My Gamescom 2023 experience | Big Daddy Digest

Attending Gamescom on a sold-out Saturday is a test of endurance: the crowds are huge, the halls are full, the noise is omnipresent. Still, there was no way I would not attend the convention with my eldest daughter this year. Traditions must be adhered to.


I knew something was up when we arrived at the venue without waiting in any traffic jams within Cologne. All parking places were already filled, even with the EUR 20 daily charge. Luckily, I could squeeze the car into a tiny spot and could make haste to the entrance. (Possible game idea: Parking Simulator – you are a valet and need to place 10 cars into 5 places without damaging cars or what’s left of your sanity. Earning minimum wage and defending the cars against thieves, dogs and rats. Bonus points awarded for dealing with Karens.)

First Stop: SEGA

Right after the entrance the SEGA booth welcomed gamers, featuring a variety of SEGA and ATLUS games and IPs. Sonic and Eggman made of Lego were featured prominently. Nice photo op!

But was much as I like the blue hedgehog, Persona 5 Tactica was the game I chose to wait for. The line was short and I quickly sat down at the demo stations. The game was running on XBoxes, so Nintendo folks like me had some difficulties with the buttons at first. Still, here are my impressions.

Persona 5 Tactica

The demo you could play was part of a tutorial mission where you got the main points of the strategy game explained to you. Tactica features the battle system standard from other strategy games fused with the Persona specifics (Duh, who would have thought?) It‘s well thought out and fun to use, too. The guns are more prominent than in the mainline RPGs, giving you a lot of strategic options. The art is wonderful, a kind of chibi/Persona mashup that needs getting used to, but is still nice to look at. Overall, a game that I‘ll pay more attention to.

Second Stop: XBox

My next stop was Microsoft‘s XBox booth because one of the indies I needed to play was shown there: SteamWorld Build. I had hoped that one of the developers would also be around to explain the game (Like at the Nintendo booth back when they demoed SteamWorld Dig 2. Had a very lovely chat with them!), but there was no one to explain things or even reset the demo machine. I still tried my best.

SteamWorld Build

So far I liked all the various SteamWorld games, Heist being my favourite, so it was a no-brainer to wait for a chance to play Build. Graphics and sound were very pleasing, but the UI was very cluttered at times. It was organised well, with subsections opening and closing at the top and at the bottom, but I feel that playing the game on the Switch in handheld mode could be difficult because of small fonts and the number of UI elements. Can‘t say much about the game itself, because without a tutorial it was hard to make useful build decisions. I did build a few structures, though, but didn‘t have a chance to find out if that was any use, or even part of the objective.

Third Stop: Nintendo

Needless to say that Nintendo had a great booth showcasing their latest games: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Pikmin 4 were two of the main focus points. Then there was the stage, as usual, and various photo OPs.

As an extra surprise, Isabelle and Tom Nook had regular appearances in a special Animal Crossing setting where you could get your photo take with them. That was definitely one of my personal highlights this year!

Strangely, there were no indie games to be found at the main Nintendo booth. These were set up in the Indie Area in a different hall. That said, I chose to give StarOcean by Square Enix a try.

StarOcean The Second Story R

Pixel art characters combined with painted backgrounds a strange viewing experience make. Make no mistake, I adore the HD 2D style of Octopath Traveler, but the art in StarOcean felt off. Playing the demo chapter including a boss fight at the end was nice, but the gameplay felt off, too. Perhaps it was the game‘s mechanics or the too easy fights, but StarOcean The Second Story R was a dud for me.

Fourth Stop: Merchandise

To get to my next stop, I had to pass through the merchandise hall, traditionally located in hall 5. It‘s badly ventilated, full of people and noisy as a result. Passing through is terrible, but there is no other way. If you are interested in anime, manga, gaming merchandise it‘s simply the place you go. If not, pass through it as fast as you can. During some previous Gamescoms some publishers had their own booths here to sell exclusive merch. This time I could only make out a Blizzard booth with Diablo 4 and Overwatch stuff, but couldn‘t stop for a closer look as the masses swept me ever onwards.

Fifth Stop: Indie Area

The Indie Area is always delightful. So many different games in such a small space. Tiny booths often staffed by the developers themselves! Its wonderful getting tutored on a game by someone who worked on it. That‘s exactly why after Nintendo‘s booth, this area is always worth a visit to me. And boy, did it deliver this time!

Quilts & Cats of Calico

Quilts & Cats of Calico is a strategy game made by Monster Couch, who also were responsible for Wingspan. The game tasks you with creating a quilt out of differently coloured and patterned cloth pieces. The individual pieces have to be placed at the right places to result in points. Bonus points are awarded when one of the cats places itself on your quilt, so you should try to keep the patterns they prefer in mind, too. What sounds so deceptively easy is actually tricky as I quickly found out by losing 29 to 52 against my NPC opponent. Definitely a game to get: Looking cute and hard to master.

Aureole – Wings of Hope

Aureole is an interesting take on platforming. In Sonic-games you collect rings, here you are the ring! Traverse the levels as an aureole (or German Heiligenschein), but remeber that you only can jump twice in the air! Cool physics and gameplay combined with nice art. Definitely a game to get on Switch (or on other systems if you prefer.)


You are an axolotl with an AK (or any other weapon of murder you can find) and defend yourself and your children against hordes of evil. Yeah, it‘s a pixelated roguelike with a cute but deadly hero. It‘s still a lot of fun to play, even if you die a lot (Duh, it‘s a roguelike, Joe!)

This is one game I‘m really hyped for, just because of the combination of cuteness and devastation.

Seen, but not played in the Indie Area

Vampire Survivor had a station ready to play for any who wanted to try their perseverance. As I already have it at home, there was no need to play it here. Those who played it had a lot of fun, I can attest. (Well, me too, although I still die too early in the levels.)

Wargroove 2 was on display as well. But strangely the booth was not staffed and I was reluctant to simply grab the controller without asking anyone first. Well, I haven‘t even finished the first game, so I wasn‘t that hyped for the sequel anyway. Pixel art looked nice and all that, though.

Last stop: Career booths

Thinking of getting into game-development or IT? Or prefer becoming an astronaut or spy? Gamescom has you covered here, as well. Quite a number of companies recruit workforce during the fair. Additionally some universities with applicable courses have booths or present their students’ games. Even Nintendo of Europe was hiring for different roles, but unfortunately they didn‘t have use for a teacher. Perhaps another time, then.

Interestingly the German foreign secret service (Bundesnachrichtendienst) had a recruitment booth in Cologne. It wasn‘t even hard to find or secret…

That said, the best career booth definitely was the one of the European Space Agency (ESA). So many roles to fill, but alas, still no use of a teacher.