Hello everyone! I too have made journey to Seattle to look at some games at PAX, and bring you some of the better things available in the show floor, so without further ado, let met tell you about them!
Masquerada – Witching Hour Studios
As the isometric CRPG is making a come-back, it is getting harder and harder to find games that feel truly original. Masquerada feels like it brings to the table a fresh new setting to a genre slowly filling with generic fantasy worlds. Set in a city based on Renaissance Venice, Masquerada takes place in a world where special masks grant the wearer magical powers. These masks are expensive and very difficult to obtain, which causes friction in the social ranks of the world. You play as Cicero Gavar, described by creative lead Ian Gregory as the “Sherlock Holmes” of the world, returning from exile to solve a mystery.
Masquerada was inspired by a Dungeons and Dragons campaign that Ian Gregory used to run, however its story has since been fleshed out by adding a professional writer to the roster. The plot has already been completed and the gameplay was built around the concepts of the game world to make sure everything gels into a coherent whole. This also means the game also has a set narrative built around a pre-determined number of characters, which has allowed the development team to add some pretty high profile voice acting to every single line in the game. The art itself is inspired by French comics, and is very well animated, making for a game that immediately jumps out when you start it up.
How does it play? Remarkably well. Like the old Infinity Engine games which served as its inspiration, Masquerada features a real time engine that allows the player to pause the game and issue orders. Once the game is unpaused, combat continues as normal. Tactics are important, as flanking and backstabbing can make an enormous difference in combat as well as the elemental affitines and weaknesses of the characters. Mr. Gregory’s roots as dungeon master became evident in some of the designs of the powers of the monster, which I will not spoil but found interesting.
Civilization Beyond Earth: Rising Tide – Firaxis
Following up last year’s Civilization Beyond Earth release, the franchise that went to the stars is now going to the oceans. The biggest new feature from the Rising Tides expansions is the inclusion of cities beneath the waves. While they are mechanically similar to the old cities there are some key differences. The way the new cities grow their territory is by traveling through the game ocean. Moving takes quite a bit of production, which keeps the city from making any units or any improvements while they are moving. This changes the mechanics enough from the original to be interesting while still not changing the formula at its core.
There have been overhauls to the affinities system, allowing for the creation of special units to those civilizations that choose to combine their affinities. These troops are not meant to supplant the old affinity troops, but to complement the game, and to give the player a wider variety of choices in how they approach the game. Diplomacy has also been overhauled. Since the old system was ported over from Civ V. Now it is more in line with the game’s sci-fi roots.
XCOM 2 – Firaxis
There wasn’t much news regarding XCOM 2 beyond what we have already heard prior to the show. Mr. Solomon, the director of the game mentioned that this game based on all the universes where XCOM players lost, not the ones where they won. It feels like a little bit of a cop out, but I am sure that many people will like this interpretation rather than putting up with the interpretation that says that what happened in the main game does not matter.
The main stars were the new designs for the enemies of the game, which feature a more human aesthetic as the aliens have assimilated human DNA. The Section is now bigger, and more muscular and has the power to reanimate the power of the fallen. The Mutton is bigger and more muscular, however not as armored. The Chryssalid is now bigger, and now lays eggs that will spawn not one, but three clones. There was also a mysterious new monster that spawns from the bodies of the deceased.
While the odds seemed stacked against humanity, Firaxis showed off a new class, the grenadier, which shoots grenades at the enemies, and can take great advantage of the game’s new destructible environments. While the highlight reels showed them simply blowing enemies up, Solomon mentioned there will be different types of grenades with different effects that the player will be able to use. Slated for February, I am sure we will hear a lot of updates on this title, it is definitely one to watch out for.
Distance – Refract Studios
Distance is, by its creators own words, a survival racing game. The objective is not only to get a specific point quickly, but also to avoid hazzards like lasers, obstacles that pop in in the track, and even jumps to send your card flying. It has been out for some time on Steam as part of the early access program, but I was interested to test it out on the showfloor as the demo featured Oculus Rift support.
It was a lot of fun. The game still feels hectic and challenging, but putting you inside the car’s cockpit with the Oculus Rift does make it feel more immersive. The camera will also follow your movements. If you look to the side of the car, you will see what is on the side, which really helps you feel like you are on the wheel. Unfortunately, there is very little sense of speed, which is one of the things that makes Distance so much fun, when using the VR device.
So far it has been a fantastic show, with plenty to see. Stay tuned for more coverage of the things we got to see today!