Category: Events

PAX East 2017: Battle into the Night

Battle Chasers: Nightwar has been long awaited by both fans of the dormant graphic novel series and RPG fans alike. In development by the team at Airship Syndicate under the leadership of longtime comics creator and Darksiders lead Joe Madureira, the game was initially funded by Kickstarter on the strength of the Battle Chasers universe’s longtime fans. With a lengthy demo (the entire first dungeon) available at PAX East, the team has a polished and thoughtfully created experience to share this weekend.

 

Joe Mad’s trademark art style is present throughout from logo and splash screen to the design, animation and transitions throughout the demo. I’m not very familiar with the source material but the distinctive character designs, names and fantasy/tech hybrid universe should be appealing to steampunk fans and RPG systems geeks alike.

Combat moves are divided up between standard attacks, mana attacks, special burst attacks and the ability to use items. Each action is beautifully animated with the same beautiful art style and smooth animation that has the sense of momentum and transition that Supergiant Games such as Bastion have integrated. There are little touches such as birds landing on Calibretto upon victory that give the world a lived-in feel, which extends to navigating the overview map and dungeon levels outside of battle as well.

What really stands out is the burst system, a 3-tiered meter that accumulates when dealing damage and eventually unlocks devastating focused or area damage attacks. It shares a structure with Street Fighter V’s EX bar, providing players with different special options with varying levels of meter commitments based on situation.

The music and sound effects by Power Up Audio have lilting, melodic tones which blend bright instrumental tones with heavy, base filled bursts. The sounds are reminiscent of modern fantasy movies and give the gameplay an epic feel that adds a lot to the presentation.

I had to tear myself away after 30 minutes (longer than I intended to stay) to give the next player a chance to experience Nightwar. In an exhibit hall filled with hundreds of games and an overwhelming amount to see and experience, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is an RPG worth experiencing before its much anticipated release.

PAX West 2016: Exploring the New Horizon

Horizon: Zero Dawn has a lot of hype to live up to as the next release by Guerilla Games as well as the most anticipated upcoming exclusive for the PlayStation 4 (sorry, The Last Guardian). Combining an intriguing mix of a spear wielding heroine, lithe robotic creatures roaming a partially decimated world and a combat style that emphasizes dodging, this has the potential to be a breakout hit in 2017.

 

The game introduces us to Aloy, a warrior 1000 years in the future that fights for survival in a world where technology has overtaken biology as the primary form of life. Her in-game movement and heft reminds me of the Gears of War series, relying heavily on a combination of crouching and directional body rolls to evade enemy fire and create advantageous attack angles. Aloy fares best when using a stealth approach, surprise attack and then loop of dodging and quickly striking to defeat the deceptively smart enemies in Sony’s demo booth at PAX West 2016. The aforementioned creatures resemble the razor shard skinned creatures from the Transformer movies, but with an added level of grace and ferocity.

The world is breathtaking, an atmospheric world where the leaves of grass and mounds formed by clustered trees play an important role in providing Aloy with different angles to approach clustered enemies or to quietly sneak past them. The mix of ranged weapons fire, melee strikes and hacking technologically enhanced creatures provides multiple ways to emerge victorious (or at least relatively unscathed) from combat where you are always outnumbered and required to think quickly to survive.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a marked departure from Guerilla’s previous work on the Killzone series but it looks really promising so far. Their current mix of a fascinating world, hacking system for unit capture and attention to movement momentum should be the basis for a breakout hit when the game launches next year exclusively on the PlayStation 4.

PAX West 2016: Lighting the Pyre

Supergiant Games’ next release is Pyre, a unique mix of Rocket League and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles that is hard to explain but intuitive to control. With the gorgeous art design, music and dialogue that Supergiant is known for, the game is likely to both excite gamers looking for a unique new experience. The alpha build demo at PAX West 2016 introduces us to Hedwyn, Rukey and Jodariel as the party that joins us as the Reader, a mysterious leader who reads from an ancient tome of knowledge as the story progresses.

The art style and dialogue choices in the narrative mode are reminiscent of The Banner Saga, a blend of thinly inked lines and rich colours with a layered element design style that look like panels from a luxurious graphic novel. The soundtrack has a softer tone and aesthetic than the operatic techno jazz of Transistor or the folk strings in Bastion, an exciting development for gamers like me who love the standalone soundtracks as much as anything else for Supergiant titles.

 

The combat is really different in comparison to Bastion’s real time action platform approach and Transistor’s use of alternating between real time movement and paused attack sequencing. Pyre’s combat is a 3 versus 3 goal scoring battle where players can grab a central orb that you can carry it through running and jumping or pass it immediately to a teammate, options that reward those with experience playing sports titles such as Madden or FIFA that require frequent passing. Characters without the orb emit an aura that destroys enemies upon contact (hence the Final Fantasy reference to the protective Crystal Chalice) or emit a beam attack with the same effect to defend their goal. Each character’s varying size impacts their aura size, movement speed and the point value of their score on the opponent goal or namesake pyre, with the first team to score 10 points moving on as the winner.

The game’s battle system sounds like a lot but it’s easy to learn through the introductory tutorial, layering in advanced techniques such as using characters to zone defend with their auras and timing sprint + jump to evade attacks or leap over defenders when attacking can be learned in a round or two.

Between battles, our group travels in an Oregon Trail style wagon that moves between checkpoints towards a target destination that offer the opportunity to Forage Resources, Study or Mentor at each stop. Forage sets the Reader off to survey the surrounding area for building elements for eventual use (but not in the demo), while Study reveals more of the in-game tomb of lore and Mentor raises the enlightenment of your selected party member. It’s an interesting way to add dynamic party evolution while remaining on one of the development focuses of the Pyre universe by building up the character abilities, lore and arsenal on each step of the journey.

The safe move would have been to develop another platform title in the style of their previous hits, but Supergiant instead takes a bold direction that may be polarizing for fans with set expectations. Pyre is scheduled for a 2017 release on PlayStation 4 and PC; based on my initial experience, it promises to be a unique and unforgettable game.