PAX South 2017 Report

Two years in and PAX South has grown quite a bit. The first one was a bit underwhelming given the rather small show floor and not a lot of big names. Surprisingly, there still aren’t a lot of big names, especially given that there are quite a few big game developers in the Dallas and Austin area. Capcom had a decent setup, as did Nintendo, but other than that there wasn’t much in the way of big publishers.

That’s fine with me. I’ve always enjoyed PAX for the smaller games you get to see featured prominently and the place was packed with tons of small titles so much so that when I doubled back, I’d find another game or two that I had missed seeing the first time. If you’re into the indie game scene at all, PAX is the place to go.

The first game I played was Hello Neighbor. It involves breaking into your crazy, paranoid neighbor’s home and seeing what terrible secret he has in his basement. I’m not quite sure what the motivation for breaking into his house is, and I couldn’t get the controls to actually work, but I like the idea. I’m only curious how much game there is to it because the house seemed rather small from the outside, but maybe he has an insane network of tunnels under his house. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Kona was the next game I looked at. This one is an interesting mix of survival gameplay in the harsh Canadian wilderness mixed with a detective story. I’m liking the idea of survival games that pit you more against nature than zombies or monsters. This could shape up to be something special and the fact that it has a goal to solve the mystery also gives it a bit more direction than most survival games.

Night in the Woods looks quite creepy and visually striking and I’m certainly curious about it, but I’m still not quite sold on the actual gameplay. I’ll wait for reviews because this might not be my bag.

Double Kick Heroes is heavy/trash metal meets rhythm game where you fire your weapons to the beat to kill creepy creatures attempting to hop onto your vehicle. I’m not a rhythm game or metal fan, so this title wasn’t for me, but it looks great and people into either will probably find this game entertaining.

I glanced at Freedom Planet at passing and remembered that I still haven’t picked up that game. It looks wonderful. Sure, the art style is a little kawaii, but the gameplay looks aces. They announced that they’re coming to PS4 soon, so I might pick it up on that at some point in the near future.

Haimrk is a fascinating idea that I’m not sure will be able to sustain a full game. You’re in this storybook world where you walk over words that describe the story. Stand on certain words and press a button and that word appears in the game. Maybe you get a sword or call down rain. I like the idea, but it seems like it will get old fast and there doesn’t seem to be any creative ways to work out different solutions.

I watched some Rising Storm 2: Vietnam and it looks like more Rising Storm. Give that I consider Rising Storm one of the most compelling multiplayer shooters to come out in a while, that’s a wonderful thing. I’m sure there will be some twists given the more modern setting, but I didn’t stick around long enough to see anything too different than what I expected.

Beat Cop looks like Papers, Please through the eyes of the cop. You survey a city street and try to pick out criminals and wrongdoers and manage the situation with items lain out in front of you. I like the bureaucratic clunkiness of Papers, Please, so I’m eager to try this one when it is released.

Tonight We Riot was a funny, entertaining co-op game. It plays a lot like an arcade brawler, but with a focus on items. It can be quite punishing, but once you get some momentum going, it’s a fast and fun game. Liberate the working class, seize the means of production, viva la revolution!

Dusk looked a lot like Quake. If you like games like Quake, you’ll probably like Dusk. Not much more than can be said about it.

Think of the Children has to be my surprise of the show. The premise is simple: keep the children alive. This is easier said than done as you’ve got a whole flock of kids poking in just about every possible thing that could kill them: dangerous animals, swimming pools, traffic, fire and more. It’s darkly funny and looks like just the thing to whip out at a party for some local co-op to get everyone laughing at children dying. That’s my kind of party.

Tower 57 is a top-down shooter and I couldn’t tell you whether or not it’s good because I’m terrible at these kinds of games. It had a good variety of weapons and an interesting aesthetic, but I don’t have a solid frame of reference for this kind of game.

Dreadnought was there, which reminded me that I saw it back at PAX 2015. It looks neat enough, I’m just still waiting for a final release. It’s in beta now and I’m one of those people that likes to wait until games are out to play them.

There were also handouts for Frostpunk, a new game from 11 bit studios. It reminded me that I still haven’t gotten to This War of Mine. As the title suggests, it’s about a steam powered society that lives in an arctic climate. There’s not a good idea of what this game is, but the high concept sounds gripping and they certainly have my attention.

I’ve saved the one I’m most excited to play for last: Divinity: Original Sin II. It’s predecessor is my favorite CRPGs of recent years and the followup looks like it will be even more expansive and complex. New element types, new character archetypes and the option to pick different races and personality traits make this look like a CRPG nut’s dream. This game cannot come soon enough.

And that’s what I saw. I went only for one day and walked the floor for about four hours and found it a much more enjoyable experience. I hung around more last time more because more people I knew were there, but I got rather bored the second day in terms of the actual show. Just going for the day made me feel like I had seen a good chunk of things without getting bored. As the show gets bigger and bigger, that sentiment might change, but unless you got a good group of friends going, I’d say this is a good daytrip expo right now.

© James Blake Ewing 2017

  • John Kloosterman

    I was trying to remember the other day what game I was excited to hear would soon have a free demo online. Don’t think it was Haimrk or Night in the Woods. Maybe Tonight We Riot?

    Hello Neighbor is supposed to get replayability based on its adaptive AI, that will close up openings that you used before. Honestly it does seem like a limited premise, though, and it’s not very far along.