PAX East wrapped up last night, but those of you unable to attend this year have nothing to worry about. I was on hand to document and detail all of the most important news and got my hands on the latest up-and-coming games. Throughout this week, I’ll be releasing previews of all the titles I played at PAX, as well as a photo gallery of my personal top 10 cosplayers of the event. To kick off the week, however, I figured it’d be best to release a two-part highlight roundup of all the stuff shown at the event and give an overview of the most important announcements. Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about the 2013 Penny Arcade Expo East:
Activision Blizzard: Of course, Blizzard was present on the show floor to give fans a taste of their future plans; including the reveal of a brand-new game in the Warcraft universe.
Diablo III– The majority of Blizzard’s booth offered players the opportunity to play Diablo III running on a PS3 for the first time. The controls felt great and the visuals are as crisp as ever. For those who didn’t pick up the PC version of the game, the PS3 version is a worthy port and may be worth it for the console-exclusive offline single-player experience alone.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft– The major announcement to come out of PAX East from Blizzard was their unveiling of Hearthstone. An online collectible card game, Hearthstone is a free-to-play experience that simplifies the collectible card game (CCG) formula and makes it accessible for a wider audience. In typical CCG fashion, the objective is to whittle your opponent’s health down to nothing while also defending your own. For CCG veterans, the major difference between Hearthstone and, say, Magic the Gathering is that mana-per-turn is a fixed number. You start the game with a single mana point to spend on playing cards out of your hand, and each turn you will be granted an additional mana point that corresponds to the turn number. For example, Turn 1 = 1 mana point, Turn 2 = 2 mana points, etc. Additionally, you can’t stack mana points so no matter what happens at the end of a round, each player starts the next round with the same available points to spend. The game features a number of notable characters from the Warcraft universe, each representing a different “class”, or deck. No firm release date was given but Blizzard is currently accepting beta registrations.
Bethesda: Bethesda is no stranger to PAX, and this year they brought with them two incredibly-anticipated projects. Both of these will already be on your radar, but PAX East offered a first chance to play everything that you’ve been anticipating and offered an encouraging update of what the studio has been working on.
The Elder Scrolls Online– Bethesda’s booth consistently had on the longest lines of any booth on the show floor. It’s not hard to imagine why, as it was the first chance for many to get their hands on The Elder Scrolls Online, developer Zenimax’s upcoming MMO set in the popular universe. A giant screen above the booth gave attendees an extended look at a trailer for the game, featuring stunning CG visuals and offering a great look at some of the classes and enemies players will have access to. There are three factions to choose from, a real-time combat system that feels similar-yet-different (for PC players), a familiar leveling up system, oh, and one look at the environment will be enough for any Elder Scrolls fan to recognize the familiar aesthetics. The attention to detail in recreating the various landscapes of Tamriel is worthy of praise. It’s also worth noting that all NPC dialogue will be voice acted, although the build that was shown was obviously unfinished and so the NPCs were mostly robotic sounding. For those who’ve read and been discouraged by the fact that there was no first-person perspective, rest assured, as the team has already stated that the game will fully support first-person when it releases.
Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall– The first story DLC for Bethesda’s stealth-oriented action-adventure title was playable out on the show floor, and it’s a lot of fun. As previously covered in another article, The Knife of Dunwall puts players behind the eyes of Daud, the assassin responsible for killing the Empress. Daud’s new and, in some cases, upgraded abilities offer a fresh perspective of Dunwall and will definitely please fans of the original campaign. I don’t want to talk spoiler-y details, but if you liked Dishonored, you should definitely look forward to picking up this DLC when it releases on April 16.
Capcom: As promised, Capcom did indeed announce two new games at PAX East, although I’d wager neither of them were expected. The team managed to keep quiet on the previously unannounced games, unlike a certain loose-lipped Square Enix, which were met with shock when officially unveiled.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen– Capcom’s RPG adventure Dragon’s Dogma is getting its first major expansion in the form of Dark Arisen. This update not only includes major stability and performance upgrades to the original version, but also opens up an entire new area for players to explore. Some key highlights include: New abilities and high-tier weapons/armor, new enemy types with improved AI, and a new Ferrystone which will allow players with previous save files access to unlimited fast traveling.
Ducktales Remastered– The first of two new game announcements made at PAX East, Ducktales Remastered is being developed by Wayforward Technologies. Their previous project tasked the team with reinvigorating the franchise a certain lovely Dhampir named Rayne, with Bloodrayne: Betrayal. Now the team is hard at work faithfully recreating one of the most beloved platformers of all time; complete with HD visuals, 3D backgrounds, and all-new sprites. New features include online leaderboards and Scrooge’s Money Vault, which will, and I’m not kidding, allow players to live out their dream of diving into and swimming through a pile of money.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara– The second of two world-premiere announcements, (Sorry, folks who were hoping for a Strider remake/game) Capcom announced a new arcade collection with Dungeons & Dragon: Chronicles of Mystara. In a very similar vein to Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, Chronicles of Mystara feature two classic arcade titles: Tower of Doom and Shadow of Mystara. The games feature updated visuals and four-player drop-in/drop-out co-op so that anyone can jump in at any time. A major update includes the customizable “House Rules”, which allows the game host to micromanage specific settings to alter the overall experience. This includes everything from experience earned and loot/health drop percentages from defeating enemies to adjusting damage output.
Lost Planet 3– Fans of the LP franchise will be delighted to know that Lost Planet 3 is shaping up to be the best in the series. The visuals are great, the story seems engaging and entertaining (from what was shown during the demo and the new trailer shown at the “World of Capcom” panel), and the gameplay is a varied mix of gunplay and combat using the new Utility Rig. Telling a much more personal story this time around, Lost Planet 3 serves as a viable jumping-on point for those with even a minor interest in the overall narrative.
Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate– I’m reasonable certain that, given Monster Hunter’s rabid, loyal fanbase, anyone interested in Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate either A) knows everything there is to know about the game or B) is too busy out hunting behemoth-sized creatures with their buddies at this very moment to care about what I have to say. Regardless, Capcom displayed Monster Hunter on both the 3DS and Wii U on the show floor and the game is loads of fun. There’s a ton of great character customization options, and the cross-play functionality between 3DS and Wii U makes it so you can literally join up with your group and hunt from anywhere.
Remember Me– Capcom’s fresh IP takes place in the world of Neo-Paris, a futuristic Blade Runner-esque setting where memories are both commodities and currency (bought and sold by all the wrong people.) As Nilin, players assume the role of a memory hunter with the unique ability to “remix” people’s memories, or alter them to devastating psychological consequences. I’ll be releasing a full preview of this within the next couple days, so I won’t go any further in terms of the playable demo on the show floor, but I’ll leave you with this: Remember Me is a unique “remixing” of a number of game mechanics you’ve seen before to create an unexpected result, and I imagine that’s just what the developers intended.
Resident Evil Revelations (HD Console Remake)- Resident Evil Revelations is coming to consoles and the PC. Previously a 3DS exclusive, the Revelations console adaptation is less of a “port” and more of a retooled experience driven by fan feedback. The varied demo at the booth showcased a number of different features and campaigns. The demo included snippets of campaigns from Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, as well as a world premiere look at Rachel’s “Raid Mode” character created exclusively for the remake. While Rachel only appeared on the 3DS version in passing, players now get to select her as a playable character for the multiplayer mode. Additionally, the second raid character, Hunk, was also available to test out at the booth. The team specifically mentioned that the game will feature updated support for www.residentevil.net, which includes special unlocks for use in Raid mode. Finally, a new enemy called the “Wall Blaster” will be added to the console version. He’s, umm, pretty gross.
Deep Silver– Deep Silver showed up at PAX with a playable demo of Dead Island: Riptide as well as a new trailer and closed-door demo of recently acquired property, Saints Row IV. The results were both disgusting and beautiful.
Dead Island Riptide– If you played the original Dead Island, you’ll know the game features a group of “survivors” attempting to get off an island full of zombies by using literally anything they can get their hands on and turn into a weapon. Four-player co-op is of course still a staple of the series, and in general the game feels very much the same as before, with a few key differences. The demo featured a stronger focus on action this time around, with an abundance of ammo, but this was likely a decision made to showcase the game’s improved battle-damage system. Zombies really fall apart and the crew looks like they’ve been through hell after close calls, and it makes the experience feel that much more alive. Speaking of the crew, the demo included an all-new playable character named John. While Riptide certainly won’t make a believer out of those un-swayed by the original offering, fans of the initial Dead Island will find a lot to love about the next installment.
Saints Row IV– Saints Row IV is ridiculous. It’s ludicrous. It’s utterly absurd. And you’ll love development team Volition for it. The story takes place a while after the events of Saints Row: The Third and kicks off with players becoming the President of the United States. A short time after you’re sworn in, you are kidnapped by aliens and placed into a virtual reality simulation of Steelport; and from there the total insanity begins. Some of the new features the closed-door demo showed off were a dubstep gun which literally makes people dance until they die, an interesting Inflato Ray which, as the name suggests, inflates targets until they pop, and oh yeah, super powers. Yeah, you read that right, Saints Row IV will let you unlock supers as you level up and earn more respect. The power shown off at PAX East included super speed, super strength, telekinesis, and an ice projectile. Like I said, the game takes everything you love about the series and makes it even more ridiculous. If you enjoy the Saints Row brand, this one will not disappoint.
Double Fine– I guess a few people think Tim Schafer’s a pretty rad dude. He seems to make games that attract niche followings and garner cult status. According to Double Fine’s request for funds on KickStarter, and the relative speed with which they received said funds, I’d say there’s at least a couple folks looking forward to what the team’s got cooking on the horizon. Their presence at PAX happened to shed some light on the subject.
Broken Age– Remember that KickStarter I mentioned? Turns out, it was for a little ditty called Broken Age, which was formally announced at PAX East. The reveal coincided with the game’s official website release, www.brokenagegame.com, which offers a description that details the game’s unique plot better than I ever could. According to the folks who’re making the game, Broken Age “is a point-and-click adventure telling the stories of a young boy and girl leading parallel lives. The girl has been chosen by her village to be sacrificed to a terrible monster–but she decides to fight back. Meanwhile, a boy on a spaceship is living a solitary life under the care of a motherly computer, but he wants to break free to lead adventures and do good in the world. Adventures ensue.” If you’re a fan of Double Fine’s particular brand of out-of-the-box adventures, then I highly advise you to keep close watch over Broken Age.
Brutal Legend (PC)- There’s not much to talk about for this one. Double Fine offered a few demos to show how Brutal Legends runs on PC, which released last month. I didn’t really find Brutal Legends to my liking when it originally released, but I will say that the game runs well on PC; so if you were interested before but didn’t have a console to play the game on, now’s your chance.
Indie Showcase– One of my favorite things about PAX is how much love they show the indie developers. From the KickStarter Lounge featuring first-looks at some of the fully-funded game projects of this past year, to the gigantic floor space provided to the Indie Game Megabooth, there were a ton of amazing games you’ve never heard of to try and fall in love with.
Cupcakes & Critters– A tower-defense game with a unique affinity for sweets, the aptly-named Cupcakes & Critters tasks players with defending a cupcake from insects that would otherwise indulge themselves on the sugary delight. Initially tasked with tapping on bugs as they enter from all sides of the screen, as the game progresses players unlock helpful abilities such as a fly swatter, which provides faster squashing capabilities as well as a wider attack range. There’s also a toy soldier item that lets you place the loyal troops strategically on the map to shoot at unwanted pests. Currently, the game is only slated to appear on iOS, but here’s hoping the title will make its way onto the Android platforms, as I think this is one a lot of folks will enjoy.
Divekick– I’m calling it now: Divekick will become the next major phenomenon. Seriously, a year from now, everyone and their mother will have heard of this game, and they’ll all enjoy playing it. Members of the fighting game community must have roared with laughter when they stumbled onto this gem in the indie booth. The concept of Divekick is simple: It’s a fighting game where every character only has one move. You guessed it, the infamous dive kick. Rounds are best of five and every dive kick is a one-hit KO. If it sounds absurd, that’s because it is, but it makes for absolutely limitless entertainment as a spectator sport. This game drew a huge crowd the entire weekend at PAX, and folks roared with “oohs” and “ahhs” as players scored last-second dive kicks to secure victory. There are some unique gameplay mechanics including a head shot system, which leaves your opponent stunned briefly at the start of the next round if you’re skilled enough to kick ‘em right on the noggin, and players who win multiple matches consecutively get “hot” and have a slight mobility advantage over their foes. I’m not kidding; this game will be the talk of the town.
Little Chomp– Part physics puzzle, part old-school platformer, the adorable Little Chomp tells the tale of a young caterpillar’s quest to eat as much fruit as possible. Along the way, players will overcome platforming obstacles, solve puzzles, and collect rare butterflies in a fast-paced climber available for touchscreens of the iOS and Android variety. Developed by ClutchPlay Games, Little Chomp is packed with content and contains 108 unique butterflies to collect, 54 levels to get through, and 162 skill challenges to keep you entertained and test your skill.
Orion’s Forge– Having just released for iOS and Android a week ago, Orion’s Forge was playable on the show floor this weekend. The concept of Trinket Studios’ brain-teaser puzzle game is simple: Players must solve puzzles to launch stars into the sky and create constellations. Every time a constellation is created, a new story unlocks; telling the silly tale of a different alien species. It’s a fun little time waster that’s sure to make you smile.
Saturday Morning RPG– Mighty Rabbit Studios is hard at work creating an episodic RPG that draws heavy influence from, as you might have guessed, Saturday morning cartoons. Currently slated to arrive only on iOS, Saturday Morning RPG tells the story of Martin “Marty” Michael Hall, a high school student who, after obtaining extraordinary abilities, attracts the attention of a villain known as Commander Hood. Battles are turn-based, however the game also includes interactive segments so that the experience is constantly engaging. Taking cues from a variety of cartoons from the 80s, some of Marty’s abilities include shooting a rainbow out of his chest and transforming into a semi-truck. Nostalgia plays a big factor in the enjoyability of this game, but if you grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, then this one is worth a look.
Time Surfer– If the concept of time travel is as utterly perplexing to you as it is to me, Time Surfers promises to not answer any of the burning questions you may have. Still, developer Kumobius does plan on offering some unique gameplay that blends the time-reversal concepts found in Braid with simple slingshot physics. What you actually end up playing is never-ending runner that tasks you with avoiding pits, spikes, and the end of the universe. If you get into a jam, just rewind time and try again, which I guess is no big deal when you’re a trans-dimensional time surfer.
Transistor– Saving the best for last, (actually I’m doing this alphabetically but whatever) one indie title that was on absolutely everyone’s to-do list was Supergiant Games’ upcoming Transistor. No joke, the line just to play this game was over 3 hours. 3 hours! For an indie game. The follow up title after their recent hit Bastion, Transistor put players in the role of Red, a woman on the run from would-be pursuers looking to make her disappear. I got the chance to go hands-on with Transistor at PAX, so I’ll be putting out my thoughts in a preview later this week, so stay tuned. Bottom line: This one’s worth the wait.
That’s going to wrap things up for part one of my PAX East highlights roundup. Stay tuned for part two, coming tomorrow, as well as a bunch of previews of some of the best games the show floor had to offer. If you made it out to PAX this past weekend, be sure to share your experiences with the games I’ve mentioned so far.
(Editor’s Note: The Feature Image in this article is a shot of the view from my hotel.)