The first time I went to AdventureX was in November 2019.
The UK’s only convention dedicated to narrative-driven games, it brings together both developers and players who have a passion for interactive storytelling. When it became a ticketed event three years ago, spaces sold out within five hours.
The atmosphere at AdventureX was completely different from my previous experiences at expos like EGX and Rezzed. It felt more about the game themselves rather than the hype surrounding them, and this led to it being more intimate and personal. As a lifelong adventure fan, it was inspiring to be around so many others who shared the same interests and I couldn’t wait to try some new titles.
Pete and I booked our tickets are this year’s event and headed to its new home at the University of Greenwich last weekend. Around 600 people were present and we saw many developers we recognised there as attendees themselves. We had the pleasure of talking to several of them, including Tom Hardwidge from Tall Story Games (creator of the excellent Lucy Dreaming, which I’d finished the day before).
Unlike other expos, the schedule here is focussed on talks. Our favourites were those by Yoyu Li from Infinite Whys on multiplayer narrative experiences and Dave Gilbert from Wadjet Eye Games on modular design. More about those later this week. During breaks, there’s a chance to play several games in the breakout rooms. I’d either already experienced the demos or played most of them in full, and here’s a round-up of some of them to kick off my AdventureX posts.
Albert Wilde: Quantum P.I.
I played the demo for beyondthosehills’ project during the Steam Next Fest in February while the current version of Later Levels was still being designed. There were three reasons why it caught my eye back then: its protagonist was a cat, I really enjoy detective storylines, and the visual style reminded me of Chicken Police – Paint it RED!. Sadly though, it didn’t make it onto my wishlist because the humour slightly missed the mark for me. I can totally appreciate feline puns but there are only so many cat-butt jokes I can take.
Set in the Artic North, Goldfire Studio’s project is a first-person adventure which takes place after Kai’s plane crashes into the snow. Will he and his court-mandated therapy bot manage to escape, figure out what cut their aircraft in two and discover the source of those strange noises after dark? Unfortunately, I got stuck in the cockpit of the debris whilst trying to chase off a bear during this year’s LudoNarraCon demo. But it made me think of a cross between Firewatch and The Long Dark, so it still earned a spot on my wishlist.
Ever wanted to cheat your way to the top of society and fleece your adversaries out of their money on the way? The demo for Nerial’s project was another one I experienced during LudoNarraCon. I enjoyed everything about it: the 18th century France setting, the way the lighting effects and music added to the atmosphere, the need to play your opponents better than you play your cards. The only thing I wished was that I was better at it. I kept getting caught at the table and learned that fellow gamers don’t take very kindly to cheaters.
Casebook 1899 – The Leipzig Murders
I first came across a campaign for Homo Narrans Studio’s project on Kickstarter in May and then played the demo during the Steam Next Fest in June. It should have been a game which really called out to me seeing as it’s a detective point-and-click where you make observations in your notebook and combine them to unlock new clues. Unfortunately, I wasn’t keen on the visual style even though I understood what the developer was going for, and I had trouble making the correct links to name the murderer even though I knew which character was to blame.
I watched the trailer for Paul Hart and Lee Williams’ project a couple of days before AdventureX when it appeared in my Steam discovery queue, and immediately added it to my wishlist. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try it at the event because the seats in front of the monitors were always full – so it seems like a lot of players have got their eye on this one. You’re tasked to journey upwards through several underground kingdoms in this dungeon-crawler, solving cryptic puzzles and combatting enemies by typing out your actions.
Ghost on the Shore
I had the pleasure of playing like Charlie’s Ghost on the Shore in May and you can read the full review here. Walking simulators only truly work if the player can find a connection to its characters and get swept along in their journey. While I might have had a few tiny niggles, the developer absolutely nailed this part and it’s what makes the title stand out. This is thanks to a well-written and believable script despite some supernatural elements, along with the perfect choice in voice-actors who make you want to get to know the two protagonists more.
Italic’s 2D point-and-click had made it onto my radar because it reminded me of The Silent Age, and I got the chance to play the demo during last month’s Steam Next Fest. The story focuses on a teenage tomboy cat burglar in Paris. The puzzles contained in the slice I experienced weren’t particularly challenging but were logical, so this could potentially make for a nice casual experience. The Steam page mentions stealth though – which makes sense given the protagonist’s background, but it could end up being a potential frustration for me. One to keep an eye on.
I’d seen this project at various expos in the past but, like other narrative games, LCB Games Studio’s ‘pixel pulp’ had gotten lost among the noise and lights of the shows. It was therefore better to experience the demo for this interactive adventure at home during June’s Steam Next Fest. A young couple, gas station owner and paranormal investigator get caught up in a conspiracy during the 1966 Leonid meteor shower. The opening is well written and the 80s-home-computer graphics are good, so it’s a title to check out if you’re a fan of horror stories.
After receiving a key for a demo from publisher Application Systems Heidelberg, I had the chance to play a slice of this game by Grundislav Games in September 2020 for the old version of Later Levels. Based on some of the elements seen in this and information on the Steam page, I got a real Unavowed vibe from the project – and that’s in no way a bad thing. There’s a chance for random encounters in this Western point-and-click, with different situations and outcomes depending on your previous choices and available resources.
The unique mechanic used in Sonority caught my attention during last year’s DreamHack Beyond, and I applauded Hanging Gardens Interactive for creating something interesting. Puzzles are solved by entering musical notes into statues which change platforms, the tone difference affecting the distance objects are moved. My only concern was the controls. It felt as though it was going to be better moving the protagonist using a controller but easier entering the notes on a keyboard, so I was unsure how it would all come together.
AdventureX is a dream come true for anyone who loves the adventure genre. Instead of being filled by publishers and loud PR assistants who want to create hype for their next release, it’s instead attended by people who are keen to share their experiences and want to learn from others. It’s a much better place for narrative-based games than events like such as EGX, which can often be far to noisy to properly experience these quieter and more thoughtful titles.
Don’t worry if you didn’t make it to AdventureX this year, because you can still catch videos of the talks on the Twitch channel. There’s also a Steam sale running until tomorrow so you can pick up some of the games displayed at the event in previous years at discounted prices. The dates for the next AdventureX haven’t yet been announced yet, but hopefully we’ll hear more soon and Pete and I will see you there.