Saturday, March 7, 2015

PAX East 2015: Day 2

Greetings again from Boston!

Day 2 of PAX East 2015 is a wrap.  For those of you who read my post about day 1, you'll be pleased to know that we got more accomplished today, mainly due to better circumstances with parking.  Leaving earlier in the morning helped, as did paying extra for valet parking at the BCEC.  A little extra money for more peace of mind and less stress is fine by me.  Now let's get down to what's important - vidja games!

My day began with waiting in a massive line for a panel with two of the developers of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and two cosplay contest winners.  The panel was moderated by the fantastic Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb, of Microsoft fame.  The theme of the panel was next-gen open-world game development, and who better to lead the charge than CD Projekt Red?  We got some nice behind-the-scenes info about what it takes to craft such a massive game and some of the problems that go along with such an endeavor, especially when developing for the current-gen consoles.  We were treated to around seven minutes of never-before-seen in-game footage.  They basically turned on the game and walked in a random direction.  We were treated to a random mission involving disappeared  townsfolk; main character Geralt found the missing people's overturned cart.  He then followed some tracks to a massive cave and ended up fighting a giant wyvern.  We've seen the tracking mechanic before at the mission shown at E3 last year, but it's still incredibly cool to see it in action.  Combat looks fluid and effective; the battle was epic even though it wasn't even one of the bigger monsters we'll fight.  The panel concluded with the typical fan Q&A, with some questions coming in from a live stream on Twitch.

We made our way down to the showfloor and headed directly for the Oculus booth.  After the awesome demo yesterday we wanted to get our hands on the Crescent Bay demo.  By 12:30 the line was capped and we were told to just try again tomorrow, that the line would take basically the entire day.  Woof.

Microsoft was our next destination.  One of the only big developers/publishers at the show, Microsoft has quite a few games on display.  We got our hands on State of Decay: Year 1 Survival Edition.  I've never played SoD before but I felt it was fairly easy to pick up and play.  From my short demo I'm quite excited to try the full game and dive into this cool zompocalypse.  The main problem is that this game is not a wham-bam action game, and doesn't really lend itself to a loud, raucous convention.  It's not about rushing through and murdering zombies, but requires patience and exploration.

Next on our list was Fable Legends, but again, the line was capped with a 30 minute wait until the Enforcer would allow more of us in.  We then set our sights on Halo 5's multiplayer.  The wait wasn't excruciating despite matches going a potential nine rounds.  We played a mode different than December's beta; it was 4v4 with a limited shield, and only one life per round.  This ratcheted up the tension, as we were all less likely to go sprinting towards the enemy with only one life.  We started with the SMG and pistol with one grenade.  The map was fairly small, so even by playing it cautiously we still found the enemy rather quickly.  I enjoyed what I played and can't wait to get my hands on the full game this Fall.

Next up was Nintendo, and specifically Splatoon.  The line was quite long and unsurprisingly so.  Nintendo's booth is always popular, with both the Wii U and 3DS stations always packed.  Like Halo, our Splatoon match was 4v4, with the goal being to cover as much ground in your color ink as possible.  Walls and objects didn't count towards the final total.  The visuals were fun and vibrant and typically Nintendo-cutesy without being obnoxious.  The mechanics are simple; spray as much ink as you can on the map, refilling your tank by diving into the ink you just sprayed and swimming through it.  At any time you can tap on a teammate's icon on the mini-map on the Gamepad to do a crazy jump to their location.  The static map gives you a bird's-eye view of how your team is doing.  While I had a blast, the controls weren't exactly the most intuitive.  I felt like I was wrestling with them the entire time; a good game blends you and the controller and doesn't draw attention to what you're doing.  Perhaps the final version will allow you to toggle and customize the controls, but in the demo I played, character movement and camera controls were mapped to the dual analog sticks, but the direction you were spraying your ink was mapped to Gamepad motion controls.  It was just a bit...uncomfortable to aim, run, and shoot at the same time.  Again, I really enjoyed what I played, but I don't know if it'll be a day-one purchase for me.

I picked up Codename S.T.E.A.M. on our out of the booth and also really liked what I saw.  The 3D was impressive and gameplay reminded me strongly of X-COM: Enemy Unknown.  There wasn't much of a tutorial and I skipped through the opening cinematics, so I was just sort of dropped into a mission.  Like most grid-based strategy games, I had a set amount of steam that would allow me to move or shoot, exchanging turns with enemy forces.  The comic book aesthetic was cool, and visuals really popped with the 3D in full effect.

At this point in the day feet, backs, and shoulders ached.  Stomachs growled.  Heads pounded.  Two options presented themselves; sit down in another panel, this time a live recording of Major Nelson's podcast, or we explore the Square Enix booth.  We opted for Squenix.  Again, we encountered a capped line but hung around long enough to get in to play Final Fantasy Type 0 HD.  We also scored large FFT0 posters signed by two of the developers.  Unfortunately we didn't catch their names or recognize who they were, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.  Now for the game...well, I was more than confused.  I'm not the biggest Final Fantasy fan out there (I've never played any of them for more than a few hours at a time), but I understand and know the basic mechanics of a JRPG.  Type 0 is a very strange real-time action game with FF tenements.  I know that this is a port of a PSP game that I knew nothing about, but I was surprised at how fast-paced the combat was.  Again, I was given no tutorial or explanation from one of the Squenix employees, but rather dropped in a mission with three party members, each with their own abilities.  I found myself using the only character who utilized guns, as I'm more familiar with third-person action games.  Rather than being turn-based, I found myself jamming on one of three attacks buttons, not understanding exactly what they were doing or what the rules for using them were (did they require a magic meter?  What was their cooldown rate?).  I spammed the buttons, dodged attacks, and made my way through the mediocre visuals.  Again, I know it's a port but wooooof does it look not great.  The camera controls were *very* touchy with some insane motion blur.  I'm honestly surprised I didn't get any motion sickness from playing.  All in all, not worth the wait but maybe the finished product (who knows when this demo was made) will show more promise.

And that pretty much sums up day two.  State of Decay was fun, Halo was promising, Splatoon was enjoyable if not tough to control, Codename STEAM was intriguing, and Final Fantasy was...just okay.  There honestly isn't much left that we want to try to accomplish tomorrow, save for a live recording of the IGN Gamescoop podcast!!

The Bearded Bullet.

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