlocked than what I had thus far accomplished. More than that though, those iPads offered a glimpse into just why I would want to go further into the game. This included a deeper look at the RPG elements, but for me much more revolved around the potential to use more characters (the list of those available was exceptionally large).

Asked to pick a favorite, Molyneaux said that he particularly liked Doctor Strange, as the character was one of the first which expanded past basic fight mechanics into a way of attack better suited to a mystical character. As for me, I loved Howard the Duck. If I find myself playing a lot more down the line, it will be in order to get Howard the Duck into my lineup.

Then, there were also games present whose arrival at stores is imminent, like Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. A sequel to Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the line to check out the title due out October 10th wound behind a dragon on whose back people could have their picture taken. The experience of the game itself, at least in part due to the fact that it is played on a console as opposed to a mobile device, was more engrossing than Contest of Champions, but as Molyneaux said, activities in Contest of Champions have been designed to take just a few minutes (how many depends on where one is in the game), while during nearly 20 minutes with Shadow of Mordor, I only completed part of one fortress takeover.

One of the things I loved about the original game, Shadow of Mordor, was just how freewheeling the whole thing was, and that certainly still appeared to be the case with what I saw of Shadow of War. The fortress I was attacking was loaded with creatures good and bad, and keeping track of what was going on proved exceptionally difficult. Not difficult to the point of upset, just a steep learning curve made more tough by the fact that this particular fortress was not early in the game.
The gameplay aspects of Shadow of War made it feel a lot like Shadow of Mordor, just bigger and better. Whether that proves to be the case in the title as a whole is something we’ll have to see in the next few days.

Last up for me on the game front was Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. New York Comic-Con represented Bloodstained‘s first ever public demo and the game, which the press materials said was as a “spiritual successor” to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, was more than just a side-scrolling platformer in the same vein, it was designed by Koji Igarashi, who worked on a number of Castlevania titles including, yes, Symphony of the Night.

I have always been impressed by how “new” a side-scroller can feel despite the fact that the genre that has been around for so long. As with so many other folks, the first game I think of when I think “side-scroller” is the original Super Mario Bros., but Bloodstained‘s graphics and controls showed just how much more a side-scrolling platformer can be in this day and age.

Running (and jumping) through a level definitely brought out a Castlevania-like feel. Floaty heads bobbed up and down towards the player, creepy things threw bones (their own?), there was the whole castle aesthetic, and finally some weird boss who used blood and umbrellas as weapons.

Side-scrollers tend to have a very pick-up-and-play feel, and Bloodstained was no exception. Running through the level available at the con highlighted fun graphics, plenty of weapon choices, and some interesting magic options (who doesn’t want to launch magic apes at enemies?). Beating the boss without dying proved relatively easy as well, but then again, this was not necessarily the final version of the level that will ship with the game… when the game ships sometime in 2018.

Marvel: Contest of Champions is currently available, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is out on October 10, and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is out in 2018.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by ‘deftly’ he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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