The final stretch of PAX Australia 2015 provided a wide variety of content. I attended panels, interviews and enjoyed games from both the triple-A and indie sides of the industry. After getting to spend some time with the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End multiplayer, Naughty Dog’s opening panel for the day seemed like a good place to start.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Panel
Over the course of an hour, Naughty Dog’s community strategist, Arne Meyer, showcased some exclusive gameplay from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End multiplayer, and responded to questions about the graphical fidelity of online play. He said its multiplayer will run at 900p as it allowed the game to have around a 20 percent performance improvement, along with the integration of 60 frames per second. Meyer talked at length about Uncharted 4 multiplayer’s use of ‘mysticals’, special power-ups that grant players temporary abilities.
Many of these are tied to supernatural powers, where enemy players are pursued by green ghouls and skulls, as well as Djinn ability, which causes players to teleport whilst on fire. We also got more familiar with the rope mechanic in the game, where players swing, Tarzan-style, across large gaps in online maps to create a variety of shortcuts.
Tom Clancy’s The Division
This was a big one. After several lengthy delays and appearances at no less than three E3 expos, The Division had the potential to blow every other game at the show out of the water. I figured a 20-minute session with the demo would be enough time to build a definitive opinion on the game – but I was wrong.
Eighteen monitors had players facing off, 3v3, in a short introductory area until we were thrown into the Dark Zone, the game’s PvP area. It was snowing and, despite some obvious low-resolution textures, the immersion involved with exploring a snowy, barren Manhattan was undeniably awesome. There were a lot of mechanics at play within a short space of time, as players juggled their abilities, squad perks and the game’s cover system.
Despite finding the seeker mine a particularly satisfying piece of kit, there were downsides to The Division, too. After accidentally dropping my sticky bomb I was unable to pick it back up, which was unusual. Also, the climbing mechanic needs work, as pressing A to get into cover followed by B for climbing above ground just didn’t feel right; a simple A button-only layout might work better.
Progress is going well for The Division but, despite the work that is still left to be done, it’s shaping up to be one of the better co-operative shooters for next year. Hopefully the wait is worth it.
Next up, I had a behind closed doors interview with Max Chuvalov, marketing and product manager for World of Tanks. We discussed the possibility of any new game modes for World of Warships, World of Tanks’ reception on console after making the leap from its home on PC, as well as plans for their newest studio, Wargaming Labs.
Max revealed that Wargaming has no plans on creating any further titles based around the WW2 combat era and will mostly likely look to the future for their next source of MMO inspiration.
There was time left over for a brief rundown of what to expect with the reboot of Master of Orion, too. Randy King, Wargaming liaison at NGD Studios, detailed what to expect when choosing your alien race, different approaches when colonising a planet, as well as the importance of opting for diplomacy than open war with other races. In our time with the game, Randy chose the Sakkra race, a physically imposing band of aliens that reminded me of the Krogan from Mass Effect.
We barely had enough time to scratch the surface of this sci-fi strategy game but, from what I saw, the PC gaming contingent has been very well looked after with Master of Orion.
Dark Souls 3
My preview of Dark Souls III was great. It’s been a while since I’ve revisited a Souls game but, once again, the work by From Software was of high quality. I was on a timed session and decided to skip character customisation to get acquainted with a sprawling gothic castle that, visually, had death written all over it. Makeshift graveyards were dotted all around the area and it was an eerie feeling seeing throngs of undead corpses crowding around various symbols of worship. There were lanky, hollow enemies – some with scimitars and some with shields and spears – as well as their grotesque, hulking superiors who wielded large axes.
It’s great to see those relatively new, Bloodborne-esque graphics being incorporated into a Souls game first-hand, while the gameplay is as strategic as ever. My brief tussle with a silver dragon came a close second to an intimidating hooded boss brandishing a massive scythe.
Ascent: The Space Game
Ascent is a massive undertaking by a two-man team under the banner Fluffy Kitten Studios. Rivalling the likes of Elite: Dangerous in scope, this title boasts “more than 270 billion star systems generated with unique planets, mineral concentrations, agricultural values and climate.” It’s described by James Hicks, the studio’s CEO, as “a lot like EVE Online but without the PvP combat,” where the human race has almost been completely wiped out. We are struggling to survive in a few planets hidden in a far away sector of this massive galaxy, where the player’s ultimate task is to stabilise the situation and help the human race and colonise new planets.
Ascent’s main selling point is collaborative play. James said players have built a majority of the jump gates in Ascent, making it a lot easier and quicker to travel in between star systems. Furthermore, players and their colonies will be under attack from the game’s AI, so there’s a big emphasis on helping each other out in their time of need.
Fluffy Kitten Studios is looking at incorporating more story missions, where the current ‘End Game’ is described by James as “massive empire building and jump gate construction.”