Thursday, April 17, 2014

PAX East 2014: The Review!

I thought about writing a song or a limerick to commemorate my trip to PAX East for a second year, but that takes too much time. I'm a gamer. Sometimes I'm lazy.

We traveled back to Boston this year with not as many expectations for the journey, other then increased security. We honestly didn't know what the show floor would be like this round for PAX East 10th year. No news had been made available online for us to rummage through. No new games were announced until the week of. The layout of the floor had more independent developers and fewer big name brands. Even the panel listing had us wondering if this would be worth the effort.

PAX East didn't disappoint.

We had the full three day experience this time (which, if you ever go to a PAX event get the 3 day badge if possible. It's the only way to see most of the content going on around the expo). Truthfully, I'm glad that we did. Because we got into the Gearbox panel and holy mother of cow crap. Guess who got to see game footage of Borderlands: The Pre Sequel AND is getting a free copy of it?

It's great being a cosplayer.

But before we get into that, let's start with the overall content. PAX East has settled nicely into Boston, at the same location as last year. With the concern over the Boston Marathon bombing (in fact 4/15 is the one year remembrance of the day), still on people's minds, security was beefed up. Rules on prop weapons had changed and there was a bag check to get into the building. I think all attendees were understanding of the circumstances. Having said that, they really needed to mark out the lines to the tables (it was a giant fudge cluster), and continued on with the row of tables after the security check points so people could zip up their bags. See, they needed everyone to open up all of their bag pockets and for a lot of us, that meant backpacks, because it's much easier to haul around your swag with a backpack then with a shoulder/side bag/purse. Which means anywhere from 3-15 zippers a bag. Which means standing right behind the security checkpoint and causing more crowding while you clumsily re-zip everything before going inside. So designated lines before the tables, and tables after the checkpoints would be great PAX East.

The Expo floor was busy, per usual. League of Legends still took up a chunk of the floor, along with Twitch and Machinma. Surprisingly lots of game play, tournaments, and live streaming this year. Other developer booths like Microsoft and Blizzard were not 'as' large, but still held a strong presence. I was finding myself drawn to each booth wanting to play and try everything, even with products I would normally stay away from. Son on that front, love the expo floor. It felt more alive, engaging, and open to the attendees then last year. The rest of the Panels were not as gripping as I remember last year. Outside of the Gearbox Developers Panel on Sunday, the other sit down events were not peaking my interest. The few that were had time slots that conflicted other important events - such as the Gearbox Dev panel or Expo floor content. It's the age ol' problem: which one do you choose? Well, go with your gut and with your interests. I'd love to see a video of the Legend of Zelda/Mythology panel, but I'm going to take a guess no one recorded it. So Expo: great. Panels: Not so great. It'd be nice to see more developers involved in the panel process and less of the fan panels. A lot of us come to the Expo specifically to hear the studios talk about their products and their process, and we weren't really getting that at all this time.

There were a number of new games coming out that I had a chance to test drive and I'm looking forward to seeing them release later this year.

Wildstar. Now this is something I've been shown gaming footage for a while now, but actually playing it is a different beast entirely. Wildstar was created by NCSoft and is a free to play MMO where you can choose to be a member of a faction, good or evil. You have your standard job classes, warrior, engineer, medic, etc. and...okay so it plays a lot like World of Warcraft and it even has some of the cartoony design. But what I did like about Wildstar is the lack of restrictions. You get the exact same story, equipment, game play, and all of the content as you would with a paying subscriber. What does the subscriber get that you don't? The ability to make money faster versus farming for your funds, selling "time cards" to f2p players, and discounts on items available through NCSoft's store. The lack of restrictions are what made me smile and talking to some of the team members who made the game, you could tell that they enjoy the cartoony nature of the beast. It's meant to be fun, lighthearted, and it doesn't take itself seriously. It's a T rated MMO for crying out loud. Any "violence" is campy and reminiscent of Looney Tunes. Dialogue is cheesy and full of semi-witty puns. But the bits of story that I did see and the environments crafted are unique, not a full WoW clone. The game has the ability to stand on it's own. It's a family MMO, and I'm looking forward to it's release on June 3rd.

Age of Mythology Extended Edition. Not a new game, but an upgrade to the original Age of Mythology release. Now, while all of you out there were playing your Starcraft and Civilization, I was playing AoM and I almost jumped up and down in delight when I saw it on the show floor. It will release May 8th on Steam and has received an upgrade in graphics as well as game play. The integration to Steam also allows for Steam development of new levels for missions and enhanced multiplayer. They may seem like meager upgrades, which is why the entire pack is only retailing for $29.99, but they are major improvements from the original PC version. And I 'almost' won a free copy to download. Argh! If I had just another 10 seconds I would have won my quest. But I got an Anubis pin and Krakken bandana. I can't complain. I wonder if the old cheat codes will still work. Hmm...

Gods Will Be Watching. The style looks like one of those plane survival movies...and it kind of is. You are the leader of a small team in a toxic landscape and you are expected to make life-altering decisions in order to survive. It's up to you if you are the sole survivor or if you want your team to live. It sounds easy, but the decisions are not so simple. It can be as harsh as "this one lives, this one dies." And you're limited to 5 choices a day. A day. That can mean a lot of things going wrong in a very short time frame. It is damn near impossible to keep everyone alive, no matter what your intentions are. GWBW is an indie game that takes the "choices" option and rams it down your throat in a way that will question your morality. The game is currently being crowdfunded, but expect it to be available soon for download.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Granted I went into this booth for my b/f and friend who enjoy playing this. Blizzard is releasing the iPad version of the game and celebrated at PAX East by allowing gamers to test it and receive a free code to an in-game deck to use on any platform the product is available on. Cool stuff. And having played a round, albeit very badly since I was driving blind and getting the code for the b/f, I can see the appeal. The cards are focused on Warcraft lore ranging from well known NPC's to monsters such as Murlocs. There was a Murloc deck I saw someone play with, and if I had any sense on how to search for it, I would have used it. And it's like any table-top card game where you choose your job class, throw down some cards, and try to win by defeating your digital opponent, be it computer generated or someone else playing on the server. But it's animated, with bright colors and lights. Oooohhhh.

I have been bypassing the elephant in the room that I teased yesterday, and earlier in this post, until now! Borderlands The Pre Sequel. Gearbox partnered up with 2K Games Australia to create the in-between game that bridges the gap between Borderlands 1 and 2. They announced it earlier in the week with a trailer and some goodies at PAX East for gamers to experience. I also managed to cosplay from Borderlands 2 and was able to jump the line to see the 20 minute live demo of what they were working on. Being a cosplayer has perks. Lots of fun perks. :D While they didn't allow us to take and photos or videos, they did give us free reign to talk about it like mad. So that's what I'm doing. The Pre Sequel gives us the opportunity to finally get off of Pandora and onto the moon where we help Handsome Jack in his quest to stop the evil that plagues the good citizens of the planet. And for those who had a brain fart, Jack was good for a time. Briefly. Very briefly. Jack ends up being your guide as a crew of 4 new characters set out to help him do good things. On the moon. In space. Where everyone sounds like they are from Australia. Good stuff! I've always wanted to go to Australia, even if they're on the moon, I'll take it!

The characters highlighted were Athena, whom you can find in one of the myriads of DLC content from the original games, with a Captain America-like shield of insanity. Wilheim, as he transforms from human to robot, a certain sheriff from BL2 who use to have a thing for Jack, and some crazy ass robot with a beret. He sounds like a pest, with his flapping robotic arms, stocky yellow and white frame, and always complaining about the damn stairs. But there are other cool things too, like lasers and freeze guns. We have ice weapons now. Yea! And with the physics of space, enemies can fly all over the place, spin out of control, and have really wonky rag-doll like movements when they are catapulted from the safety of Oxygen bubbles. Oh. Oxygen. Also a resource in the game, as well as a tool for special abilities.

And on the costuming front, lots of costumed people this year! Glad to see that the restrictions didn't hamper people from coming out in cosplay. Loads of Grey Wardens from Dragon Age wandering about, a few Mario's, some Commander Shepard's, and an Earthworm Jim. I mean...f! That made my entire day! Thanks guy in Jim costume! I need to find you because I will totally make a "Princess What's-Her-Name" to accompany your costume.

It was a great expo and glad that I could return. With the announcement of a PAX South, I know where my money will be going next year. 2015 San Antonio here I come!

For more photos of PAX East, check out the Flickr set. Videos to come later! Mostly of ClapTrap and the Borderlands event.


  1. Hello! I'm Chris Yap from the Legend of Zelda/Mythology in games panel from PAX East 2014! I managed to have a friend film our entire panel and after we added the slides in to the vid, you can now view it on youtube at the following link:

    Thanks for your interest in our panel, and I hope you enjoy it!

    1. Thanks for responding to my post as well! I'll be watching the panel this evening in-between my E3 catch-up vids. :D


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