The Best of Pax Prime 2014: Of Monsters and Marriage

PAX is almost a massive game unto itself. It has secret rules and systems that reward certain behavior and disincentivize others, amazing players, weird random encounters, and easter eggs of many kinds. While at the show I often see many more games and have many awesome encounters that I can’t quite devote 800 words to, so I created a just-as-strange awards list to give you the gist of some of those encounters.

Best game to play with a confused stranger: Chariot.
Microsoft showed off their newfound support for independent game developers their ID at Xbox event, and I had a blast with Frima Studios’ two player co-op game Chariot. This side-scroller places you as a  Princess and her fiancè, tasked with moving her dead father’s coffin to its final resting place. Chariot’s playstyle allowed my partner and I to give each other opportunities for success, both by teaching and by handing over responsibility for leading puzzles. Even Chariot’s high-five mechanic seems designed to encourage rewarding, friendly teamwork.

Best game for Super Smash Bros fans: Rivals of Aether.
Another independent game from ID at Xbox, Rivals of Aether is a side-scrolling fighting game that plays suspiciously like Nintendo’s big brawler, to the point myself and Dan Fornace kept calling certain moves “smashes” instead of a more specific term. Though the game bills itself as a competitive fighting game, Rivals of Aether retains an easy learning curve reminiscent of its Smash Bros. DNA that could make it a great fighting game for your Xbox One.

Best game I wrote an article about: Massive Chalice. It was hands down my favorite game on the show floor.

Best monster hunting, player decapitating game: Evolve.
With every PAX event, I grow more skeptical of shooters available to the press. Their demos are usually solid, but they all play so similarly, it can be hard to tell them apart. Evolve broke that trend and finally convinced me that the FPS genre can still produce vibrant games. Evolve’s class system transcends four homogenous players with different machine guns, and rewards behavior like scouting for the enemy with a UAV or using the trapping tools to keep the monster locally bound. Though the best moment was probably, upon launching the aforementioned UAV, hearing another player scream, “Why did your head just fly off?!”

Best game focused on Orc politics: Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor.
I remain suspicious of the story’s focus on another revenge-driven dad, but a 20 minute play through at PAX at least ignited my taste for Orc blood. The game’s touted Orc political system unites a large game world and creates interesting “enemy of my enemy” encounters that can resolve in multiple ways. The wraith powers make the game feel like a mishmash of Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed and Dishonored, and a clever mechanic of promoting Orcs up for killing you helps maintain momentum even through death.

And finally...

Best cosplay: ALL OF THEM. But here are a few of the ones I got photos of: