Monday , April 22 2024

PAX East 2023: Day 4

The fourth and final day of PAX East is always a sprint for me as I close out the last previews and interviews with developers on the show floor. The energy is also nearly frantic as people want to absorb as much of the conference as possible before it ends.

I had a hectic day with a few extended appointments but the benefit was I got to check out a ton of amazing games. Some of them I will give their own dedicated previews, but the ones mentioned here were all unique and fun experiences I was glad to check out.

Turbo Overkill

One the most badass games I checked out at PAX East was Apogee Entertainment’s Turbo Overkill. Described as Blade Runner meets Doom this game was fast, over the top, stylish, brutal, and most importantly, fun.

You control a half-metal, half-human, half-crazy Johnny Turbo, augmented with hidden arm rockets and a chainsaw that extends from his lower leg allowing you to kick-slice enemies. Suffice to say the game is quite crazy.

Turbo Overkill is in early access and I was able to check out the third and newest chapter in my demo. The developer described the game to me, explaining that each chapter has a theme, progressively getting darker and more apocalyptic as the adventure continues.

As I was starting well into the game, I had access to a host of weapons, and they were all satisfyingly fun to use. Each one had an alt-fire that was a radically different experience; for example, the shotgun had a grenade launcher.

I was able to check out wall running, grapple hooking, teleporting and a whole lot of weapons, but there is also a deep upgrading system and some levels with vehicles. The action was non-stop, crazy-fast and as mentioned incredibly fun as I shot and blasted my way through hordes of baddies.

What I appreciated as well is that Turbo Overkill has a lot of story flavor sprinkled throughout, as well as some cutscenes and truly impressive visuals despite being a retro shooter. I’m looking forward to the game as it continues to progress. It is available right now in early access on PC via Steam and GoG with console details coming later in the year.

Capes

As a massive fan of the Freedom Force series from years ago I was intrigued by the idea of Capes from Spitfire Interactive. It’s a turn-based superhero strategy game where you build a team of heroes and fight to take back the city from the Villains who won a conflict years earlier.

I am a sucker for turn-based games and superheroes so I was excited to take Capes for a spin and I have to say that while it was a tad rough, it was also very fun. The gameplay is quite similar to turn-based games like Xcom but with some interesting tweaks via the superpowers, and also cover, team-up abilities and mobility options.

The section of the demo I played had some tutorials, a recruitment battle for a new team member, and a larger fight with assorted enemies. The scenarios were cheesy but entertaining and I enjoyed the inter-team dynamics I could already see forming.

The use of powers and the specific skills of each hero, and where they are located relative to each other, makes a huge difference as they can often combine skills. A great example is one character that can cover himself in protective crystals and another that has telekinetic powers can combine and add crystals to the rock barrage they throw, for extra damage.

The developer let me know that this is an underdog type of game (similar to Xcom) where the heroes are outnumbered and need to form a base and gather recruits to win the fight. It was great to check out Capes and I am interested to see more once the game releases later this year on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store.

Inkulinati

Billed as an ink-based strategy game straight from medieval manuscripts, Inkulinati was a charming surprise on the crowded PAX East show floor. Inspired by real drawings and sketches made by monks at the corners of their manuscripts as inside jokes for other monks, this game had a style that was timeless.

Assuming the role of an Inkulinati Master, I was able to create my own Tiny-Inkulinati as I battled other Masters. Playing through the tutorial systems I drew (well, I placed, but the in game the avatar drew) different animal-based soldiers as well as obstacles and hazards to thwart my opponent.

Hand gestures are also possible allowing creatures and enemies to be moved, shifted and even poked. The setup is asynchronous, meaning that my actions occur and then the enemy’s actions follow, so proper planning and obstacle placing is key to success.

The game itself was truly fun to watch in motion and explore. I did feel that more time is needed to truly grasp the concepts, but much fun could be had in the game once the nuances were learned. Inkulinati is out now in early access for PC via Steam and GoG, Game Preview for Xbox One/Series X|S and will be released for Nintendo Switch.

Fabledom

One game that I was surprised grabbed my attention so strongly was Fabledom. This lovely game is an accessible city-building experience set in a fairytale world with romance and alliances a key factor in success.

I played through an extended demo at PAX East and initially was just going to check out the high-level details, but ended up playing through my whole time slot. The city-building progression was charming, intuitive and rewarding with some great goals and checkpoints keeping me engaged.

The base city-building is a slightly simplified experience, but still deep enough to warrant some thought and planning. What I liked was the ease with which I was able to place buildings, roads and expanded options as my little village grew.

I never felt overwhelmed as I had to expand, and I had a great feeling of growing the community I created so the villagers could continue to thrive. I also really like the occasional requests from neighbors and the romance subplots that could form alliances or new building options.

I have to say it was a joyful experience as I lost myself in creating my fairytale village, and I am looking forward to more as the game releases. Fabledom will release this Spring on PC Via Steam.

Nocturnal

Another incredibly interesting game I was able to check out at PAX East is the light and dark adventure game Nocturnal. This initially plays like a standard action roguelike but once flame is initiated the real crux of the gameplay became much more interesting.

Once the lead character, Ardeshir, returns home after a long absence, he is beset by the barren and abandoned landscape. When in dark spaces, creatures are unstoppable until a flame is lit and then the enemies can be defeated.

Throughout the level there are unlit torches and braziers, and fireplaces for a flame to be permanently added. But it needs Ardeshir’s lit sword to activate, which he can only carry for short periods. This adds a strategic and puzzle-themed focus to the gameplay loops that was quite satisfying as I explored the island of Nahran.

Nocturnal was also beautiful visually as the light pierced the misty and dark corners of the world. Combat was quick and smooth lending a fast-paced flow as I battled the dark forces at work in the game.

Nocturnal is a game well worth checking out when it arrives later this year on PC via Steam as well as PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch.

Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles

Set in the world of the Falconeer, Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles is an organic open-world game based on building fortresses, settlements and alliances between factions. The developer had so much great feedback on the world of the Falconeer they decided to make a game based around building the world.

I played around with the demo and was initially a little overwhelmed until the developer came along and told me not to overthink what I was doing. There is no scrollable view of a single map; instead there is an explorable 3D world in which I could build on any rock, cliff and mountain I could find.

In Freeplay mode (where the resource gameplay loop is removed) I saw quickly how easily I could place and connect settlements with simple clicks of the controller. Fortresses, trade and resource routes and connecting paths were just as easy to lay out and navigate.

Once the quick settlements were laid out I was able to upgrade, change to a different faction, and also shift night to day to see how the lights affect the settlement. The multi-Island settlement I quickly threw together looked haphazard and magnificent all at the same time.

It was frankly amazing to see the systems in place and what could be accomplished relatively quickly. The gameplay loop still needs some work, but this is an incredibly promising game that will make digital builders excited to try for years. Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles is coming out sometime this year on PC via Steam and GoG.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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