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PAX East 2011: Day 2 Recap

Day 2 is in the books, and I can officially say that I will have significantly less money saved this year than I thought.  I was able to spend a good amount of time on the floor and, thanks to some early access for Media, even got to do a playthrough in Star Wars: The Old Republic (this booth’s line was cut off just 20 minutes after Pax East opened to the public and had a 7 hour wait both days).  There was also some Mortal Kombat, Homefront, Gunstringer, and much more to be had today.

So let’s get right into the good stuff.  First off was the aforementioned SWTOR playthrough.  I managed to get in with the first group of media (after those that had an appointment), which only meant an hour wait.  While waiting, we were greeted with iPads that went over the classes that would be used, and some of the skills, which I took a poor quality video of below.

I had the good pleasure of being grouped up with two folks from Gamers Evolve, Ken Hinxman and Mark Taylor, and another gentleman who was well versed in the demo we were about to go through.  After the queue in line, we were brought into a room for a video briefing on each class, and then it was time for the gameplay.   I’ll give more details in a specific post about this game, but I will say that the 45 minutes I spent with the game was very impressive.  Everything flowed very nicely, and we were given the opportunity to start off with some dialog stuff before stepping into the action (which also showed off the multiplayer dialog options, another cool feature you’ll hear more about).  This game was one I was moderately interested in, but after playing through, I can honestly say that I will probably be making a significant investment of time in this game when it’s released “in 2011”.  I’ll add that our group was one of 8 through end of Saturday who was able to beat the boss encounter, so hooray for that!
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While I could spend this entire post talking about SWTOR, there was much more to be seen today!  My next stop was Mortal Kombat, and if you were following me on Twitter yesterday, you’ll know I was very pleased with the game (so much so that it has moved to the top of my must-buy list).  It was also being shown in 3D which I was actually really impressed with (something I had yet to experience with 3D was it actually being used well; in Mortal Kombat it was).  I also was able to witness some fatalities which, while I wasn’t allowed to film, I will try to describe:

Sektor: Blasts opponent with a missile, launching various body parts into the air.  Sektor then uses five homing missiles which lock onto to each body part and blow those up.  The panning camera and lock-on indicators were fantastic; a very gratifying fatality.

Jax: A combo of two old-school fatalities; Jax smashes the opponent’s head before grabbing the arms and ripping them off.

Ermac: Uses telekinesis to raise the opponent into the air, then rips the limbs off the body before decapitating the opponent; all without laying a physical hand on them.

Noob Saibot: Summons a clone who appears on the other side of the victim.  The two pull on either arm and leg, ripping the body in half.  Very cool looking.

Liu Kang:  Pulls this one straight out of Temple of Doom, punches through the opponent, and when pulling his hand back, pulls out the heart of the person, which then catches on fire.

So there IS more game than just fatalities, and I am pleased to say that it plays and looks really good.  I was able to do a few tag battle rounds, and aside from my opponent pausing the game every 20 seconds to look at the move list (Pro-tip: Just play the game; you’re not in your living room with all the time in the world), I really enjoyed the game.  Neat little things like damage to the character carrying over between rounds, the x-ray critical hits (Which can be tag-teamed), and the flow of the game all led to a great experience.  It was well-balanced, fast paced, and a must buy if you like fighters.
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After I got my ass kicked by pause-a-lot, I checked out the Kinect section.  Michael Jackson experience was on one screen and, while I wasn’t wowed by the game, there were some neat features.  The first is, of course, that it has Michael Jackson music.  Yay.  It also puts you in the game using the Kinect camera, so you’re dancing along with the awful looking backup dancers.  One nice touch; when playing Billy Jean, the moves you do with your feet cause tiles to light up under you just like in the video.  Light up tiles won’t save this game otherwise, but it did seem fairly responsive,  and for those looking for more dance games for their Kinect, you’ll probably want to keep eyes on this.

I got to try Gunstringer, a Twisted Pixel offering.  I could sum this up in the tweet I made after playing this game:



First, it was very funny (read: witty).  You played the game with both hands, the left controlling left/right movement and jumping, and the right being used to target enemies and, with a gun-shoot motion of your hand, shooting them.  You could cue up to 6 enemies to shoot, and the animations of this action were great.  I won’t ruin the experience by going into details on the story or anything, but you will certainly want to check this title out.

I spent some time at the Magic: The Gathering booth, and checked out the new Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 that is coming out in the summer.  They were showcasing the Archenemy mode, which had 3 PC players playing against the computer.  Introduced in this version of the game were schemes, which allowed the computer to get beneficial effects like double damage, summoning 5/5 flying creatures, and more.  It helped keep things balanced (since otherwise 3 on1 isn’t exactly fair).  There’s also a new feature called AI-Takeover mode which means that if someone leaves the game, the AI can take over the hand so the game doesn’t become forfeit.  The game will be available on Steam, PSN and XBLA, and while there’s no confirmation on this, there was a hint that those that had purchased Duels of the Planeswalker 2011 might get a little something something for being an early adopter.  So, if you like Magic, you might want to pick up the current version now (which is a great game anyway). And yes, the team I was with beat the AI controlled opponent, which apparently was also a rarity (and considering one of the player’s game glitched and he had to drop out, that’s saying something).
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Some hands-on with Homefront was next, and while I wasn’t expecting much, it actually played pretty well.  The controls were a little stiff, and the graphics were a little grainy, but the urban combat was impressive and engaging.  At one point, you were moving from house to house to avoid tank fire when you come to a house with a mother and her screaming baby, as she’s begging you for help.  Rather than continuing to move on, you stop to secure the house.  It’s hard to describe the intensity of having a screaming baby in your ear as you try to protect the mother, who’s going between crying and comforting the child.  It just added a layer of realism that stuck with me after I had cleared that section.  If there are more moments like that in the game, it may be hard to pass this one up.

The last game I got any quality hands-on time was Dragon Nest, which was setup for people to just hop on and play with other people next to you as a group.  It was a light anime-style PRG that never felt too complex or overwhelming.  The combat was a little tricky since sometimes you can hit creatures when they were down and sometimes you couldn’t, and the skill attacks were tricky to pull off since you were balancing between holding the mouse button down for attack and mixing in special moves, but the difficulty wasn’t that high, so there wasn’t ever a threat.  There were better offerings out there, but if the style of this game intrigues you, it may be worth a run-through for you.
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Pro-Tip to swag organizers: know your audience.  You shouldn’t only have Medium and Large shirts.  Though my daughter thanks you for the shirt she’ll be able to wear in 15 years, since I will never fit into it.

Thus ended my day on the floor of Pax East 2011: day 2.  My night was not quite complete, however, as I had gotten an invite to the Star Wars: The Old Republic community meet and greet.  Not about to say no to a free drink, food and swag (for the journalistic needs of Platform Nation, I will make these sacrifices), I queued up and got the opportunity to talk with some of the developers about the game that they were very proud to be showcasing.  (Pro-tip: If you want stiffer drinks, and more for free, try tipping the bartender $5).

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Here was some of the info I acquired from the devs about the game:

  • In multiplayer NPC dialog, each player can choose their own response, and the game will roll to see who’s response is picked.  If you select a light option, and the dark option is picked, you will get light points.  However, if that chosen choice leads to a dark quest, you will be following a dark path.  As one dev put it, you can’t go up to the father of the NPC you killed after the fact and say “Hey, just so you know, I was against it the whole time.”  So you must choose your companions wisely.
  • There will be colormatching for various armor pieces so you can have a unified look.   Sounds like this will be optional, but it’s nice to know you won’t look like a rainbow if you don’t want to.
  • You will be able to dress your companion characters
  • Companions will not be allowed in high-end raids and certain warzones/flashpoints (this is currently in testing and may change)
  • Characters will be able to wear what they want, which means Jedi can roll around in trooper armor if they choose.

The devs seemed to be really focused on making this game a product of what the players want.  They said several times that the choices and direction they were going with the game were a direct result of the community feedback they were receiving. Based on what I played today, I’d say they are very much on the right track.

Also, they gave away some one-of-a-kind concept art posters to a few lucky people.  This was one of them; a guild ship (which they would not say was going to be in the game; I smell DLC):
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After collecting a few autographs and posters, it was time to head home.  It was a crazy day 2, and there is still so much more to see.  I wish this event lasted a week, because I know I won’t hit it all, but I do have times set up on Day 3 for Duke Nukem and Firefall, so if you were looking for info on those games, stay tuned to twitter, and come back to Platform Nation tomorrow to get the skinny on that and more.

For Pax East 2011 Day 1 Recap, click here.

For Pax East 2011 Day 3 Recap and Final Thoughts, click here.

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