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PAX East 2016 – Indiebox, Your Monthly Box for Indie Video Game Goodness

There’s Loot Crate, Nerd Box, Comic Bento, Boom Box, Arcade box…the list goes on when it comes to monthly subscription boxes.

Consider, for a moment, Indiebox.

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Brewelist fans may recall we reviewed the service back in December. The gist is that they’re bringing back the box that we enjoyed back when we were kids. Remember ripping the shrink wrap off the box? Poring over the paper manual hoping to figure out how to play the freaking game?

Then you get the idea.

Indie games, while wonderful and conveniently in digital form, sometimes lack the character of the games of yesteryear. Indiebox changes that by giving you not just a box, but some other sweet loot that you often only get in limited edition bundles (and it won’t cost you a fortune).

Previous titles have included Axiom Verge, Freedom Planet, Brutal Legend and more. The boxes available for purchase at PAX were limited because frequently they sell out, which means there’s someone out there looking for this type of thing and are glad to take advantage of it.

One of the things that I found most interesting (and frankly awesome) is their “No Gamer Left Behind” policy. This means that every title that is featured in the service must be playable on PC, Mac and Linux platforms. If they are interested in featuring a title and it’s only available on PC, their Linux-nerd CTO will work with the developer to port it to Mac and Linux. Not only is this an awesome service to the dev community but a boon for us stubborn Mac nerds (who are running out of space on our Windows partitions…).

And the employees of Indiebox are just as enthusiastic about indie games as we are. In fact, Kara Holmes, the Community Manager for Indiebox let me know about Kingdom, a game where you build and inspire your way to glory to make a…well, a kingdom. (And I definitely bought it and am waiting to play, so thanks!)

The boxes come out monthly and start at $19.99 a month for a 6 month subscription. If you fear commitment and just want to try it out, you can get a single month for $24.99 ($28.99 after Shipping and Handling). Or, if there is a previous box that you were keen on and they still have, you can buy those individually on their website.

And while you’re at it, they were kind enough to provide us with an affiliate link if you are interested in signing up: http://theindiebox.com?afmc=68

May’s box is a blast from the recent past, Dust: An Elysian Tale. Get it while it’s hot.

Thank you again to Kara Holmes for taking the time to chat with us!

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PAX East 2016 – Gearbox Opens the Lid on Battleborn and Teases What is to Come

With a line snaking around a significant portion of the third floor at PAX East, the Gearbox faithful gathered in hopes of learning more about what the studio had up its sleeve. What we got was some magic, a lot of Battleborn, and some news about a certain shooter.

Randy Pitchford is pretty up front about his love for magic. He was doing the audience a favor by showing us all the ways we could be deceived by engaging in some light pickpocketing, some slight of hand and a whole lot of distraction.

The panel was joined by Greg Miller, aka “Game Over Greggy,” former IGN star and current star of Kinda Funny. He made it very clear that his presence at the panel entitled us to some insight on the status of Borderlands 3 (or whatever they will choose to call it).

Mum was the word for most of the panel, which focused heavily on Battleborn, set to grace our computers and consoles May 3rd. It’s up against some steep competition with Blizzard’s latest offering, Overwatch, set to be released next month as well (convenient)?

Battleborn features a band of unlikely heroes that have gathered on a planet within the orbit of the final star in the galaxy. Predictably, someone wants to snuff it out and they need to stop him.

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Battleborn has been in open beta recently and Gearbox has been collecting some very useful data on who picks what hero, group composition, loot collection, etc.

By The Numbers:

368 – Most matches by one player (“I love you and I’m afraid of you.” – Randy Pitchford)

9.5 Million – Pieces of gear collected

46 Billion – Shards collected during Beta

10,000 – Number of 2D hand-drawn animations in the game

7-800 – Number of lines of dialogue per character

25 – Number of Heroes the game will start with

5 – Number of Heroes that are in the works and will be available to players at no additional charge

41 – Percent of groups that contained at least one Miko

Randy Pitchford compared this year’s panel to the panel that happened right before Borderlands was released. Mere weeks before the game’s release, they held a panel for 400 people and no one knew how Borderlands would fare. Several years later, Battleborn is facing the same uncertainty but the team has poured their blood sweat and tears into the project and are hoping fans will be as excited about it as they are.

The most played characters have been Oscar Mike (a clone soldier with an assault rifle), Marquis (A Gentleman Robot/Assassin) and Rath (A vampire like guy that the developers were a huge fan of). In Beta, Oscar Mike did the most damage, while the mysterious mushroom man Miko did the most healing.

Fear not, though, the ladies of mayhem are well represented with Thorn (who had the most Open Beta Kills) and Galilea (whose players favored Duelist over Mirror Knight 66% of the time).

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They also revealed some of the backstory, with certain heroes having a proverbial bone to pick with one another. But there’s more to the lore, and it took three people one year to finalize everything. Bits of the lore are revealed in conversations that will only occur if you have a certain party composition, much like other games.

In addition to the base game, they also let us know about some of the other perks of playing Battleborn, such as Season Pass and what we’ll get for our hard earned dolla bills. The Season Pass will be a mere $20 and include 5 campaigns. Not one, not two, but FIVE characters will be free after launch, the first of which being Alani, who is lovingly described as a “weird little fish girl.”

But, friends, Battleborn will be more than just merely a game. No, it will take on many forms, as Gearbox titles are wont to do.

Miko and Thorn will appear in Rockband 4 in collaboration with Harmonix (You might recall that characters from Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel have also featured in Harmonix titles in the past).

Additionally, the game will have clues to Borderlands 3 (or whatever they choose to call it, as we’ve previously mentioned) in the form of Easter Eggs.

Which, as they let us know during the panel, is in the very very early stages of development with writing and art direction ramping up. However, the game won’t be full steam ahead until after Battleborn has run its course and all content has been delivered.

Finally, before they made any mention of Borderlands 3ish, they showed a rap created by fans, who were rewarded with plenty of swag for their trouble. It beats a cease and desist order, right?

PAX East 2016 – Axiom Verge, Chasm and Mages of Mystralia

Saturday I got not one, not two, but three games to check out.

Thinking I wouldn’t need the whole hour to take in Axiom Verge, Chasm and Mages of Mystralia, I approached the booth expecting to spend a few minutes on each and then call it a day.

What I found instead were three different but equally immersive experiences.

I started with Axiom Verge, which is out now for PC, PS Vita and PS4 and will be coming to Xbox One and Wii U (which was the platform I played it on at the show). The game, which is referred to as a “metroidvania” action-adventure does definitely resemble its Metroid predecessor. In the game, you emerge from a large egg structure after surviving a horrible science accident.

Well she looks intimidating...
Well she looks intimidating…

The game is an impressive feat as it was developed by one guy. I failed enough that it was time to move on to my next quest…

Chasm, graphics-wise, is a little bit more grown up than Axiom Verge and will be out later this year. Also along the “metroidvania” vein of gaming, you’re investigating the disappearance of villagers in a game that kind of reminded me a bit of the mechanics of Aladdin for SNES.

Nothing quite like a nap under a creepy tree.
Nothing quite like a nap under a creepy tree.

Unlike the games of our youth, the title from Bit Kid, Inc. has a procedurally generated environment, lending itself to many replays as you investigate the environment over and over.

I’m eagerly awaiting its release and look forward to getting my hands on the completed product later this year.

As my private session with these games was drawing to what I believed was the end, I was escorted back into the magical press area where I would be shown Borealys GamesMages of Mystralia. The plot is described as something like Harry Potter, in which a young girl named Zia discovers she has magical powers.

Ice Lizard was no match for my magic missile.
Ice Lizard was no match for my magic missile.

Another highlight is that Ed Greenwood, writer for the Forgotton Realms world for Dungeons and Dragons will be writing the story, which was still in a fledgling state for the sake of gameplay.

The graphics reminded me quite a bit of early Playstation titles and a little bit of Epistory (which you may recall from an episode of the Brewelist podcast…).

One of my favorite aspects of the game was the spell crafting system. I found it to be pretty intuitive and powerful. My favorite cocktail of doom was 5 fire orbs that home in on your enemies and then explode. It was so powerful, in fact, that I broke the build. A couple of times. Not that I was counting. (If you guys are looking for a bug tester, I’m sure I can break a few other things for you before the release…just saying…).

After playing through the demo, there were some pretty sweet areas of the game that have not yet been revealed to the public.

The game was shown for the first time at GDC and is expected to be released in 2017. I can’t wait to get my hands on it again. And, judging by the fact their booth was mobbed, there appear to be a lot of other people who feel the same.

I would like to thank Dan Adelman, my guide and the PR guy for all three of these titles, and Patric J. Mondou who hooked me up with the preview stuffs for Mages of Mystralia.

TL;DR

Title: Axiom Verge

Developer: Tom Happ

Platforms:  Windows, MAC, Linux, PS4, Vita with Xbox ONE and Wii U coming soon

Available From: Steam, Digital Distribution

MSRP: $19.99 USD

Title: Chasm

Developer: Bit Kid, Inc.

Platforms:  Windows, MAC, Linux, PS4

Available From: Nowhere right now, unless you supported their Kickstarter or Pre-ordered

MSRP: ???

Title: Mages of Mystralia

Developer: Borealys Games

Platforms:  PC and Consoles

Available From: Our Dreams (We’ll keep you posted)

MSRP: ???

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PAX East 2016 – 20XX: The Return

20XX from Batterystaple Games has been out for a bit and is still in early access. However, it’s grown up quite a bit since the last time Brewelist reviewed it.

 

Like…a lot.

 

Mechanics and graphics have changed and there are some new bits to explore (like bonus rooms that make me want to throw my controller but that’s another story for another day).

Screenshot courtesy of 20XX/Batterystaple Games

I wondered why there was ALWAYS an update for the game but now I know. The developers have been working hard to put out a new update every two weeks to improve and add to the game.

 

If you’re not familiar with 20XX, it’s a Megaman-inspired roguelike side scroller that will brutally punish you for failing but provide you with that delicious nostalgia that keeps us all going. (Overheard at PAX: “I like it more than Mighty No. 9.”)

 

I played the newer build and EVERYTHING looks different. The BOSS battles are even different. It’s still challenging but is less buggy and more fun. And it might tide you over if you backed Mighty No. 9 and are still waiting for that to happen…

 

The team plans to continue to release new content and hope to have it out of Early Access soon. Which means buy it before the price goes up (even though it’ll only be around $15).

 

TL;DR:

 

Title: 20XX

Developer: Batterystaple Games

Platforms:  Windows

Available From: Steam

MSRP: $11.99 USD (price will increase when it leaves Early Access)

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PAX East 2016 – Read Only Memories is a Must Play

Looking for a cyberpunk mystery that recalls a simpler time in gaming?

Read Only Memories from Midboss, LLC may be your answer.

The story follows you as your home is infiltrated by a very talkative ROM named Turing. Your distant friend is missing and Turing needs your help.

Neo-San Francisco is the setting of this tale and promises many colorful characters as you try to unravel the mystery. The retro graphics reminded me quite a lot of early SNES games and I appreciated the simplicity.

The game was originally funded through Kickstarter and, as I was informed, has 70 drink recipes that can be created in real life. (Anyone else think this warrants a Brewelist episode?) The game will soon be brought to mobile platforms (Dubbed the Type-M Edition), PS4 and Vita with 2064: Read Only Memories.

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Screenshot from Midboss, LLC

It will include new characters, animations and full voice acting, the first public build of which was available for me to play in demo form at PAX East. While it took a little bit of time to play through it I thought the puzzles and clues were approachable and the brief taste of the game leaves me wanting to play more (so expect a full review in the very near future).

The game was available at the Playism booth, who will be providing localization for the Japanese market, where I feel it will do quite well.

The game is currently available on Steam, Humble Store, GOG and itch.io. The 2064 edition will be a free update once released so you have nothing to lose. Do it now!

TL;DR:

Title: Read Only Memories

Developer: Midboss, LLC.

Platforms:  OSX, Windows, Linux (PS4, Vita and Mobile coming soon!)

Available From: GOG.com, itch.io, Humble Store and Steam

MSRP: $19.99 USD

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PAX East 2016 – The Real Future of Virtual Reality Has Arrived, 3D Scanning and I never knew a keyboard could do that

Just as important as the games on display is the technology that helps our favorite titles run. At PAX East 2016, many of the new and trendy technology was on display for us to get our hands on.

If you were a product of the 80s and early 90s you may have remembered Virtual Reality, or at least the huge bulky and expensive machines at arcades (remember those?). Nintendo even attempted to get in on the game with the ill-fated Virtual Boy console.

With the Oculus Rift (who was also at the show) making waves from their Kickstarter, other manufacturers have gotten in on the game such as Sony with the PS4 VR headset and the HTC Vive. Less expensive alternatives exist that make use of the mobile phones you already have, like the Google Cardboard.

I had the opportunity to check out the PS4 VR setup when I demoed Thumper, a title billed as “rhythm violence” built by Drool, a studio started by two Harmonix alumni, Brian Gibson and Marc Flury.

Most of the VR action takes place on the headset while the game is controlled by the controller and streamed from the PS4. You’re a metallic space beetle fighting an evolving entity. As you progress, you navigate an increasingly complex series of patterns. If you fail, the stakes are a bit higher as this will quickly wear down your armor and lead to your demise.

The patterns do resemble their Harmonix roots, so if you’re a fan of Rock Band or other titles in the genre, this will be an easy experience to pick up.

The game has already generated a lot of buzz and was one of several titles that were on display at the show for PS4. The headset itself will be available for the general public in October 2016.

Newegg also offered private demos of the HTC Vive, which is a headset with two Wiimote-like controllers that streams content from a PC. This provided more of the traditional VR experience where you are in a 360 degree environment and you are the controller. The game selected did a very good job of displaying the capabilities of the VR system and gave me a bit of a workout.

If you’re salivating at that prospect, prepare for the dream crushing reality – the HTC Vive currently has a list price of $799.99.

Their main booth on the Expo floor also gave showgoers the chance to play with the latest in PC gaming technology and some other fun peripherals to support their “Game like a Pro” campaign. The goal is to make you think of Newegg when you’re getting ready to build or upgrade your equipment so you don’t experience lag, performance issues or overall frustration with your hardware.

And while we’re on the topic of PC gaming technology, both Intel and Logitech had a presence at the show with some rather interesting tech I’d never seen in the wild before.

Intel offered “digital swag” in the form of doing a 3D scan of your likeness. In a week, I’ll be able to use the file to import my image into Fallout 4, Skyrim, FIFA and potentially other games so that my protagonist can look just like me. Cool huh?

Logitech unveiled a wall of keyboards that were programmed to show a video. Their keyboards had an impressive array of functions, the most compelling of which was the game profiles that can be imported to support your favorite titles.

The intention of this feature is to highlight only the hotkeys and in some games, even blink so you can quickly reload, heal up or perform some other function.

We’ll be looking forward to how the new VR evolves and I’m eager to get my hands on my 3D scan and a new Logitech keyboard.

As cool as the VR is, I’ll also be waiting for that to get a bit cheaper but it won’t stop me from longingly gazing at what can be done on it.

Thank you to Drool, Newegg, Logitech and Intel for sharing these experiences with us.