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PAX West 2016: Day 1 Hands-on Experience

There’s no great way to talk about the chaos and beauty that is a large Con like PAX. You could try to review everything you saw and you’d still fall short or forget something. That being said, I want to talk about the games I did get to play my first day at PAX West 2016. There are some awesome games coming in the near future and you, my lovely fans, need to hear about them.

In no particular order, I give you, the games I played day one:

pax 1 horizon zero dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games: PS4 – February 28, 2017)

I have been excited about HZD since it first debuted at E3 two years ago. Female protagonist, dystopian society, science fiction, open-world, and animals I can TAME? Oh, baby. It calls to me. That being said, the demo at PAX West was nothing new. It was the same portion we saw this year at E3 and I felt for the poor guy playing that reel 30 times a day. However, I did get to play an, albeit small, demo of the game. Nothing exciting: take out a few watchers, tame a beast, ride into the sunset. It looks great, feels unique, but not obtusely so. In fact, the thing I noticed first was how easy it was to play. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched the demos so much but even without a tutorial, HZD was comfortably intuitive. Not nearly as convoluted as I first imagined. Crafting was also a breeze. I have to say, for now, I am excited for this game to release.

pax 1 gears of war 4

Gears of War 4 (Microsoft Studios: Xbox One, PC- October 11, 2016)

I only played horde mode for Gears of War 4 and it was, well, guys, it was Gears of War. I don’t really know what else you want from me here. Have you played horde mode before? It’s that. There’s the Fabricator, allowing you to builds tricks and traps against your Locust Horde foes, but this time you can build them anywhere, leading to shenanigans like my teammates building a barrier in front a freaking cover spot, but whatever. I’m not bitter about that wasted money. There are new classes you can choose from: Engineer, Heavy, Scout, Sniper, and Soldier. Mostly everyone picked Soldier because that’s what they are used to. What I DID like, however, was that each character wasn’t tied to a certain class. Want a team of Reynas, each with a different class? Have at it, tiger. All in all, good bloody fun for the whole family. It’s Gears. I’m not really worried.

pax 1 crashlands

Crashlands (Butterscotch Shenanigans: PC, iOS, Android)

Now we’re getting into the stuff I love, the indie games. Crashlands is a sandbox crafting game full of dirty humor and sci-fi goodies. If you like exploration, base building, and 2-D design, you’ll probably like Crashlands. It’s still in the early stages but the thing I love most about Crashlands is what they haven’t released yet: Crashlands Creator. The developers have in the works a web-based creator that utilizes all of the Crashlands assets for you to RPG Maker your way into creating your own game or level or just an outpost. (Or own version of Macbeth.) You can then upload and share those designs with friends on the internet and across any platform. It’s Super Mario Maker but without all the hassle of Nintendo locking you down. Crashlands is great fun and I’m excited to see what the future holds for them. I’ll have more to say about this game in the future, so keep your eyes peeled. 

pax 1 owlboy

Owlboy (D-pad Studio: PC – Fall 2016)

I fell in love with Owlboy the moment I saw it. The nostalgia, the art, the music! I was drawn to its sweet appeal and I’m honestly heartbroken I didn’t have more time to spend with it. Everything played well and I wish I had more to say about this game but the only thing I want is to play more of it. 

pax 1 dungeon boss

Dungeon Boss (Big Fish Games: iOS, Android)

Dungeon Boss is a mobile game and if you know anything about me, you know that I almost never play mobile games. Pokémon Go and Fallout Shelter are anomalies that get played for a week and put down in favor of console or PC games. Dungeon Boss will probably go the same way for me, to be honest. That doesn’t make it a bad game. It’s got cute art style, an easy learning curve, and replayability. I’ve played a ton of mobile games that just want you to die so you have to spend real money to play more. I didn’t get that vibe from Dungeon Boss so it’s got that going for it. I’m just not sure I’m the game’s target audience. 

pax 1 vikings wolves of midgard

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard (Kalypso: PC, Xbox, PS4 – 2017)

Vikings is a Diablo-esque game that takes place a Norse setting. The story seems so-so thus far, village destroyed, you get revenge, you know the drill. It isn’t quite open-world but given the action RPG genre, I think that’s actually better. The controls handle well (even if I despise the PS4 controller) and the cooldowns for attacks are just long enough to create challenge but still short enough to combo attacks together. There’s a cool survival mechanic to consider with the frigid cold in the world, which I enjoyed and the skills are set up in a way that reminds me of FFX’s sphere grid. Skills are gained by sacrificing to certain Norse deities, which is a cool little world building tidbit. 

pax 1 urban empire

Urban Empire (Kalypso: PC – Winter 2016)

I went into my session with Kalypso expecting to fall in love with Vikings and then be meh on Urban Empire, but once I started playing UE, it was a completely different story. I gave into the game’s siren call, pulling me under, only to realize 45 minutes later that I wasn’t at home sitting at my desk in my underwear but instead, I was at PAX and had an audience watching me play God mayor over my humble (and overly taxed) town. UE is part city builder, part turn-based strategy, and I love it. Some of the politicizing seems intentionally obtuse and at the whim of the AI, but damn if I don’t want to master it.

pax 1 mirage arcane warfare

Mirage: Arcane Warfare (Torn Banner: PC)

Mirage was probably the least polished of the games I played my first day at PAX. It was in alpha, so that’s to be expected. If you’ve played Chivalry: Medieval Warfare then you know what to expect with Mirage. I mean, you know precisely what to expect because it plays exactly like Chivalry, just with magic spells. It’s six a side and you do your best to capture points or escort cargo or whatever it is the random map tells you to do, all the while hoping your attacks go off sometime within five minutes of pressing the key. After a few rounds, I got the hang of the system, but I’ll be honest: I found myself wishing for the polish of Overwatch or at the least, a sprint button.

pax 1 badass hero

Badass Hero (Awesome Games Studio – 2017)

I play a ton of roguelike games. I’m not very good at any of them, but I play a ton. Badass Hero is a  twin-stick shooter, platformer, roguelike game that throws you into the role of the Badass Hero, a comic book hero making his way through the pages of his book, battling enemies and dying a lot. If you’re me. Overall it played like I expected from the kind of game that combined so many genres, except that BH had one flaw that kept me from fully immersing myself into the game: because of its twin-stick shooter nature, the jump button was the left trigger. I understand the why but the how of it left me feeling confused and dying a whole more than if jump had been the “A” button. I’ll give BH another try at a later date because I think it deserves it, but for now, I’m left wanting.


There are a few games that were at PAX this year that I have already played and still I feel are worth mentioning because I’m a kiss ass and I want them to love me:

Stonehearth (Radiant Entertainment)

An adorable city builder with lots of style and character.

Mekazoo (The Good Mood Creators)

A cool platforming experience that utilizes different animals and has amazing music.

Masquerada (Witching Hour Studios)

A gorgeous looking RPG that reminds me so much of Dragon Age: Origins it hurts.

Stardew Valley (Concerned Ape)

I LOVE THIS GAME ITS MY FAVORITE.

Check back later for my impressions from days two and three of PAX West 2016.

About Jen Stayrook

Jen Stayrook
Don't let the fancy nerd duds deceive you; Jen’s never been described as “classy.” You can find her on Twitter where she stalks all of her favorite celebrities: @jenstayrook. Or you can find her on Steam or Xbox dying in every game she plays as "Rilna." Email: jen.stayrook@theworkprint.com

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