There’s always a lot to see and do at PAX, even if it was somewhat overwhelming for a first timer! Besides stopping by Turbine’s booth for a preview and meet Aaron “Rowan” Campbell and Rick “Sapience” Heaton, I managed to try out a few other games in between all the panels and parties. Let’s take a look at what else I saw!
Before PAX even began, a few MMO fans attended a meet-up on Thursday hosted by Chris and Sallennia of LOTRO, MMO, and RIFT reporter. Besides getting to meet fellow players, we also got some giveaways thanks to Chris and Sallenia’s generosity!
You can look forward to possibly winning a few codes from the events in the near future!
The very first thing I went to on Friday was Bethesda’s booth, complete with a massive dragon from Skyrim!
Although we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the actual gameplay, let me tell you that it was stunning. The beautiful and highly detailed new character models made me want to try out the game as one of the more animalistic races, so I created an Argonian and jumped in the nearest river. Rushing water is great to play around in Skyrim, with little salmon swimming up the current that you can catch if you are fast enough (I wasn’t).
Pulling into my map to find the nearest town, I got to see up close and personal the beautiful new design being used in Skyrim – a stunning aerial display that works well as a map tool as well as a way to highlight the sheer beauty and scope the game contains.
The new menu system was very simple and quick to use, enabling me to pick up on the item filtering options without even thinking about it. This helps a lot because of the new dual hand system that enables you to assign spells or 1-handed weapons to either hand in any combination. With a sword in one hand and a fire spell in the other I took on the nearest enemy, a chicken, and flambéed it by holding down the cast button to spray fire over the ground instead of shooting off a fireball. Dual-wielding weapons had a solid feel to them (and blocking with a shield feels especially good), but one of my main concerns seems to still be present; melee attacks do hardly any damage. These were the very weakest weapons being used by a character without any skill increases, but I was trying them out on some nearby farmers, so it would have been nice to see a little more effect from my damage (the Fallout 3-style scaling should help though). The rest of the short demo impressed me though and I am highly anticipating 11/11/11!
Bethesda also displayed RAGE, a new FPS with RPG elements that looks beautiful but has a style and feel similar to other games like it. Of course, it did play very well and will be a top choice to play in that genre once released.
Wizards of the Coast
Neverwinter is the setting for a large cross-platform story, spread out over a new campaign, novels, comic books, board games, and even a Facebook game. Each of the different products ties into the overarching story, with a story and novels from author R.A. Salvatore.
The Neverwinter setting provides a great time for people unfamiliar with D&D to jump in. At game stores across the country weekly Wednesday evening D&D Encounters provide the opportunity to simply show up and play, with settings, equipment, and even characters provided for you – a great way to find a game and other people to play with.
The 3 month season follows a larger plot, but each week has its own self-contained story allowing players to play as much or as little as they want. It also provides new Dungeon Masters with extra practice, as everything is set up for them. Experienced players can try their hand at Lair Assault, with a deeper challenge that could defeat many players. There’s also a Facebook game tie-in, Heroes of Neverwinter. This is a Free to Play turn-based RPG that looks much deeper than most Facebook games, but being limited to Facebook I can’t say that I’ll be playing it much.
Magic: The Gathering is featured in two major releases this year: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 and the M:TG 2012 Core Set. Duels 2012 is available on Xbox Live, Steam, and PSN, and has several upgrades and new features added to the series including improved deck editing, enhanced co-op play, and a new multiplayer mode “Archenemy” where you team up against a heavily-advantaged opponent.
A new gothic-horror themed expansion is coming this fall featuring 3 new decks, unlockables for previous decks, and the ability to play as the Archenemy against human or AI opponents. This expansion shares thematic similarities with Innistrad, a new set for M:TG coming in September featuring foggy moors, vampires, werewolves, and mad scientists. The deck will also feature the first ever double-faced cards; these new cards will have night and day sides, each with their own individual effects that come into play at different points in the game (such as a bat turning into a vampire). More reveals will be available on the daily Magic website.
I also got the chance to check out Battlefield 3, the latest installment in the FPS Battlefield series. Playing a duo co-op mission with another PAX attendee, the controls and mission layout felt like a standard Battlefield experience.
There was an escort section, vehicle-turret position, and several ambushes along the way (unfortunately no chance to try out the air combat that’s been highlighted in recent trailers).
Aside from the couple times our PS3s crashed it was just as fun as expected – this is another game I’m looking forward to.
Snowblind (Warner Bros)
War in the North is a new Lord of the Rings game coming out this year. The PAX demo highlighted co-op play, where competent allies is a must due to the difficulty of the co-op mode. Although my group was able to make it to the end, the trio playing in front of us managed to die early on, failing the mission twice before they used up their time.
It’s a solid action-rpg game with a deep equipment and skill system, though the frantic pace of battle usually kept me out of the menus and away from equipping the new items I picked up. The game might also not be a favorite for those who keep strictly to Tolkien’s lore, as the wand-shooting elf was a bit beyond anything LOTRO’s done. The game was still pretty fun to play for a short period though, with a variety of action in the short stage we played including firing ballista turrets against siege towers and ganging up on enormous trolls.
There were a large number of indie or smaller-publicity titles on display, but the one that stood out to me the most was Universe Sandbox, a universe-simulator available on Steam. Not a game with typical narritave and mission structure, this simulator allows you to view, create, and explore the universe in a huge number of ways.
There are built-in simulations of actual star systems and galaxies, and even historical simulations of events such as comets impacting on Jupiter’s surface. You can watch planets orbit through the cosmos or constellations shift over time or even place a large planet or star in a system to rip everything apart with the added gravity. It’s both educational and silly at times (you can display everything in bright rainbow colors should you wish to); Universe Sandbox is a game that should stand out to anyone interested in space and the celestial bodies above.
Square-Enix brought demos of Dead Island to the show. The open world island-based zombie game features an rpg-leveling system and crafting as well as tons of weapons to inflict violence on the undead island tourists.
There wasn’t too much time to explore the island or story, but there was a lot of fun to be had bashing in the heads of zombies.
I met Michael from Mad Catz at the MMOReporter meetup, but the next day also stopped by the booth to chat with him about the various peripherals Mad Catz had on display.
These included several items for console players, including a new high end fight stick for Street Fighter X Tekken and official headsets for both Gears of War 3 and Xbox.
Probably the most interesting device there was the new Cyborg RAT Albino, a high-end gaming mouse with 6400 dpi. The performance wasn’t what stood out to me but rather the flexibility of the mouse. Everything is adjustable for fit, with changeable size, buttons, and weight.
PC Gamer Panel
Because all of the major gaming consoles other than PC had their own press conferences at E3, PC Gamer decided to hold a PC Gaming conference during a panel at PAX. The panel highlighted the uniqueness of the platform that allows for a more collaborative medium between publishers, developers, and fans and also enables smaller groups to gain large audiences.
Foremost in support of this idea was Markus “Notch” Persson, founder of Mojang and creator of Minecraft and the upcoming Scrolls and Cobalt. Several other publishers were on hand as well, showing off upcoming games including Sword of the Stars II (A 4x Space Empire game that was very impressive), Red Orchestra 2, and Hawken, a 1st person Mech-FPS being designed by a small 8 person team.
The overall impression from the panel was the success of indies in the industry, both in sales as well as changing the face of PC gaming.
PAX is of course not just about the games, but also about meeting fellow gamers and seeing the awesome cosplay on display. That said, I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures of the fun weekend!