Video game exhibitions rarely make their way down under so, when they do, it’s a very special event for Australian gamers of all ages. PAX Aus is all about celebrating what’s great about our independent developers whilst giving gaming nostalgia and the upcoming blockbuster titles room to move. Here’s the highlights of Power Up Gaming’s first day at PAX Aus 2015.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
As the media were allowed in an hour before the public, I headed straight for my console of choice, the Xbox One.
Rise of the Tomb Raider offered a short demo and looked quite stunning. The game has taken full advantage of the current-gen graphics, with immense detail inside the playable tomb. It’s great to see more attention has been given to the puzzles inside the tombs, which still feature Lara jumping two stories high and dying in gruesome ways. There were more instances where players need to be on their toes, with numerous hazards revealing themselves in a split second. You can see Lara also has a lot more confidence in her own abilities when in conflict, reloading a pistol much quicker; overall, it looks good.
Next up was Cuphead. This game, from the outset, was a pain in my arse! After a brief look over the game’s simple control scheme I jumped straight into a boss battle, against a giant bird wearing a birdhouse. Unfortunately, co-op functionality was unavailable on the show floor but it was plain to see that this game gets very hectic very quickly. The bird fires eggs that eventually shatter after hitting the edge of the screen, whilst bees enter the fray in packs to ruin your day. Bird-brain enters a second stage and unleashes stacks of feathers in every direction; it’s fun and stressful enough with just one player. The art style is very unique and reminiscent of old-school cartoons from an age gone by, well complemented with an equally entertaining soundtrack. Undoubtedly, co-op makes this exponentially difficult but it’s one of the anticipated ID@Xbox games to keep your eye on.
This indie game by Coldwood Studios oozes charm. The game uses Yarny’s supply of string to progress through levels, where you can use a lasso ability to reach higher checkpoints and restock your yarn supply. When you’re short on the red string, Yarny’s exterior takes the form a skeleton, adding a layer of mild humanity to the game; this little creature is undernourished and must be fed before he perishes.
The character movement is also another charming part of Unravel. If left stationary, Yarny will prop to stroke its chin as if pondering the next move. Yarny also shivers and shakes in wet and windy weather. There’s a great environmental ambience and, from a graphical standpoint, Unravel looks very good, too. Though a soundtrack didn’t play a huge part in the demo, it wasn’t really needed because the player was able to easily get a sense of what Yarny was feeling and how treacherous the puzzles were. Such puzzles used the yarn to clear obstacles and build a bridge across two checkpoints.
Unravel is slated for a Q1, 2016 release on PS4 and XB1 and is a game to put on your watch list.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Showcase
In a surprising move by Eidos Montreal, PAXAus was shown a gameplay demo of Mankind Divided that was only viewed at Paris Games Week a day prior. Adam Jensen was infiltrating an inner-city theatre, where the demo reflected a more aggressive approach to the versatility of Deus Ex’s gameplay.
Gamers saw a variety of new augmentations implemented for Mankind Divided: the Nano Blade, a quick-fire metallic spear that severely injures incoming enemies (I learnt a gut-shot with this ability is particularly brutal); Wireless Hacking, whereby Jensen triggers a short mini-game from a distance to bypass security measures; and the Icarus Dash, which similar to Dishonoured’s Blink skill, allows Jensen to swiftly teleport to different areas of the environment. Along with a greater sense of verticality in the level design, the Icarus Dash, especially when combined with the Icarus Bomb, was a particularly exciting feature.
A small but ingenious feature I saw was the ability to dynamically change ammunition types; eliminating the downtime needed to enter menus and re-organise your loadout. Mankind Divided looks more detailed, complex, and action-packed than ever and is a very attractive drawcard for 2016.
In a day mostly full of positives for the expo, there was of course one major negative to come out of day one: Bethesda. After queuing up for around half an hour I was ushered into a pen, of sorts, where everyone present was gifted a retrospective video presentation of the Fallout franchise. Following a Fallout quiz, of which a mere four mini-posters were thrown out, I waited another 30 minutes until myself and fellow gamers went through another door and sat down in a small theatre.
Here, despite a crazy amount amount of bass and reverberation from the associated soundtracks, we were all fed recycled E3 footage. There was nothing new Bethesda had to offer in the way of gameplay demos or trailers for either Fallout 4 or their next game, Doom. It was extremely underwhelming, disappointing, frustrating, and a whole bunch of other verbs and adjectives. This really was the weakest offering of any games developer I’ve seen so far at PAXAus. Their booth is a large, black structure enclosed with high walls, as if they have something to hide when, in reality, it’s quite the opposite.
For more information about the expo, visit www.paxaustralia.com.au. Stay tuned to Power Up Gaming for more coverage on day two and three of the event, with more interviews and first impressions to come.