Published on September 17th, 2018 | by Neil Jordan0
PAX West 2018 Recap
Greetings & Salutations Everyone!
We are nearly two weeks removed from the chaos that was PAX 2018. As the city of Seattle returns to ‘normal’ and the Washington State Convention Center awaits the same time next year where gamers, video game software designers, video game hardware companies, and cosplayers once again take over the downtown core we look back at the one time of year where we get to forget the real world for nearly a week and bring our favorite games and characters out and make those the world as we wish it was. As far as my take on PAX 2018, although somewhat subdued and I saw some of the games i’d seen at PAX 2017 .. it was still a most excellent way to end the summer and see what the near future held for the big companies as well as the independent game developers on the block. Along with the stills and video clips that you’ll see in Skewed & Reviewed, here’s some of the things I personally had the opportunity to check out this year.
Dauntless – This soon-to-be-released free-to-play action role-playing game that is being published and developed by Phoenix Labs appeared at PAX 2017 and reached open beta on May 24th of this year. The game takes place in a fantasy reality after a major cataclysm has torn the world apart. This released monstrous Behemoths upon the land and you, the slayer, must take them down. As you fight throughout the game you must collect loot to build and upgrade your weapons as you fight larger and more powerful monsters. The game plays out as a third-person fighter game. I had the opportunity to check it out last year but not play it. Available on the Microsoft Windows platform, it utilizes the Unreal Engine 4. I had the opportunity to try it out in multiplayer this year. I must say it was awesome last year and it has become even better this time around.
K – This game is by far one of the coolest mobile games i’ve every had the opportunity to play. It’s rich in visual detail and is easily addictive. It is the first game by Atlus to be developed and published Sega since it acquired Atlus. Atlus however is still overseeing the ‘lore’ of the game. You the player are a member of the ‘Liberators’. A secret group in Akihabara, a district in Tokyo, Japan. The ‘Liberators’ become involved in a dispute with a faction of ‘Devil Downlowders (Dx2) known as the ‘Acolytes’ who Answer to a being known as Vanitas. You, the player, can choose amongst characters and explored different levels with a team of demons (4). A unique feature of this game is that you have the opportunity to negotiate with potential opponents and stave off a potential conflict or even rally them to your side. The game also includes a training aspect as well. It took a few tries for me to wrap my brain around it but after about 3 tires I got the hang of it. I thought the game was so cool I immediately downloaded it to my iPhone and IPad before even leaving the 1st day of PAX. (the game is also available for Android devices as well).
Marvel Battle Lines – A free-play-game being developed by Nexon and available later this year for iOS and Android devices, ‘Marvel Battle Lines’ is a digital card game that combines a comic book format with original storylines by Marvel writer Alex Irvine for the single player version. The card game will include hundreds of heroes and villains from throughout the Marvel Universe in competitive battles as well as single player campaigns. Each card will include character details as well as individual histories of each character. The game will also include a ‘player vs player’ option which I actually had the opportunity to try out. I got creamed probably because I was, in part, focused on the amazing comic art they have put together for the game as well as the storylines. But it’s definitely a game I plan on acquiring upon its release.
Leisure Suit Larry ‘Wet Dreams Don’t Dry’ – If this game title sounds somewhat familiar to you, then don’t be surprised. This new game, set to be released November 7th, is based on the adult-themed video game series created by Al Lowe. It was originally published by Sierra from 1987 to 2009 and then by Codemasters in ‘09. This newest incarnation is being distributed by Assemble Entertainment.
This newest incarnation of the game continues the story of Larry Laffer. A balding, leisure-suit wearing character (imagine a 40 something American version of an unsuccessful Austin Powers) that centers around him as he attempts to, for the most part unsuccessfully, seduce women. This newest game is set to take place immediately after the first game released back in 1980s. Only this time, Larry wakes up after a night out and finds himself in the present day. The 21st century. Larry will have to learn how to adapt to the work of social networks, dating apps, and smartphones. This point-and-click game will feature 30 hand drawn characters and venues to interact with, puzzles which must be solved in order to progress through the game, and feature “Timber” the dating app within the game which you will use to go out on dates and progress hopefully to the point where you will get the opportunity to date “Faith”. The woman of Larry’s dreams. From what I know of the earlier ‘Leisure Suit Larry’ franchise, this game is a hilarious homage to the original series and measures up (pun intended and not intended) the originals as well. Its worth it for the laughs alone as the dialogue and character interactions with Larry made me laugh so much I had to walk away for a second and stop myself.
Swords Of Gargantua – A number of VR games appeared at PAX this year but I have to say this one most definitely stood out amongst the best if not, THEE best. A multi-player VR game utilizing the Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE, Swords Of Gargantua is set in a world of giants. You and your team are amongst the slave race the giants created to serve them. The time has come though for the servants and slaves to rebel and you and your team must fight through colossal structures and your former overlords to defeat the giants before they decide to wipe out their former slave race completely. The game promises intense feedback as every weapon strike, defensive move, and counter-attack response with a brand new ‘collision system’ developed specifically for this game. The game seems to be built more for action than following an elaborate storyline. The primary weapons I glimpsed in the game were axes and swords. If the demo I saw is anything like the game will be, you can start off by yourself and then fellow players can jump into the fight at anytime. Personally? I may go out and buy an Oculus set-up so I can play this game upon its release.
Breach – You’ve got to give major credit to game developers when the decide to go big at their first chance at bat. It makes sense though. Go big so you get noticed or don’t bother right? QC Games has definitely decided to follow that practice with their first game project that I’ve actually heard a lot about online and at PAX as well. After trying out the game for myself, I have no doubt that this game will most definitely live up to the hype. ‘Breach’ is a co-op RPG action game set in the modern day world that has collided with the world of the mythological. It brings together an open class system with third person action mechanics and progressing challenges. As the premise goes, all the mythical monsters and demons you’ve heard about from the histories of the various societies of our world are real. They were alive on our plane of existence up until 70,000 years ago when humanity was on the verge of extinction and an immortal being known as the ‘Veil Demon’ created magical barriers to separate the monsters from our world so that humans could thrive. Now the magical boundaries that have been broken, you must create your idea hero and along with your team fight these mythical beings that are running amok throughout the modern world. The heroes that players will create have been imbued with magical abilities described as ‘The Spark’. The player must combine these magical abilities with modern day weapons and fighting styles. One thing that the folks really wanted to emphasize was the nearly endless options available to customize the player characters. The game will enter paid Steam Early Access later this year and is set to lunch in 2019.
Meow Wars – 7 years of covering PAX has taught me 2 things : That you’ll never know what you’ll happen across in the Indie MegaBooth + Who knows how many mobile card games are available out there right? The trick to making them successful these days is the theme and content. I’m always on the go so the only way I get to partake in any sort of daily gaming is on my iPhone or IPad so i’ve seen more than my fair share of mobile card games. In this instance, I think the folks at Taco Truck Games have developed a card game that’s fun and entertaining for folks of all ages and I think it’s worth a shot? With characters like Lieutenant Luna, Major Mittens, Captain Cuddles, Private Princess, Sergeant Snowball, Special Ops Oscar, Commander Catrat, and Secret Agent Alfie, how could you not want to try it? The game basically breaks down to you the player, a member of the Feline Ultra Rescue Rangers (FURR) vs. the Posse of Evil Strategic Tyranny (PEST). The game is available for iOS devices droid devices and in the STEAM store. The game is great for folks of all ages and the theme and characters alone are enough to make you laugh even on a bad day.
What The Golf? – As I mentioned just a moment ago, you’ll never know what you’ll happen across at the Indie MegaBooth and that’s where I happened across this game .. ‘What The Golf?’ It’s tagline is “For anyone Who Hates Golf”. I wouldn’t say I hate golf … It’s definitely not the first sport I think of or picture myself playing. “What The Golf?” was developed by Triband based out of Copenhagen, Denmark. The folks at Triband sat down and began with the premise that golf was boring and that they need to develop a game which fixed that and that’s exactly what they did. They reimagined golf in various forms in the most absurd and humorous ways imaginable and constructed a game around them. To my knowledge, it’s the only golf game where you can golf a horse of that gives you any idea? The game is set to be released on STEAM, Apple, and Microsoft supported platforms. Another game that’s worth acquiring for the laughs alone.
The MK850 Keyboard By Cooler Master – The potential capabilities of gaming PCs and Laptops have always fascinated me. All that speed, memory, and power being conceived of for the purposes of giving players that extra edge going against potential opponents. Better to throw all that into video games than something more insidious like war yes? Every year of gone to PAX many of the big gaming computer companies show-up to show-off their latest and greatest and this year Cooler Master reached out to ‘Skewed & Reviewed’ To Show Off their latest gear including their pro-grade MK 850 mechanical gaming keyboard. The latest from their MasterKeys line. This was one of the sweetest looking keyboards I’ve ever tried. The most talked about new feature of the 850, is the introduction of “Amipad” tech which is basically an optical key switch. It basically reads how far the key is being pushed allowing for more precise and level control in games. The keyboard comes with an aluminum finish making it more durable and visually appealing. Another new feature included is added volume scrolls as well as RGB level control which negates the need to add a visual monitor to the screen in the midst of a game. If you’re preparing for some serious fights in a game, this keyboard is certainly something you’ll want to consider customizing your set-up with.
Another item of interest Cooler Master was eager to show off at PAX 2018 was their unnamed prototype gaming pods. This is definitely a potential ‘game changer’ (pun intended and NOT intended). Imagine the most souped up gaming chair merged with a gaming PC and a sweet sound system. They teased this at PAX 2017 as well as this year and from what I see, once they work out a few minor issues this thing would be perfect. One issue I saw was that when the chair reclines the keyboard table, arm rests, and the monitor come up a little short as far as moving along with the player. I was curious about the way the computer was mounted in proximity to the set-up as well. I heard no mention of a price just yet but I imagine for something like this, they’ll try to price it to make it something that folks can buy while making Cooler Master a profit as well.
NECROBARISTA – Out of all the non-mobile games I had the opportunity to try/preview, this was my personal favorite and it had nothing to do with the parallels between my coffee addiction and penchant for Japanese graphic novels. In my opinion, this game really deserves more attention. From Route 59 Developers in Australia comes the visual novel/game ‘Nercrobarista’. The place? Melbourne, Australia. The setting? A coffee shop inside ‘The Terminal’. Every non-chain coffee shop is unique in its own way. However, this one is unique to the extreme. This coffee shop caters to not only the living but the dead as well and it’s ‘customers’ include the usual hipsters but also criminals, gangsters, and necromancers as well. The storyline appears to set-up a kind of mystery and centers around the cafe where the deceased return from the afterlife for one final night to partake in their last cup of coffee and to walk amongst the living one more time. This game could also be considered a work of art as well. It is presented in beautiful 3D sequences in a cinematic format which are all hand drawn around 2D framework and utilizes the Untiy game engine. Ironically, the game has been compared to the ‘Persona’ game franchise which includes ‘Shin Megami Tensei‘ from which the mobile game ‘Shin Megami Tensei Liberation Dx2’ was developed from. The game is set for release in early 2019 and will be available on Microsoft Windows, MacOs, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
There were several more games I had the opportunity to check out and hopefully I can do a follow-up in the near future but I want to talk about something else I had the opportunity to learn about at PAX this year. As you all well know, just about every gamer (avid or professional) has seen how video games can change the world for the better. If you’ve ever been to at least 1 PAX convention many of you are familiar with Child’s Play. A charitable organization that donates toys and games to children’s hospitals all over the world. Founded by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahukik, authors of the video games-based webcomic Penny Arcade, Child’s Play also raises money through gaming competitions as well. This year I had the good fortune to learn of a new way that video games can change the world for the better. Balanced Media Technology (BMT) is a company whose goal to encourage and help provide the tools to gamers and gaming communities to in an effort to use the power of playing video games with combined research to assist in advance medical treatments. This effort combines unused computer processing power with human-assisted machine learning to harness colossal computational power with human guided AI tools. I had the opportunity to speak with Balanced Media Technologies CEO Robert M. Atkins as well as BMT’s CTO Dr. Corey Clark about HEWMEN which furnishes the interface between data algorithms and gameplay which permits the gamer to place their insight and intuition in a manner with which the system can learn by following gameplay. Essentially, the gamer is helping the software learn. I was even allowed to see an example the HEWMEN platform at work. For fans of MINECRAFT, you’ll find this of great interest. BMT showed me an example of how their work MineCraft mods helped with research to help fight drug resistant cancers. I know … I know. It’s pretty far out their right? Like something out of science fiction. Well, look at all the things about gaming now that 20 years ago they said was nothing more than science fiction right? Essentially with companies like BMT and the people who work with them, gamers and video games could help save the world. If you go to their website BalancedMediaTechnology.com … they can explain it far better than I can.
Anyways, many thanks for taking the time to read my brief take on PAX 2018. One thing that never changes in the 7 years I’ve covered PAX … it’s ALWAYS overwhelming and great.