We wrapped up our second year at PAX, seeing the best, the worst, and the truly puzzling. And it wouldn’t be a trip to Seattle without some abusive drinking, excessive chowder consumption and someone infecting me with avian flu, which is why this article came out today instead of Monday. Thank you, Washington!
Clustertruck – Landfill Games
Clustertruck is a parkour game set on top of a lot of trucks. If that sounds like an odd concept, I’m sure the developers would be happy to agree with you. You’ll be placed at the back of a convoy of semi trucks trailers having a really bad days as they collide, flip, get hit with missiles and experience all other sorts of perils. Your task will be to jump from truck to truck and avoid falling long enough to reach the finish line. If that sounds simple, you’re right in theory, but not in practice. There is a lot going on in this game, and while the core mechanics can be picked up easily, the challenge lies in timing your movements and reacting the ever-changing situation with the trucks as the topple, careen of perilous ledges and are tossed into air, often times flipping over another truck to smack you right in the face.
The game is great at creating an exhibition, and the tinyBuild booth had a pretty constant gathering of both players and spectators taking delight in the pandemonium. It’s definitely a fun title to watch being played, and a well-played run can be a pretty impressive sight to watch given just how much stuff is going on. For my tastes the controls felt a little floaty, without much heft or momentum behind the player, leaving me to feel like I was flying more than running and jumping. That said, I’ll give Clustertruck a lot of credit for being a first-person parkour game that isn’t a nightmare to control. It’s actually quite easy to pick up and very responsive. And of course, it’s quite the spectacle.
Blade Ballet – DreamSail Games
Four player local multiplayer games continue to be a hot item this year. Blade Ballet puts you in a world where machines rule the earth and must battle one another to ensure that only the strong survive. This may sound grim, but it’s actually lighthearted and cheerful, putting four darling little robots into an arena with swords. The concept is fairly simple, hit your foes with your blade while deflecting their attacks with the same blade. The challenge of the game comes from the momentum of your movement – You can rotate your sword and move your character, but there’s no “attack” button. Each character has a unique special move which can function like an offensive capability, but in order to actually defeat a foe you’ll need to maneuver yourself to hit them with your blade.
It’s rarely easy to pick up a game and get the hang of it during a brief introduction on a noisy convention floor, so take it with a grain of salt when I say that the gameplay wasn’t immediately intuitive to me. I had a hard time figuring out why my attacks would sometimes decimate an opponent and other times do seemingly nothing. I don’t fault the game for this, but it did make it difficult to figure out how to best optimize my playing. With some characters this felt like less of an issue, and some it was decidedly pronounced. I would suspect that this means there is some more advanced strategy to some characters than others, and I think some more time with the title would give me a better feel for the difference.
The game is currently available on Steam and contains a pretty sizable cast of robots, as well as enough levels that we didn’t get to see them all in our playtime (Including a personal favorite of mine where players vie for control of spinning laser death wheel in the center of the map), as well as two battle modes and third soccer game where players try to knock an oversized ball into the opponent’s goal (A mode where one of the DreamSail team members bested Jared and I by herself).
Osiris: New Dawn – Fenix Fire
One need only take a look at the giant tyrannosaurus statue over by the Ark booth to know that the niche for persistent multiplayer survival games be a juicy pie to have a slice of, so it’s not surprising to see that there are others who are looking to get in on the action. However, Fenix Fire may be on the verge of bringing some new and exciting elements to genre with Osiris. Set on the frontiers of space, you’ll be able to not only set up your own base on one planet, but you can build spaceships and colonize other worlds in the solar system, and even your own orbital space stations.
The demo I played had me doing some fairly familiar tasks: mining materials, building bases, being eating by space monsters… My spaceman had different tools for mining and repairing/building, as well as some weaponry to defend myself, and after some brief tutorial-like events I had farmed enough materials to build a little bio dome to live in. This should be old hat to anyone whose played games like Rust, but Osiris also has some new material to bring to the table.
Obviously, the ability to colonize new worlds is a unique aspect to the game, and while we weren’t able to see that in the build we played, the developer did give us a glimpse of spaceflight, taking an impressively large ship and driving it out of the atmosphere. Back on the ground we also got a glimpse of some of colossal space fauna to watch out for in the form of giant sand worms. The developer also dropped a meteor storm on me, which is far less hostile than it sounds, but very cool to see.
It’s hard to get a feel for an open world game like Osiris in the a brief demo, but initial impressions were quite positive. It looks great and there are a lot of intriguing elements they are looking to add to the now familiar formula. I won’t know if this is the title that shakes up the market, but I’ll be looking forward to finding out when the game releases on Steam later this month.