A bit delayed for various reasons, but here’s my recap of PAX East 2019: the expo hall and the games I got to try there, Bethesda’s two-day event (including getting to interview Todd Howard himself!), and a little Boston sightseeing!
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 – Sightseeing
The day before PAX itself. A friend and I did a little bit of sightseeing around the city since the weather was absolutely beautiful this year – a welcome change from the cold and snow we’d gotten last time! We wandered around, seeing some of the sights of the city – several historical sites on the Freedom Trail, and the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden parks. One standout was the Custom House Tower, which is now a fancy hotel: you can go to the 26th floor of the building, where an outdoor observation deck gives you a great view of the skyscrapers and historical buildings, and perhaps a glimpse of the peregrine falcons that nest at the top. We ended the night at the original Cheers bar that inspired the TV show before heading back to prepare for a full day of PAX.
Thursday, March 28 – PAX Expo Hall
I spent the whole day at the PAX expo hall. The first thing I looked for was to see whether ESO was at the PS4 booth again like last year, but it was not, so I looked at whatever seemed interesting.
Discord was the first booth that I ended up spending time at. They were showing off several games that are – or will be – available through the platform, and I tried an upcoming game called Waking. This game has an intriguing concept of being shaped by your personality and your past: the idea of the game is that you’re in a coma and must battle your inner demons. As you answer multiple-choice questions (for instance, one asks you to choose from desires in your life, with options such as “fun”, “knowledge”, “adventure”, “belonging”, etc), the game will shape itself based on your input and you will be given weapons and challenges to face based upon your choices. The scenery is procedurally generated, and the dev explained that the bosses will be different depending on your choices, too: the one I faced appeared to be an elk-headed humanoid with candles on its antlers. The bit that I played involved me answering several of these types of questions, and started to include a bit of combat, which involved me using telekinetic abilities to move and throw objects. The gameplay did feel a bit slow, although I suppose that is to be expected from this style of game, and I am curious to see what later gameplay would look like once you’ve answered more questions and it becomes more customized. The game is expected to be released sometime this summer.
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered
I made a brief stop at Nintendo’s booth, where I checked out Assassin’s Creed III Remastered on the Nintendo Switch. I never played the original AC3, just AC 1 and 2 (Brotherhood and Revelations are still on my to-be-played list), but I was curious how the controls would translate to the Switch, since I’d only played the original two on PC. The controls felt smooth, and the graphics looked good as well: like Skyrim, it’s neat to see a game that detailed on a handheld device. This game is out, as of May 2019.
Like last year, I checked out the booth for a game I enjoy, Brawlhalla, which is a free-to-play Smash-Bros-esque fighting game, and also like last year, I played against one of the devs to win a prize. I’m still not used to playing it with a controller, but I’d gotten a little practice from playing it on the Nintendo Switch, so I did a bit better this year than last; I got his health into the red, and got a lanyard as a reward.
This event was the first time that they revealed the crossover with Hellboy: there were unique character skins with their own animations/weapon appearances (Hellboy as a Cross skin, Daimio for Mordex, Gruagach as Teros, Nimue as Dusk). They had not yet decided upon a name for these special skins, but have since decided to call them “Epic Crossovers”. I also asked about cross-play – specifically, I was curious whether I would eventually be able to link my Steam account with my Switch so that my “all characters unlock” purchase would transfer to the Switch, too – and he said that it is planned, but no estimates yet on when we might see this.
Lost and Hound
This was the indie game that stood out the most to me. Lost and Hound is a game where you play as a corgi named Biscuit, who is learning to rescue people by following scent trails. The unique, intrigung aspect of this game is that the scent trail is depicted by sound – a humming noise that you follow based on its direction and intensity. It’s designed so that it’s accessible to even fully blind players – and, according to the dev, they’re way better at it than sighted people, due to their experiences with focusing on sound! I played this for a while, and it was an entertaining challenge. I also had a bit of the “Tetris effect” after playing; I suddenly was able to hear a similar humming noise in certain parts of the expo hall, and wondered where the sound would lead me if I followed it! The game is listed on Steam, with a Q4 2019 estimated release.
Samurai Shodown 2019 is a reboot of the series. I’d never played one of the earlier games since I’ve only recently started to get into fighting games of this type, but I enjoyed what I saw with this one. The game was visually pleasing, and I had fun with the character I chose (Galford). The friend I was with enjoyed it so much he got in the line multiple times to play the demo. The game came out recently (on June 25th) on PS4/XB1, and apparently there are plans for a PC and Switch release at some point in the future.
PHOGS! is a co-op game where you and a friend play as each half of a two-sided dog (think of the cartoon CatDog, but both sides are dogs). It’s lighthearted and cartoony, and you must work together to get through puzzles – for instance, one of you might need to bite down on an object while the other stretches to reach something. The art design is extremely adorable, and they even had a gigantic plushie of the dogs there!
Descenders is a downhill freeriding game. All of the courses in this game are procedurally generated: each one has different challenges (such as performing a specific number of tricks or maneuvers during the course, reaching a given speed, etc) and different courses will be designed differently: some might be more curvy, some will have more obstacles, etc. Crashing definitely has consequences as well. It had a bit of a learning curve, but felt good to master moves as I got better at it. The courses looked great – there were various environments, such as mountainous terrain, grasslands, and forests – and it was fun to have a new one to adapt to each time. This game is out on Steam and Xbox GamePass.
The last game I tried out at the expo hall is a platformer called Kelipot. In this game, you play as Abel, a white tiger in training to be a knight; once he completes his knight trial, however, he finds himself in what appears to be an alternate timeline, where his older brother Kain has gone missing, only to reappear to fight him. I liked the art style of this game, and the gameplay was fun as well – challenging at times, especially during the bullet-hell-style boss fight! I spoke to the developer after I played, and asked where the idea for it came from; he explained that he wanted to make a Castlevania-style game with cute characters. There doesn’t appear to be an expected release date for this one yet, but it’ll be released on PC before other platforms.
Miscellaneous things from the expo hall
I took a lap around the whole hall, although I didn’t stop long at most other booths since there was so much to see. I saw that Magic the Gathering: Arena had a tournament being broadcast from the event, and that appeared to be the case with some Nintendo games as well – Super Smash Bros Ultimate even had a life-sized sandbag there! Dire Wolf Digital was showing off a Game of Thrones board game, “Oathbreaker”, although the booth was pretty busy so I didn’t get a chance to take a closer look. Another intriguing board game was “Cowboy Bebop Boardgame Boogie”, from Jasco Games, which releases this summer. Super Soul Bros were there again, and they very kindly played the Gerudo Valley theme from Ocarina of Time upon request. There was also a “Free Shrugs” guy walking around, which made me laugh. As far as shopping, I got a Skyrim lanyard and socks, a pair of earrings made of little D20s, and another pair of earrings that looked like Legend of Zelda rupees. From ThinkGeek I got a Legend of Zelda sun shade for my car and the female Dragonborn statue; I’d wanted to get both of those in the past but thought they were too expensive, but for the price they were asking for both, I couldn’t pass them up. The Dragonborn statue is amazingly detailed and looks great. One merch booth that stood out to me was Geekify, Inc: they had a cloth map of Tamriel on the table, with little price signs designed to look like the Skyrim item descriptions with weight/value; they’d worked with Bethesda to be able to do that and to sell some TES merch (Imperial Dragon pendants and a replica of the Dark Brotherhood book from ESO).
It was a long day, but I was happy with everything I got to see and try out, and felt free to spend my time at the Bethesda Gameplay Days for the next two days.
Geekify, Inc’s TES merch with Skyrim-themed price tags
The expo hall
Friday, March 29 & Saturday, March 30 – Bethesda Gameplay Days
Bethesda Gameplay Days was set to open at 1pm, so I spent Friday morning at a tour of the Old North Church – we did the “Behind the Scenes” tour, which takes you into part of the steeple and down to the crypts, two locations that aren’t part of the general admission to look around. The building is beautiful, and it’s incredible to know that you’re standing in a place where well-known history happened. On the way back to the convention center, we stopped at a little restaurant to try some Boston clam chowder (or “chowdah”, as I often saw it written), which was delicious and highly recommended.
The Old North Church
The Bethesda Gameplay Days event itself was held at the Westin hotel next door to the convention center. Last year, it was in the “Laugh Boston” comedy club room there; this year, it consisted of both that room and the “M.J. O’Connor’s” restaurant next to it. The extra space was highly welcome; it was less crowded, and there was a lot more room for Bethesda’s games. On the way in on Friday, we were given Vault Guy masks, a Rage 2 keychain, and t-shirts for the event, while on Saturday we got Rage 2 wingsticks. The Laugh Boston room contained the stage that was used for the livestream broadcasts, a Rage 2 demo area, and a section dedicated to the Bethesda Gear Store, where they were selling some items that were not yet available online – I got the Legends heat-changing mug, which shows the Heroes of Skyrim expansion’s art when warm (and also got a free Fallout 76 shirt with it.) (I also apologize to whoever had to fix the queue fence after I accidentally stumbled into it and disconnected it on the way out.)
M.J. O’Connor’s was devoted to Elder Scrolls: fittingly for the series’ 25th anniversary (which was taking place that week, since Arena was released in March 1994), there was a station that had each of the five main-series games for people to try. There were also stations for The Elder Scrolls: Blades (which had just been released the day prior), where they were giving out Blades pop-sockets; The Elder Scrolls: Legends, with art from their Alliance War expansion; and an area to try out The Elder Scrolls Online’s new chapter, Elsweyr. They even had cocktails themed after the various games, and bottles of ginger soda with M’aiq on the label!
TES main series and Blades stations
There were panels streamed live for both Elder Scrolls Online and Elder Scrolls Legends. ESO’s two panels (one each day) focused on Elsweyr, while Legends’ stream (on Saturday) included the roadmap for the year, the official announcement of the Alliance War expansion which came out a few weeks later, and some of the new cards and mechanics that were introduced in it. Friday featured a special panel for the 25th anniversary of The Elder Scrolls. Those of us from the UESP met right in front of the stage for this panel, and it was an amazing experience to be in that room and feel the energy there. Here’s Bethesda’s video of the stream, you can see us a little bit in it! (Wicked_Shifty is the one with the black shirt/white sleeves toward the bottom left, and that’s my red camera at the very bottom edge of the screen.)
Bethesda-themed drinks and M’aiq Moon Sugar soda
ESO panel with GLAAD award on the table, and Legends panel
Afterward, we got to meet Todd Howard! Several of us were brought to a small hallway behind the stage, where we talked briefly while they figured out where/how to do the interview. They decided that it would be in a tiny little room behind the stage that was filled with camera equipment, and it turned out that there’d only be enough room for baratron, Todd, and I to fit there. I situated myself on what appeared to be a tall, narrow stool – which I now think was actually a small table – and just when I was certain I’d stabilized myself upon it, it suddenly tipped backward, and I fell into a pile of hard boxes of camera equipment! It was highly embarrassing (the crash could be heard a couple rooms away, according to a guildmate who was in the men’s room at the time), but at least it’s a funny story to tell! I was thankful for everyone’s concern, and especially to the Bethesda employee that helped me stand up, since I’m not sure if I could have pulled myself out of that pile on my own. I’m glad, at least, that I didn’t break anything, either on the camera equipment or myself (although I had some pretty nasty bruises for a while from the tumble!) I didn’t trust myself with trying to sit on it after that, and ended up just standing for the interview itself. Todd was very kind and funny, and we all had fun with the interview: once again, I would like to thank Todd Howard, Matt Grandstaff, and everyone else at Bethesda who was able to help put that together. You can read a transcript of the interview here on the wiki, or listen to it on Anchor, RadioPublic, or other streaming services.
Me, baratron, and Todd Howard after the interview
I got a chance to try the Elsweyr demo I believe three times: one was spent going through most of the tutorial, and the other on my own I just ran round the zone, checking out the scenery and excitedly looking for the new furstocks. Several of us from the UESP also got in the line together so that we could try out Sunspire and hopefully become the first guild to ever complete it – however, I’d only gotten as far as getting my character’s skills and gear ready, and when I looked back to check to see if the others were ready, I found that they’d already managed to try it! While Legends didn’t have anything new from Alliance War (as the only card reveals at that point were the ones in the panel on the second day), I did play a game (which I lost) against streamer Silverfuse. Aside from the demos and panels and food and drink, I spent most of my time just casually chatting with the devs, fellow UESP members, and other fans of the series.
All in all, the event was even better than last year’s, and I had a blast!
UESP members prepare for the Sunspire trial
UESP member Twilightchaos’ Dunmer cosplay
ZOS staff, and a Legends match between CVH and Joey
UESP meetup (Twilightchaos, Dro’Craddish, Avron the S’wit, Wicked_Shifty, Daveh, Alarra, baratron, FioFioFio), and UESP members with ZOS staff