Finneman’s Best of PAX East Part 1
PAX East 2017 has come and gone, and what an incredible experience it was. I got to meet a ton of developers, check out some promising indies I had heard about, and feel the sheer joy of discovering some great games I had never even heard of. That’s the beauty of PAX. It is a treasure trove of indie excellence. Narrowing down the list of games I enjoyed on the convention floor was becoming too problematic. So I said… where is the rule that states I can’t do this in two installments? Turns out, there wasn’t one. I live by my own rules.
My hope is that reading this list of great games I discovered at PAX East 2017 might help you also discover some hidden gem you didn’t know about before. Spread the indie love so to speak. I didn’t put down some games, such as Yooka-Laylee, Cosmic Star Heroine, or Nex Machina due to already having solid hands on with them from earlier (so don’t yell at me!) So now, presented to you in no particular order besides the one I had typed up as I went, here are Torpedo “My name is actual Matthew” Vegas’ Favorite Games of PAX Easy 2017!
This game was the biggest surprise for me at the show. If I had to pick a “winner” I think it’d have to go to Dead Cells. Equal parts Symphony of the Night love letter, rogue like, and Dark Souls, Dead Cells’ combined aspects formed a perfect storm of addiction. Each playthrough granted enough permanent progress that I never felt discouraged by death. The enemies are varied and tough, the pixel art and animation are wonderful, and I found myself completely hooked.
If you had to describe Ruiner in one word, it should be “slick.” From its aesthetic, to its soundtrack, to its buttery smooth gameplay, Ruiner is slick as hell. Oh, and challenging. I was humbled often while trying this game out. You will die. Often. But that’s ok – the game is quick to throw you back in for another attempt to KILL THE BOSS in the neon infused cyberpunk setting. This is definitely a game that graduated from my “Looks cool, but” category to my “Day One” list. Devolver Digital has another hit on its hands.
Imagine if you will, a procedurally generated NES Legend of Zelda, filled with gorgeous pixel art, hallucinogenic melons, and a dash of James Bond Oddjob top hat death dealing. Sounds awesome, right? Well good news! IT IS A REAL THING. And it’s being made by a single person. Songbringer was a joy to come across. Being able to share your created world with a friend? Just icing on the cake.
This game was the very definition of a hidden gem for me. I had never heard of it before, and a casual glance at its anthropomorphic protagonists didn’t grab me. Later, a dev from Piece of Cake studios approached me to give it a shot, and boy am I glad I did. A true co op experience, one player is a thief breaking into a building, downloading intel and breaking into safes. The other player hacks the infrastructure, opening doors, shutting down camera, etc. The two must work quickly together to avoid security and gather as much as they can! It was a delightfully fun and tense match, and it left me eager to play more.
MAGES OF MYSTRALIA
I was a huge fan of Magicka, the spell crafting, friendship ruining wizard game. Mages of Mystralia takes that concept and cranks that sucker up to 11, giving players an almost absurd amount of customization in their spell crafting. With enough time and ingenuity, you can craft a spell that can one shot a boss if you’re so inclined. Homing spells. Explosions. Increased AoE. Directional casting. Different elements and other effects. It really does get staggering. And the Zelda-lite inspired gameplay surrounding the spell crafting is just as enjoyable.
Ape Out was a true surprise of the show, with Devolver Digital announcing it the day before the con began (with a truly awesome interactive trailer). You can figure out if you’ll enjoy Ape Out based on a very simple question: How did you feel about Hotline Miami? The gameplay similarities are there, even though Ape Out is definitely its own game. Playing as an Ape on the Escape, grabbing, smashing, and flinging your way to freedom. It has that simple pick up and play mentality that makes these types of games so engrossing.
MASQUERADA: SONGS and SHADOWS
Are you a fan of Dragon Age: Origin’s tactical combat? Or maybe you enjoy more real time isometric action fare like Diablo? Good news! Masquerada gives you the option to play its deep combat system either way! As a more tactical fan, I chose the former, and I was not disappointed. Positioning characters, pausing the game to select and aim techniques for my party members, and then watching the action unfold was a delightful experience each and every time. With a stacked voice cast and a deep story, this is one indie RPG worth giving a try! (It’s out already on Steam, but the PS4 version is coming soon)
If you thought For Honor’s 1v1 PvP combat mechanics were engaging, you are in for a world of discovery with Absolver. Given premiere treatment by Devolver Digital at the con, Absolver drew massive crowds, and it’s easy to see why. It is the martial arts game we never knew we wanted, but somehow always deserved. Strikes, parries, blocks, dodges, weapon combat…it’s all there. The combat is fluid, the strikes have “oompf” to them, the options are insanely varied, and the feeling of satisfaction you get when you best a live opponent is second to none. Expect big things from Absolver. Big, punchy, kicky things.
Rain World wins PAX East for most adorable character. Slugcat (which, I found out, was never the official name of the creature, but rather a random fan comment that took a life of its own) is incredibly expressive and adorable. Which makes the horrible death that awaits it at every turn even more stressful. Navigate through a beautifully desolate world, feeding, hibernating, and surviving your way through to the end.
TOOTH and TAIL
Remember Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine? Me too! That’s why when I found out the devs for that were now making a RTS in a world of talking animals, I was hooked. Various animal armies with unique units set the stage for intense 4 player RTS battles that work so well on a controller you’d be surprised the Halo Wars devs weren’t involved. This game just straight up oozes personality, and if you even mildly enjoy RTS games, you should check it out!
That about wraps it up for Part 1 folks! Did one of your most anticipated indies not make the cut? Good news! Part 2 is only a few days away, so there is a second chance for redemption!