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 at PAX West 2016. There are some awesome games coming in the near future and you, my lovely fans, need to hear about them.
Day two of PAX West was a more indie affair and you know what? I prefer it that way. The indie games almost always end up being my favorite because they’re allowed to innovate more and make the games they want to make. Without further ado, in no particular order, here are the games I played day two at PAX West 2016:
Mages of Mystralia (Borealys Games: PC – 2017)
Remember Magicka? Remember how much you enjoyed combining spells in Magicka? Well, Mages of Mystralia takes that enjoyment and ramps it up to ten. Instead of memorizing spell patterns like you do in Magicka, in MoM you craft tour spells to your liking. Want your fire spell to rain down on enemies? You got it. Want to create a barrier spell that also makes a decoy of your character? Easy. Unlike in Magicka where you, ahem, me, constantly mash the wrong sequence of spells and inadvertently kill your friends, in MoM, the spells are bound to one key. I don’t know much else about the game itself but the magic creation has me interested enough to want to delve further into the game.
Bleed 2 (Bootdisk Revolution: PC – 2017)
I’ve never played the original Bleed. In fact, I’d never even heard of it until my saunter around the Indie Megabooth. The art style and bright pink hair of the protagonist caught my eye and soon after, I was hooked. Unlike some of the other games in the genre, Bleed 2 is a smooth twin-stick shooter. It wants you to play the game quickly, blasting away enemies and jumping from area to area as fast as your brain and fingers allow. Everything about it felt intuitive and fun. This game went from a “Sure, I’ll try it” to “when can I have this game, is it right now?” in about two minutes.
Crest (Eat Create Sleep: PC – 2017)
Crest is a God simulator unlike any other I’ve played. Instead of directing your ever faithful servants to build a church or a wonder, you give them simple commandments and they are left to interpret those commandments as they, the AI, sees fit. If you tell them to produce food, they decide whether they want to farm, hunt, or steal food. These commandments are the only way to communicate with your people and once you’ve made one, you can’t take it back and be like, “No, no. That’s not what I meant.” Without getting too critical, it’s a fascinating concept that challenges how we view religion as a whole and what our respective “God” might have intended. It’s still very early in development and as such, still needs some expanding in the mid and late game, but for now, I’m optimistic about Crest.
Hob (Runic Games: PS4, PC – 2017)
Hob is a Zelda-esque puzzle platformer, gorgeously put together in an open world space. You spend your time going through the world, unlocking different regions, killing enemies, and cutting grass. (See? Zelda-esque.) Helping Hob through these quests is his oddly adorable mech hand that is upgraded as the game progresses. There’s a grappling hook, a blink ability, and a whole lot more. The puzzles themselves aren’t too difficult, but the real challenge comes from the platforming in a 3D world. I struggle as it is with 2D distance, so I was constantly biting it by overshooting my mark. I don’t think this is a flaw of the game; I’m just bad at video games. Once you solve the puzzles, the world in Hob shifts, much like Fez or Monument Valley. Hob was the most polished of the games I played day two and I’m ridiculously excited to try it out in full at a later date.
Tunnels & Trolls (MetaArcade – Late 2016)
Tunnels & Trolls from MetaArcade is deceptively simple. It’s a mobile game that tells stories set in the T&T worlds (similar to Dungeons & Dragons) and you play as a character navigating through these stories, trying desperately to make it out alive. It’s a narrative, first and foremost, but it’s also an RPG, meaning your characters skills will determine life or death. Well, that and the roll of the die. As someone who doesn’t get to D&D as much as she wants, a game like Tunnels & Trolls definitely tickles my fancy. It’s still very much in the early stages but with a little polish and expansion, it could be great.
Severed (Drinkbox Studios: Wii U, 3DS, PS Vita, iOS)
The great thing about indie games is how they actively make use of their platforms in innovative ways. I’ve had touch screens for years but rarely have games managed to utilize that technology in a compelling way outside of managing inventory and maps. Severed uses that touch screen and the stylus for attacking and it’s done well. A first person action-adventure game, Severed follows you as the protagonist, trapped in an unknown world and corrupted with a darkness that allows you to sever body parts off enemies for new abilities. It’s equal parts creepy and depressing. While I wish there had been more to explore in each room (there was a lot of emptiness), Severed definitely has a theme of loss that it treads nicely.
And there you have it! Day two is a wrap. Stay tuned for the third and final day of PAX West 2016.