PAX East is back. For four days running, April 21 – 24, thousands of gamers came to Boston to check out plenty of digital and tabletop games. While the conference was smaller and more Indie game focused than in the past, there was still plenty of great games to see and play.
On the first day there were logistics to overcome as all participants had to verify their vaccination status before being allowed to participate. This was easily accomplished and a semi-permanent bracelet was provided so on the following days entry was smooth.
Once on the show floor I chose to focus on videogames for the first day and saw many games spanning many genres. I was overjoyed that we had essentially a large Independent games conference, which allowed for a lot of innovative and unique experiences.
This game from publisher Prime Matter Games and developed by Massive Work Studio caught my eye right away. It’s a Souls-like sci-fi horror game that gave me a lot of Dead Space vibes. The concept is to go to locations to mine a crystal called Dolmen that are capable of allowing interaction between realities, revolutionizing space exploration and changing the known world forever.
Things, of course, are not what they seem. Monsters, terrors and competing miners are all around and need to be defeated for the precious Dolmen crystals. The game is an action RPG with persistent enemies and of course some attributes that stay after each death and others that are lost.
I was impressed right away with the visual style of Dolmen, including a lot of customization of the main character which made me smile as I started the demo. This is an action-focused game with both ranged and melee options. This made exploring and combat intense but also varied as monsters and bosses were encountered.
There were some nice tweaks, with weapon switching and enabling environmental effects to attacks that made combat much more strategic. The preview was relatively short but I was able to see that Dolmen had a fresh take on on the Souls genre, adding horror and sci-fi elements to help it stand apart.
Dolmen will be launching May 20 and is well worth checking out for a sci-fi twist on the challenging Souls genre. The varied enemies, dynamic combat and interesting world of Revion Prime was enjoyable and interesting to experience. It will be available on PC via Steam on PlayStation and Xbox platforms.
Another game from publisher Prime Matter Games, developed by Goldnights, is The Last Oricru. The pitch of the game is the player awakening in a sci-fi medieval world at a time of war and starting to influence the destiny of the whole nation. It is designed from the ground up to be played solo or co-op (couch or online) and has some really interesting hooks.
The first is the sci-fi fantasy setting. While the demo I played had mostly fantasy tropes, I was told that one of the factions is very futuristic and as the game progresses more and more sci-fi elements are added. The other incredibly neat aspect is how the world changes based on choice.
I played two versions of the same scenarios where the faction chosen to ally with drastically altered not only the level dynamics but also the enemies and win conditions. This was actually stunning to see, as being allied with a different faction changed level progression, added a boss and shifted the enemies I encountered.
Gameplay-wise, the character choices and weapons impact how combat is experienced. Magic users can stay back but need to occasionally melee in order to regain mana. Melee combatants have shield parries and attacks as well as quick and heavy attacks.
The enemies were interesting and took some tactics to defeat at times, and there were interesting combo mechanics in co-op. The mage could trigger a spell that added an attack between us that I could position on an enemy to do sustained damage; it was effective and fun.
The Last Oricru was an interesting experience I am looking forward to see more from, in particular the world-building choices as factions are encountered. It will be available later this year and can be wishlisted on Steam where a demo is available to download and try.
Featured as part of the PAX Rising showcase, this Metroidvania-style game oozed personality and had a lot of interesting features. Developed originally as a proof concept, it is now being fleshed out as a full game by a very small team from across the world.
The big concept of Rusted Moss is that it is a Metroidvania without a double jump. Instead there is a bungie-like grapple line that can be used in many different ways. The tutorial demo runs first through the shooting and traversal mechanics, then the more complex grapple tactics.
On the show floor I did struggle a bit with the bungie-like grapple system as it was keyboard and mouse controlled, but with a controller these dual stick mechanics will come more naturally. The concept was quite interesting and added a fast-paced dynamic as a lot of quick grappling, jumping and shooting was required to finish each level.
The game is being made by only three people and I was surprised at the high quality of the title with such limited resources. A funny story the developer on hand told me was that the game was supposed to be called Rust and Moss but she was misheard and it became “Rusted Moss.”
My favorite aspect of Rusted Moss quite frankly was the aesthetic, as it is a pixelated game but had a big Nier Automata vibe. The game is slated to arrive later this year on PC and Console and can be Wishlisted on Steam where a demo is also available.