Fun & Games

PAX Australia 2017 – Day 3 Impressions

The last day of PAX Australia 2017 and when I need to line up for something outside, THAT’S when the sun pops out again to beat down on my thinning hair line. Buy it was worth it… I finally got to play Sea of Thieves! πŸ™‚

The demo put players into assigned groups so that they could experience the cooperative aspects of the game and it will take some getting used to but I can see it working well for groups willing to help each other. Using a ship really requires help from everyone. The helmsman can’t see a thing due to the sails blocking their forward view so someone needs to jump up into the crows nest to view the landscape. And because they are up there the rest of the crew need to work the sails, anchor and cannons because it takes too long to use them effectively if you are steering or being the lookout.

My Sea of Thieves demo station.

I’m assuming the demo throws you into the deep end (pun intended) because while we attempted to find a lost treasure it wasn’t long before we landed in the middle of the storm, got hit by lighting, ran aground then were sunk by the opposing group. Ship damage requires players to patch up your ship and use buckets to empty water from your vessel so even failure leads to ways that your team is kept busy.

When all else fails and you’re minus a ship and stranded in the middle of nowhere you can search for a mermaid, usually floating just off shore and waving a flare-like device, who will helpfully whisk you back to shore or ship. If your failure proves to be a little more fatal you end up on a ghost ship, forced to wait for a period before you can return. The punishment is there but won’t deprive you from playing the game for too long.

Visually the game is pretty marvellous with an animated look and feel. Characters are exaggerated and bounce around cheerfully. The environments though are really something. The ocean is pretty impressive to see in action and your ship moves in a way that seems realistic in the sense it fits what you expect from the world. Moving around on the deck in a storm is not as simple as you’d think. Combined with the skyboxes and the weather systems that can just roll in storms at the drop of a (pirate) hat I think you could be quite happy just steering around the sea as a crew and enjoying just those sights.

Hard to say more from the gameplay after a twenty minute run but it gives me the kind of vibe I’d expect from a first person / multiplayer version of Sid Meier’s Pirates! which is damned cool. Still hoping to get into the Alpha but if not I think I will be buying this when it eventually arrives on PC and Xbox One in 2018.

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After that Darkelf and I spent some time playing through the Atari 2600 version of Space Invaders in its co-op mode which had a neat little mechanic in that while you shared lives during the game, death would result in a little bonus to your buddy’s score. Totally forgot about that one! πŸ™‚ After that it was the arcade version of Rampage which still comes across as a fun distraction even now.

Toward the end of the day we got to speak with the guys from Weird and Retro and ausretrogamer who turned out to not just be massive Atari 8bit fans but perhaps the greatest Lynx collectors in the history of Atari’s little handheld that might’ve. Like yesterday I’m really considering working on my collection further. πŸ™‚

The last event for the day was the final of the Omegathon with two players duking it out for the title of champion of this year’s PAX. This one had a local spin to it with the game being Crossy Road… Now that might seem a little too easy but there was another twist to it in that it would be played using a custom built balance board! Three rounds of fifteen attempts each and a clear winner wasn’t determined until the very end of the last round.

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My time at PAX this year has been a lot more relaxed and perhaps I’ve been able to appreciate it more as a result. I didn’t try to go and see every single thing but had enough time to wander around and see what I thought was cool or interesting. It certainly seems that Melbourne is a favourite location of the Penny Arcade team so hopefully it’s going to stay here for the foreseeable future. If it does I’ll keep on showing up… it’s been five years so far and I still keep looking forward to the next year.

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