THQ Summer Showcase

THQ is a company in pretty dire straits right now, having recently reported a net loss of £155m this past fiscal year but their quarterly profit has since improved. Their prolific President Danny Bilson recently stepped down and has been replaced by Jason Rubin, who hopes to take the company out of the dark place that it has crept to over the past year. Between that and several delays and cancellations, such as the Saints Row “Enter The Dominatrix” standalone expansion being folded into Saints Row 4 and Tomonobu Itagaki’s (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive) new title Devil’s Third being cancelled, I can’t help but be worried for THQ as the company houses a lot of talent such as Patrice Desilets (who may or may not be working on a little game called Amsterdam 1666 or simply 1666). In addition to this is their upcoming line-up for Winter 2012 and Spring 2013, which I got to take a sneak peek at earlier.

Darksiders 2 comes out pretty soon, but we got the opportunity to sit down for a chat with the game’s art director Han Randhawa and get some pretty interesting insight into the development of this game and how assets had been distributed between the art team. Since Darksiders 2’s creative director Joe Mad is a renowned comic book artist, he does a lot of key art for the series that the art team then take and build upon. For example, “Joe does not make environments,” so the team takes Joe’s art and builds a stylistic consistency with the art that Joe Mad creates to build a fully realised, realistic fantasy world.

From what we have seen from Darksiders 2, it’s a pretty radical departure from the post apocalyptic settings of the original since Death is going into the supernatural realms to redeem his brother’s name. Han went on to say that Darksiders 2 is made up of many elements that were simply not possible to create in time for the original’s release. Some things such as the levelling and loot systems present within Darksiders 2 are ideas that they simply could not implement within the original. Han also went on to say that they’ve made the world of the game much, much bigger and that many doors are open to them now that they have expanded the scope of their game with Darksiders 2. Han also said that the team developed a co-op prototype but scratched it because of balancing issues… maybe this mechanic has been shelved for a possible Darksiders 3?

Darksiders 2 releases on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on August 21st.

Company of Heroes 2 is sequel to what many people regard as one of the greatest real time strategy games ever made and we got a hands off look at some of the gameplay and new mechanics. First off the bat is the game’s Essence Engine, which uses dynamic weather that directly affects the player. Units now have a temperature gauge that slowly falls if the unit is out in the open for too long. You’re able to prevent this by using fires or the game’s cover system to shelter your troops during the cold blizzard, which gives you a risk/reward scenario of taking your men out in the open as other enemy troops will be sheltering which may gain you a tactical advantage but may also weaken some of your units.

In addition to this in some maps you may see some frozen over lakes, which you can travel over, however the dynamic ice tiles are also prone to breaking, which means that you have to be careful how often you tread within that area, especially with heavy units. Plus enemies can also sink your units by attacking the tile. Company of Heroes 2 is due sometime next year and it looks to be a corker.

The next game we saw was a slight departure from Company of Heroes 2. Developed by Obsidian and showcased at the Microsoft E3 press conference with the creators actively cracking jokes at Microsoft’s new tech, it can only be South Park: The Stick of Truth. We saw a hands off demo of the game that impressed me to no end. With the actual writers of the show working on the game’s script, it showed classic South Park self awareness, in-jokes and references from the show, one example being Ms. Chokesondick’s portrait being hung up on a wall. The game looks identical to the show, but technically still looks slightly disjointed in the way that it cuts from character dialogue to the wide shot of the actual level. The gameplay is based around a classic turn based JRPG and is quite similar to the Mario & Luigi games released on the GBA and DS. The game has QTE’s that you have to time correctly to deal extra damage, however the current build we saw did not look polished at all and the battle mechanics looked like they needed a lot of work to build up to the standards of today’s turn based RPG’s. 

South Park: The Stick of Truth will be released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and is out on March 5th, 2013.

After being slightly apprehensive about THQ’s upcoming lineup, I have to say that with several strong IP’s under their belt such as these, I can’t help but be impressed by each of these games. It does feel however that there was a big pressure on Darksiders 2 doing well to help the company out of its financial situation. With many other unannounced games in their roster for next year, it is certainly going to be interesting seeing THQ’s upcoming titles in addition to the ones we’re seeing here as they become more focused upon AAA, despite being burned by that in the past.

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