As I type this, the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston, MA (PAX east) is winding down its final day. Due to the near complete absence of most of the biggest companies in the video game industry, it has focused primarily on Indie games which seem to greatly favor the PC platform as a more open method of distribution thanks in no small part to Steam. Publisher 2K has had the most to show and will be the primary focus of this roundup. No big pieces of news have come from the event, except for an unconfirmed release window for the Steam Controller and Machines, but there’s still plenty to talk about and much to contemplate as we move closer to what will certainly be a massive E3 2014.
Evolve may be Best in Show at PAX East:
Attendees to PAX East had the opportunity to play Evolve at its booth and most have now declared it their favorite game at the event. Developed by Turtle Rock (the same studio that made Left 4 Dead along-side Valve) and published by 2K, Evolve is a 4 player class-based co-op shooter with a bit of a twist – a fifth player controls the omni-present, all-powerful, boss character in the form of a giant monster called the Goliath who can evolve by consuming other living creatures to gain strength. A couple of new screenshots (which I have yet to find an official link for, but they’re out there) were also released showing off the games current visuals. Evolve was recently announced last December and is already expected for release by the end of the year for current-gen consoles and, of course, Steam.
Below coming to Steam:
First revealed during E3 2013 as an Xbox One exclusive, the indie title “Below” has now been confirmed for a Steam release. A new trailer shown during PAX East made the reveal in a rather subtle way by only showing the Steam fly crank logo in-game after splashing the Xbox One logo across the screen. Official word came later that the trailer did, in fact, signify a Steam release was coming, but no release date was given nor any indication that the game may be a timed exclusive on the Xbox One – meaning that the Steam release would come later in the year. Below was featured at PAX East where gamers were allowed to play it for the first time, eliciting some extremely positive reactions. The game is a rouge-like with a top-down view and an emphasis on exploration. Below is being developed by Capybara Games (Capy), who previously gained fame with Super Brothers: Sword and Sworcery. As with Sword and Sworcery, Jim Guthrie will be composing the soundtrack for Below, which I think I may be even more excited about than the game itself.
Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth announced:
It’s always great to see an established series go outside of its element. And you can’t go more outside of a historical city-builder than to give it a sci-fi twist and send it into space. That’s exactly what is happening with Sid Meier’s Civilization in the newly announced title, Beyond Earth. The announcement came in the form of a trailer and took many at PAX by surprise. It was initially thought that Beyond Earth was a sequel to the 1999 classic, Alpha Centauri, but since the rights for that game are owned by EA, Beyond Earth has been dubbed a “spiritual successor”. The game’s plot revolves around a terrible sequence of events that occur over a few hundred years that render Earth uninhabitable. You, the player, are tasked with ensuring the survival of mankind by colonizing an entirely new planet. The game will feature a quest system for the first time in the series. Polygon has a huge and very informative write-up on Beyond Earth that’s well worth the reading if you’re a fan. Beyond Earth is set for release on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux this fall for $49.99.
Orcs Must Die: Unchained announced as free-to-play:
Yet another game to be released this fall is Orcs Must Die: Unchained, the latest in the popular fortress-defense series. Unchained takes the classic Orcs Must Die system and adds a marketplace where players can spend real money to either make things easier, or to actually win the game (we have yet to see which of those two will end up being the case). The game will be released for free exclusively on Steam. Those who are the most die-hard fans of the series can actually play the game right now, but it’ll cost you $150 (what?!). A founders program for the game is active that rewards contributors with various levels of early access, in-game gold, items, and game codes. Just another example of why I still don’t entirely understand free-to-plays. Oh well.
HomeWorld Remastered gets a huge limited edition, runs at 4K resolution:
The HD remake of the two games in the classic HomeWorld series will have a special treat for fans with deep pockets. A very limited edition of HomeWorld Remastered was unveiled by 2K at PAX East which will include a foot-tall, light-up statue of the main ship from the original games. Only a few thousand of these will be available, and there’s no word yet on when the collection, in any form, will be available for pre-order; other than that it will be released in the Fall (gonna be a hell of a game season). Gearbox also stated at PAX that HomeWorld Remastered will run at 4K resolution on PCs capable of such pixel-pushing. HomeWorld Remastered will include both games in both classic and new HD flavors and will be released digitally on Steam. The Homeworld IP was purchased by Gearbox as part of the THQ sell-off after the publisher went out of business last year.
PC touted as the “dominant gaming platform” at PAX East:
Not like we needed to be told this, but for it to be said publicly at PAX East by a couple of fairly big names in the industry is a welcome reinforcement considering that everything in the past few months has been nothing but the latest consoles trying everything they can to sell themselves to an increasingly uncaring audience. During a panel at PAX, Palmer Luckey (Oculus co-founder), Matt Higby (Planetside 2 creative director ), Chris Roberts (Star Citizen creator), and Tom Petersen (Nvidia technical marketing director) spoke out against the greatly over-exaggerated rumors of the PC market’s demise due to lowering hardware sales. According to these experts, PC gaming is expanding at a rapid rate and continues to be, as it has been for a long time, the “dominant platform”. Economic difficulties have likely resulted in fewer consumers buying new machines, but sales of Nvidia GPUs are up and most games continue to support a broad range of PC configurations, making older computers still viable. They also noted that dropping prices for 4K PC hardware will see the new and incredibly high resolution become a standard feature well ahead of any console system (remember when both the Xbox One and PS4 claimed to be 4K capable?). You can read more about the panel’s discussion at Ars Technica but the short of it is that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear/read and rely more on what you witness yourself.
Phew, that was a long Roundup…