PAX East Friday Roundup
PAX East 2023 was out in full force on Friday with a sold out crowd eager to get their hands on upcoming games. I was out on the floor Friday and was able to test numerous RPGs.
Dead Island 2
Dead Island is back! While the first was might with mixed reviews (including RPGamer) the public reception was enough for Plaion Studios to release another one, even if it has taken a while. Right away, Dead Island 2’s visuals pop, from the red neon lights coming off of a Ferris wheel in the distance reflect beautifully off the nearby ocean water. The zombie-killing game features plenty of gore with weapons ranging from axes, wrenches, and assault rifles. Combat is punishing and took some time to figure out, but when it works, it really works. There was one moment in particular when a long horizontal swing with a mallet took out two zombies back-to-back with the motion slowing down to bask in the glory of the cinematic-looking kill. By the time I wrapped up with the demo I was ready to slay some more zombies in Dead Island 2.
“Doomed multiverse” title Trinity Fusion features many genres, and while first-and-foremost a roguelite, it also has elements of platformers, action, and RPGs. The demo begins with the player choosing one of Maya’s three parallel selves, with each with their own unique playstyles. Combat was the main feature of the available demo, showing off the games tight evasive maneuvers like slides, mid-air dashes, and double jumps to evade oncoming attacks. No matter which character the player chose, each had a normal attack and a special attack to use. Trinity Fusion’s combat was fun to play, but also very challenging. While my time with Trinity Fusion was short, those interested won’t have to wait long as the game launches Early Access on April 13, 2023.
Wayfinder is an MMO-ish RPG that doesn’t let the player control their own character, but instead choose individual characters that all have their own abilities. The customization comes in the characters abilities and the weapons they wield. Dungeons are procedurally generated and players can customize them for certain loot during the run. There is also an two open areas that the player is free to explore to find items, treasure, and rifts, and additional open zones will be added every other season. I used a close-combat magic character and gave them twin blades. For this particular character, the abilities worked together well with one gaining magic for another ability that was hard-hitting move, and another that allowed extra damage to enemies tagged within a magic circle. Abilities can also be leveled up and unlock new powers as the player gains experience. Wayfinder aims to be a social game, even though many of those elements were not on display during the demo. Those curious about Wayfinder can learn more when the game releases as an Early Access title on PC and PlayStation consoles in May.
Demonschool was by far the best of show for me on Friday at PAX East. The 1970s Italian gothic horror aesthetic works incredibly well with its 2D/3D visuals. The inspiration takes form with its hyper-saturated, neon-inspired colors. That alone was interesting enough to draw attention to the game, but then the tactical combat piqued my interest even more. Demonschool strikes a good balance of streamlining tactics combat that can be inviting for newcomers of the genre, but plenty of depth to engage even the most hardcore tactical gamers. There’s a lot to love about Demonschool and will likely be a day-one purchase for me whenever it is released.