There are independent games everywhere you look at PaxSouth and for fans of multiplayer madness, we tried out a couple of the best!
While I am not a fan of the fighting genre, I engaged in a few rounds of Brawlout due to the eye-catching character designs. They’re animated and dynamic, and kept me interested, long after my fingers became sore from mashing buttons. Watching excited con-goers pummel each other round after round definitely gives the idea that Brawlout can be the next big mainstay in the pro gaming circuits.
Brawlout is a competitive fighting game mixing the precision of violent fighters, with a gorgeous animated style. Up to 8 players can go at once in a match, along with ranked tourneys, a story campaign, and local party mode. Characters are based on different cultural deities, complete with unique combat styles, and can be customized for better abilities and special attacks. It’s perfect for fans of Smash.
Brawlout is currently scheduled for release in late Srping 2017 for XboxOne, PS4, and Steam.
Australian studio SMG markets Death Squared as a multiplayer puzzle game about cooperation, communication, and robot explosions. However, I am pretty sure this game is going to be how my friendships with the other Sub Cultured writers end. I found the four robot characters adorable (and they have a backstory!), and the levels challenging. If you liked all the minigames in other friendship ending games like Mario Party, this will be right up your alley.
Death Squared boasts over 120 levels with more on the way, ranging from intense problem solving with your teammates to simply maneuvering your character onto a button to finish the stage. A bit of warning: deaths are hilariously catastrophic and surprisingly meeting your end is very, very easy.
The game releases March 14, 2017 on XboxOne, PS4, and Steam, but keep an eye peeled for our Twitch stream where we will be giving out keys. There’ll probably be lots of swearing.
Want more PAX South 2017 coverage? All you had to do was ask!
Prisma and The Masquerade Menace, Sundered, and RiME
Minit, Beat Cop, and Strikers Edge
Arms, Splatoon 2, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Monster Boy, Warlock’s Tower, and Has-Been Heroes
Gorogoa & What Remains of Edith Finch
PaxSouth is a hub for intriguing and inventive games, and the first two video games from movie studio, Annapurna Pictures, are no exception.
Gorogoa caught my eye because of the art. It looked like a coloring book brought to life, like a dream you could wade through via computer. I spent a solid half hour diving into the story, figuring out some puzzles with lightning speed and stumbling through others while feeling judged by the character when I got stuck. That said, I can’t wait to get my hands on the entire game!
Designed, developed, and illustrated by Jason Roberts, Gorogoa is a completely unique game. The overall story is equal parts myth and magic as a boy sees a colossal monstrosity in his city and decides to unlock the secrets to finding it. Each gorgeous scene is split into four panels that you can explore through a simple point and click mechanic. Solving each puzzle reveals more of the story. Elegantly simple and perfect for fans enamored of lovely storytelling.
Gorogoa is scheduled to hit mobile devices and Steam in Spring 2017.
What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of short tales about a family in Washington state. As Edith, the player will explore the colossal Finch house, searching for stories. Each story you find lets you experience the life of a new family member on the day of their death, with stories ranging from the distant past to the present day, and culminating with that family member’s death.
In the 20 minute demo, we experienced the final moments of two different family members. The macabre interactive narrative is completely fresh in its storytelling and the attention to detail reminds the player that this title isn’t suited to the run-and-gun. I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you picking it up, but prepare yourself for some feelings. Oh, and remember to breathe.
What Remains of Edith Finch is due out Spring 2017 on Steam and PS4. Check back here, because this is the standout title that we absolutely cannot wait to get our grubby little hands on and review in depth!
Want more PAX South 2017 coverage? All you had to do was ask!
Prisma & The Masquerade Menace
Prisma & The Masquerade Menace is in the early stages of development, so early in fact that it’s not even on Kickstarter yet. That didn’t stop the developer from having a fully playable level from the demo at PAX South.
It’s got some rough edges, but it’s already rather polished. At its core, it’s a platformer game in which you take control of Ray, a girl who can switch between different colored dimensions to make objects appear or disappear. Each of these dimensions also gives her abilities like high jumping, fast running, and block destroying. Once you get used to switching between dimensions, it becomes much more like a Sonic game in which you feel compelled to go as fast as possible, switching dimensions quickly and trying to think on your feet.
Prisma is still in its early stages, but give their Kickstarter a look when it goes live later this month!
Sundered is a game that leaps out at you from a sea of titles at a gaming convention. It’s art style has a way of pulling you in, making you want more.
Sundered is a Metroidvania style platformer/exploration game in which you take control of Eshe, a wanderer exploring seemingly endless, always changing caverns filled with eldritch horrors. The controls solid and responsive and the game’s difficulty is a little more than Super Metroid (we died 3 times in the demo), making it feel like a substantial single player experience. Details like the hand drawn art and pencil marks when the camera is really zoomed in all combine to make this a visual feast that also delivers on a tight experience.
Sundered is coming out to PS4 and PC in July but you can Kickstart it right now here!
In RiME, you play a boy exploring a strange island trying to work your way to a pillar in its center. Along the way, you’ll solve puzzles, meet a super cute fox, and try to figure out the mysteries of your surroundings and what could have happened to make it the way it is now.
RiME feels a lot like Zelda mixed with Journey in the best possible way. The art style is stark and gorgeous, varying dramatically for different areas in the game. The world is all laid out in a way that’s easy to understand visually, which is a good thing since the game features no dialog or text, so you’re relying on just trying things out and being observant to solve puzzles.
RiME is due out summer 2017 on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Want more PAX South 2017 coverage? All you had to do was ask!
Monster Boy, Warlock’s Tower, and Has Been Heroes
Minit, Beat Cop, and Strikers Edge
Arms, Splatoon 2, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
2016 was a great year for video games. It may not go down in the history books as the most memorable year in the industry, but it was a solid year for bitg AAA and indie games alike. As always, my tastes often align with games with amazing a story and characters. For the sake of transparency, I feel the obligation to point out that, to me, gameplay always takes a back seat to narrative, before diving headfirst into last year’s lineup. Without further ado, below is a subjective list of my personal top ten picks of video games in 2016:
10. XCOM 2
XCOM 2 is a pretty standard sequel. With 2K Games publishing, and Firaxis developing, they didn’t feel obligated to reinvent the wheel that drove the first game and I think that works in its favor. However, there are some major refinements to what is already there, and with the addition of destructible environments, the game feels new enough to not feel like a retread of the original. XCOM is easily one of the hardest games I have ever played, which forced me to lower the difficulty to easy, for the first time in my gaming career. XCOM 2 is no different.
Now I excuse myself from this gamer sin by reminding you all that I am usually not a fan of the strategy RPG genre…but this series is so good. Build up your base, manage resources, send soldiers to their permanent deaths on away missions, upgrade gear and weaponry using stolen Intel, this game is stuffed to the brim with activities that will ensure that each play through feels different than the last.
Walking simulators and linear narrative experiences have become all the rage in the industry over the last few years. Games like Firewatch are top echelon examples of this genre. Campo Santo developed and produced a scenery is always captivating. However, the final smidgen of immersion is thanks to this game’s amazing musical score. The big achievement, are the characters in this game. Delilah and Henry are so lifelike that they are unforgettable.
I still think about the brilliant performances of Cissy Jones (Delilah) and Rich Sommer (Henry) that even a year later I catch myself thinking of their interactions. The sense of mystery permeates through the entire run-time, and while the big reveal did come off as critically polarizing, I felt it was the perfect way to resolve the narrative.
8. Mafia 3
The gameplay loop of Mafia 3 is very apparent early on in the experience. This turned many off, but those who stuck with it experienced next level story telling that transcends average game narratives. I thought the mechanics of the game were good enough to warrant its repetitive nature, but there is certainly a case to be made against that I am sure. By the time the credits rolled, I was completely fulfilled by the characters and narrative.
The story is so paramount in the personal success of this game for me, that i found it incredible easy to overlook its shortcomings. Also, if era based license music is your bag, this game does to the 60’s what GTA: Vice City did to capturing the music of the 80’s. Developers Hanger 13 did a fantastic job of capturing what it feels like to be in late 60’s New Orleans. Check out my review here.
7. Fire Emblem: Fates
Handheld games are woefully underappreciated these days. Fire Emblem: Fates is a shining example of the quality Nintendo still puts out on its mobile systems. Intelligent Systems and Nintendo SPD really stepped it up from the last entry, Fire Emblem Awakening. The game has you managing relationships with characters, dealing with perma-death of said characters, and trying to pair them up properly to create the best children to help you in your quest.
You have 3 completely different stories to choose from, and each story represents your character on different sides of the same war. The run time is packed with cheeky humor, a very interesting tale about war, and some feel good character moments. Also the tactical RPG mechanics are above and beyond the others in the genre. If you own a 3DS, you should be playing this game. There should be a law.
6. Forza Horizon 3
Nobody warned me that I was going to be getting the best racing game of all time this year. Racing games always act as the perfect pallet cleansers for the bigger Triple A games that flood the market, so I try and pick up one racing game annually. I am a big Forza fan, and usually enjoy the simulation entries in the series more. Well there is a new love in town, and it is Forza Horizon 3. Playground Games has made trekking across the Australian landscape as beautiful as it is exhilarating.
The sacrifice of true simulation controls are for the better as these tracks often lead you through dense forests, and varied environments are more fun to traverse with the more forgiving controls. The cars still feel amazing to drive, each with their own varied feel. The amount of vehicles and customization to choose from are staggering and the freedoms each race offers ensure you will have a tailored event to every race you want to participate in. This is a masterclass racer that deserves all the praise it is getting.
5. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided reels in the big story moments to create a much more subtle and low key narrative. While the first game focused itself on more wide reaching conspiracies that could affect the world, this game was more about trying to investigate a singular terrorist attack. Now as the mystery unfolds you will see the larger conspiracies begin to showcase themselves but the story never feels as large scale as Human Revolution. This is by no means a bad thing. Edios Montreal made sure the world felt more fleshed out and detailed as you explored the HUB areas, picking up missions, items, and intel.
The story itself serves as a stepping stone to set up a much larger narrative that is sure to come in either DLC or the next main entry to the series. The characters, specifically the antagonists, can be archetypal at times but they never fall short of interesting. Adam Jensen never felt better to control, and this will be one of the few games from this year that I will go back and replay as I missed many of the completely missable side missions.
By the time Inside wraps up you will be left with so many questions that you will have to do a little research on yourself to fully understand. While some hate the post credits homework assignment, I loved it. Working towards understanding a complex and cerebral story in a visual medium is why video game narratives work so well. Collectively, fans worked together to pull in the major themes and ideas to cultivate quite the amazing answer to what it is you are exactly experiencing at the end of the game.
Inside’s aesthetics are simple but somehow always manage to be impressive. Developer Playdead uses light puzzle mechanics that are a welcomed feature and are challenging enough to make you feel smart when you complete them, but not overly hard and time consuming to the point of frustration. Come for the gameplay, stay for the graphics, leave with a wonderfully complex narrative. It is easily the most atmospheric game of the year. Check out my review here.
3. Quantum Break
Boy howdy what a polarizing game. This is a hard experience to gauge as it seems like a 50/50 split on people who enjoyed it and people who just did not like it. Remedy Entertainment, the developers, had the idea of having a game that is part playable video game, and part TV show, was bold and innovative, and for me it totally paid off. The TV section could have come off corny and boring, but they were everything but. The actors nailed their perceptive roles and the production value was high. I eagerly awaited the next episode at the end of every playable act.
The gameplay itself is some of Remedy’s finest. The shooting controls are tight, and they work brilliantly with the time manipulation mechanics. I feel powerful in this game, while never sacrificing the challenge. I think this is one of the most well performed games on the block, and the story is an incredible time traveling tale, that rivals even some of the best movies of the same subject.
2. Final Fantasy XV
This game had every right to be bad, but ten years in the making, it comes out the other side a not only playable but fantastic Final Fantasy game. The game is equal parts something old and something new. It always feels like Final Fantasy but the new combat mechanics are such a welcomed addition. After all, a complete overhaul of mechanics is the modus operandi of Final Fantasy, always exchanging a materia system, for a gambit system, never using the same mechanics more than once.
While the story is not present enough, and character motivations are hardly, if ever clear, I never felt robbed of the story or experience. Enough was there to deliver the big and small moments, and it created an interesting journey that has a very rewarding destination. This was the first Final Fantasy, I ever beat only to immediately start a new game over again. The adventure was addicting enough to make up for its noticeable shortcomings. Hajime Tabata and his team at Square Enix Business Division 2, finally brought us the Final Fantasy game we’ve been waiting for.
1. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Never in my life have I seen revisionist history work so quickly. This game came out to dropped jaws, near perfect scores, and collective praise across gamers and critics alike. Fast forward a few short months, and people deem this game a disappointment, forgettable, and long in the tooth. Well, you’re all wrong, I am sorry to say.
The game IS objectively a technical masterpiece. Uncharted 4 DOES have some of the best performances and voice acting in the whole industry. You WILL experience one of the best original scores of the year. Uncharted 4 delivers stand out moments in both action and character in a way that Michael Bay wishes he could recapture. These are all undebatable things in my eyes, and not only does it deserve to be my personal number one, but it deserves the right to be called Game of the Year 2016. No other game comes close to deserving such praise. Niel Druckmann,and his team at Naughty Dog has created a near perfect experience, and it deserves your attention if you are a PlayStation 4 owner.
So there ya have it, a full year in review of the totally subjective best games of 2016. There are so many Indie games I wish i could further represent here. Games like Oxenfree, Virginia, Abzu, Stories: The Path of Destiny, Salt and Sanctuary, and I am Setsuna, are beautiful, narrative driven experiences that deserve a place on this list, and surely your absolute attention.
Plenty of big Triple A games did not make it either, but are worth the call out. Games like Doom, Titanfall 2, and Dark Souls 3 are also unmissable entries in their franchises. We were far from lacking as gamer’s this year. How did this year fair for you? Anything you felt I missed or overlooked? If there is one thing you could take away from this year, what would you say it is? For me I noticed a very obvious turn in the use of original scores in games. This has easily been one of the best years for the industry in terms of music. Share your list down below in the comments! Let’s chat about last year!
It’s that time of year again when we have a day of reflection and I sort through everything I’ve read and make a top graphic novel list of sorts. This year was difficult in a tremendous amount of ways, but I found solace among the pages of this spectacular medium. Comics were DOPE AF this year. There were so many fantastic stories. There were so many in fact, that I had to make three separate lists for all the books I wanted to include.
Without further ado, let’s get to my top graphic novels of 2016, ranked in no particular order! My criteria were few:
- Released at some point in 2016
- Stand alone or collected a mini-series
- I thought about it a lot throughout the year
LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN
POISON IVY: CYCLE OF LIFE AND DEATH
STEVEN UNIVERSE & CRYSTAL GEMS
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL BEATS UP MARVEL UNIVERSE
DRAWN & QUARTERLY
X-MEN TP WORST X-MAN EVER
In a quiet seaside town, a gas station clerk named Huck secretly uses his special gifts to do a good deed each day. When his story leaks, a media firestorm erupts, bringing him uninvited fame. As pieces of Huck’s past begin to resurface, it’s no longer clear who his friends are-or whose lives may be in danger. Mark Millar’s bright, sweet story about a man particularly good at finding is akin to laying in bed in the sunlight on a Sunday afternoon. A completely pure story among this year’s indie sci-fi dystopias.
That rounds out my top 10! It was not an easy task and I’m already not looking forward to doing one of these for 2017. Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know in a comment!
To those of us enamored of Carrie Fisher, the most important person in your life, you were a comfort. You helped an icon be the best she could be. You were there with her to the end.
May I share a couple of personal stories with you?
In 1977, my parents went on a date to see a movie. I don’t know whether they argued about what to see, but ultimately they saw Star Wars. They tucked away the name “Luke” on the chance they had a boy in the near future. I arrived nine years later and was instead given the name of the space princess who saved a galaxy. Inevitably, I grew up watching Carrie in A New Hope over and over again. She stood up to an entire fucking Empire! I can’t impress upon you enough what that felt like, to see a woman staring defiantly in the face of oppression and darkness. It was an honor to have such a name as Leia. When I felt weak, I looked to her character for guidance. “What Would Princess Leia Do?” became a mantra.
She gave me new hope every time I felt hopeless.
Learning that the woman who played her was just as strong and just as fiery was AMAZING. Carrie Fisher was outspoken and honest about everything, even when the world at large told her she shouldn’t be. She struggled with being bipolar, and spoke candidly about the stigma surrounding it.
That’s when you came along. Seeing you became synonymous with knowing she felt more at peace with herself. You helped her so much, Gary! In fact, my second story is about you.
In May 2015, I attended a Dallas convention in a spur of the moment decision. My time was spent showing a convention newbie around the place. When we entered a hallway between the dealer room and the autograph area, you zoomed out to us, barking happily. We squatted and gave you a couple of pets before I froze. A voice I knew all too well rang out in the quite hallway.
“GARY, MY LOVE, COME!” she called out and off you went, tongue out, tail wagging.
I gripped my companion as we stood, ecstatic that I’d gotten to meet you.
You probably don’t need me to tell you how great she was, as you knew her much better than I did. My awe of her was spent largely from afar, one of many many fans of her work, both onscreen and off.
It doesn’t make me sad I never officially got to meet her, because I get to see her whenever I’d like. I get to share her story with everyone and describe how a princess could save herself, an entire galaxy, and ultimately, me. A whole new generation of people just got the chance to fall in love with one of the greatest heroes of our time.
That will always be what Carrie Fisher was to me…A hero.
I am so sorry that she has left your side, but please let me say from the bottom of my broken heart: Thank you, Gary.