PAX Prime 2014 Report: Now Wondering If I Will Be Quick Enough to Secure PAX 15 Passes
Another PAX has come and gone! PAX Prime 2014 was the 10th annual PAX Prime. Hard to believe a decade ago two nerdy dudes from an online comic and a few thousand people flooded some poor unsuspecting Bellevue venue. Now the video game and table top gaming convention has spread from the far corners of the US and all the way to Australia! Truly an accomplishment to celebrate, so where was all the fanfare?
I didn’t even realize it was PAX’s 10 year anniversary until I saw it on a flyer half way through the weekend. Now you can chalk it up to me being a little oblivious (I won’t argue you on that one), but it seemed rather under whelming for a decade celebration. Besides spreading the convention to surrounding venues around the convention center, not much seemed quite different then previous years. Except of course, for the sudden popularity in the pin trading. Similar to what they do at Disneyland, pin enthusiast buy pins from different booths and trade amongst themselves. Multiple lanyards hung heavily burdened with shining pins of various characters on many of PAX attendees. While I can’t deny that many of those pins were pretty cool, I couldn’t bring myself to want to spend the money to become a part of it. What I did do was try to squeeze in as many fantastic game demos I could down in the Expo Hall!
Best Game Demo that had no foreseeable release date: “Game 4″ by The Behemoth
The Behemoth is defiantly not new to the PAX expo hall, in fact their booth seems to be in the same spot the last few years! Generally a large booth with plenty of swag to sell under the banner of their massive fat chicken logo. This year was no different but instead of the usual arcade style games of Castle Crashers and Battle Block Theater, Behemoth had a different type of demo for us to check out. Changing up from the previous muliplayer beat ’em up and platform games, “Game 4” is a good old fashion turn base RPG! A somewhat simple play style, you move your characters across the grid and when you get close to an enemy you attack, pretty straight forward. Your protagonist gains different members with different abilities and it looked like you could upgrade each character. Sounds like your garden variety RPG right? Well just wait til you hear the narrator. Keeping their previous titles’ laugh our loud humor and Dan Paladin’s now iconic Behemoth art style, this demo was one of the best I played at PAX. However after playing and absolutely loving the demo I excitedly bounded up to the poor booth boy with questions when this game would be out, he answered with a shrug and a “maybe next year?” Thanks man.
Game Demo that may actually get me to buy a Wii U: Hyrule Warriors
Nintendo took quite a leap of faith with this one, and thank the goddesses it worked out! Taking such drastic turn on a franchise is always risky, especially on such a beloved title like The Legend of Zelda. Lucky Nintendo decided to take our sacred title and combine it with another timeless classic, Dynasty Warriors. You control your character across a map and through seeming endless hordes of enemies trying to claim territory. Of course there are little quests peppered along the way to keep it interesting. Character designs were amazing, a variety of Zelda Universe characters were available to play as and each had a fabulous redesign. Zelda’s was especially refreshing as it showed her more as a warrior than princess, less healing magic and more beat your ass with a rapier. The game play was smooth and varied enough to not make you tired of hitting the “X” button endlessly. Plus swooping through entire hordes of evil minions is somewhat soothing. Dynasty Warriors has a list of successful spin offs, such as Gundam and One Piece, that make me think Hyrule Warriors will be an awesome game. Thanks Nintendo, I really didn’t want a Wii U.
Best Booth: Lichdom Battlemage
You always get the PAX attendee that complains from the lack of swag from one year to the next and usually I’m not one to agree. Except for this year. The last few years it seemed that my bag was packed with anything from t-shirts to inflatable swords by the end of each day, this year the old “convention bag” was feeling a little light. Now before you start the sass, yes it’s not about how much free stuff you get, it’s about the games, blah, blah, blah. I just feel like that two to three hour line doesn’t seem so bad if I know I’m also getting a shirt at the end. Lichdom: Battlemage’s booth took my love of swag and mutlipled it by three. First you got a a picture with magical fire or mass of electricity Photoshopped to look like it was coming out of your hands. Cool. Then you got a lanyard and watched a trailer with a little game play by a developer. Neat! THEN you got to play a 15 minute demo of the game along with, of course, a t-shirt. The game it’s self was pretty fun. You are a mage but with unlimited mana pools and no cool down times for spells. They took everything that makes playing a mage character suck and literally took it out of the game. Multiple spells that are fun to mix and match with different schools of magic, ice and fire cause a terrible vortex of burning ice that messes bad guys up! I wondered if the full game would become repetitive while playing the demo, but let me tell you those 15 minutes of throwing unlimited fireballs at skeletons was fun as hell.
PAX is always packed out but it seemed this year more and more lines were forever capped out, no matter what time of day you tried to get in. Most games I gave a half-hearted “meh” and moved along, except for two booths. Tales from the Borderlands and The Order: 1886. Of course the Borderlands game would be popular, especially with it’s team up with Telltale games. Telltale has had an amazing few years with it’s successful Walking Dead series and it’s newer release The Wolf Among Us, even without an additional title it still is sure to get attention. The Borderlands’ franchise is rich in desolate punk lore and is sure to mix great for the Telltale interactive story game system. Too bad I didn’t get to see any of it.
While I knew Tales would be a tough booth to wiggle into, The Order’s line was a surprise. Not really hearing much about the game before PAX I didn’t expect the booth to be so busy. Set with lots of dark gothic themes and handle bar mustaches, it seemed from it’s video playing for us common folk that you are part of an order to kill dark creatures using supernatural powers. From what I could see, which wasn’t much, it seemed like a cool game. Something to keep on my radar, and not just because my curiosity it killing me.
Even with my annoyance at the pin collecting and lack of swag I had a great time at PAX, just like I do every year. It’s a great gathering of multiple genres of the gaming community from card games to table top and PC to console gaming, something for everyone. I look forward to another 10 years of PAX weekends!