With plenty of games still left to try out, day two of PAX Aus was the chance for the big triple-A titles to flex some muscle. There were hits, misses, and some that left me scratching my head. Here’s how the day panned out:
Hand of Fate 2
A sequel to the surprise hit, Hand of Fate, this second instalment brought a whole lot of new stuff to the table. The foundations have been set with a graphical facelift, complemented by a heightened and more stable frame-rate, making the third-person combat scenarios a lot more fluid. The battle environments are more open now, too, and it’s clear the team behind Hand of Fate 2, Defiant Development, have worked hard to eliminate the cluttered and cramped feel of the original.
Hand of Fate 2 also offers a couple of new elements outside of combat. Players will choose a Companion to join them as they explore floors, continuing with the tabletop format of its predecessor. Each companion assists you in some way, both in and outside of battle, offering different benefits that make progression a little easier. My only issue is that my Warrior companion looked very similar to a class of enemies in the game, making it tough to differentiate between which was my ally and enemy.
There are still Equipment and Encounter cards in the game. Some Encounters will trigger a dice mini-game requiring you to roll over a certain number (using three die) to progress further into the quest. One companion gave me the ability to re-roll two die if I was below the required total. At this stage, it seems that Hand of Fate 2 has taken the risk/reward formula from the original and surpassed it with flying colours.
Watch Dogs 2
With a worldwide release on consoles not even two weeks away, I was interested to see what Ubisoft would bring to the table with their enclosed booth for Watch Dogs 2. Unfortunately, what I saw was pretty damn awful.
The speaker said he wanted to go “completely off-script” but this viewing of a Watch Dogs 2 demo was anything but. This “unreleased footage” showed the game’s protagonist, Marcus Holloway, infiltrating a rival gang stronghold and using his roster of available tech – a drone and a RV toy car – to take it down; footage of this exact scenario is already online.
After that, it seemed like the perfect time to introduce us to the apparel in Watch Dogs 2. The less said about that, the better; an absolute time-waster. The ‘off-script’ moment came when Marcus was trying to create as much carnage as possible for audience amusement, only to be killed in just over a minute from his exploits. The game itself looks good, but this showing of Watch Dogs 2 had nothing unique, exciting or memorable about it and, in the end, was a waste of time.
Dishonored 2 Developer Session
Dishonored 2, another game not far off release (November 11th), had a special panel showing off parts of the game. Choosing to focus more on the construction of the game’s art design than actual in-game footage, Sebastien Mitton, Art Director of the Dishonored games, showcased a myriad of sketches, stills and short clips from the making of Dishonored 2.
It wasn’t what I was expecting. Mitton broke down his mantra of “Spirit, Philosophy, Style” and how it translates into the game itself. It definitely dragged on for too long in certain sections (nothing against Sebastien and his presentation) but it did reveal some interesting details about Dishonored 2.
The main location in the game, Karnaca, is a city that looks as though its been carved into the side of a mountain. Two sections of Karnaca are separated by a wind funnel and I briefly saw a clip of this in effect. Because Karnaca is a seaside city, the wind funnel causes waves to crash on high walls and briefly overflow the streets. The sound is so loud that it actually assists with stealth if you need to sneak by or eliminate nearby guards.
In a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ type of demo, the use of an item called the Timepiece was shown. Like a black compass projecting beams of bright light, it allows players to travel between different time periods in the same location. It was a very slick way to finish what was an otherwise fairly slow-moving panel.
Horizon Zero Dawn
The queues to see this game were huge for this game, and it was crystal clear why. Despite only having 10-15 minutes of play time with the game, Horizon Zero Dawn has a lot going for it. With the amount of positivity behind this game it’s important to pay attention to the details, and Horizon showcases top-notch cinematics, voice-acting, lip-syncing and the exploration is pretty damn fine, too.
With my allotted time, I managed to perform a few stealth takedowns on some Watchers, who alert nearby robots of your presence, which then allowed me to break a Broadhead – a robotic bull or buffalo, of sorts – and roam the wilderness. I crafted a few fire and shock arrows as well as some deadly grenades, leaving enough time to take on some kind of heavy-duty tortoise.
For Honor is a game I’ve been ‘on the fence’ about. It exudes grit with dirty, impressive visuals and carries that ‘in your face’, hard-hitting combat akin to games like Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.
I love the mind games of choosing and matching someone’s blocking quadrant, but now I’m even more apprehensive about it. For Honor seemed to be a game that rewarded players for attacking as opposed to defending. For instance, I blocked four consecutive strikes by an opposing player while they just continued whaling at my character – resulting in me staggering backwards; I couldn’t find a stamina bar anywhere on the HUD. It definitely pays dividends to be on the offensive, as continually blocking strike after strike ended in pain sooner or later.
Having now played a portion of the game, and without seeing any footage of the single player/co-op campaign, For Honor already reminds me a lot of the Xbox One launch title, Ryse. For Honor has a current release date of February 14, 2017.
That rounds out Day 2. Stay tuned to Power Up Gaming for more game previews, interviews and analysis from developer panels across PAX Aus 2016.