Hey, folks! Welcome to the first of a series of posts concerning my three days of exploration at PAX East in Boston last weekend. While I don’t want to capitalize too much of the blog’s bandwidth to the convention, there were a lot of great things to talk about and experiences that I wanted to document so hopefully, you’ll find some fun information and insights in the next few entries to the 3PStart archives!
My first post cuts right to the heart of what I think folks are waiting for: the games I’m looking forward to the most after perusing the massive PAX floor. Now I’m going to warn you- the idea of waiting in line for an hour for a game was completely unappealing to me so I may have seen some snippets of some promising high-profile games like Days Gone but there was so much to see. With my interests being as they are, I was more drawn to the smaller booths on the floor, as well. You’ll find plenty of coverage on those larger titles elsewhere, I’m sure, and hopefully, my list here will shine some light on a few games folks may not have heard of and will find themselves anticipating like I am!
With that, feel free to check out my in-a-particular order list after the cut to see the five games I am most excited to see come to my gaming screens over the next year or two!
Most Anticipated – Afterparty – Night School Studio
I admit my fault in not having written anything about how much I adored Oxenfree, the mind-bending debut effort from Night School Studio, until now. For a number of reasons, the game was a topic of discussion for me and a select number of my friends for days. Endearing characters and an engaging storyline were among the conversations we had- but the twists the developer concocted has us calling and texting each other out of the blue to blabber about our latest discoveries. It was honestly an experience that transcended the screen into our lives for a bit that many games only hoped to achieve the level of.
Afterparty already appears to have a lot of the same elements. Playing as Lola and Milo, two best buddies who have recently found their way off of the mortal coil, you navigate the wild nightlife of Hell. Your goal? To outparty Satan himself to return to life. Thankfully, our heroes have little hesitation to take part in this challenge, and the liquor in Hell is as top-shelf as it gets. With a bit of liquid courage, the two friends may have the edge they need to accomplish their task. Is that really the wisest of choices, though?
The demo of Afterparty illustrated the duo’s entrance into their adventure, meeting some of the denizens of the eternal party. The characters are all fun to witness with sharp and irreverent dialogue and dynamic personalities. The quirky mechanic that the game displayed in the far-too-short time I got to have with it laid in the idea of drinking itself. As the characters become inebriated, extra dialogue options open up. Most of them are brazen or rambling, but they will clearly become the key to thriving as Lola and Milo progress. The one issue I ran into was drinking my cocktail a bit too quickly, resulting in losing access to those branches of the dialogue trees earlier than I would have liked; an interesting spin on the idea of moderation as a strategy.
As a lover of adventure games, I was glued to the screen from start to finish. As a nerd, I appreciated the amazing tangents and interactions the characters had (including an amazing Nightmare on Elm Street reference that I nearly lost my mind at). If you’ve played Oxenfree, definitely keep an eye out for Afterparty and any news coming up about it. If you haven’t- play Oxenfree then follow the instructions above.
2. World of Horror – panstasz
In a rare case where I met the publishers rather than the developers, a stop by Ysbryd Games’ booth at the show warranted a look at a couple of games. The one that really stood out to me being a lover of the retro and horrific was World of Horror. Developed by the one-man ‘team’ of panstasz, the game bills itself as a ‘love letter to Junji Ito and H.P. Lovecraft’.
If that doesn’t get your attention, feel free to move on to the next section- but truly, you should consider this game if those descriptors pique your curiosity at all.
The demo only contained one tale of a young student trying to find out what happened to a friend of hers. He disappeared while trying to vanquish a ghost serving as the urban legend at their school. By investigating the halls and running into random encounters, the young girl had her own terrifying venture into sanity bending matters that are afoot. This tale, however, is just one of many that can be played in the game. From the small seaside town that the story launches out of, it appears that the fate of the world will be at hand as otherworldly beings try to bring on the apocalypse.
The game seems simple at first, but it quickly fleshed out as the demo progressed. Encounters are represented almost as a series of randomly drawn events from a deck of cards would be- something that appears to be in the final game but was not entirely illustrated during my time with it. You know where you’re going, but when you get there, you can’t be sure what will unfold. Traveling in one hallway, I found some unsettling symbols that did little for my ‘reason’ but did result in my finding a baseball bat to defend myself. An item I needed appeared to be floating in the school’s swimming pool but to get it, I had to brave the murky waters- and whatever might be in it.
With an easy to learn combat system and lovingly crafted presentation both visually and aurally, World of Horror felt like an MS-DOS game pulled straight from the systems early days; there’s even an option to make it look like you’re playing on an old computer in a dark bedroom. With multiple endings and paths to be taken, I’m chomping at the proverbial bit to see how the game unfolds, misery induced endings and all.
(For whatever reason, the link to the trailer for World of Horror doesn’t seem to want to embed here, but if you want to check it out: https://youtu.be/AYOWOHPsnUA )
3. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan – Supermassive Games
Probably the biggest name on my list here, Man of Medan serves as the follow-up to Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn. Given my love for Until Dawn, I have been dying to get my hands on this game, and it was the first booth I stood in line for.
Opening with a recap of what must have been the lead-in chapter, the demo took place on what appeared to be a derelict ship as we took control of a young woman named Fliss. I won’t go too much into the characters or how they wind up on the adrift seacraft, but given that the plot revolves around solving the mysteries of said ship, the claustrophobic and rusted boat sets the tone perfectly as things go from unnerving to downright dire.
The trappings one might expect from a game on the heels of Until Dawn are all there- characters you can clearly come to care about, dialogue and choice trees that will help or hinder you later on down the line, and quick-time action sequences were all in attendance as Fliss and another cast member, Brad, made their way deeper into the ship’s innards. There were also plenty of trinkets and items relating to world lore to find and examine, displaying a mystery that the player will have to explore to unravel.
Sadly, there isn’t much to say without offering up spoilers (which I truly don’t want to do as the story is half of the fun of these games) but with a cast of five characters to interact with and an emphasis on using emotion or logic to base your characters and playthrough on, Man of Medan is shaping up to follow right in the glorious footsteps of its unrelated predecessor.
4. 3 Minutes to Midnight – Scarecrow Studio
Adventure point-and-clicks are slowly coming back into style- or at the very least, they are making some splashes in the indie gaming pool lately. Scarecrow Studio is looking to add to that list and honestly- the look I got at PAX made me feel like this could be a solid contender in the vein of Thimbleweed Park among others.
Waking up to an explosion nearby, Betty Anderson appears to have forgotten who she is. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg, though, as something strange seems to be happening in her town. Now, she has to figure out, alongside the town’s mayor, Eliza Barret, how to recover her memory and save the world from its impending doom among a quirky cast of townsfolk and other characters.
Drawing inspiration from the Lucasarts games of yesteryear, the game’s visual style is fun and the promise of lots of puzzles and a town full of “characters” immediately caught my attention. I really enjoyed the dialogue and while I didn’t get hands-on experience with the game (it was very popular at the time I happened onto the booth), I watched quite a bit and found myself engaged with the interface and setting almost immediately. I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on this given the effect it left on me without me ever touching a keyboard.
5. The Sinking City – Frogwares
“Another horror game with Lovecraftian inspiration?”, you might be asking.
Yep. I have a niche. I enjoyed Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth quite a bit, and The Sinking City gave me some vibes that had me drawn to Frogwares’ area on the PAX floor. Since the mixed reviews of the recent Call of Cthulhu game, I’ve been hoping to find another game that might fill in the need for an investigative and deep game involving the deep Lovecraft mythos and some of its enigmas.
The Sinking City comes in with a lot of guns blazing that I was delightfully surprised to see. Taking place in a small New England town that is half-underwater, you act as an investigator looking into some strangeness that has been occurring with the inhabitants- and things only get stranger the further you interact with the town. There are many ways to handle your investigations, verbally and procedurally, and the development team promises that these will affect the final outcome of the game somehow.
The dream of an open-world Lovecraft style game is alive with The Sinking City, whether it’s entirely achievable or not. Watching investigative scenes being recreated (a la The Division and some others, I’m sure), travel through the streets and in the waterlogged areas of the town, and seeing dialogue options and skill trees to customize the character all feel promising. Even when combat arose, it felt like a part of the slow burn into what will be a deeper and more harrowing experience as the game unfolds.
The Sinking City did have a glitch or two, it seemed, but the team has plenty of time to iron out some of the issues before its release next year. Quite frankly, I’m still looking forward to the game eagerly as everything seems in place for it to make a compelling and true-to-form Lovecraft-style piece.
In all fairness, it wasn’t easy to piece together a Top 5 for this category so there is definitely another article in the works to outline some other games you should keep an eye on. This weekend was also my first time trying out cosplay which I have plenty of thoughts on to illustrate in here. I also met some great people and had some great discussions so a general overview of the event will be incoming, as well!
As always, if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments, feel free to reply in the comments or let me know on Twitter! The gaming sphere seems all set to have an impressive variety of offerings for gamers of all types and what I’ve listed here is only a small sampling of what’s to come!
Until next time!
– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)