PAX East 2020 Recap

 Another year, another PAX East come and gone!  Here’s everything I saw and did, including the games I demo’d in the expo hall, and Bethesda’s Game Days event – including my experience participating in the ESO Live game show!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 – Some Boston Sightseeing
Since PAX was a month earlier than most years, the weather wasn’t as nice as last year, but I did get to see a bit of the city.  I went to the Bunker Hill Memorial and museum, although I didn’t take the 294 stairs to the top of the memorial since it was too foggy to see anything anyway!  I went afterward to the Samuel Adams Brewery, where they offer a free tour and tasting, and then ended the evening at a restaurant called The Barking Crab to order a lobster roll.

 Thursday, February 27, 2020 – PAX Expo Hall
I spent this first day entirely at PAX in the expo hall.
 Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo went all out for their Animal Crossing: New Horizons booth.  There was an entire display for photo-ops that included a life-size tent and house, trees, even the tools used in the game!  They even had an Isabelle, Tom Nook, and KK Slider walking around and posing for pictures, and you could get an Isabelle pin if you checked in with your My Nintendo account. Due to the coronavirus scare, Nintendo was making sure to sanitize the controllers between each demo, which is something they really should do every year considering that sickness always spreads at conventions like these. 
The demo itself had three of us at a station with a Nintendo employee. We were all visible on-screen and able to use tools, although only one person was the “lead”, which the camera would follow (the others, if left offscreen for too long, would teleport back next to them onscreen), who was also the only one able to use doors. Each of us got to take the lead for a small amount of time. We were shown some of the crafting features: using an axe on a tree or a shovel on a stone now yields materials such as hardwood and clay, and you can craft furniture as well as the typical Animal Crossing tools.  Another feature is “Nook Miles”, which are essentially achievements and daily quests that appear to unlock things such as titles.  Aside from that we had a general tour of the more familiar Animal Crossing features, such as houses, Tom Nook’s store, and the Able Sisters’ store.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out on the Nintendo Switch on March 20th.

 Spirit of the North
I played a demo of Spirit of the North by Merge Games.  This game is inspired by Nordic folklore in which foxes are connected to the Northern Lights, and in it you play as a normal red fox who is guided by a spirit-fox.  There were times when it would lead, requiring me to follow, and other times where the spirit would infuse my fox as a mechanic to solve environmental puzzles.  The game was very aesthetically pleasing, and though I found the controls a bit finicky I still enjoyed solving the puzzles and exploring. The landscape is based on Iceland, and the level I played featured volcanic hexagonal rock formations.  One thing that the demo did not have was audio; the developer told me that the soundtrack is one of the best features of the game, and having listened to some of it in the trailer, I’d like to hear more.  This game releases on PC and Nintendo Switch sometime this year.

Ironlights is a VR dueling game by indie developer E McNeill.  In this game, you choose what class you want to play as, which determines your weapons – I chose Ninja, which gave me two shortswords; other classes had weapons like a greatsword, a spiked ball on a chain, a sword and shield, and a staff – and then duel one-on-one.  Combat consists of melee, in which one player rushes close to the other and attacks while they block the attacks, and ranged attacks, which must be charged in advance.  I had a lot of fun with this and ended up winning my match.  This game is currently in beta, and it looks like it’s expected to release sometime this spring for Oculus Quest/Rift,  HTC Vive, and  Valve Index.

 Colt Canyon
Colt Canyon is a 2D pixel shooter where you play as a cowboy trying to save your partner in a Western-themed landscape.  This is a fast-paced game with what appears to be randomly generated maps. I had some trouble playing this one as ammo seemed extremely limited and reloading was difficult. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong, or if it’s tied to the difficulty level of the game, but I found I was not able to get too far into this one.

 Miscellaneous Expo Hall notes
A few other things I saw around the expo hall: I checked out Discord’s booth, but this year they didn’t have any “take a selfie for a free pin” offer; they had game demos and a store, as well as a spot for photo ops.  There were all kinds of food, from various trucks outside (I had some delicious chipotle chicken poutine from a truck called Melt) to the smaller carts inside.  There’s also an entire section just for board/card games.  I ended up getting a drinking card game called Drinks With Frenemies, which looks hilarious and I can’t wait to try out. 

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