PAX East 2012 Highlights

This past weekend PAX East took Boston, MA, by storm. Kabooooom contributing writer Caroline E. Willis was in attendance and made sure to sample some of the newest games coming!

Mobile games have been slowly taking over more and more of the exhibition space at gaming conventions, and this PAX East was no exception. The Boston Indie Showcase booth had two standouts: Girls Like Robots, an upcoming puzzle game for iOS, OSX, Windows and Android, and Bean’s Quest, a platformer exclusively available for iOS.

Girls Like Robots

Girls Like Robots is a game about seating arrangements. The characters are rendered as adorably animated tiles with strong preferences as to where they sit and who they sit next to. The challenge is to maximize the happiness of your little collection of tile people, which your tile people express through some of the most adorable sighs and squees ever recorded. The music is also delightful; composed and performed by the Peacemeal String Band, it’s cheerful and twangy and right in the perfect range to sound good on not-very-good mobile speakers.

Bean's Quest

Bean’s Quest, on the other hand, is one of the best executions of a mobile platformer I’ve seen yet. You play a jumping bean named Emilio who constantly bounces up and down; the player only controls the left to right movement. This results in wild acrobatic fun, even when the input device is just a touch screen.

The Secret World

Of the MMOs available, The Secret World was by far the most innovative. The graphics were not just impressive but actively beautiful; imagine Skyrim, except the draugr are undead accountants in pink cardigans and there are more sky-scrapers than mountains. Artistically it feels like a horror game, though being a member of one of the secret societies- the Templars, the Illuminati, or the Dragons- means your character will not be the prey in this universe. The game also stands out in that it doesn’t have a leveling or class system; it appears that weapon and magic skills can be learned in more or less any order you want, in any combination. Another effect of the classless system and the modern setting is that the clothing is fully customizable, which, let’s face it, is a huge draw for a certain gaming subculture.

War of the Roses

Set one genre over and 600 years prior to the Secret World is War of the Roses, a team battle game that takes place in medieval England. The game is in the pre-alpha stages, but the multiplayer available at East still managed to look good and play well. The booth staff described as “Like Battlefield with swords” and it’s a great description. There were several types of basic player to choose from, and in the course of spawning it became obvious why medieval knights would spend so much money on a single suit of armor, and why archers tended to stay as far away from the melee as possible; there are some issues of balance that might need to be addressed there. The best part of the experience was the execution sequences, which allowed the triumphant player to opt in to a cool animation and forced the losing player to experience the same animation, all while the rest of the teams carry on hacking and slashing and sneaking up on players busy indulging in an execution sequence.

Assassin's Creed III

But if executions are your thing, the real treat of the show was the exclusive Assassin’s Creed III gameplay footage. The revamped game engine, Anvil Next, has allowed incredible improvements- including upgrading the max number of humans per screen from 200 to 2,500. This might seem a bit abstract, but consider this: Assassin’s Creed III will feature battles, including, as demonstrated in the gameplay footage, the Battle of Bunker Hill just outside Boston. The initial British forces at Bunker Hill numbered only 1,500; this engine could show you every single one in glorious detail. Another huge upgrade is coming in the organic surfaces of the world. No longer will you scale cathedrals but fall out of trees; Connor, the main character of the games, can navigate the beautifully rendered trees and cliffs of the American countryside just as easily as the streets and cities.

Connor himself promises to be an interesting character. He is half Mohawk and half English, and primarily raised amongst the Mohawk; he is drawn into the revolutionary conflict by an unnamed event that leads to his activities as an assassin, pursing Templar targets on both sides of the battle. The new game engine has allowed them to completely rebuild the animations of his movements, which, along with his unique weaponry, results in a character who feels full of predatory grace. Even his assassinations are quick, flowing from one target to the next, transferring energy with economy rather than taking the moment to rest. It was pure beauty to watch, even if it did make the October 2012 release date seem all too far off.

And that, ladies, gentlemen, and kindly folk, is the PAX East round-up!

About Caroline E. Willis

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