We had a wonderful time at this year’s PAX East, despite the very cold New England winter. The promise of great new games trumped all. And the con didn’t fail to deliver!
We spent a lot of time checking out upcoming indies and some of those big AAAs you are undoubtedly waiting for. So we decided to make a list of all the stuff we loved at PAX East 2015. This isn’t ranked in any particular way, so don’t get any ideas. All of these games are spectacular, and we wanted to tell you how much we loved them.
This list will primarily focus on the indies — because that’s what PAX is all about. You can find AAA games like Overwatch and Final Fantasy XV at the bottom, of course, although we’ll be posting some more in-depth pieces on those games later.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
2015 | Asteroid Base | PC, XBO
Asteroid Base’s hectic multiplayer shooter-platformer might have been our absolute favorite game at PAX. The premise is simple: fierce space battles through various star systems in a galaxy full of Haters, and you’re an agent of Love, the most powerful force in the universe. As you dash around the various platforms on your ship, you and your teammate have to get tactical, as various enemies approach from all angles. Should you hop onto the shields or take control of the starboard cannon? AND WHO IS PILOTING THE SHIP? Or quick, jump onto the nav computer and chart a course out of a messy situation! We’re pretty sure that Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is the best Millennium Falcon simulator we’ve ever seen.
2015 | c3sk | PC
Things get really creepy in Noct very quickly. You’ll immediately recognize this game as one of the most minimalist indies ever, and that’s a strongsuit. It allows the mist to roll into the abandoned towns and forests, as you venture out into the world, trying to survive against giant monsters beyond your understanding. Yes, c3sk has made this survival horror game decidedly Lovecraftian in all the best ways, filling the very dense atmosphere (you can almost feel the heaviness of the mist in your lungs) with horrors beyond your wildest imagination. Playing this game with a friend makes for an even better experience, as you work together to gather resources and discover what’s happened to this world gone to a very dark place.
April 2015 | Landon Podbielski | PC
Dude, Duck Game is insane, ridiculous, chaotic, fun. This multiplayer brawler, which will remind you of things like Super Smash Bros. and #IDARB, quickly became the most addictive experience at the Adult Swim Games booth. The game’s charm comes from its quirky approach. Basically, you take control of a duck with a funny hat (we love you, Cheeseburger Duck!) and fight your friends in a one-hit-kill deathmatch where you could end up one roast duck (literally). With plenty of weapons, stages, hats, and power-ups, Duck Game is a frantic race to 10 wins that we think will have you and your friends glued to the couch for hours.
Spring 2015 | DrinxBox Studios | Vita
Severed is a logical next step for the studio behind indie mega-hit Guacamelee!As soon as you pick up this touch-based first-person RPG, you’ll recognize a lot of the familiar aspects of DrinkBox’s aesthetic, namely the signature art style and immersive world. But Severed isn’t the lighthearted romp its predecessor was. Instead, we get a moody, dark, and twisted world full of monsters and corpses, as you step into the shoes of a woman who is destined to become a great warrior and rid her village from the darkness that has spread to its every corner. The hack-and-slach touch-based controls work really well, and there’s a bit of Metroidvania gameplay, too, as you search for keys to unlock doors to ever darker places. Do not miss this game, especially if you need something to play on your PS Vita.
March 31| Tom Happ | PS4, PS3, Vita
Listen, if you love Metroid, Contra, Bionic Commando, and that distinct art style from the 16-bit days, you absolutely need to play Axiom Verge when it arrives this month. It’s mind-bending sci-fi fun that at once is all about alien carnage, but also about something a bit more existential. With plenty of weapons, items, and power-ups, there isn’t much you can’t do in this Metroidvania platformer. And the story’s premise is perfect for those gamers particularly into sci-fi tales: you control Trace, a man who wakes up in a mysterious alien planet after suffering a head injury. Trace must explore this strange world in order to discover what happened to him. Look forward to this one!
2015 | Tomasz Waclawek | PC
This neo-noir revenge tale unfolds as a turn-based platformer that requires a lot of puzzle-solving and a bit of strategy. But we must also note the simplicity of the controls, which mostly demand you to keep your thumbs on the joysticks. The main character in this story is a blood-stained heroine with a helmet and katana who must assassinate five targets in retribution for her father’s death. Yes, it’s a bit Kill Bill, but the art points towards something more cartoony. Speaking to creator Tomasz Waclawek, he told us he wanted it to look a bit like Samurai Jack. Okay, we’re definitely interested now.
TBA | White Rabbit | PC
There are a couple of Dark Souls-inspired RPGs on this list (we’re definitely not complaining), but Death’s Gambit really embraces its very own identity as a side-scroller. Set on an alien medieval world full of terrible monsters, you must platform your way to your targets using a super cool grapple and other tools. There are also swords, guns, and magic at your disposal. The goal, of course, is to vanquish the evil monsters roaming the planet. Enough said.
September 2015 | Thunder Lotus Games | PC
Speaking to William Dube, the creator of Jotun, it is clear that this game has a distinct vision: a highly-stylized adventure that is as much about atmosphere as it is about the dangerous Norse giants players will be facing. While the game might look sparse in videos and demos — the charming sketch animations give this game even more flair, in our opinion — don’t mistake that for a lack of depth. Jotun is up there with classics such as Shadow of the Colossus and Dark Souls.
TBA | The Behemoth | PC, XBO
“WTF” might be the best way to describe The Behemoth’s untitled Game 4. This strategy RPG has everything we love about Behemoth games — the outlandishness, couch gameplay, and crazy story — while also introducing fans to a whole new approach to a Behemoth title. The studio has a real talent for switching genres from title to title, but Game 4 might cap them all. There’s turn-based strategy, RPG leveling and character customization, loot, a world unstuck in time by a deceased radioactive space bear, and killer cupcakes…You figure it out.
April 14 | Acid Nerve | PS4, Vita
We died a lot while playing Titan Souls at PAX, and Acid Nerve loved it. Every boss fight is almost a logic game. Each Titan has one weakness, and it’s up to you to figure it out and exploit it. Failure to do means you’ll absolutely be dismembered or turned into a gruesome, bloody jam. This top-down RPG homage to Dark Souls puts you in control of an archer who only carries ONE arrow around to shoot his targets. Which means that you have to place your shots in such a way that you’re able to hit the Titans and also quickly recover the arrow. One false step and your dead. Merciless one hit kills await!
2015 | Illogika | PC
This roguelike title is a lot of fun, especially due to the puzzle-solving each new, procedurally-generated room demands of you. The objective of each room is fairly simple: defeat all of the deadly enemies to unlock the next room. Of course, nothing is ever THAT easy. The only way to defeat the killer robots is to turn them on each other and use the environment to destroy them. There’s a lot of maneuvering to be done, as you take control of your character and a little globe that you can use to hack into enemies. This game is a lot of fun.
Leap of Fate
2015 | Clever Plays | PC, Mobile
On one hand, this might look like another top-down action RPG, but what makes this game stand out is how well it has adapted the genre for touch-based mobile devices. Playing this game on a tablet is very smooth, as you use both thumbs to control your character and shoot. The procedurally-generated levels, power-ups, and micromanagement are what lend the game that complexity that the action RPG genre demands. But Leap of Fate‘s simplicity is key for its mobile approach, and we could see ourselves definitely digging into this game on long train rides after work.
TBA | Bishop Games | PC
Yes, you want to make the obvious comparison: Light Fall does look and play a bit like Limbo, but it carries so much of its own DNA to almost make the comparison irrelevant. Really, if this game didn’t feature that dark color scheme, no one would bother mentioning it. This decidedly sci-fi cousin is a bit more light-hearted and heavier on narrative, which is fantastic, but that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t reveal darker aspects of the world the characters inhabit. In fact, speaking to one of the developers, we were told that the game features sci-fi the way Stephen King would it. Well then, we certainly came to the right place!
TBA | Sukeban Games | PC, Vita
VA-11 HALL-A might be the best homage to Metal Gear that we’ve ever seen. Promising “Cyberpunk Bartender Action,” this “booze em’ up” is just what the doctor ordered for any gamer looking for something really different. Yes, it’s a bartending game at heart, but this is also a story-heavy RPG that works as a sort of allegory for the current political and cultural crisis in Venezuela, where the developers are making the game. We were told that the game unfolds like a “dystopian Cheers.” Your bar is set in a fictional cyberpunk world where the political crisis has already happened, and people are starting to reconstruct their lives. But is everything you’re experiencing real? Yeah, there’s a bit of the metafiction and self-aware storytelling that made Metal Gear Solid 2 such an immediate classic. And you get to learn how to make cool fictional drinks. Win win.
TBA | Old Moon | PC
Ghost Song is a very quiet game. Full of vibrant colors and beautiful synth, the game is a spiritual successor to Super Metroid, although perhaps a little less arcade-y. We didn’t get to uncover too much of the story — the game is pretty hard — but we can certainly tell that we’re going to be stepping into some pretty heavy sci-fi existentialism here. Yes, there’s plenty of Metroidvania gameplay, guns, and cool alien enemies, but we’re most excited about the intricate story this game seems to weave behind all of the atmospheric beauty.
April 2015 | Ostrich Banditos | PC
We asked a member of the Ostrich Banditos team why there weren’t many Western games out there, and he said that many of the elements of the genre were decidedly dark and didn’t particularly favor some gamers (women, specifically). Luckily, they have found a way around the darker tones of the genre with Westerado, a retro-style Western RPG full of humor and ladies with shotguns. If you pull out your gun anywhere (ANYWHERE), you bet everybody else in town is carrying their own piece or rifle. There isn’t much of a mismatch in this version of the lawless Old West. And that’s why it’s a fun challenge.
The Big AAAs
Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae
March 17 | Square Enix | PS4, XBO
We won’t get into too much detail, since this demo will receive its very own in-depth analysis a bit later, but we just wanted to tell you we loved our very first hours with Final Fantasy XV. The open-world, real-time combat approach to this upcoming major installment in this hit JRPG series is the correct one. After dealing with the linear gameplay of XIII and its sequels, it’s really refreshing to journey through XV‘s world with only the faintest of guidelines. You have objectives, which you are welcome to follow, but you can just as easily trail off the path and go hunting for the many wild beasts that inhabit the world. The combat flows really well, especially when warping around the battlefield with your sword. And did we mention that stepping in and out of battle is seamless? Yes, this seems to be a proper evolution for the series. More on Final Fantasy XV to come.
2016 | Blizzard Entertainment | PC
Overwatch is Blizzard’s first new IP in a long time, and it’s obvious that they’ve put a lot of thought into the finished product. Although Blizzard might very well rule the gaming world, investing in an multiplayer FPS game is still a big risk, especially in today’s industry, where Call of Duty and Halo are king. But a company as innovative and creative as Blizzard will never be afraid to go head-to-head against the big guns (no pun intended), and that’s why Overwatch was one of our favorites of PAX. While keeping to its more Pixar-like animated art style, the game still features a lot of welcomed carnage. After spending an hour playing Point Capture mode, we can happily say that we’re not worried about this game. More on Overwatch to come later.
TBA | Yager Development | PC
Yager has finally created a space sim that allows us to pilot ships that remind us of Imperial Star Destroyers without having to do math. This isn’t EVE Online or Sins of a Solar Empire. Dreadnought is a third-person 5v5 multiplayer shooter with space ships. Simple as that. With plenty of powerful ship classes to choose from, the game is all about building the most powerful fleet you can and facing off against enemy ships. That’s not to say it becomes a mindless arena shooter as soon as the clock starts ticking. No, you still have to budget things such as ship weaknesses and energy levels while making your way through the gorgeous space- and planet-based warzones. You can literally start yelling “ALL POWER TO FORWARD SHIELDS” in this game. That’s a special thing.
2015 | Hi-Rez Studios | XBO
Last but definitely not least, we arrive at SMITE, the hit MOBA from Hi-Rez Studios. No, SMITE isn’t actually a new game. SMITE officially launched last year for PC, but now it’s also about to be the first MOBA game on next-gen consoles. When we stepped into their booth at PAX, our main question was whether the MOBA controls would translate well to an Xbox controller. Well, this MOBA experience is flawless on a console. Thanks to the unique third-person perspective and the game’s Arena mode (not a typical three-land mode at all), SMITE is about to make a very seamless transition onto a console. Could this mean that more console gamers will try the MOBA genre? We sure hopes so.
John Saavedra is going to get some much needed rest now. Follow him on Twitter!