Another year, another PAX, and this year PAX was back bigger and better than ever! With Playstation making their first appearance (and in no small way), and ESL running tournaments for the entirety of the expo, the overall experience of PAX Aus 2015 was quite different than previous years. The atmosphere was amazing as usual, with plenty of enthusiastic indie developers willing to tell you the stories of their games, industry professionals from both video and tabletop games imparting their knowledge in the form of panels, and plenty of like minded people to chat with while you’re waiting in a massive queue. Here are some of my highlights from the best expo of 2015!
Dark Souls III
There are two games that I got the time to try out when we got let in early, and Dark Souls III is one of them. I’m a massive fan of the Souls series and as soon as I saw that Dark Souls III was playable I knew I wanted to try it first. If you’ve been paying attention to Dark Souls III then you’ll be familiar with the playable demo they had at PAX. You start out by picking your character, but in the demo I tried the cleric had been picked already. Combat feels refined, it feels like every weapons reach length has been perfected, while enemy animations have a much more natural flow. From the small section I played, it felt like the ‘levels’ flow in a similar fashion to the original Dark Souls, plenty of alternate paths to explore and, even the demo area is littered with some cool weapons. One weapon I picked up was the dual falchions, which had some really interesting attack patterns that could change the way you play. I’m very much looking forward to playing the full version when it releases early next year.
The second game I tried out was Tom Clancy’s The Division. I’ve been following this game since it’s announcement and could not wait to finally try it out! After the letdown that was The Division at last years PAX (all they did was show the trailers from E3) I was excited to see a working, playable demo this year. The demo takes place in the Dark Zone, a place where players are free to engage in PvP action, or to help each other out to get some sweet loot (let’s face it, no one will be helping other players because video games). We started out in our little squad of 3, engaging some AI and stealing their loot. Once you have something worth keeping you and your squad make their way to the extraction zone, which happens to be in the centre of the dark zone. All was going well until all 3 squads were trying to escape at the same time, which lead to some pretty intense firefights. I found that anytime I tried to run off by myself or tried to charge the extraction zone, I was quickly overcome by opposing squads. This forced our squad to try and work together, which was a touch, knowing that teamwork is the key to a successful escape.
The only question I have after playing a hands on is how will balancing work? During the demo all 9 players were the same level, which was good, but in the real world there’s bound to be encounters between two squads of very different levels. If it’s not balanced then the good loot will only go to the highest level players, which will discourage your average players from entering this section of the game. This small concern aside the cover and shooting mechanics felt great, keep your eye on this title if you liked titles like Borderlands and Destiny.
Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege had its beta a few weeks ago, so not so surprisingly the demo for Siege was pretty much the beta. To give players a proper idea of how Siege is supposed to be played, Ubisoft had a team captain coaching people through the match. They would offer advice and try to quickly explain some tactics and the advantages of picking the right operators and equipment. To move people through quickly they only let you play two rounds before they made you move on. Nothing new on this front apart from them having all the operators unlocked for you. If you missed out on the beta then getting some hands on time at PAX would have been a good experience, but for me I don’t think it’s an ideal scenario to play this type of competitive game. I’m really looking forward to its release as I think they’ve done a good job of making teamwork and tactics count.
While I did try a few games out at the Nintendo stand, most of them are out already. First off was Mario Maker. They were showcasing the 10 level challenge mode where you have a limited amount of lives to complete 10 custom made levels. I’m not a huge fan of platforming games so Mario Maker isn’t up my alley, but we did get to try out the creation mode. While I don’t consider myself an overly creative person, the create a level mode looks like it’s really simple to use and comes with some great features, like the ability to hide enemies in ? blocks and the ability to make enemies large with a mushroom.
Next up I tried out Zelda: Tri Force Heroes with a friend a stranger. The section we tried was a lava based dungeon full of puzzles and a few enemies. I’m a pretty big Zelda fan and I love how the titles bring together exploration, puzzles and story together so well. I didn’t get the feeling that Tri Force Heroes does any of this well at all. the puzzles were pretty good, but the impression I got was that the whole game takes place inside dungeons, which takes a massive part of what I love about Zelda titles away. I think the only thing that made it enjoyable was the fact that there were 3 people playing together, which begs the question, how enjoyable will it be if you don’t have two people to play with?
Hidden away in the R18+ booth was Project Zero and Xenoblade Chronicles X. While Greg took some time to play Project Zero I was looking over his shoulder while peeking back at Xenoblade. While I’ve never played a Project Zero game, I can say it looked quite interesting. The game looks as good as it can considering the limitations of the Wii U. The section that Greg played was very story driven, so it was hard to tell what the ‘combat’ is like, and it’s not the type of game that should be played in a fully lit room with people crowded around, but it looks like a solid entry for the Wii U lineup. From what I saw of Xenoblade it looked amazing. The combat looked fluid, the graphics looked really pretty and the character customization looked in depth. I will definitely be picking up Xenoblade when it releases in December this year.
So there’s my highlights from PAX Aus 2015. One dishonorable mention goes out to Battleborn. I was keen to try out Gearbox Software’s shooter but it spent half of PAX out of action with server issues. Aside from that there were plenty of good surprises and plenty of great company to make PAX 2015 the best one yet!