It's here! It's time for PAX Prime, in somehow-hotter-than-Hawaii-no-really Seattle, Washington! I'm here with Baker, set to cover a bunch of cool stuff from this year's Penny Arcade Expo!
You're greeted by this awesome, "blood"-spurting Dark Souls III fountain
Day one was big, so I'm gonna start from the top, with my hands-on Battleborn play session! Battleborn is a first-person MOBA-style actioner from Gearbox, the creators of the hit Borderlands franchise, with larger-than-life characters and a strong emphasis on working together to take on impossible odds.
I sat in with a bunch of strangers to play a build which featured a number of unique characters, each set apart by aesthetics and playstyle. Oscar Mike is a tough-looking, balanced space marine-type with pretty standard FPS gameplay, while the angelic swordswoman Phoebe reminds me of a cross between Fate's Saber and Gilgamesh. The steampunk pistolero Marquis moves fast and shoots faster, and crazy multi-limbed Orendi uses AoE magic attacks, a nice contrast to the lumbering heavy weapons guy Montana.
I ended up playing burly barbarian Boldur, a tanky guy with an axe throw, shield bash, and charge skills designed to break up crowds and pick fights. You can revive teammates on the spot like in Gears of War, which was great when I stupidly charged into a pack of enemies at level 1 and immediately got taken down. You start off fairly weak on your own, needing teammates' help for simple showdowns with AI enemies, but you earn experience and shards (money) through combat. Eventually, after a few levels you can do a lot on your own, to the point where I was soloing large enemies and fighting boss-level foes without fear.
The demo level we played was brisk and brutal: fight our way to a control room to prevent big robot arms from opening a portal. Once that's done, protect a large walking tank (you can spend shards to power the tank's shields or upgrade its weapons) and guide it to a door or... something that needs to be destroyed. I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention to any of the mission objectives, I was too busy busting heads and running headlong into crowds screaming something about THEY CAN NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM. Battleborn arrives on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in February of next year.
STAR WARS: UPRISING
In the mood for something a little more chill after Battleborn, I travelled to a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: Uprising, a mobile action-RPG that's basically Diablo in the Star Wars universe. Bridging the gap between Episode VI and Episode VII, Uprising is the first official piece of Star Wars canon set after Return of the Jedi, and will help explain how the galaxy is the way it is at the start of The Force Awakens later this year with a story developed by BioWare's Alex Freed.
First off, I want to address that even though this is a game designed for mobile platforms, you have to consider that today's mobile devices are much more powerful than previous generation's elite gaming PCs. Hell, my phone is more badass than the PC I built in high school to play Half-Life on max settings! Star Wars: Uprising is a full-fledged MMO action-RPG with little to no emphasis on microtransactions--while premium currency will get you a better chance at rare items, those same rare items are available in-game with time and patience.
Now, when I said this was Diablo in the Star Wars universe, that was pretty dead-on--I skimmed through character creation (and made a Twi'lek called Twi'Hard waVeng) and jumped right into a brisk mission that taught me the basics of moving, shooting, evasion, and using abilities. Uprising doesn't try to use the touchscreen as a virtual pad, instead going for mouse-like control: tap in a direction to move, tap on enemies to attack (you only have to tap once, and enemies along the same line are auto-targeted after the first one dies) and drag or double-tap to perform special moves. Up to four players can take on missions together, or you can work on a larger scale to help your faction drive out the Empire's foothold from the galaxy.
Instead of releasing regular patches, players will work to unlock planets by freeing them from Imperial control, adding to the story and opening up new missions by raising their faction score. Character builds are pretty flexible too, allowing you to pick and choose techniques to create your perfect build, but only if you can find in-game trainers to teach you skills outside your class. Star Wars: Uprising looks like a surprisingly solid, fun multiplayer experience in the vein of the X-Men Legends games, and is due out on iOS and Android next month!
STREET FIGHTER V
There was a bit of time until my next appointment, so I went on by the Capcom booth to check out the most important game of any show for me: Street Fighter V!
The build at Anime Expo had Ryu, Chun-li, Nash, M. Bison, Cammy, and Birdie, but this new build added Ken, Necalli, Vega, and R. Mika to the roster! This was my first hands-on time with Necalli, playing against a Ryu and teaching my new friend what little I knew of Street Fighter V's new V-Trigger system. I only had a chance to get one match in due to a long line, but Necalli is super fun to play, very aggressive with great high-low mixup potential and a really cool V-Trigger where he basically goes Super Saiyan/evolved Pillar Man.
I also watched a handful of R. Mika matches, and she seems a little faster than I remember her from Street Fighter Alpha 3, although that's probably SFV's overall game fluidity at work. Mika still has the same flashy, hilarious moveset, but she was never a particularly powerful character to begin with... just a fun one. Street Fighter V is coming to PS4 and PC in March 2016--if you're playing the beta, feel free to add more in the comments!
WARHAMMER END TIMES: VERMINTIDE
On a much dingier, bloodier note, classic Warhammer (of the not-40K variety) gets represented on PC with Warhammer End Times: Vermintide, a co-op actioner in the vein of Left 4 Dead and Payday. Obviously, this takes place during the titular "end times," a sort of apocalypse for the classic Warhammer setting. What really surprised me about Vermintide was the very thought-out melee combat--I played as a dwarf with an axe/shield combo (with a crossbow for long-range attacks) and really enjoyed how you could use your shield to defend, to brace, to push enemies away, or how different melee strikes could cripple or disarm enemies.
Some enemies couldn't be defeated solo--one was a giant rat-man with a magical gatling gun, and I ended up tanking a hailstorm of bullets with my shield while a teammate flanked him. There was also a pretty frantic objective-based segment where you have to move explosive barrels from one end of a courtyard to a giant gate that needs to be destroyed. If enemies damage you while you're carrying the barrels, you have to drop them (or throw them) and run away, so your teammates have to be on-point while you (or another teammate) is shuffling barrels around. This was a very short demo, but it was fun--I'm looking forward to seeing more of Vermintide when it's available on PC next month!
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: SWORD COAST LEGENDS
Tabletop games are a big part of my circle of interests, and I'm actually in two: a Pathfinder game run by a friend who works at Viz (I know, I know, gaming with the enemy and all that) and a D&D 5th Edition game run by one of Crunchyroll's HR guys. I was excited to try out a full-on video game attempt at D&D, and that's what Sword Coast Legends aimed to be. Taking place in the Forgotten Realmx setting, Sword Coast Legends supports five players--four adventurers and one DM who can actively adjust the dungeon during play.
In the Pathfinder game I play a burly Gaston-alike named Cha'ad, and in the 5E game I play a wigga bard, so I decided to go somewhere in the middle and play the prebuilt ranger named Hawklight, armed with a variety of bow skills like Debilitating Shot, as well as useful party abilities like Search to detect traps, and a few spells like Entangle--however, there's friendly fire, so don't just lob a fireball into melee. Exploring the dungeon, the team fought a variety of monsters, facing challenges with the DM adding or subtracting threats, placing traps in pathways and filling hallways full of spider webs to slow movement. The DM was pretty nice at first, making us face only a few spiders, and then ramped up the challenge and tried to kill us constantly, throwing wave after wave of enemies at us.
Just like actually playing D&D, communication is key--since this is in real-time, you'll have to coordinate your skills to put down massive bosses and small armies of enemies, or just take it slow and use Search to make sure all your teammates don't walk into a hallway full of traps. If the DM realizes that he's being too rough on you, he can also level down enemies, or even switch some of them to friendlies to help you out in combat. Sword Coast Legends hits PC, Mac, and Linux in October 2015, with PS4 and XBO to follow later on.
DRAGON QUEST HEROES: THE WORLD TREE'S WOE AND THE BLIGHT BELOW
Some of you may have seen the on-stage demonstration of Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below at Anime Expo, and as someone who likes Dragon Quest above just about any other JRPG, after spending some hands-on time with DQH I can safely say that it's not just "Dynasty Warriors: Dragon Quest." It feels a little closer to the great Hyrule Warriors than a standard DW game, but from the music to the visuals to the RPG elements included, Heroes immediately feels like home for a Dragon Quest fan.
You start by choosing your character--either male Luceus or female Aurora--and you get the chance to rename them (I always name my DQ main "Hiro Gai," so I played as Aurora and named her "Hiro Gyaru"). Kind of like Pokemon, whichever character you don't choose stays in the story as your childhood friend. The intro movie starts in a fun festival in a town where humans and monsters live together as friends, but every now and then flashes over to some dark wizard who messes everything up. The monsters suddenly attack people, and you have to protect the town. The action steadily escalates until you "rescue" the king (he's a giant Major Armstrong-like badass and doesn't actually need rescuing), then fight your way outside the castle into a courtyard, where you're faced with your first boss fight: a dragon.
The game isn't particularly forgiving of button-mashing, so you'll have to stay light on your feet and hit the dragon's weak points--keep up your momentum and you can stagger it, then deal massive damage while it's toppled over. Once the dragon is defeated, a portal opens and a huge army of monsters pours out into the town square. The king grants you the power of "Tension," letting you power your character up and use screen-clearing super moves. I played a solid hour of Dragon Quest Heroes (it was very hard to actually stop playing, it's really addicting and fun), but as I played further I opened up a base camp where I can buy weapons, upgrade characters with skill points, chat with different party members, or use the Alchemy Pot for crafting. Later battles also let you switch between characters in your four-person party, use huge cannon emplacements, and collect Monster Coins to use different monsters as minions in battle.
Dragon Quest Heroes features representatives from every DQ title (it was nice seeing Jessica and Yangus in the opening movie), and the dark wizard we're fighting suspiciously resembles DW's Nobunaga Oda, so there's plenty of fanservice for longtime Dragon Quest fans, plus a little more. Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below hits PS4 in October 2015!
The Bethesda booth had so much cool stuff, but this Dishonored 2 setup was my favorite
There's still three more days of PAX Prime--Baker's currently covering day two, with a special interview with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn composer Masayoshi Soken and much more! Be sure to tune in tomorrow at the same time for our PAX Prime day two roundup!