Big shiny games: PAX Aus report

Posted on November 7, 2014

The Expo floor of games shows tends to push the big shiny new releases that publishers are keen to get into the public eye, and this year two titles in particular caught my attention. Evolve generated a great amount of interest through its innovative approach to multiplayer, while Battlecry stood out for its distinctive art design and frantic battlefield combat. Both titles are based on new IP (Intellectual Property), meaning that they are not just another FIFA or Call of Duty, and tend to be risky. They bring a freshness to the gaming scene which is always quite welcome.

Evolve is basically a 5-player multiplayer shooter, with a combination of familiarity and difference. On the one hand, four of the players play as particular classes of hunter, with specific skills which complement each other to complete the mission which is to take down a massive alien monster. The difference comes in because the final player plays as that monster, effectively fighting against four of their friends. The monster begins by running away from the hunters, but through eating prey and evolving, turns the tables to deliver awesome powerful damage to its opponents.

This is a very interesting gameplay design known as ‘asynchronous multiplayer’. This means that different players are in the same game but playing differently; in parallel, if you like. The player who is the monster is very much alone against the team with completely different mechanics, goals and challenges. This new approach to multiplayer is becoming more and more common, especially with the WiiU and ‘second screen’ capabilities of next-generation consoles.

The other big shiny game I managed to try out (after a decent wait in the queue) was Battlecry, a multiplayer battle arena type thing. What I loved about this game was the art design and world-building. The art design (headed by Victor Antonov, of Half-Life 2 and Dishonored fame) uses simple cell-shaded art, not unlike a cartoon. This was used to famous effect by the Borderlands games, but allows for anime-style action and heavily stylised gore effects. The game itself is set in an alternate-history Edwardian era, where war has become ritualised in a closed-in battle arena, to be carried out by a warrior elite who represents their nation. It’s an intriguing premise.

In terms of gameplay, Battlecry is a fairly familiar squad-based multiplayer, where teams of up to six battle it out to capture points and complete objectives with a variety of class types (heavy melee, light melee/stealth, ranged). Taking advantage of the map and working cohesively as a team is essential to overcome the opposing team. The battle is frenetic and high-paced, but gives players of all preferences and ability types the chance of victory. Most interestingly, the core offering of Battlecry will be free – yes, free! – adding to the impressive range of free-to-play (F2P) titles that is developing.

Neither of these titles are likely to be very appropriate for younger players, but in their different ways they bring something fresh to a gaming scene which is all too often dominated by endless repeats of the same franchises. I’ll be keeping a keen eye out for both these titles.

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