PAX Australia 2015

So I had the extreme pleasure of attending PAX Australia again this year which had the biggest indie section I’ve seen so far, called PAX Rising. While it’s great to play new release / upcoming AAA games such as Just Cause 3, Battlefront (out now) or Dark Souls III (or underwhelming to play games like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate), I find much more enjoy playing the indie games as that’s where there’s some real innovation, as opposed to the next instalment of whatever. Here are a handful of the games I played and want to recommend, or at least mention.

Feature

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

20151101_112007I’m going to start with the Warlock of Firetop Mountain. It’s a game adaptation of one of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. And this is a proper game adaptation. Tin Man Games have adapted over 30 gamebooks into digital versions, but this is the first (I think) which has been adapted into an actual game.

It’s a choose-your-own-adventure game which has your character (a miniature figurine) moving through different scenes in a labyrinth, dungeon-delve style. Every time you reach a junction, door or an event, the “choose-your-own-adventure” part comes into it. You chose how to proceed, what to open and what to avoid.

One of the interesting points of this game is the combat. It’s turn-based but more puzzle-based than hard combat. You learn the patterns of the enemy and because of that, are able to defeat them. By remembering the patterns, you’re able to beat them in the future. This is an interesting way of gaining experience, though literal experience.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is currently on Kickstarter with 8 days left.

Depth

Depth is an online multiplayer games of sharks versus humans. And that’s all there is to it really. It’s following in the footsteps of games like Evolve, Primal Carnage or Dino D-Day where you have some animal force verses humans armed with guns.

I really enjoyed my time playing this game, but admittedly I played mostly as a shark. You choose a species of shark to start off with at the end of each death/round, you can use your points to “evolve” your abilities and powers. One of the common issues I have with these games is that playing as the humans is generally underwhelming. The fun in playing as an armed diver just can’t compare to chasing them down with ravenous sharks, especially as there is mechanic where you have to shake the person to death once the shark grabs hold of them (way too satisfying).

On the plus side, this game is reasonably balanced towards both sides. While the sharks are fast and have abilities, humans have guns which are very effective when it comes to killing things. I feel that a lot of these type of guns forget how effective a gun is, as if dinosaur skin is somewhat similar to Kevlar.

Depth is currently available on their website and Steam for $24.99.

Rivalry

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So here’s a game I didn’t think I would be recommending. Rivalry is an isometric, strategy game where each player controls two individuals locked in an epic battle. The reason I didn’t think I would be recommending it is because it looks very average. You essentially control a plain black, 2D person cut-out as you try to kill the opponent.

The reason I am recommending it is because after playing (I was drawn in by the fact that it was designed by a young high-school boy, who used kickstarter to get to PAX in the first place), I realised a really simple concept has been developed into a strong strategy game.

I’d describe it as Nidhogg cross Octodad. You have a certain amount of movement you can spend each turn to try to get your weapon past the opponents defences attempting to make contact.  Every time you touch the opponent, you open a new wound which causes bleeding. The goal is to bleed out the enemy. You can also disable their limbs with a well-aimed attack.

Rivalry is currently on Steam Greenlight and has a playable alpha at the website.

Armed with Wings

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The last game I’ll look at is Armed with Wings. It was one of PAX’s Indie Showcase games and the one out of the five I enjoyed the most. It’s a side-scrolling platformer game with a strong combat system and colour theme (by colour theme, I mean black and white and every shade of grey).

Armed with Wings handles well, looks great and has a cartoon-graphic style which is easy on the eye. For some reason I can’t help but be dazzled by the animation transitions. They’re sharp, quick and clearly defined.

I played an arcade-style survival mode to attempt to win a free copy of the game. Did I win? Nope, not even close. But I really enjoyed not winning. The enemies were varied and the combat was fun. The only issue was the boss battle which while being quite easy, was long and tedious because of the five seconds of invulnerability the boss received every three seconds.

Armed with Wings is currently available for early-access on Steam for US$7.99 or a simplier version for free on their website.

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