PAX East 2011: Day One Adventures and Hands On Reviews

On the first day of PAX East 2011, there was a ton to see and not as much to focus on. While I’ll write fuller previews later on some of my hands on experiences at the show, I’ll give some brief impressions of games that I played today.

Lord of the Rings: War of the North: You might recall my preview of this action-RPG back at E3 last year. The game impressed me when demoed in front of me, and this time, I got to actually play it. As a human, I was a ranger who could fire bow-and-arrows and hack and slash with swords, while having some unique human powers such as find berries and other nourishment.

When I fired my arrows into the hides of orcs and trolls, the arrows actually persistently remained in the creature; trolls soon resembled pin cushions. Making consecutive swings and hits on enemies without getting hit myself raised the combo meter, until I was able to make impressive finishing moves, such as climbing up a troll and stabbing it in the back of the neck. All this was going on as my human co-op partners were doing their thing. The dwarf was hacking away with his axe, while the elf was creating missile barriers and firing energy bolts. All in all, it was a fun game and should be a hit when released, especially since it’s the first M-rated Lord of the Rings game.

Mortal Kombat; Basically, to sum it up, it’s as advertised. Mortal Kombat‘s brutality is finally matched with intelligent gameplay and some next-gen graphics. The PlayStation 3 version I played had some sweet, detailed player models. While many moves are easy to pick up, an experienced player will learn the counters and trick moves. Also revealed was a 300 story “Challenge Tower” forcing players to win matches in unusual ways, such as only using punches, and so on.

F.E.A.R. 3: I was treated to an online multiplayer game mode aptly called “F**CKING RUN”. Basically, you and three other players co-op against a horde of enemy players. The catch? There’s a big roiling smoke wall of death that is following you. While you can’t be killed, you can be knocked out of commission, forcing other players to revive you, because if that wall touches a player, alive or unconscious, it’s game over, you lose. The game mode really forces players to forge forward no matter what, and will probably be a game mode copied by other games.

The Darkness II: I got to play an early build of this game, but it was extremely exciting. You’re back as Jackie Estacado, and he finds himself crucified by a mysterious, gap-toothed hobo who wants you to give him The Darkness, the evil power you wield that is only active when there’s no light. During the 20 minute introduction, you find yourself the target of a mob rubout, as dozens of assassins firing on you in the middle of a restaurant; the innocent bystanders in the restaurant don’t fare so well. Eventually, you’re using your demon arms to cut, slice, and eat enemies’ hearts out, and you’re joined by an imp who wears a Union Jack shirt – you have to wonder if it’s an homage to Yahtzee Croshaw.

The game has a graphic novel look, and the action has improved over the previous game. It was pretty impressive even in its alpha state. Keep an eye out for this one.

Duke Nukem Forever: I also got to play the same demo that debuted at PAX Prime last year when the game was unveiled to the masses, and while the humor is still the high point, the controls are somewhat sluggish. Since this is the old build from months ago, it’s somewhat safe to assume that the final version will be cleaned up. The game is a throwback, and it’ll be interesting to see how well it does in retail.

Guild Wars 2: Not much new has been revealed since last year’s hands-on time with Guild Wars 2, but the folks did unveil two new classes: the Guardian and the Thief. Once again, the customization of the character’s background and how it directly affects the missions the player goes on still remained the key bullet point. The Guardian and Thief’s powers were both interesting (one has protection abilities, the other is a rogue, as the classes’ names imply), but the dynamic world of Guild Wars 2 where one situation affects another which in turn affects another, and so on, remains the highlight of gameplay.

City of Heroes: Episode 20 will finally bring raids to City of Heroes in the form of “Leagues.” Formerly, the largest team size was up to 8 characters. Now, characters can form or join groups of up to 48 characters. This will come along with new regions to fight such as a floating base where alternate dimension anti-heroes are invading. Level 20-40 characters will also be able to engage in multistage instances called “Task Forces”, just like their level 50 counterparts.

Aion: Aion will be prepping for the level cap boost as well as new missions and instances.

Two other games I saw and toyed with here Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale and Bastion. Both are Torchlight-style action-RPGs for Xbox Live Arcade, though Daggerdale harkens more to the old Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games. Bastion is more cartoonish, and also has an in-game narrator that tells your tale as you play; your actions make his narration change.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow, I hope to get some hands-on time with Brink and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Stay tuned!

Jonah Falcon is a blogger for TMRzoo and and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Jonah provides his readers with reviews, previews and up to date gaming industry news and rumors.

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