Roberto's Top 10 Games at PAX East 2023
Pax East 2023 returned to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Bigger and better than ever, there were more exhibitors and games to play than in the past year. This year was a kaleidoscope of different experiences. Players swiped their axes in Amid Evil VR. Wrestling matches took place on the floor to excite Wrestle Story. Goofy Goobers got their sponge on with Spongebob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake.
There was something for everyone, and across four days, I happened to play well over 20 different tiles. Here is my top ten games for PAX EAST 2023.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun
Warhammer games are a dime aplenty these days, between Warhammer 4000 Inquisitor Martyr and Warhammer: 40000 Battle Sector. 2023 is shaping to be an excellent year with the arrival of the highly anticipated Warhammer 40000: Space Marine II, but Warhammer Boltgun is shaping to be an excellent appetizer before the main course. Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is Warhammer 40,000 meets Quake and Doom.
Warhammer: Boltgun blasts away the enemies of the Emperor like it's 1999. The combat is fast, fluid, and brutal. The blessed boltgun punishes foes with impunity, and the chainsword rips apart heretics. It's an absolute delight of a game. Warhammer: Boltgun also takes place in the aftermath of 2011's Warhammer: Space Marine, continuing the story left by that game. Whether you are a loyal member of The Imperium or someone that's never heard of an Adeptus Mechanicus, Warhammer Boltgun is shaping to be a definitive shooter of 2023.
It's a cool Summer in the late 90s. Toonami is playing Dragon Ball Z, and a promo for Sailor Moon airs first. There are Gundam Wing action figures on the shelves. A poster of Jean from Outlaw Star is on the wall. After going through the likes of Chrono Cross, Suikoden, and Final Fantasy VII on PS1, Atlas Arcadian appears through a portal and right into the PlayStation disc tray. Arcadian Atlas is a tactic-inspired turn-based fantasy JRPG that is very much its own tale of magic and swords infused with the best of what made the genre so popular.
Arcadian Atlas is vibrantly animated with a focus on characters, strong combat, and a vivid world where magic must be regulated. Between a raccoon that shoots crossbows and a knight that shakes the Earth, playing Atlas Arcadian was a blast that I couldn't get enough of. It was immersive and engrossing, with enjoyable strategy tactics. The world is large and expansive, with a ton of lore and a strong story. Finally, it had a rocking jazz-infused soundtrack that was as smooth as a river.
The toughest hombres in the solar system, the colonial marines, were made popular in James Cameron's sci-fi horror classic Aliens. With cutting-edge firepower, these marines dive down into danger like an express elevator to Hell. The colonial marines laid the groundwork for action, but fear and horror were missing from the formula. Aliens: Dark Descent is an isometric real-time strategy game that puts fear and mental health at the center of its action.
The colonial marines are tough, but the enemy Xenomorph is smart, intelligent, and numerous. Marines develop panic and anxiety during each mission. They can even develop trauma between missions. These conditions vary depending on how you lead the Marines and engage the enemy as you complete various objectives. Marines are armed to the teeth with pulse rifles, smart guns, and sentry turrets, but the enemy learns and grows. It's a sale of horror and survival in this exciting game based on the classic franchise.
Loss is a fact of life. Howe gets through it and learns it doesn't have to be done alone. Dogs have been known to be companions, and some say they can see things others can not. They can sense danger as well as sadness. In Farewell North, players play as a border collie that accompanies their human master on a quest to say Farewell to her father. With the nimbleness and athleticism of a dog, Farewell North is a journey about saying goodbye.
There is a sharp and striking visual style. The world is grey, and shadows impede her path, but every solved puzzle brings a moment of color to the journey. Being a collie brings a unique angle of companionship as the dog leads to brighter memories on this turbulent journey. It's a heartfelt story, and there will be tears, but the journey to peace and love had me invested in what comes next in Farewell North.
We might very well be in a new renaissance for wrestling video games. WWE 2K23 is out and making waves, while Wrestle Story turns the sport into an amazing-looking RPG. Wrestle Story dials it back to the glory days of wrestling when wrestlers were larger-than-life with contagious personalities. Wrestle Story puts players as a wrestler in a world where literally everything revolves around wrestling.
Wrestle Story is filled with color and personality, something needed in such a genre. Players care about and customize their character and their tag team. The world is filled with smack-talking and humor n a tale where wrestlers fight the forces of censorship to preserve the sport they love. The diversity of characters and outrageousness of fighting make this turn-base combat game a winner.
Vampire Survivors is the little game that literally stormed the entire gaming world. Solid visuals and an automatic combat mechanic make it an excellent game to pick up and play. Other similar games have been released in its wake, from Soulstone Survivors to Boneraiser Minions, but Extremely Powerful Capybaras is shaping up to be an incredible auto-battler.
Capybaras are the largest rodent in the world, but they are also very powerful in various skills. Players face hundreds of enemies on-screen at once. Players don't go it alone, as they have three other players with them for four-player mayhem. Lasers, Bard music, ninja stars, fireballs, the capybaras fight waves of bad guys to face an extremely powerful boss. It's frantic teamwork and action in what is shaping to be an amazing multiplayer experience.
Video games can be silly. They can be weird. They don't have t be taken seriously with greys, browns, and tales of destruction. Sometimes, it's just good to kick back, relax, and laugh with each other as you try and slay each other. Friends vs Friends is a goofy and exhilarating PvP shooter that players can lose themselves in for hours. The uniqueness of Friends vs Friends stems from a deck of cards.
Players play the game like a regular shooter but can draw cards to give themselves abilities or disadvantages to their enemies. Shrink heads, disable jump, nuke the level, deploy sentry guns, and many more abilities are available. I had a blast facing down my competitor and many laughs along the way. With multiple anthropomorphic characters to choose from, along with many cards, Friends vs Friends is shaping to be barrels of fun.
It's a journey about life and darkness in a surreal, dream-like world. Life has many themes, some far too complex to comprehend, but the team at Embers Studio, they succeed in transporting players to a world beyond imagination. Strayed Lights intrigued me with its presentation when the trailer aired a few months ago, but playing the game is an otherworldly and mystical experience.
With no UI, Strayed Light has players discovering the secrets to life itself while vanquishing diabolical foes. A unique color-focused combat system encourages parrying, dodging, and fighting one's way through the evil that has taken over this world. A rigorous soundtrack from Austin Wintory highlights a world where light and dark are in conflict and a journey that will require extraordinary lengths of bravery and courage.
It's a tough time going for online games and free-to-play titles. Marvel's Avengers is coming to an end, and Babylon's Fall didn't stand a chance. It's hard to believe in such games, but Wayfinder has arrived to inspire players to believe in the greatness of such games. An MMO action adventure for the next generation, Wayfinder is shaping to be an excellent way to slay monsters with friends and gather loot across a majestic fantasy realm.
My time with Wayfinder featured incredible weapons, dangerous spiders, mystic magic, and strong barbarian women. Playing solo or with a friend provides exhilarating combat reminiscent of action RPGs such as Darksiders. The loot is great, the enemies are bountiful, the boss fights are exhilarating, the characters are amazing, and the mystical world all make Wayfinders an excellent choice for those looking to slay monsters on the global stage.
Not every game needs guns and explosions to tell a good story. Sometimes, the best stories are the smaller ones. The ones that are about ourselves. The ones that take place in those personal moments. And while the stories are told through anthropomorphic dinosaurs, the themes and emotions are all human and relatable. Goodbye Volcano High is shaping up to be a profound story set in a world that may end.
The animation felt like it was woven with love, like an anime. The music has been forward and catchy, playing nonstop on my Spotify since I played the demo. The characters are colorful with unique personalities and a mysterious intrigue as the world may end at the hands of a meteor. All the while, there are hopes, dreams, and a possible future. My time with it was short, but Goodbye Volcano High could be one of the most profound tales of what we do with our time.