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PAX East 2011: Day Two Recap

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The second day of PAX East was destined to be a full one. Having partied till the wee hours the night before, it was quite painful to wake up barely four hours later but we were determined to make it happen as we had an hour of media only time in the expo hall.

The really big blockbuster demos were already filling up so we did not get a chance to see Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefield 3, or L.A. Noire but there is plenty of coverage on those games and media to whet the appetite. At least that is what I told myself as I grudgingly walked past their booths. All three of those games do look amazing and had lines nearly three hours-plus long the entire show, so no doubt the demos were amazing.

click to view larger imageWe headed over to the Ubisoft booth and entered the relatively short line for Child of Eden. This is the latest game from Tetsuya Mizazauchi and Q Entertainment. It is in the same gameplay style as Rez and features high intensity graphics. It was also being demoed on the Kinect so we were able to try out the motion controls. I quite enjoyed the demo, but found it fairly easy and the motion controls were limited to hand movements and swipes.

Moving on, we checked out some smaller games like Fez, Warp, and Shoot Many Robots which we actually had a chance to play later in the conference. The 3DS booth was our desired end point though and we managed to squeeze in playtime on Pilot Wings Resort and Steel Diver. After so much hype this was my first chance at playing with the 3DS and I wasn’t blown away at all. The 3D effects were nice and it was very cool to see it work glasses free but it did not improve the experience in a definable way.

The 3DS games were fun if limited in their appeal, Pilotwings Resort uses your Mii and you get to choose your mode of flying (rocket belt, biplane or hang glider) then you fly around the resort. We were in freeplay mode so there was no required direction, just fly, and while it looked pretty there was not much to hold my interest for more than 10 minutes. Steel Diver has you in a submarine moving yourself in circles holding the 3DS still in order to find ships and then attack them. The effects and graphics were good, but the movement got in the way of the 3D effect and the gameplay was fairly repetitive.

Next we moved on to the Penny Arcade Make-a-Strip panel which is always fun. Jerry and Mike engage with the audience as they write the script and then draw the comic. Monday’s comic will be very gruesome and we got to see that evolve. They also dynamically added the infamous watch and a My Little Pony into the mix which may result in another cease and desist. This was one of my favorite panels and they were hilarious as they interacted with the audience.

Following that we dived back into the expo hall and had a closer look and chat with the developer of Fez. He is a friend of a friend so we took some time to chat with him. The game has been out of sight for some time so he was happy to be showing it at PAX East and he was surprised to hear that Jerry and Mike gave Fez a shout out at the Q&A sessions.

Fez is a weird side-scroller that has a lot of the elements of Echochrome and the cute style of an 8-bit game. It is a monster free game that is solely about exploration and has been described by Phil Fish as something to be relaxing and enjoyable, not stressful.

Next was the Deus Ex presentation that included a live demo of the first mission in the game. This is one crazy game in many ways. It is absolutely amazing to look at, has a deep inventory and upgrade and conversation systems and you can approach missions in many different ways. During the demo the developer started being stealthy with quiet takedowns, cloaking passes and tranquilizer shots then moved into a guns blazing finale to end of the level. It was staggering to see the sheer variety of options, augmentations, and possibilities as you play through. To top it off, the game is visually stunning, with the music and atmosphere perfectly complementing the stellar visuals. My only complaint is the main character’s voice is too generic and gruff for my liking, but that is a minor quibble.

click to view larger imageNext, we explored a little more then I was off to a D&D Encounters session. Encounters are short adventures that can be picked up and played because characters and scenarios are pre-generated. I sat down with a random group and selected the Drow Ranger (not too cliché!) and our Dungeon Master brought us through the backstory and had us all explain what our characters were doing prior to the event that spurs the encounter. This was a great tactic to have us instill life into characters we just met and it got us role playing right away. The encounter was short but fun as we battled some magically possessed villagers.

Finishing late, we headed back to the hotel and caved for the night. The next day would be another long day filled with walking, interviews, and panels and wanted to make sure we were rested. Of course this being Boston we had to try a restaurant we don’t have in Canada and ended up making a late night of it again. Such is life when you are away and it ended the night in an enjoyable way.

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About Michael Prince

Looking at all things Geek - news, rants and updates from the worlds of gaming, tech, blu-ray, novels, and music.