With gamers of all creeds descending upon MCM London Comic Con over the weekend, it’s high time to decide between the standoff of releases players have faced this Friday. Super Mario Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed Origins have been fighting for attention in the convention halls this weekend, not to mention a great showing of cosplayers for Wolfenstein 2, all of which released on the 27th simultaneously, if inconveniently. So with so much to choose from, we decided to blast through as many MCM demos as possible and bring you a quick look at the titles that will doubtlessly be competing for game of the year. Of course, if you’re looking for an in-depth review of Super Mario Odyssey you can already check out our Nintendo-pro’s analysis.
Super Mario Odyssey Reinvents a Classic
Boarding a London bus decked out with neon lights and Nintendo Switch controls seems like the optimal setting to play Super Mario Odyssey, whose own aesthetic is a surreal playground of globe-trotting set-pieces and adventures. Mario feels just as at home catching cabs in the busy streets of Metro City as he does bouncing around in boxer shorts in Cloud Kingdom’s cotton-candy sunset.
Setting out once again on a quest to rescue Princess Peach, this time Mario is accompanied by a sentient hat pal, Cappy, who is similarly missing his eyelash-endowed sister: Tiara. But despite what is an obviously lacking story, Mario Odyssey makes up for it with compulsive gameplay and environmental design that begs exploring. Odyssey feels like a modern Mario 64 that has taken on lessons from Zelda: Breath of the Wild in terms of expansive maps, hidden puzzles, and juggling different gameplay approaches.
Each kingdom is filled with secret areas that will require a close eye and platforming skills from completionist players. To get to certain areas you’ll need to use Cappy’s possessive powers to speed around the map as electricity in a power line, form a towering stack of goombas, or even rampage around as a raging dinosaur. The game also transforms itself into a classic Mario-style as you enter pipes, shrink down to your retro-pixel form, and jump your way across a 2D platform world. Odyssey mixes up a whole palette of different aesthetics and game modes with childish glee, all in the name of packing its worlds with fun surprises and content that will keep you delighted.
Super Mario Odyssey controls comfortably on Switch with both controllers undocked to take full advantage of the motion control moves. You can play the game in docked mode, and even turn motion control off, but certain actions do require a little shaking and there are moon collectibles that can only be reached by using motion ability tricks, so it would be wise to try them for yourself and begin to learn the surprisingly exhaustive list of possibilities.
From the two worlds I’ve played through, it’s clear that Mario Odyssey has a focus on exploration and rewarding players who take the time to practice their skills and uncover secrets. Odyssey feels like a return to the best of classic Mario, but before I can go too far the game demo bus has parked me back in London and it’s time to swap out the Sand Kingdom for an entirely different kind of desert.
Blood and Sand in Assassin’s Creed Origins
After a four-year development cycle, Ubisoft Montreal have finally released the sequel to Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, bringing players to Egypt as it is torn apart by the forces of Caesar’s Rome and Cleopatra’s ascension. The biggest change to the Assassin’s Creed formula is in the combat system which adds far more complexity to the usual back and forth with enemies. You now have a choice between fast attacks, which do less damage, or taking the risk of slower, but stronger, attacks, which might be interrupted. Combat feels more on edge, with the need to dodge, parry, block, and barrel-roll, when faced with multiple enemies or a challenging boss.
Different weapons also require different combat approaches, and you can choose between swords and bows as well as spears, scepters, and khopesh blades. If the new system doesn’t feel right to you, there is also the option to swap it out for the original Legacy Controls. More nuanced combat feels like a necessary move for a series looking to make lasting improvements. Yet, with that said, despite the range of new ways to watch my enemies die, I still found combat less challenging than I’d hoped it would be. I’d need a lot longer to judge how far combat has really changed, but it’s promising to see more complexity being introduced with at least a step towards a shake-up of the usual combat system.
As always Assassin’s Creed‘s environmental design is stunning. From cresting the rolling desert sand dunes to bustling through market streets beside the emerald lull of the Nile, Origins makes you feel at once at home in the heart of Egypt. The map itself, even in the game demo, is bigger than ever. Luckily you won’t need to limit yourself to daredevil feats of parkour to get an eagle-eyed view of the cities because Bayek is able to soar above the world as his eagle companion Senu, a fun gameplay touch that not only shows off the beautiful environments but also gives you a chance to hunt your targets from the air.
Stalking the dusty streets for targets immediately sets me back in the mind of an assassin, and from petting stray cats to breaking into the Great Sphinx, Assassin’s Creed Origins looks to offer a sprawling world that will bring history to life once more. Bayek is set to take us on a journey that will reveal the origins of the assassin’s order, and with such a breathtaking setting and newly worked combat, it’s going to be hard not to want to find yourself a dagger and tag along.
An Overload of Releases
With just a little time left to play as many games as possible I head away from the demo booth, but it’s clear that Super Mario Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed Origins will be the two biggest contenders this weekend. I get the chance to play South Park: The Fractured But Whole, which is also being demoed at MCM, but watching a ten-year-old boy grind and fart on a grown man’s lap in the middle of a strip club does little to persuade me of South Park‘s hard-hitting humor. Instead, I work out my frustrations with some Fire Emblem Warriors, Nintendo’s newest hack-and-slash, and get a real satisfaction from bringing endless hordes of enemies crashing to the ground with a sweep of my sword.
Meanwhile, tucked away between aisles of screens is a demo of Code Vein: a new JRPG from Bandai Namco releasing in 2018 which we’ll be diving into next with a full preview. MCM Comic Con has certainly delivered on a back-to-back schedule of games, but if you’re still not tired out with content to choose from it seems you can always head home and start watching Stranger Things 2 instead. An overload of releases might mean a lot of work, but when the games are this good it’s hard to complain.