If I had to summarize PAX East 2015 with a single utterance, it would be “Brrrrrr!” With temperatures in the 20s and 30s all weekend, the convention was the warmest place we discovered in Boston. We spent a lot of time huddled inside avoiding winter’s chill, which means a plethora of neat, new games from AAA to indie. I’ve taken the liberty of picking the four most impressive games and products I saw at PAX East this year, which I’ll be presenting in no particular order below.
Crafted by a developer so indie that there’s not even a clever studio name, Tomasz Waclawek put together a masterpiece of platforming novelty in RONIN. You’ll play a vengeful heroine bent on pursuing her own idea of justice, as you grapple your way up skyscrapers and take on the evilest of evil corporations from the top down. A turn-based action platformer, RONIN‘s tactical combat pits your martial skills against rooms full of armed corporate security.
Sticking to the shadows will keep you out of sight, and keep the platforming moving right along, but as soon as you step into the light of day and security spots you, the gameplay switches immediately to turn-based tactical combat. Each turn of combat, you’ll get to make a move, be it leaping, slashing, or throwing your blade mid-air. Your enemies’ laser sights show you where they’ll be shooting, so you have ample opportunity to stay clear of the line of fire. You can only take one shot, so you will need to plan carefully to take down multiple baddies at once.
If you like platformers, but prefer to take your time with combat situations, RONIN is exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll die a lot regardless, rest assured, as even the introduction demo I played was incredibly unforgiving, but you’ll learn as you go, and eventually you’ll be able to clear the security from that server room without so much as a scratch. Check it out on Steam.
IndieBox does some incredible things for old-school gamers that miss the days of all games coming in proper boxes, with neat game-related swag, and, of course, a fully illustrated instruction manual. Except for the occasional Collector’s Edition, these days you’re lucky to get a single-sheet insert in the game box, and that’s if you got a physical copy of the game at all, and even the fanciest of CEs don’t come with instruction manuals anymore. With digital distribution continuing to expand its influence, IndieBox has decided to bring back the box.
For a paltry $25 (or less) per month, you’ll get a hand-crafted goody box for the latest indie game, including said game, and delivered right to your door. IndieBox teams up with indie developers, so the instruction manual, and much of the in-box swag, will have been created with the input of the devs behind the title. Each game tends to come on a credit-card USB key, styled to match the game in any way it can. For example, Risk of Rain came on a key that was designed to look like an in-game keycard.
In addition to the developer involvement in the ideation and creation processes, the entire IndieBox is apparently assembled by hand every month for more than 1,000 subscribers to the service. If you miss old school game boxes and enjoy a very personal, indie touch to your game box collection, IndieBox is definitely worth investigating.
Magic Duels Origins
I’ve played every single Duels games since the very first, and I’ve played them all well beyond the point of completion. I’ve unlocked virtually every card in each of the iterations of the base game. My one big gripe, of course, is that all the time I sunk into Duels the Original was lost when the second one came out, and so on down the line through Duels 2015. Wizards has heard this gripe one too many times, apparently, as the plan for the next iteration, Magic Duels Origins, is to do away with the iterative structure in favor of a living, digital CCG.
Duels Origins, which is slated for a Summer 2015 release, is taking the best parts of each iteration that came before it, making it all 100% free to play, and cramming it into a single package. Instead of yearly releases of the game itself, the plan is for frequent content patches to bolster the card selection. You’ll earn coins every time you win a game – be it single player or multiplayer – which you can then use to purchase booster packs. Based on fan feedback, there is apparently absolutely no content that is behind a paywall, instead the team is allowing players to play to unlock literally everything in the game.
To start, you’ll get a small collection of likely underpowered cards, which you’ll use to complete Gideon Jura’s section of the game, which doubles as the tutorial. Through defeating his campaign, you’ll unlock the next campaign, as well as coins to purchase some boosters to enhance your collection. Fully custom deckbuilding is back, and it’s better than ever, because your collection won’t disappear in 12 months time.
Not only is Duels Origins entirely free, but we’re even going to see the return of Two-Headed Giant multiplayer format, which is apparently the most in-demand format for Duels players. They’re even implementing Planeswalkers with Duels Origins, and including the five double-faced Planeswalker cards from the upcoming Magic Origins core set, including Liliana, Jace, Chandra, Gideon, and Nissa. Magic Duels Origins is definitely worth keeping an eye on as more information gets announced.
I am notoriously bad at games. Particularly action games. When I first heard of the ponderous, methodical arena pseudo-shooter Dreadnought, I was wildly skeptical. Love them though i may, action-oriented games in a multiplayer setting almost invariably spells disaster for me. Not so with Dreadnought, however, as it’s more of a cooperative strategy situation than an action-y shoot-em-up.
Developer Yager has taken the class system of games like Team Fortress 2, and converted it to capital ships. You’ll choose from several classes of ship, from the sleek Sniper to the titular, massive Dreadnought, and through collaboration and cooperation with your team, you’ll aim to take down the other team’s ships while sustaining as few casualties as possible. Team Deathmatch in a nutshell, right?
Of course, in a typical shooter, you can very easily take charge with superior skill, rather than teamwork, so a single particularly talented player on either team will more or less spell the end for the opposition. That doesn’t seem to be the case so much in Dreadnought, as a lone wolf player will almost certainly find themselves on the receiving end of a broadside, and will likely spend more time waiting to respawn than actually damaging other ships.
Dreadnought seems to want to be about real-time tactics, not about twitch shooting. It’s a fine line between minimizing the player skill component and maximizing the benefits of cooperation, but based on a few matches, I’d say Yager is definitely on the right track. If you’ve got the urge to kill, but find yourself outmatched in typical shooters, you’ll probably want to brush up on your tactics and keep an eye on Dreadnought, which should be hitting beta in the coming months.