The Exhaustion Is Real, But So Are The Good Games

What we are finding is that day two of a three day convention is often the hardest. The giddy rush and hype of day one has ended, and there usually isn't a lot of sleep that first night as the parties strength long into the morning.  Pacing yourself through the second day - especially since its the busiest day at PAX East - is crucial.

If you don't take care of yourself, you don't get a chance to try new great games like this!

That being said, there were more than enough games and great moments to last all day.  Adam mentioned how this year, it felt as though it was our job to comb the smaller booths, looking for the gemstones, and I find that to be quite accurate.  There are more amazing tabletop board games on the expo hall floor, and there are more small developer booths than ever.  PAX Australia was able to bring 15 indie games from across the world, while developers from India, Montreal, and many other places keep bringing more and more interesting and new content for us to try.  There's no shortage of great ideas here. It's just a matter of knowing where to look.

Wyatt's Day 2 Thoughts

I'll sadly admit that I didn't take my own advice about pacing myself, and a bit into Saturday, I found myself crashing and burning hard. An hour in the AFK room by Take This! and taking the time to eat some real food helped, and soon I was off again.  Even though I lost an hour or two, there was still a lot of time to rally and have a blast seeing all the shiny. I finally caved and got myself some gear from groups like ThinkGeek, some new posters for my office wall, and was off to play as many great games as possible.

And what a rally it was: one of the biggest games I got to play was Dauntless: it's a new game from Phoenix Labs, and it wants to be the next big thing in the Monster Hunting genre.  It was still in alpha on the show floor, but the gems of a great game are there: it's fast paced, team-oriented, with a gorgeous art style and fun looking weapons.  When it makes its way to the PC market later this year for open beta, I expect it's going to be very popular.

Look for this one near the end of 2017 - Dauntless looks to be a very promising game.

One of my happiest moments was actually stopping by my good friends at Chainsawesome Games: their Knight Squad was one of the first articles we wrote about, so it was great to see them demoing their newest game, Aftercharge.  While it's not going to be out for over a year, it demonstrates what the company does so well; they take a genre, twist it for great small, silly multiplayer, and make sure its always fun.  The game is a 3v3 'first person shooter', but one team are guards with lazer rifles, and the other team are invisible robots trying to destroy energy batteries.  It was frenetic and fun, and I can't wait to see it develop.

Osiris: New Dawn proved to me the pride a small game studio can take in it's product.  It's a survival game that wants to take the genre to the next level, adding space travel, gritty science fiction elements, and a level of nuance mixed with sheer beauty that I haven't seen before.  The fact that the company is working with scientists to make sure the solar system they are crafting for their game is realistic shows true dedication.  I'll admit, they won me over, and I'll probably be playing their open access in the next few months.

Aftercharge will be out in 2018, but this first look was already fun.

Finally, one of my favorite highlights was introducing all of my friends to Grimslingers, a card game from Greenbrier Games.  Mixing the gothic, science-fiction, magic, and wild west, it sets out to make a game unlike any I've really seen.  The artwork is breathtaking, but the gameplay of fighting your friends in 'duels' of fireballs and windstorms is frenetic fun.  When you have five people around a room choosing who to aim their attacks at, then revealing their targets all at once, there's bound to be some shouting, and some laughter.  Say what you will about video games, some of my favorite nights at conventions end with cardboard on the table and dice in hand.

Adam's Day 2 Thoughts

Indie is the word of the day! The Indie Megabooth is one of my favorite attractions at PAX. In the time it takes some people to wait in line for a single attraction, I can play a whole mess of games. Some of them are very rough around the edges, others are pre-alpha, and some are prepping for release. Every so often, you stumble across a real gem.

Dead Cells is one such game. It's a self-proclaimed Metroidvania-style roguelike with silky smooth controls and gorgeous, pixelated graphics. There are a whole slew of weapons that you can combine with items into all sorts of satisfying, monster slaying builds. It set to release on Steam around May and near the end of the year on consoles, as far as current schedules go. It's already on my Steam wishlist, and you can expect a full article when it releases.

Another honorable mention today comes from The Darwin Project, by Scavengers Studios. Imagine a first person shooter that pits several players in a freezing arena with nothing more than an ax and a bow. Arrows must be scavenged from wood you collect, as does anything else you want to make (boots, coats, traps, fires, etc). The description everyone uses (including Wyatt) is "like The Hunger Games." The arena shrinks as the match progresses, alliances can be made (and broken), and you can freeze to death; the round only ends when one survivor is still standing. This is a game I'll be keeping my eyes on, and it only gets better the more friends you bring in. I wouldn't mind seeing it on our Twitch Multiplayer Mondays once it releases.

Eric's Day 2 Thoughts

The theme for Saturday was making the old new again. The same old, tired tropes just aren't cutting it anymore.

I was lucky enough to demo a game called Embers of Mirrim, which is a combination platformer and puzzle game by Creative Bytes. It adds a new dimension to the genre by having you control two characters, not just on the same team, but actually at the same time, as you try to bring two proud races together to repel an alien threat. It was a little something to differentiate the game from the jillion platformers that have come out since Super Mario Bros.

I also got to play Dimension Drive, a 1942-ish bullet hell with a twist. In this game you have a split screen, one screen has your ship and the other has an indicator of where you ship would be. Your ship can jump between the two screens, which brings a fresh new twist to the genre. It's also a bit mind-bending. You can jump to the other screen to avoid enemy attacks and obstacles, but you also have to make sure you aren't jumping into anything. There's also a co-op mode where two players each take one of the screens, and that's even more difficult still. It's hard to follow, but it's actually a very cool concept that adds a new layer to the age-old bullet hell genre.

However, the highlight of the day was when I got to play the new Shovel Knight expansion, Specter of Torment. Shovel Knight, as I have said before, thrives on making the old new again. Specter of Torment is Yacht Club Games's newest addition to the game, and unexpectedly, it's actually a prequel to the main game of Shovel Knight. So far as I could tell from the demo, Specter of Torment follows Specter Knight, who was brought back from death by The Enchantress, as he goes around and recruits the other members of the Order of No Quarter. This expansion makes Shovel Knight itself new again with a new storyline, new characters and abilities, and new versions of old familiar levels.

There are only so many times you can play and appreciate the same old things. If the next big thing looks too much like the last big thing, then why would you or anyone else be interested in it? Gaming has reached a point of needing to make the old new again, and that's been one of the major themes of PAX East this year. Keep it fresh, keep it fun.

Game on, my friends.

The End Is Near, But There's Still So Much To See

The final day approaches fast, and while we all love the afterparties and concerts that this weekend bring, we chose to take our own advice.  We left early, came back to the hotel, and spent time just enjoying all the great board games we bought for ourselves.  If there's one more thing to say, its possibly this: while we come to conventions to play games, what we really take away from them is community.  Taking the time to play with friends, to reconnect, or to bond with a favorite game developer is what makes the long marathon weekend worth all the time and money.  We're here to remind ourselves that its not just us that love to live in worlds of unreality, but thousands and thousands of others too.

Now if you'll excuse us, we have to get as much sleep as possible before daylight savings time kicks in, and it's time to attack day three.