Monday, September 1, 2014

Games of PAX 2014

Sorry for being a day late, but once again I went to PAX, and once again I played games. It seems like I managed to get into less this year, despite doing nothing but playing games. I'll write more next week on why I think that is, but for now I'm going to talk about the games I got in to see. Or at least most of them. I may have forgotten some...and I've left off any entries in the PAX 10, which I may talk about later.

Lords of the Fallen (http://lordsofthefallen.com/) - A 3D action style game with a strong focus on combat. It's extremely similar to the Dark Souls/Semon Souls franchises, though it has it's own art style that is somewhat similar to a cross between Dark Souls and Darksiders. The demo has you locked in a rather tight corridor fighting a few different enemy types. There's not much to say about it other than it seems to very closely following the Dark Souls formula for combat, though spells are mana based instead of use based. It seemed fun, but it also seemed buggy. Hopefully it's an older build, because otherwise they have a lot to fix in two months.

Bloodborne (http://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/bloodborne-ps4) - The new game from the developers of the first Dark Souls game. It's similar in style, though an evolution of the form. Gone are the shields and slow pace of the former, replaced by guns and quick dodging. I've heard the argument that it's less strategic, but I don't know that I agree. It seems like it's more on-your-feet thinking, sure, but it still requires that same methodology you got in the Souls series. The art direction is pretty astounding, all the human players/enemies have really long bodies, it's dark yet has a certain feel that seperates itself from the Souls series. My friends that are really into the Dark Souls games did not get as far as I did, and I've beaten both but largely due to playing online, so take that however you will.

The Order 1886 (http://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/the-order-1886-ps4) – The first thing I want to say about this game is a positive one. It's a BEAUTIFUL game. I cannot stress enough how great it looks. That being said, that's the only thing it really seems to have going for it. You can't really kill people with the machine gun you were given, as it's way too inaccurate. Several of the people that started before me were still stuck in the first area when I got up, and I spent several minutes before I realized my own strategy. The main strategy I came up with was to launch a flare and then explode it as it passed by the enemies. But otherwise, the demo we played was very generic cover based shooter. Enemies poured out of doors so I had to keep shooting at the same place, there was no variation from generic soldiers. Maybe it will be a good game, but the section I saw wasn't very good.

Axiom Verge (http://www.axiomverge.com/) - I didn't get much time with this, but it seems like a very well made metroidvania. In fact, it's so similar to Super Metroid from what I played, that's the best way I can describe it. If you liked Super Metroid, then you should check this out.

Knight Squad (http://www.knightsquadgame.com/) - A rather amusing party game. It's an overhead brawler, where you attack each other with the weaponry dropped around the map. We played a Capture the Flag style mode, where all 8 players were running around wildly trying to kill one another. I could have a LOT of fun with this...if I could get 8 people in the same room wanting to play it. Sadly, I doubt that's very realistic for me. You can do smaller matches, and we only played with a group of 4, but 8 would be best.

Speedrunners (http://tinybuild.com/speedrunners) – Another party game, featuring 4 “superheroes” running in circles around a stage, trying to force others off the back of the map. It's surprisingly fun, and I hope there's more content in the final version. The most interesting thing to me is how they handle “rubberbanding”. The player in front can eventually get so close to the edge of the screen that they have no time to react, so they are more likely to run into obstacles, allowing the players behind to catch up. It's a creative mechanic that solves a lot of issues racing games have...or at least it does if you don't have the map memorized.

Escape Goat 2 (http://www.escapegoat2.com/) - I'd heard of this title before, even have watched people play it (or the previous game). You play as a goat going through a puzzle platformer, and eventually get a mouse companion that runs through small openings. It seems solid and well made. Beyond that, the only thing I have to say is that I got a good chance to talk to one of the devs.

Below (http://www.capybaragames.com/below/) - I was drawn to this pretty game as the convention hall was preparing to close on the second day. The art style makes the game look like it was made out of all the darkest kinds of construction paper. Although top down, it seems like Dark Souls in exploration...although there are very few enemies. We kept dying, though we were rarely sure why. There was no music until the first time we died, though we were never sure why. I really got nothing out of playing the game, though I'm still open to it in the future. Hopefully they'll have a tutorial and some understanding of game mechanics upon launch, but I really have no clue on this one.

Gigantic (http://www.gogigantic.com/) - I'm going to start off by saying I didn't enjoy this, but neither did I hate it, I have no strong opinions one way or the other. However, I seem to be in the minority on that. Almost everyone else I talked to really enjoyed it, but they are mostly MOBA fans. It's a third-person MOBA where you have to spawn creeps manually. If you like MOBA's, you'll probably like it.

Apotheon (http://www.alientrap.org/games/apotheon) – This was at PAX last year, and I believe I talked about it then. The art style is cool, but I don't know how I feel about gameplay. There doesn't seem to be much to it. The story MIGHT be interesting enough to hold my attention, or it might be really weak...I couldn't tell.

Delver's Drop (http://delversdrop.com/) - This was also at PAX last year, so go read that if you want more info. It's an overhead dungeon crawler. It seems like a lot of fun.

Hive Jump (http://hivejump.com/) - This was sharing a booth with Delver's Drop. It's a co-op platforming game involving using weaponry to take out incoming enemies. It's a small team that currently has a kick-starter going on to hire another programmer. Hopefully they get their funding, because I'd like to see what they could do, but right now their game is pretty lacking in the tech department. I got a good chance to talk to some of the developers, and they seem like great guys that all have an art background.

Wander (http://www.wanderthegame.com/) - Look, I hate to be mean, at least in this forum, but I'm having a hard time coming up with good things to say. I really like the concept, and the graphics are, for the most part, pretty good. But I don't think I understand the implementation. It will be a MMO without any kind of combat and is entirely exploration based. You don't seem to be able to build, or farm, or anything else, it's just wandering around. As a Tree. Yes, a tree...you move incredibly slowly. I had a dev guide me along where I was supposed to go to progress this, but I got tired of how slow it was. I managed to get to a part where I turned into a really slow bird before I gave up. If you're going to make a game that's exploration based, then you NEED to move fast. I should note, I couldn't hear any of the dialouge at all, so perhaps it's more interesting with the story (which is the major point in the game).

RUNNER UP
Dreadnought (https://www.greybox.com/dreadnought/en/) - This is the most unexpected game at PAX for me. I'd never heard of it before, but it's being made by the same people that made Spec Ops: The Line. This realization occurred to me after I had been sitting in line for over an hour, while I was talking to one of the devs. I'm told that the game will have a single player mode as well, and we should expect the same caliber of writing as in Spec Ops.
As for the demo itself, it was a 5v5 deathmatch. You play as a space-ship, fighting it out with another team of them. You're allowed to choose which boat you want, and they are different classes with different abilities. All of them have weaponry, all of them move slowly, and all of them are heavily armored, though the extent of the three is defined by class. I chose a medic class, and went in between heavily armored ships and keeping within range of an artillery. We managed to win in a landslide victory despite much communication, playing against another set of 5. It was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to see the final version.

BEST IN SHOW
Evolve (http://evolvegame.com) – Anyone that knows me will not be surprised by this. Unless the game was awful, it was probably pre-ordained that this would be my favourite. I've logged so many hours into Left 4 Dead and it's sequel that it should be clear that another game with co-op style competitive play made by the same studio would be right up my alley. They also had the most impressive display. As you walk across the sky bridge, a giant screen shows off gameplay and trailers for the game. Once you enter the annex, you can see their giant Goliath statue, an impressive 20+ feet tall statue that scrapes the ceiling. They capitalized on location to draw attention to their game.
It's 4 hunters vs 1 monster. The monster starts out on the defensive, and must run from the hunters until it levels up and then can attack. Hunters are divided into 4 classes: Assault, Support, Medic, and Trapper. I managed to get in twice, and played the Support and Trapper classes. I had a harder time with Support, largely because play as “Bucket” involves tearing off your own head and sending it shooting around, while your body stays behind, and gets left behind by your teammates. I did better as a Trapper, but we still ended up losing. The game is not without bugs, which is probably why it was delayed, so I appreciate the fact more now. Honestly, I think once I get a chance to get some practice in and learn the different characters and even have a chance at the monster, I'll get a lot better, and will enjoy it even more.
But the best thing I can say about this? The developers were there, and HELPED the players play. This is the norm in the indie megabooth, but not with larger studios, so it was awesome. It wasn't Aliens Colonial Marines where they were separate and wouldn't let players be the monsters. All 5 positions were filled by PAX attendees, and they guided us through the stages of the game through a headset. I got a chance to talk to a few of the developers, but the one that spent the most time with me as I waited in line was the studio head. I waved him down and he came over and chatted with me about the game for a good half hour, even going so far as giving me his card when he found out I was a game designer. Again, this was normal for small, indie developers, but to get this treatment from a man in charge of a large team was pretty awesome.

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