Today was the first day of PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) 2009. I have to admit that I hadn't really been paying attention to many of the press materials prior to the show, and I was a little taken aback when the family unit and I arrived on-site to find that the place was an even larger, more spread-out roil of gamers than it was last year. I think the expo may be reaching its critical mass at the Washington State Trade & Convention Center, honestly. I certainly don't want it to leave, but I have a hard time imagining more people being able to cram into that space.
(Interesting side note, the cosplay factor was an order of magnitude higher this year than it was in 2008. Not sure what caused the shift, but it seemed that every time I turned around, I was being faced with a roly-poly Cobra Commander or a giant Heartless, complete with twirling propeller.)
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend for the entire day due to some previous obligations, but I did manage to squeeze in nearly three hours, and spent all of it on the exhibition floor. I covered the majority of the displays, and I have to say that there weren't many big surprises in terms of new announcements or titles I hadn't seen before. However, there were some surprises in that some games were either better or worse in person than I thought they might be.
Here are just a few quick notes for now, I plan to go over the rest of the games in greater detail tomorrow.
White Knight Chronicles (PlayStation 3)
I only watched this game running for a few minutes, but what I saw really turned me off. Although I would ordinarily say that I was a big Level 5 fan, I'm not so sure anymore. Rogue Galaxy became intolerable after 15 or 20 hours, and the section of WKC that I saw seemed to start with the same slow "go search the village" kind of activities that I've grown to detest in recent years. I plan to really give this one the once-over tomorrow, but unless I see something mind-blowingly cool, I'm going to call this one a "must be cautious". I'm just too tired of overly-long JRPGs, honestly.
Darkest of Days (PC/Xbox 360)
All I basically know about this is that the player jumps back and forth in time and takes part in historical battles with anachronous weaponry. The idea intrigues me, and the build I saw running looks really smooth. I want to see more.
Fate/Unlimited Codes (PlayStation Portable)
This 2.5D fighting game came out of nowhere for me just a few days before the show. It appears to be based on a license of some anime, but I have no idea of what the source material is about. From my brief time with it, I was fairly impressed with the character design and the handling seemed good. Of course, fighting games are all about the details, but I was definitely liking what I was seeing. Apparently, this game is only available through the PSN Store for $30… I'm not entirely sure if that information is correct, but if so, I'm a little put off by the price. Weren't download-only titles supposed to pass savings on to the consumer by skipping the retail overhead and cost of producing physical copies?
Dark Void (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)
I expected this game to be mobbed at the Capcom booth, but there were only a few people milling about. Watching over the shoulder of someone who would not give the kiosk up, this game looks like 100% pure fun. I definitely want to get a hands-on tomorrow, but I was immediately drawn in by the jet pack and flight mechanics, and I was a huge fan of the Xbox's Crimson Skies. Some members of the development team are behind this game, and that's great news to me.
Darksiders (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)
I know there are some people out there who have hopes for this game, but I have to say that it looked painfully generic to me. However, the developers have really put a lot of time into it and the build running was an order of magnitude smoother and more put-together than what they had on display last year. If I had to put money on it, I'd say that this is one of those games that will be a fun weekender for $20 used.
Brutal Legend (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)
Looks like Tim Schafer may have got his mojo back. I definitely need more time with this one tomorrow, but it was looking very sharp and although the animation was a bit stiff, the fun factor seems to be pretty high.
Dante's Inferno (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)
Total God of War clone, but everyone already knew this. It runs smooth and looks crisp, but I can't say that I'm crazy about the art direction. The main character just looks kind of "off" to me, and his main weapon—a scythe made out of a spine—looks entirely too huge and clunky to be cool. I watched a short bit that culminated in a QTE battle that could have come straight out of Sparta, and I couldn't get past the whole "shameless cash-in" aura surrounding it. It looks technically competent enough, but I suspect it's spiritually lacking.
That's it for now, check back tomorrow for more impressions from the show.
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