We've been covering PAX East for the last few years, and there is always one simple truth to it: not enough time. No matter how early you get to the convention center, no matter how fast you run between booths, no matter what you do, there's just not enough time in a day to see even a quarter of what is offered at a convention this size. Every inch of the expo hall is covered in games, the tabletop section has hundreds of options, and there are panels and special guests and concerts for everyone. On top of that, there are nine-foot-tall Reinharts getting stuck trying to get in and out of the show floor, and cosplayers and great people to talk to everywhere.
|It was 20 degrees or less for most the day, and snow was everywhere: the cosplayers were not phased, it seems!|
With that being said, we at Sprites and Dice boldly attempted our best. It was a cold, snowy day in Boston, but we trudged through it to see all we could see. Make no mistake, this is not an exhaustive list - just some highlights, some games that caught our eye, or a booth that we had a chance to interview someone at. We hope that if you are currently at the convention, that it might give you a bit of a guide for new things to try out for yourself. If you are reading from home, well, maybe you'll know a few new great games to look out for.
Wyatt's Day One Thoughts
Where do I begin? I got to play Virtual Reality for the first time with the Playstation VR, and the in-development Farpoint was a fantastic introduction - think being an explorer/soldier against Starship Trooper-style bugs. I got to play perhaps one of the weirdest, silliest games soon after, The Darwin Proejct: think The Hunger Games, but with a lot more humor. You don't just fight - you scavange, craft gear, and prepare in the wilderness, hoping to outscheme your foes. I went to the panel on Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age, and man, there was something special about listening to the designer of a Final Fantasy game talk about why they love what they do.
One thing I love about conventions is how you can see companies grow and keep building new content. I reviewed Hand of Fate after trying it two PAX Easts ago, and today I had a chance to demo Hand of Fate 2. It looks gorgeous, with upgrades and new story abound. Yacht Club Games, of Shovel Knight fame, now has a much bigger booth, in part because of how wonderfully well they engage their community. Dragoon, a board game from the indie megabooth from last year, had graduated into the tabletop section, having done well enough to just start a new kickstarter for their first expansion.
One of my favorite moments of the day came from an interview about Hob, the newest title from Runic games. They're nearly finished, and all I can say is how gorgeous the game is. It's a puzzler and platformer, a far cry from their Torchlight series, but the feeling of care and detail is everywhere. They were kind enough to let us interview them and play through it, and we recorded it here on our facebook page for your pleasure. I can safely say this game will be worth every penny once it is released.
If there's one hint I would give, it's this: this is a year for exploration, for trying new things. Many of the big AAA companies are showing many games, not just highlighting one focus; the Playstation and Xbox booths are stuffed with indie-developed games that they are helping publish. The Nintendo Switch is here of course, as well as some some VR games, but those lines are exhaustively long. Do yourself a favor, and walk around the outside of the expo hall floor. Let yourself try something new and you've never heard of, and you probably won't regret it.
Adam's Day One Thoughts
My day 1 recap in one phrase: holy moly! There is a lot here.
The first, major highlight of the day came from visiting the Dire Wolf booth. I went by to try out their recently acclaimed board game, Clank! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the title), but with the tables full, I drifted instead to a tablet game that seemed unremarkably like Hearthstone. How shortsighted was I! Eternal is Dire Wolf's spin on the digital card game and it is glorious. While the UI feels familiar, the game has tons of depth and originality of its own. Oh, and it's totally free to play. It's currently in early access on Steam and Google Play. Expect an article on it in the near future.
I was also pleased to see that Pyre, by Supergiant Games, didn't have a three hour line this year. In fact, I plunked right down on a couch with a guy sharing my name, and was able to play with him; last year, Pyre had only single-player mode, but this year, they were showing off versus matches. I had my behind handed to me by over 50 points, but I had a great time. The game is every bit as beautiful as we remember from last year, and the controls are buttery smooth. There are plenty of games that are fun to play, but I don't often get to say a game is a pleasure to play. Pyre is one of those games. It's been on my Steam wishlist since last year, and it looks like that's not going to change.
Eric's Day One Thoughts
Today's theme was stepping out of my comfort zone, playing many new indie games and talking with developers. I demoed Bear With Me by Exordium Games, a point-and-click noire adventure with a touch of Lovecraftian horror. I demoed Yonder, an exploration puzzle game by Venturous. I had my first experience with VR when I demoed The American Dream by Samurai Punk, and yes, indie games are now playing with virtual reality. I went to a ton of panels, talking about the positivity in the gaming community. I also saw The Protomen for the first time at the Friday concerts (after the amazing Bit Brigade), and that's a whole article in itself.
It was a great day, but also a long and tiring one; I'm still digesting all I saw. The theme for tomorrow, and my advice to you, is: pace yourself.
Two Days Left, And Still Too Much To See
Tomorrow, the Indie Megabooth calls to many of us again, as there are over 80 games in that one section of the show floor to try. There is the fact that Xbox is showing off some playable content from Mass Effect: Andromeda, and we would be wrong not to try to see it for ourselves. There are more concerts, more panels, and more great people to run into all over the convention center. I'm going to echo Eric's thoughts again here: remember that a convention like PAX East is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a breath, and rememember to give yourself time to wander about. Find new games, talk with new people, and enjoy the great community that Penny Arcade brings together every year.