Wednesday, September 07, 2016

PAX West 2016 - The Review!

Yeash. My blog posting has virtually died off since September 1st. Conventions tend to do that to a person, and this year I opted for a 6 day vacation from work and life, because I sure as sh*t have earned it!

But reality is setting back into place and I'm here with the giant-ass review of my PAX West experience. Formerly called PAX Prime, West is considered "the big show" where the largest developers show up to spotlight their wares in hopes that people will pre-order. I saw a lot of the land, and did not attend as many panels as I would have liked. It was a fun experience, though some of the named developers were lacking in content - I think they spent it all at GamesCon in August. Here's my review:

- PAX will always and forever be LineCon. If you don't like to wait for 1-3 hours to play an unreleased game, a panel, or to buy merch, then don't bother attending. Lines are going to be a thing here. Always. There was an hour and a half line to get on the Ark dinosaur display! I'm still baffled by this one woman who was complaining about waiting an hour to play a game, and she had to voice her concerns to everyone that crossed her path. Just...why? You knew what you were getting into when you signed up. Deal with it or leave the expo. Simple as that.

Aside: Nintendo, you all suck for dropping your DS StreetPass update on September 1st. I didn't have a chance to download it before PAX and missed out on the 100 Mii storage!

- Getting into ticketed booths is still a hassle. Even being one of the first in line did not guarantee you a spot as people were making their way into the expo hall before 10 AM and securing their places. I was incredibly fortunate to get a pass for Resident Evil 7 VR, but Final Fantasy XV? Good luck. They only handed out 200 tickets a day for a 45 minute demo (which is an insane amount of time, if you ask me). Rule of thumb for those who go next year: Get in line by 8 AM if you want to see/play something. Even on Monday.

- SquareEnix doesn't care about their fans. There. I said it.

They know people will buy their product. They don't have to cater to anyone or anything.

Cosplayers! If you want a gaming studio that respects your art, whatever it may be, head to Gearbox and BioWare. All are welcome.

But! some of the games in the SE booth were fun. They have a deluge of titles releasing over the next few months including World of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest Builders. I was able to play both and thoroughly enjoyed them. Dragon Quest is an odd mix of Minecraft and Sim City. You build a town and have to manage it; providing for the people while stopping monsters. The game play is straight forward, with the exception of the controller. It's not very intuitive with the action button, as I constantly pressed X instead of Circle. But seeing a new aspect of the DQ universe was entertaining. Maybe not worth the $59.99 price tag, but I'll quickly snap this up when it's on sale.

World of Final Fantasy is another odd mash-up game, ala Dissidia and Kingdom Hearts. You start out as two kids who has royally messed up and caused a weird temporal phenomenon, transporting them to a new world where characters and monsters from Final Fantasy games now co-exist together. Of course the kids lost their memories too, and you have to reclaim them, because JRPG trope. Even with the obviousness of the story, this was a cute game I could really get into! Loads of characters from multiple FF titles make an appearance, including mother-flipping Dirge of Cerberus! I thought SE forgot about that game. With the help of the FF characters, you roam the world to fix your mistake, while catching monsters in a Pokémon-type mini-game (3 ball ticks included) and stopping baddies. There's even a new "stacking" system for fighting that allows you to combine powers with your Pokémon catches for more HP and bigger combo moves. My one complaint is the turn-based bar. It moves SO SLOW. One mob fight could take your several minutes. I spent most of the demo watching the bar, hoping it would move faster. Maybe there's a speed adjustment in the options menu? Fingers crossed!

- Resident Evil 7  in VR has made me a believer that VR is going to take over gaming. I was already excited for RE7 after trying the demo and seeing the footage from Capcom. Now? Best thing ever. The fear from the early games is back in full force. The VR takes place within that initial demo. I really don't want to spoil it for anyone else who gets a chance to experience it, but it is incredible. The entire space, all 360 degrees, has been rendered into the game world. I was so engrossed in the little details, such as the shading on the furniture, that I did get smacked by a jump scare when I least expected it. Incredibly life-like and it made my heart race. I need this game.

- I still contest that Dead by Daylight is a fun game, but the dev lied to us about the Twitch streamer we were playing against. We had the chance to play with Angry Bob, and originally turned it down, only to be swayed by one of our companions (I blame you, Josh!) to do it so we can move further up in line and not have to wait longer. One of the employees of the developer commented that Angry Bob did not do well the day prior, so we should be okay. Total bupkis. We were done in less then 4 minutes. Me, the one person who had played the beta, got knocked out within the first 20 seconds because I spawned right next to the bad guy! Wish they would have let us play another round with someone who wasn't a Twitch streamer, since we didn't get a chance to experience the game.

Dead by Daylight is a survival horror game. You and a team of 3-4 people are stuck in a compound with a crazy murderer on the loose. Your goal is to start up generators that will open a door and allow you to escape. Or you might be the lucky one and be the murderer, in which case you hunt and kill. As you gain experience you can unlock extra abilities to help you in your quest. It's a good mix of panic and fear.

- Tested out a game called Earthfall by developer Holospark. Aside from it being similar to Left 4 Dead, it offered it's own set of unique challenges and an interesting way to create new weapons: 3D printer. Our team almost won, if the horde of aliens would have let up for half a second for me to start the darn van. Would definitely play again.

- Dishonored 2 - ready to play the game. Party sucked. The idea behind it was nice, but not a lot of thought went into it regarding line management. Bethesda held an after party on Sunday to promote the game, by turning part of a pier into the landscape of Dishonored. There were costumed actors, a mystery game to play, and some of the devs were showcasing new game play. This is one of those situations where it should have been a ticketed event so they could control the number of people attending, and spread out the groups - one every hour. After spending 4 hours waiting in lines, all I got was a t-shirt with faded lettering and soggy bread. I'm pretty sure it had cheese on it too. Bleh.

- If you ever attend a PAX, make time to go to the Omegathon finals. It was even more fun then the streamed version. Being among the crowd, cheering and groaning with everyone as the 2 competitors on stage duke it out, was fantastic. I enjoyed every minute of it! The final game this year was Super Mario 3 - most points in 10 minutes wins. Watching the new-school gamers fiddle through old-school mechanics, and a Game Genie, was hilarious.

- Elder Scrolls: Legends was a lot of fun, and that surprised me. After Blizzard stormed through the gaming world with Hearthstone, other developers have been jumping onto the bandwagon. Elder Scrolls included. Having played a few different online card games, I had a general idea of what I was getting myself into, but Legends offered more strategy then I was expecting. You have two lanes for your cards. The right lane gives you a shadow effect for one turn, and helps hide your card to prevent it from being damaged. There are also multiple sets of items and enchantments that require you to play a minion card before playing the action. It's very chess-like with the set-up. Some actions affect your cards as well as your enemies. It's best to sometimes sacrifice your minion to destroy the opponents cards - a lot like taking out your own Pawns and Knights in chess. I managed to win my game in 8 turns and received some additional codes for cards that I will put to good use!

- PAX West was fun. In general we were disappointed by the lack of triple A titles and the presence of bigger developers. Blizzard showcasing World of Warcraft: Legion felt odd given that the expansion was released just days prior. I had no qualms with the Sony and Microsoft booths. Sony went full VR while Microsoft hammered Battlefield 1. Those made sense. But the rest felt a bit flat. I've heard from a few people that PAX seemed to be having an off-year. There are only a few games I'm excited for coming out soon, and most of them were not at PAX. Such as Nier: Automata. And while there was a cosplay event for Horizon: Zero Dawn there weren't any demos. Thankfully there was RE7 to maintain my interest. But as a whole, the expo floor was just "meh." A few indie games caught my eye. Not enough to play, but to consider looking into further.

If I were to go back, I'd wait until it's a year where I know a lot of big games are coming out and they are promoting at PAX West. Or for 1-2 days during the weekend to get some of the experience without getting bored. Enjoyed my time. Like the city. Love the weather. But I'll space out my visits.

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