The 37 Coolest Games From PAX West 2019 You Need To See
The Games Of PAX West 2019
As the Penny Arcade Expo has expanded in scope over the years, the one that started it all remains the most prolific. Formerly PAX Prime, Seattle's PAX West has been a proving ground for many indie developers looking to show off their upcoming titles. However, in recent years, more AAA games have made their presence known at the show. This has helped give PAX West a more significant presence, standing closer to other shows like E3, San Diego Comic-Con, and Gamescom. Taking place in Seattle on August 30 through September 2, PAX West 2019 will have an assortment of indie titles and big games for attendees to check out.
With so many different games from the show, we've rounded up some of the most notable games that caught our attention. At PAX West 2019, we saw so many exciting games--both indies and of the AAA variety--that really gave us pause. Some of these games include Final Fantasy VII Remake, Borderlands 3, and Marvel's Avengers, which had special hands-on sessions. Shortly before PAX West, Yacht Club Games revealed Shovel Knight Dig, which we had the chance to go hands-on with during the show. Also, Nintendo showed off The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. And several independent games like Due Process, Indivisible, and Boyfriend Dungeon left us wanting more after our time playing them at the show.
One game that had a notable presence at PAX was CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077. It was the talk of the show thanks to the livestream that premiered on the first day. During this broadcast, the developers showed off a more condensed version of the E3 2019 demo, which detailed how players can take advantage of several different options to overcome the many foes. It's looking like an ambitious game, and the developers were keen on showing off just how in-depth its mechanics are.
To check out every game we saw at PAX West 2019, including all the news breakouts for Cyberpunk 2077 and the reveal of Gearbox's Homeworld 3, be sure to visit GameSpot's hub page for all things related to the show. Below are all our previews of everything we saw at the show.
Blasphemous | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch | The Game Kitchen | Release: September 10, 2019
There's no shortage of games taking inspiration from the uncompromising and depressing Dark Souls series. However, the upcoming 2D action-adventure Blasphemous takes that influence for the grim and stoic to new heights, reveling in a bleak atmosphere and dark storyline. In a similar vein to classic action games like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden, you play as the enigmatic Persistent One, a wandering warrior in a setting similar to the medieval-era, though far more fantastical. The Persistent One experiences death and rebirth in an endless loop, and with only their weapon and faith in a higher power to rely on, they'll need to purge the land of many horrifying monstrosities.
Anyone that dove into From Software's action-RPG series will undoubtedly be familiar with the mechanics. Throughout your adventure, you'll acquire a particular currency that comes from slaying your enemies. Upon death, you'll lose some of these resources, along with a sliver of your character's resolve. But what makes Blasphemous so intriguing is how it weaves that uncompromising tone and its gorgeously horrific art style into action-platforming gameplay that feels tight and focused. Though it has RPG mechanics, the gameplay itself is very much focused on the in-the-moment experience of running and leaping over perilous jumps, while delivering brutal finishing blows to your enemies. Death is all but assured in your grim journey, and Blasphemous can offer up a rare sense of satisfaction from overcoming a challenging task.
Blasphemous has been a long time coming for developers The Game Kitchen, and with an expected release on September 07, 2019, players looking for another stoic and uncompromising 2D adventure won't have to wait much longer. | Alessandro Fillari
Borderlands 3 | Gearbox Software | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Release: September 13, 2019
Without any doubt, the game that had the largest presence at PAX West 2019 was Borderlands 3. Releasing on September 13 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, the Borderlands series has garnered a massive following, and there's great anticipation for the next main entry--upping the stakes, and amount of guns to collect to ridiculous levels. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the lasting impact the series has had would be its unique approach of marrying FPS gameplay and Diablo-style RPG mechanics. This would go on to set the stage for the so-called 'looter-shooter' sub-genre, which has become quite popular over this decade.
Staring four new vault hunters--Amaya the Siren, Zane the Operative, Fl4K the Beastmaster, and Moze the Gunner--the next adventure in Gearbox's looter-shooter universe will take the core cast to the wastelands of Pandora, and beyond. For the first time in the series, players will be able to shoot, loot, and level up characters on a variety of different planets. From our recent hands-on impressions with the game, it feels very much in line with what came before. However, many of the mechanics and character-growth systems feel much more refined, allowing for more flexibility and customization in how you strengthen each hero.
Borderlands 3 has been a long time coming, and the next entry in the series is shaping up to maintain that familiar, yet satisfying loot and shoot grind that the series is known for. | Alessandro Fillari
Boyfriend Dungeon | PC | Kitfox Games | Release: TBD
Boyfriend Dungeon has gained a lot of notoriety in indie circles for its admittedly novel premise: you date the weapons that you rely on as you, well, go through dungeons--to be clear, they appear as humans on the world's surface. The title self-identifies as a “shack-and-slash” on the Steam store, where you can currently wishlist it even though there’s no firm projected release date at the moment. Kitfox’s premier project has been kicking around for some time now, but its novel blend of dating sim and dungeon crawler has kept us fascinated.
Boyfriend Dungeon is about, well, taking weapons into a dungeon that you’re cleaning out for the summer. Also, as we mentioned, those weapons are also romanceable. While the name seems gendered, the weapons are not solely male-identifying. In fact, you can handle whatever weapon you want as the player, without any limitations. However, staying on top of the weapon-romancing game is a tough call if you’re not constantly looking for the freshest threads in-between hunting down slavering insectoid monsters to pay the bills.
Luckily, it’s not all just about dating; you get to look real dapper too. Players can pick from all sorts of outfits and hairstyles, as well as fancy magic tricks to really up the ante when they’re going all out to impress during the dungeon crawling segment. Anything that you get from defeating those monsters with your sick moves can then be used to either craft more magic trinkets of derring-do (represented as zines for a modern touch), or to make a very important component of traditional dating sims: gifts for the people that you’re courting.
Each potential love interest is unique in their way, whether or not it’s the old-fashioned way that one of them might speak, or the way they dress themselves and manifest. There’s going to be nine different weapons for you to crack on with, and each has their own likes and dislikes as well as specific pros and cons when it comes to combat. There’s a lot to love about Boyfriend Dungeon, and it’ll definitely be an exciting day when it finally launches for the PC. According to the Steam storefront, it’ll be out when the weapons are beautiful enough. | Ginny Woo
Bravery Network Online | PC | GLOAM | Release: TBD 2019
Bravery Network Online feels like a pastiche project of dissonant sensibilities that come together seamlessly, albeit chaotically. Inspired by environmental anxiety, it takes place 6,000 years into the future--a fair bit further on in the Earth’s timeline than the usual post-apocalyptic setting--in a world where everyone is immortal. Usually, being unshackled from the concept of death plays out in a way that commodifies the concept of the sanctity of life, a la Altered Carbon. There’s a casual antipathy towards human life in a lot of forward-looking explorations of this topic, but Bravery Network Online is a breath of fresh air in the sense that it eschews that trope entirely.
Billed as a turn-based RPG, Gloam Collective’s latest plays a lot more like Pokemon than old-school Final Fantasy. Fighters taking part in a new MMA-esque sport known as Bravery compete for fame and fortune, though it exchanges broken noses for a cheeky flirt. In a post-disaster wasteland where capitalism has been toppled, there’s something very human about the connections that Bravery athletes seek to form with each other. From our hands-on, we were able to try out three different characters, one of whom desired Bravery stardom just so she could have a fan club.
The focus is on dueling other players both in Story and in PvP mode, but it’s not about brutalizing your opponent despite the competitive and physical aspect of the sport; it’s about getting someone to stand down after a tactical kiss, a sneaky unbuttoning of one’s collar, or merely some good, old-fashioned digital (read: laser guns) tag. On top of that, the UI exudes a retro-vibe, with bright colors and sound effects that wouldn’t entirely be out of place in Space Invaders. These might all seem like disparate elements, but they come together in a very compelling way thanks to a catchy soundtrack and a compelling narrative. | Ginny Woo
Cardpocalypse | PC | Gambrinous | Release: TBD 2019
Jess is a 10-year-old girl who is completely obsessed with Mega Mutant Power Pets, the hit cartoon that all the kids at school are raving about. Naturally, the show's popularity begets a card game spin-off, which makes its way to every bustling schoolyard around town.
Cardpocalypse tells Jess' charming story, which is steeped in anecdotal nostalgia for old times on the playground. As you ferociously defeat the school bully and strike up fierce friendships with your classmates, you're plunged into a world you likely once knew, where crafty kids use stickers to boost their trump card's power and change the rules mid-game to save themselves from an otherwise inevitable loss. Also, the teachers ban the game after kids start to become a little too competitive, which may be enough to reopen closed wounds for those who suffered a similar fate. You'll have to dodge teachers left, right, and center if you want to become the best Mega Mutant Power Pets duelist on the playground.
This narrative alone is sweet enough to attract anyone who once dabbled in card games based on their favourite shows--if you were a fan of Pokemon TCG or Yu-Gi-Oh, you'll probably feel all fuzzy inside once you encounter Cardpocalypse's wonderful roster of funky creatures. However, Cardpocalypse goes the extra mile: although you're involved in little less than schoolyard shenanigans at the beginning, a portal between Jess' world and Mega Mutant Power Pets eventually opens up, forcing Jess and her classmates to take up arms--or cards--against the monstrous invaders. As you build your deck and battle it out with all manner of beastly behemoths, you'll get to play through ever 10-year-old card virtuoso's dream: using their beloved deck to save the world, just as their cartoonish heroes did time and time again in their respective shows.
Boasting a gorgeous art style, an excellent deck-building system, and an utterly unique and powerful story, Cardpocalypse is something childhood card-aficionados will find a lot of their past selves in. It's sure to be an emotional ride, but one well worth embarking on. | Cian Maher
Cat Lady | PC | Rose City Games | Release: TBD
Viz Media’s Cat Lady takes a lot of cues from games like the Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon. However, its high-contrast color palette and heavy use of adorable feline critters gives it a distinctly saccharine feel that pays off in spades. The idea behind the game is reasonably simple: you haven’t heard from your darling grandmother in a while, and you’re now kicking around her mansion to investigate her mysterious disappearance. Soon, you’re accosted by angry bears, magic boxes, and all manner of preternaturally-influenced household objects. Who better to help you fend these enemies off than your relative’s magical cats?
Have you ever wanted to team up with a cat that shot a myriad of hearts out of its mouth like some kind of over-affectionate shotgun of love? Well, you can in Cat Lady, and that’s just one of the possible “weapon” options available to players: you’ll find more as you travel deeper into your grandmother’s home and discover her other cat companions. There’s a robot cat, a cat who’s also a ninja, a cat butler, and more--each feline has its own abilities that are fatal to the baddies roaming around who may or may not have had something to do with your grandmother’s disappearance, and their job is to help you get to the bottom of things.
With incredible, punchy music to back up your fast-paced adventures, it truly feels like the action never stops in Cat Lady. There’s all manner of things to spice up your baseline experience, too: power-ups can be purchased from vendors throughout the house, and these are stackable. We’re talking power-ups that make your projectiles huge, power-ups that let you fire multiple projectiles, and other wacky things. You can turn each level into a personal bullet hell for your enemies, and that’s only just the beginning. If you sign up to the Cat Lady development newsletter, the game will be available for you to access on PC for a free private beta September 20-22. | Ginny Woo
Colt Canyon | PC | Retrific | Release: Late 2019
Coming from Retrific, Colt Canyon is best described as a minimalist roguelike Western game. You take on the role of a wandering outlaw who's no stranger to engaging in intense gunfights. After bandits have kidnapped his partner, you'll need to traverse a randomly generated wilderness filled with bandits and tons of loot. Once you successfully find the outlaw's ally, you have to fight your way back to safety and ride away with your haul of valuables. Mixing twin-stick shooter action with a roguelike, you'll engage in several gunfights against marauders wielding all sorts of armaments--including spears, rifles, and several sticks of dynamite.
Instead of going deep with the familiar iconography and stylings of a Western, it features an art style that relies on a limited color palette and distinct silhouettes for its characters. It's certainly an unusual approach to a Western game, but at the same time, that's what makes it so alluring. I had a blast fighting through the different stages of the desert wilderness, picking up new guns and reclaiming treasures from bandits. Colt Canyon has got a unique approach to the concept of a Western roguelike, and I'm excited to dive right back in for another run soon. | Alessandro Fillari
Cyber Hook | PC | Blazing Stick | Release: TBD 2020
Developer Blazing Stick's Cyber Hook is all about momentum. The faster you move, the more satisfying everything feels. But as you cover more ground in this hyper-stylized trip through a neon-cyberspace inspired by '80s cyberpunk, the harder everything gets. In Cyber Hook, all you have at your disposal is a laser grappling hook, a finger gun, and the ability to bend time to make more tactical choices in your sprint to the finish. You'll need to get from point A to B as quickly as possible, by any way you can. Using your hook, you'll want to swing from surface to surface to build up momentum as you go. It can feel jarring when you lose that momentum, but once you get the hang of it, it can be a lot of fun timing your jumps and swings to beat your time. This small sampling we played at PAX offered a lot to take in, and we're looking forward to seeing more once it releases next year for PC. | Jake Dekker
Cyberpunk 2077 | PC, PS4, Xbox One | CD Projekt Red | Release: April 16, 2020
CD Projekt Red's long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077 is less than a year away. It's scheduled to make a big splash at PAX West 2019, but you don't have to be in attendance to get a glimpse into the game's current progress. During the convention, albeit all the war from Warsaw, Poland, the studio will stream new Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay for all to see. Set in Night city, the upcoming game is set in the same universe as the table-top RPG, Cyberpunk 2020, which has no doubt had an influence on video games in the past, but we have high hopes that CDPR will bring its world to life like never before. | Peter Brown
Disintegration | PC | V1 Interactive | Release: TBD 2020
The pedigree behind Disintegration, a new first-person shooter / real-time strategy hybrid, certainly inspires a lot of confidence. Coming from the co-creator of the Halo series, it has classic FPS DNA, and some noticeable influences from other popular shooters, such as Overwatch. With that said, it still seems to lean heavily on its unique gameplay, which blends the twitch-based gameplay of a shooter with the resource management and organization found in an RTS. As you and your team perform better in combat, you'll construct your own AI units to even the odds, allowing you to retake areas and forge a path to victory against the enemy team. The game had its gameplay debut at Gamescom 2019, and we spent some getting accustomed to its unorthodox, yet still intriguing mechanics.
For more on Disintegration, check out with our hands-on impressions with the game's interesting blend of RTS and class-based shooter. | Alessandro Fillari
Due Process | PC | Giant Enemy Crab | Release: TBD 2020
What if you built a game around the foundation of Rainbow Six Siege but with a sweet low-poly art style? That's essentially what you get with Due Process. But don't let looks fool you--this game is every bit as strategic, and offers its own unique spins on the tactical FPS genre. Aside from its art style, there are two big factors that distinguish what Due Process is all about. First, the game solves the potential issues of players lacking in communication tools for teamwork. In a pre-action planning phase, players can draw on a map to indicate where they intend on going and move a beacon to mark important spots they'll position themselves in. What's more is that those markers then appear in the environment once you jump into the action to help make navigating the map easier.
The second factor is that maps are randomly generated. Now, you may be apprehensive about it, but this affords each match to feel unique and the action to stay fresh. You can't truly master a map if it's constantly changing. There are limits to the random generation, though. You won't get nonsensical designs that impede objectives or disrupt the tactical core of the game since each map abides by a set of rules and tilesets.
Due Process is coming to PC sometime in 2020; developers Giant Enemy Crab stated that a beta will kick off in October this year. | Michael Higham
Everspace 2 | PC | Rockfish Studios | Release: TBD 2021
One of the surprises coming out of Gamescom 2019 was the announcement of Everspace 2 and we got hands-on with it PAX West 2019. While the sequel maintains its core of spacefaring dogfights, it's a much different thing this time around. Instead of adhering to a roguelike structure, it's now a single-player RPG that borrows elements from Diablo. It'll have a contained story spread across several space colonies to explore and battle within to complete missions.
Throughout Everspace 2, you'll gather materials for trade and loot for new gear and weapons to outfit your ship. It's a similar system as you see with FPS-RPG hybrids such as Destiny, but for spaceships. However, there are no plans for multiplayer elements as that falls outside of the scope that developer Rockfish is currently able to handle. The team is focused on creating a tight, narrative-driven experience.
While games like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen veer heavily into the space-simulation, Everspace 2 leans more into the accessible arcade-type feel when it comes to controls and combat. Everspace 2 is a ways off, however, and is scheduled for a full release sometime in 2021. | Michael Higham
Final Fantasy VII: Remake | PS4 | Square-Enix | Release: March 3, 2020
It's hard to believe that Final Fantasy VII: Remake is real. While the PAX West 2019 demo is the same as what was shown during E3 2019, I didn't get a chance to play it at the time. Now, I have a better understanding of how the PS1 classic has transitioned to the Action RPG genre. Square Enix gave a detailed presentation of how the remake mixes elements of real-time fighting and turn-based combat during this past E3. And the system flowed quite smoothly during my hands-on time fighting the Guard Scorpion.
Combat revolves around the tweaked ATB (active time battle) system; as you perform normal attacks, your ATB gauge fills up. With each full bar, you then get to pull off special abilities or cast spells. You need not worry about getting caught off guard while deciding what to do since the game pauses when you pull up the command menu. In the Guard Scorpion fight, you're only able to control Cloud and Barrett, but they fight quite differently which adds a great dynamic of playstyles. The fight itself has some neat cinematic touches, which we've already seen, though actually playing the game and watching it all unfold heightens the tension.
It's great to see Cloud, Barrett, and others in action after all these years with a significantly improved coat of paint. I'm even more excited to see how Midgar will be fleshed out and how this cast will be portrayed with full voice acting and more cinematic flair. It's going to be a multi-part series, and the first part of Final Fantasy VII: Remake hits the PlayStation 4 on March 3, 2020. | Michael Higham
Haven | PC | The Game Bakers | Release: TBD 2020
The idea of romance has become an essential component in contemporary game design, with most blockbuster RPGs featuring systems based on it to at least some extent. Described to me by Game Bakers executive of production Audrey Leprince as "Persona 5 meets Journey," Haven is no different--except for when it is. Instead of bringing an NPC gifts over the course of a game and ensuring that you select the correct dialogue options in critical companion scenarios, Haven has you play as a couple who share a deep, unbreakable bond right from the get-go. Confined to a strange planet teeming with curious flora and fauna, you learn to survive alongside one another and foster love in the chaos of the unknown.
However, what makes Haven truly special is embedded deeper in its refined idea of video game romance. If you opt to play couch co-op, you can control one character while your partner puppeteers the other. In order to succeed in combat, you have to press the same buttons at the same time, as coordination is rewarded with increased damage. Similarly, you have to make the same decisions as you traverse this mysterious planet--after all, there are two of you, and you're stronger together than you'll ever be alone.
Boasting a gorgeous art style, a world steeped in mystery and intrigue, and a premise so affecting it's surprising to consider how fresh it is, Haven is an RPG like none before it. And, as a result of implementing what Leprince describes as a little bit of French influence, you'll get to enjoy a nice, robust glass of wine with your significant other every time you level up. | Cian Maher
Hot Shot Burn! | PC | Flaming Flamingo | Release: Late 2019 (Full Release)
Coming from developers Flaming Flamingo, Hot Shot Burn feels like a strange mix between the arcade classic Smash TV and Super Smash Bros. As a competitive action game, each player picks a fighter from the roster, some of which are modeled after archetypes like a space marine or an '80s action hero a la Mister T. Once you've chosen your character, you'll face off against your opponents in elimination where one clean hit spells doom. Each arena comes littered with traps, pitfalls, and other oddities that can be taken advantage of to get the best of your opponents. You'll have to keep aware of your surroundings and the encroaching rivals to stay on top. Hot Shot Burn keeps things simple, but it manages to open up a lot of potential for mind games, allowing you to poke holes in your enemy's defenses when they least expect it. | Alessandro Fillari
If Found | PC | DREAMFEEL | Release: TBD 2020
Erasers are perhaps the most curious object in a typical pencil case. Their purpose is to efface something that once was, but there's something strangely satisfying about using them. In If Found, you're armed with a rubber simultaneously capable of disrupting black holes and destroying protagonist Kasio's private diary, where she once wrote stories of her life in Achill Island, just off the western coast of Ireland.
If Found is meticulously and spectacularly composed. It sports a hand-drawn art style and exists as a narrative adventure that's somewhat comparable to a visual novel. The only thing you do is aggressively move your mouse to rub out a scene, beneath which lies the next part of Kasio's adventure, but this simple mechanic is perfectly able to propel the narrative on its own.
It's worth noting that If Found is deeply rooted in Ireland, wonderfully weaving Irish slang into its sincere dialogue. In some ways, Kasio's musing in her diary verge on the exceptional vernacular established in Eimear McBride's A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, stitching together sporadic half-thoughts into something primal and genuine. It's a perfect ode to the sincerity of raw, untamed subconscious thought. If Found is a sensory adventure, featuring a soundtrack that perfectly complements its pacing and simple mechanics, and although it's ostensibly basic, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. Held within Kasio's diary entries are subtle critiques of contemporary Ireland--and the world at large--that are as appropriate now as they were in the game's setting of 1993.
If Found is gorgeous, genuine, and completely unpretentious. It's something you can get a lot from without having to invest excessive amounts of time or effort in, and its remarkable juxtaposition of space-age wondering against a grounded, rural backdrop marks it as a game that is original, innovative, and well worth your time. | Cian Maher
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars | PC | Palindrome Interactive | Release: October 11, 2019
The latest from Palindrome Interactive purports to tell an authentic, undiluted vampire story through the vehicle of an empire expansion strategy game. It smells a lot like Endless Legend meets on the city management front, though it pulls a lot of mechanical and design inspiration from unexpected genres. Your job is to control a vampire Lord, and depending on the clan that your Lord is from, your loyalties and your motivations will differ slightly. However, every clan has an overarching goal: dominance. How you achieve plus the various skills that will be at your disposal will also vary from clan to clan.
You can prove yourself to be the strongest in a number of ways, and it’s clear that having the map advantage isn’t the only way to net a victory in Immortal Realms. The tide can turn easily when armies and Lords are traversing the overworld, especially because of the random cards that come into play; players draw random cards that they can play to their Lords or to enemies to cause various status effects on top of the traditional 4X navigation rules.
However, once you actually encounter an enemy that you want to put down, the game switches up into a grid-based, tactical RPG combat system. Reminiscent of Fire Emblem and other strategy titles, you move individual units around a grid according to their turn order, and attack your foes until either you’re dead or they are. The card system from the overworld comes into play once more: you can use a number of powerful weapon or magic skills to take down opponents, though these are on a turn-based cooldown timer so you won’t want to blow your load all at once.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is currently in its closed beta stage, though it has a planned release in Fall 2019 for PC, and anticipates a Spring 2020 launch for Xbox, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch. The title will have multiplayer functionality and pit players against each other in Skirmish mode, as well as a number of story campaigns that can be sequentially unlocked through participation. | Ginny Woo
Indivisible | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch | Lab Zero Games | Release: October 8, 2019 (Switch TBD)
Back in the PS1 days, there was a great RPG called Valkyrie Profile that blended real-time and turn-based combat into a 2D action-platformer. Indivisible looks to revitalize that wonderful gameplay mix with its own fantastic, modern take. Party members are assigned to a face button on the controller, and as their action bars fill up, you send them in to attack--the key here is to time your attacks in clever ways for combos, almost like a fighting game. The platforming elements add a welcome variety to it all. For example, I'd bounce off of electrical fields with the spear, wall jump upwards, and stick my axe against the wall to swing up higher to make it to the next section.
Lab Zero Games, developers of the cult-hit fighting game Skullgirls (Parasoul is best girl), have instilled a similar sense of style, but with a more earnest tale at heart. Creative director Mariel Kinuko Cartwright brings her artistic talents as lead animator and art director, but she's also the head of story for Indivisible. The game incorporates parts of Southeast Asian folklore and mythology into its tale of a girl named Ajna who goes on a journey to uncover the origins of her superpowers and save her world from destruction. Along the way, she meets several Incarnations that fight alongside her and lend their personalities to flesh out the narrative.
The wonderful hand-drawn art caught my eye, the unique blend of action RPG and side-scrolling adventure has me hooked, and the Southeast Asian influence has won my heart. It's been a long time coming from its early days and Kickstarter success, but Indivisible is almost here; it launches on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 8, 2019 and for Switch at a later date. | Michael Higham
Journey to the Savage Planet | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Typhoon Studios | Release: TBD 2020
Typhoon Studios' Journey to the Savage Planet looks to be another game focusing on an extraterrestrial voyage to a world that's vastly different from our own. However, unlike games like No Man's Sky, this new space-faring adventure goes for comedy, poking fun at late-stage capitalism in the interstellar age. Feeling more like a Metroidvania compared to an open-ended adventure game, Savage Planet has you explore a single planet, which hides references to ancient civilizations. Over the course of your job exploring, you'll be treated to comical interludes from your employers back home. They'll commend you for your service to the corporation, while also pitching new products for you to spend your hard-earned money on.
Though it can be a solitary experience exploring this strange world, you can also team up with another player controlling a fellow explorer. Playing Journey to a Savage Planet in co-op, it can feel diving into Metroid Prime with a friend. What has me most excited for Journey To A Savage Planet is how its light systemic mechanics feed into its sense of humor. At one point during my demo, I pissed off some round bird boys. In order to get them away from me, I threw some bait. Unfortunately, I nailed my co-op buddy in the face with the bait and all the birds I enraged swarmed him. It was entirely unscripted and almost had me in tears.
I'm excited to see what else I will be able to do in Journey to the Savage Planet when it releases next year. | Jake Dekker
Kunai | PC | Turtleblaze | Release: Late 2019
Consider a standard tablet, on which you might binge the latest Netflix show or boot up some Stardew Valley to relax after a tough day at the office. Now imbue it with sentience and educate it on the ways of the ninja. The dazzling result is Kunai's protagonist, who makes a cute little cat face whenever they crouch. Kunai is a Metroidvania, but stands out from its predecessors in one major way: instead of unlocking powerful gear towards the end of your run, you get access to all of your abilities pretty much immediately. You can beat up robots with your elegant katana, jump across treacherous ravines by rocket-launching yourself into the air, and use your eponymous kunai to grapple away to your heart's content.
The mobility mechanics in Kunai are silky smooth so much so that it already looks as if a massively competitive speedrunning scene will form around it. The combat is quite simplistic, but in a refreshing way--it's not too difficult to enjoy in short bursts, but there's enough room for would-be experts to flaunt their skills. Somehow, Kunai has managed to establish a skill ceiling that's readily reachable but easily surpassed, which makes it remarkable within its genre, notorious for being unforgiving and, at times, elitist.
The art style is lovely. Red-eyed robots platform their way across picturesque backdrops in an attempt to inhibit you, the ninja tablet who manages to escape from a super-secret experimental science facility. All of the faces are friendly and unintimidating, and the levels you traverse bear a charmingly warm color palette. It's the cutest Metroidvania I've ever seen, which makes it my favorite by default. Kunai is the Metroidvania that will welcome skeptics to the genre with not just open arms, but an enthusiastic squeeze. Even if you reckon it isn't your bag, giving it a shot might show you that it very well could be. | Cian Maher
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening | Switch | Nintendo | September 20, 2019
We had the opportunity to play The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the remake of the Game Boy classic. It's one of the strangers Zelda games in the franchise's history and has taken on a sort of cult status. But having seen it in action with its new vivid, adorable art style, Link's Awakening is getting a new spotlight it deserves. It's a reimagination of the game that came out 26 years ago and maintains the original, tried and true top-down 2D gameplay.
After 20 minutes with the game, it was clear that the game executes the 2D Zelda feel wonderful. We played through the third dungeon called Key Cavern; there were clever puzzles to solve, varied enemies that presented different challenges, and several rooms to explore to collect keys. We finished all of Key Cavern which concluded with a boss fight against the huge Slime Eye--there were some neat mechanics to defeat it, like using your newfound dash ability to split Slime Eye in half.
Those who played the original version back in the day will feel right at home when exploring these dungeons; every dungeon is a 1-to-1 recreation of their originals. And you'll soon be able to relive one of Link's old adventures or experience it for the first time, when The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening comes to the Switch on September 20, 2019. | Michael Higham
Luigi's Mansion 3 | Switch | Nintendo | Release: October 31, 2019
Having played a good 20 minutes of Luigi’s Mansion 3, I have to say it’s one of the surprise hits of PAX West 2019. There wasn’t much context as to what was happening story-wise during the hands-on demo, but of course, you play as Luigi to explore a haunted mansion full of ghosts. This demo differed from what was shown at E3 2019 and had a garden theme with overgrown vegetation which tied into many of the challenges I faced.
What makes Luigi’s Mansion a joy to play is in the inventive ways you solve puzzles and fight supernatural phenomena. You have a bright flashlight to stun ghosts, a vacuum to grab them, a blower to clear out areas, and a plunger-and-rope to attach to objects in the world. Whether I was bashing huge watermelons blocking a door or cutting down vines with a chainsaw attached to the vacuum, interacting with the environment to progress was a joy.
You have these cool tools available, but the real highlight of the game is Gooigi, Luigi’s slimy green counterpart. In co-op, the second player controls Gooigi the entire time, and while he can’t open doors, he can slip through gated pipes to access areas Luigi can’t. Both have the same ghost-busting capabilities making co-op equally fun for either player. You'll be able to jump into Luigi's Mansion 3 on October 31 this year for Nintendo Switch. | Michael Higham
Marvel's The Avengers | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Crystal Dynamics | May 15, 2020
After its showing at E3 2019, there's been a lot of questions surrounding the new action-RPG set in the Marvel universe. In Marvel's Avengers, you'll rebuild the legendary team in a post-Superhero world, while unraveling a larger conspiracy in the process. During PAX West 2019, we had the chance to go hands-on with the game and learned just how it all works. Essentially, you take on a variety of missions with your chosen member of the Avengers, leading up to some large-scale fights that can offer loot and pathways to more power.
For more on our hands-on time with the game, check out our video impressions from the show. | Alessandro Fillari
Moving Out | PC | SMG Studio & Devm Games | Release: TBD
A game where you play as a group of employees for a moving company might not sound exciting, but Moving Out turns the job into a chaotic mess of co-op fun. Published by the same people who released Overcooked, Moving Out invokes the same energy and satisfaction that can come from working as a team. Whereas Overcooked had you awkwardly hobble together edible food for your customers, Moving Out has you pick from a set of movers--one of which is a robotic walking toaster, who's actively heating slices of bread while on the job--and clear out a location's furniture. The goal is to pack up everything that isn't nailed down, and move on to the next destination, that likely has far more junk to gather then the place before.
Thankfully, the condition you leave the place in isn't a concern, and this disregard gives way to hilarious moments where you'll hurl furniture through windows and bust down doors to stuff oddly shaped objects outside and onto the truck. Coordinating with other players to maneuver larger objects is a big part of the challenge. As only a few small objects can be carried solo, you'll often have to help other players with the heavy-lifting, awkwardly trying to pivot a couch, while other players try to get past you. We walked away from our time with the game eager to play more. Though the game's release date has yet to be announced, we're still looking forward to seeing more of this bizarre co-op game, and just how hairy some of the moves can get in the full game. | Jean-Luc Seipke
Mutazione | PC | Die Gute Fabrik | Release: Late 2019
15-year old Kai is tasked with journeying to a remote island where her sickly grandfather has seen better days. She's nervous, courtesy of vicious rumors about the mutants who live there, but decides to put her estranged grandparent first and sets sail alongside a wacky ship captain who affectionately nicknames her Sea Crumb. You'll soon realize that the rumors about mutants living on the island prove to be true, though they've been grossly distorted. The whole premise of Mutazione comes from Fallout 3, creative director Nils Deneken tells me. Deneken was upset about having a house in a village infested by Super Mutants with whom he couldn't form any meaningful relationships--all he could do was shoot them in the head.
That's why the mutants in Mutazione are different. They're outcasts, and they're feared by those too sheepish to visit the island, but as you gradually adjust to life in what Deneken describes as a "mutant soap opera," you'll discover that they are deeply, irrefutably human. Mutazione is a narrative-driven game first and foremost, and splits into two separate, equally emotional strands. On one side, you're forging a relationship with a grandfather you never knew. On the other, you're learning about the lives of these curious mutants, and sharing something truly special with them.
The main thing you do in Mutazione, aside from conversing with mutants, is plant seeds. Harvesting them after they've bloomed nets you all sorts of peculiar things, of which the island's residents have a plethora of uses for. In exchange for reaping what you've sown, they'll teach you songs, which you compose by planting other seeds with similar properties next to one another. Some seeds might germinate into melancholy, whereas others eventuate in tracks closer to euphoria. Deneken says that the aim is to provide people with a simple game that rewards them with ambient music, which can be left on in the background as they go about their day. It's an ode to a sweeter, gentler style of play.
This bleeds into the other aspects of Mutazione, which are stripped back in every imaginable way. The art is minimalist and raw, but boasts style in its subtlety. The dialogue is plain, which makes its lowkey wit quietly affecting. And as you play through its eight chapters, you'll be treated to a sincerely composed, decade-in-the-making story that Deneken says will hit people right in the feels. | Cian Maher
N1RV Ann-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action | PC | Sukeban Games | Release: TBD 2020
The ever-evolving visual novel genre is always finding new ways to grow. One great example of that shift is 2016's cult hit VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action. Set in an anime-inspired dystopian cyberpunk future, it was at its heart a simple but fun game about tending bar in a nightclub. While on the job, you'd meet many customers who'd tell you their personal stories. All these aspects together created something that felt truly special. At PAX West 2019, we got a chance to check out its sequel N1RV Ann-A, and it's looking to have even more of the familiar moody intrigue that its predecessor reveled in. This time around, the perspective shifts to the upper corporate class of the dystopian world. Our brief demo introduced us to Olivia, a project lead who has to deal with cutthroat co-workers, while trying to find the good in the work she does for a faceless corporation. It's the same stellar writing you come to expect from VA-11 Hall-A, and we already can't wait to see the rest of the game's cast. | Jean-Luc Seipke
Shovel Knight Dig | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch | Yacht Club Games & Nitrome | Release: TBD 2020
Since its debut on Kickstarter back in 2013, Shovel Knight has become something of a symbol for the resurgence of retro-inspired 2D action-platformers over the last decade. Now, the shovel wielding knight has got a new adventure in store, and he's going deep down into the depths below. Revealed just before PAX West 2019, Shovel Knight Dig brings the series' signature action-platforming gameplay into an evolving trench full of monsters and other challenges.
Taking inspiration from games like Downwell and Mr. Driller, Shovel Knight's next adventure introduces a roguelike spin on the series' jump, slash, and dig gameplay. With each run, you'll start from the top of the pit and gradually work your way down by shoveling dirt away and collecting the precious gems buried beneath your feet. The treasure you collect can be turned in for upgrades, giving Shovel Knight some unique boosts to his performance. However, an added challenge to your descent is a massive drill that chases after the knight. If you take too long diving down into the pit, and the drill manages to catch up to you, then it's instant death.
Eventually, you'll come to blows with other rivals, including the new antagonist Spore Knight. Once they're defeated, you'll enter the next section of the pit, leading to even more significant dangers. After a few runs, I was digging, slashing, and leaping down into the pits below with greater confidence. Though Shovel Knight Dig is by no means Shovel Knight 2, it's still cut from the same cloth that Yacht Club Games have been working from since the series' debut. If you've played the previous games, then you'll feel right at home with the mechanics, and the new roguelike element certainly adds a clever spin on the fun platforming action that the series is known for. | Alessandro Fillari
Solasta: Crown of the Magister | PC | Tactical Adventures | Release: TBD
The CRPG sub-genre has been in a significant upswing in recent years. Much of that popularity is due to the enduring passion from longtime fans, along with crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter resulting in new games. One such game looking to emulate the success of classic games like Baldur's Gate is Solasta: Crown of the Magister. Coming from Tactical Adventures, this new CRPG is very much in the vein of more notable games of the genre. Set in a high-fantasy world where adventurers use magic, swords, and cunning to overcome obstacles, your party filled with familiar role-playing archetypes will traverse dangerous dungeons and complete quests.
However, what makes Solasta interesting is that it leans heavily on the luck of the dice roll. With every action you perform, the in-game dice will roll, deciding the success or failure of your choices. While it can seem like it'll make for a somewhat tedious adventure, it surprisingly leads to more thoughtful decisions in your quests. It prompts you to rely more on certain party members that may be better suited for specific jobs, which improves their chances on dice rolls. Another interesting thing about Solasta is the focus on verticality. While CRPGs are mostly flat in level-design, this game leans more on exploring different areas and levels of dungeons--leading to some surprisingly nuanced dungeons to explore.
As a Kickstarter game, the developers plan to listen to the community of players and have released a demo online for everyone to get a small sampling of the game, letting anyone explore dungeons and solve quests with their party. Solasta seems like it could offer a fun twist on the formula, and I'm excited to see more of what sort of adventures will unfold. | Alessandro Fillari
Spiritfarer | PC | Thunder Lotus Games | Release: TBD 2020
Spiritfarer is the wondrous meditation on death developed by the 15-person studio at Thunder Lotus Games. As I lightly platformed my way through the gorgeous demo, I couldn't shake the musings of illustrious Japanese author Haruki Murakami. "Death is not the opposite of life, but an innate part of it," Murakami writes in Norwegian Wood. "By living our lives we nurture death."
Spiritfarer's magical, Ghibli-esque world is teeming with spirits readying themselves to depart the realm of the living, but not until they've made peace with this mysterious thing we call life. According to creative director Nick Guerin, your relationship with these spirits is founded upon interdependence. As you prepare them for their journey to the afterlife, they teach you how to fish, cook, and plant seeds that will one day grow into something spectacular. Management sim mechanics are wonderfully weaved into a narrative about what it means to lose a loved one, and the spirits you encounter are based on losses suffered by the development team.
One spirit, Gwen, is a doe. She teaches you how to stitch and sew before venturing into the unknown. Your character, Stella, aids Gwen and many other spirits alongside her cat, Daffodil. Both Stella and Daffodil are playable, joining forces to create a quietly mesmerizing cooperative experience. Like most cats, Daffodil often lazes about whenever she catches a break. She also snuggles up to spirits, and Stella can kneel down to bestow an affectionate hug upon her beloved feline companion. It's a game where care comes first, as all the characters aboard your ever-sailing ship exist in perfect harmony, looking out for one another as they traverse the sea on a glorious voyage that yields an unforgettable and deeply affecting surge of experiential bliss. | Cian Maher
Stela | PC, Xbox One | SkyBox Labs | Release: TBD 2019
SkyBox Labs' Stela is shaping up to fit nicely into that familiar mold of moody adventure games like PlayDead's Inside. Taking place in a ruined world, the titular protagonist must explore what remains and learn what happened to civilization--all the while trying to stay alive. I was impressed with the game at GDC 2019, and I got to experience another section of the game at PAX West. In this new build of the game, I explored a desolate forest filled with tall creatures lurking about. It was an unnerving sequence that emphasized the feeling of danger throughout Stela's adventure. Though you'll never be a match against the threats you'll face, you'll have to come up with some smart tactics to get the best of any monsters that come after. Stela is a moody experience, to be sure. However, there's always a feeling of curiosity throughout. Even though these short samplings felt like they ended too soon, I felt invested in seeing what was ahead. And I'm excited to see where Stela's adventure will lead. | Alessandro Fillari
Streets of Rage 4 | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch | LizardCube / Guard Crush Games | Release: TBD 2020
Ever since the last Streets of Rage game back in 1994, it seems like there have been very few beat-em-ups that have managed to fill that void. However with Streets of Rage 4, coming from LizardCube and Guard Crush Games, it's shaping up to be a stellar return to fighting form for the series. In the most recent trailer, we saw the first gameplay of the newest addition to the team of street brawlers, Cherry Hunter. As a callback to the original, Cherry is the daughter of original protagonist Adam Hunter. Unlike her father, the new brawler uses an electric guitar as her primary method of attack, which so far makes her one of the more interesting characters on the team.
During our hands-on, we fought through two stages--one set on the familiar streets battling punks, and the other taking place in a dojo full of martial-artists. The second stage was a standout, as it not only featured the toughest fights in the demo, but it culminated in a boss battle against returning antagonist Shiva. This particular character made his first appearance in Streets of Rage 2, and he's just as fearsome in the newest game.
The more I played SOR4, the more I felt at ease with this revival. The action was incredibly fast and fluid, offering a particularly satisfying sense of style that the series was known for. Some of the newest additions like star power moves and the health-regen mechanic work very well in practice, allowing for an added tactical element to the brawling gameplay. Diving into the brawling action of this game felt like stepping back onto those familiar bustling streets from the '90s, which is pretty much I hoped for. | Alessandro Fillari
Superliminal | PC (Epic Store Exclusive) | Pillow Castle Games | Release: TBD 2019
Originally designed as a university project, Pillow Castle Games' Superliminal is a cleverly composed puzzle game based entirely on perspective. Superliminal sees you participate in an experimental science program conceived to aid those suffering from lucid dreams. As you undergo the uniquely strange phenomena attached to the EYELIDS regime, you'll be tasked with using the powers of perspective to your advantage. Similarly to the iconic environmental puzzles sporadically dotted across The Witness, moving forward, backward, or sideways will cause objects to shift in size, and, sometimes, alignment in relation to adjacent structures.
Superliminal creator Albert Shih says that as you gradually progress further into this wacky puzzler, inside jokes and self-referential solutions will begin to crop up, amplifying just how smart this puzzler really is. It's quite an experiential ride, as having to read just the way in which you view things increases the game's potential to invite a meta style of play. You're at once the EYELIDS guinea pig knocking about a hallucinogenic dream state and an external person playing with perspective to solve environmental puzzles and progress through what's, in both cases, an innovative experiment in digital design.
Shih began work on Superliminal alone at university but has since recruited a ragtag team covering various disciplines to catapult his game into contemporary significance. From what I played, Superliminal is fit to stand tall alongside the likes of The Witness and Portal, from which it also drew influence. Its mind-boggling surrealism marks it as an original effort to juxtapose illusion with reality, and it looks as if it could be the most unique and smart puzzler to launch in years. | Cian Maher
Trials of Mana | PC, PS4, Switch | Square-Enix | Release: Early 2020
Originally released as Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan for the Super Famicom, Trials of Mana never made it westward until recently with the Collection Of Mana on Switch and PS4. But now with this full-on remake, it's a much different game from the original release--here, we have a full 3D third-person action RPG that still brings a sense of nostalgia.
The Mana series stood out back in the day for its real-time combat, and the new Trials Of Mana has spun the system into something more modern that aligns somewhat close to, say, Final Fantasy XV. You get to take three party members out to battle, but you can switch between them at any time in combat to control manually. Each of them have their own combos, spells, and abilities, and different characters represent your typical RPG classes. We had a taste of a boss battle as we fought a giant spider; there were AOE attacks to telegraph and party positioning to take into account. Overall, fights can get hectic as you throw everything you have at the enemy, casting spells and special attacks all in real time.
Trials Of Mana follows the same story as the original where you help the Goddess of Mana prevents worldly destruction by defeating the eight evil monsters called Benevodons. Of course, there's more to defeating them as you'll unravel throughout the game, and the addition of voice acting will help put a new spin on a classic-style RPG. And yes, you still get the silly dancing shopkeepers. Trials Of Mana is due sometime in early 2020 for PS4, Switch, and PC. | Michael Higham
WindJammers 2 | PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch | DotEmu | Release: TBD 2019
We've been keeping up with the development of Windjammers 2 since we first got hands-on with it last year at PAX West. And at PAX West 2019, we got to see how the sequel is shaping up to be the Windjammers we know and love.
For those unfamiliar, Windjammers is a top-down action sports game that's sort of like ping pong meets ultimate frisbee. Two players face off on a court and the goal is to toss the disc into your opponents net--three points for the outer edges of the goal, five points if you get it in dead center. First to 12 points wins the set. Sounds simple enough, but the game moves at a breakneck pace and each player can add curve to their toss or throw the disc to bounce off walls. It sets the stage for incredibly hectic competitive matches that are just a ton of fun. It's the reason there's a legitimate competitive scene for Windjammers, especially in France.
The love and competition around Windjammers is why developer French developer DotEmu picked up the opportunity to revitalize the game. Their familiarity with the scene shows as the sequel feels true to the original game's core, but it's not just about recreating the same game. New in Windjammers 2 is that each character has a unique EX moves that can be used in an offensive or defensive manner, and the inclusion of jumping lets you capitalize on the moments when the disc gets knocked in the air. To top it all off, Windjammers 2 incorporates a distinct hand-drawn art style that looks even better in motion.
If you missed the classic on the Neo Geo back in 1994, you can pick up the port on PS4, Vita, and Switch. Windjammers 2, however, is said to be scheduled for sometime this year and will come to Switch and PC. | Michael Higham
World of Horror | PC | panstasz | Release: TBD 2019
To say that World of Horror is a scary game wouldn't be doing it much justice. Set in a small town, you're tasked with solving a set of gruesome mysteries involving a growing occult presence. Many of the particular storylines are similar to horror-fiction in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft, showing a disturbing descent into madness as you uncover more clues about the larger mystery. Its visual style also takes a remarkable amount of influence from Japanese horror icon Junji Ito, and many of the monsters and spirits you'll encounter are grotesque creatures that would make him proud. You'll often explore seemingly mundane locales, like a high school or housing complex. However, as the evil forces begin to make their presence known, these places will adopt a more sinister atmosphere.
Though you're tasked with solving the mystery of where this evil force came from, you may be required to perform some unsavory and disturbing acts in order to survive. Just when you think you've gotten an understanding of what's to come, a particularly gruesome swerve will likely occur, which will change your outlook on certain characters and their role in the larger mystery. As a whole, World of Horror is an RPG in the vein of classic PC adventure games, and its unique visual style certainly aims to evoke the look of a horror-manga as you descend further into the macabre story. | Alessandro Fillari
Yooka-Laylee And The Impossible Lair | Playtonic Games | PC, PS4, Xbox One | Release: October 8, 2019
The original Yooka-Laylee sought to replicate the same sense of joy and exuberance from classic 3D platformers of the N64 era. However, with the follow-up, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, the same team wanted to approach that same sense of platforming fun from a different angle. Now a 2.5D platformer--3D visuals on a 2D plane--the new Yooka-Laylee game feels very different from its predecessor. Impossible Lair takes place right after the original game, and the Chameleon and Bat duo find themselves on a new adventure where they face off against Capital B and her minions. Though you'll explore a 3D overworld, similar to map from Super Mario 3D World, much of the action takes place in familiar 2D platforming stages in the vein of the Super Mario Bros.
Though it takes a very different approach, I can't deny that it felt very sharp and responsive in practice. Much like its predecessor, Impossible Lair is a throwback to a bygone era of gaming, and it was fun exploring the various stages with lizard and mammal duo in even retro fashion. Though the gameplay style is different, blazing through different levels and unlocking more was exciting, and I'm interested in seeing what's to come in the later levels of the game. | Alessandro Fillari
Young Souls | 1P2P | PC | Release: TBD 2020
When we first saw Young Souls a year ago, we got a feel for its take on cooperative 2.5D beat-em-up gameplay and how its art style delivers a distinct look to a fairly straight-forward premise. However, the new version of Young Souls at PAX West 2019 showed the full scope of what the game is trying to do--it's an expansive action RPG with a web of dungeons and an overworld to explore.
You play as the twins Jenn and Tristan who have to defend their hometown from an underworld of monsters found well below their world's surface. In doing so, you outfit them with a variety of melee weapons, ranged abilities, and powerful skills that provide a welcome variety in combat. You'll also build up a wardrobe full of dope jackets and fresh kicks; if you're going to fight evil to protect your home, you may as well do it in style.
Structurally, you live in the town of Portsbourgh that acts as a hub area full of shops and townsfolk. From there, you venture underground to select which instanced dungeon you want to fight through--of which there'll be over 70 of them. You'll fight through hordes and challenging bosses, which can be done solo (where you switch between the twins) or in seamless co-op where a second player can jump in at any time.
Young Souls' hand-drawn art style and no-nonsense redhead duo give it a fun attitude on top of its layered systems. And you'll be able to play it yourself sometime in 2020 on PC (other platforms not yet announced). | Michael Higham