Patrick Waring and Nick Ballantyne have flown over to Melbourne for the Australian gaming event of the year: PAXAus 2014! There’s a lot of coverage and interviews which will be going up in the days following the con; however, our editors wanted to give you a small taste of what it’s like to immerse yourself in the daily culture and chaos of the event. Today was the third and final day of the con and we’re beat! We’ve got one final pick each to share with you all before we give our final thoughts. Of course, the best was saved ’til last!
I’m stunned. I’m amazed. I can’t believe that Gearbox stole the show, again, but they pulled it off with style and aplomb. You want announcements? They had announcements! Want to play as Handsome Jack in Borderlands: TPS? BAM. Halloween event for Borderlands: TPS which runs until tomorrow (03/11) afternoon? Complete with altered enemy skins, a lootable weapon from Undead Lift and more? BOOM. Did you want more campaign DLC, a la Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep… but BIGGER!? MR. TORGUE – AIR GUITAR! MRRREEEOOOOOOOWWWWWWAAAARWAAWRWRARWARWRARWRAWRAR!
Battleborn was talked about and what there is to see at the moment looks fantastic. Set in a dying universe, all surviving species from every corner of space have coalesced into a single system in order to be near the last living star. While details were teasingly scarce, it was still enough to rouse more than a few cheers from the crowd. More news was revealed about Homeworld (collectors editions will be available for pre-order on amazon.co.uk soon for any keen Aus gamers) as they showed off some of the progress that they’ve made. Oh, yeah, one more thing: While we didn’t get much detail about the game itself, everyone attending received a free Steam code for the entire season of Tell Tale Games’ Tales From The Borderlands!
This is probably my favorite thing about Gearbox: They love Australia. There were more than a few grumblings at last years panel about the rough end of the stick that Australia seems perpetually attached to. Gearbox listened and waited until they were here, on our humble, sea-girt island-continent, to reveal all of this awesome news about the stuff they’ve been working on. Then to top it off, they showered us with gifts. Gearbox, we just want you to know – Australia (and me, mostly me) loves you too.
You can ride elephants in Far Cry 4. Elephants. They’re basically tanks with tusks. If that doesn’t make you put $90 into a safe for usage later, you need to examine the way you see the world and change it. When you are given the opportunity to ride an elephant, you don’t pick the logical option or the boring option, you shove as many Skittles into your jaw as you can, taste the rainbow, and ride a god damn elephant. Everything in Stampy’s path turns to mush, vehicles explode like fireworks, and here you are, riding atop this glorious creature’s hide like an unmerciful God whispering softly into your microphone, “Dude, I’m riding an elephant.”
Far Cry 4’s gameplay has upped the ante from FC3, as you can tell, but it’s not just stupidly excellent additions like elephants. The AI has been beefed up to provide a bit more of a challenge, with flanking and teamwork now a vital component of their strategy. The verticality of the game was noticeable even in the short demo I played, where scaling walls and gaining height were almost synonymous with gaining an advantage. It’s like everything from FC3 was improved upon, and that’s something I’m greatly excited for. Mind you, I didn’t see any Pagan Min, but we already know he’s going to be as entertaining as riding an elephant.
Nick: “Elephants have horns, right?”
Paddy: “……. Tusks..”
Nick: “Did I mention I haven’t slept much?”
PAX represents a lot of firsts for me, despite it’s short life-span, so far, within Australia. It was my first major con, having only attended Supernova for the first time earlier this year. It was the first time I’d tried to attempt any kind of interview, ever, with anyone at all (those early attempts were awkward to say the least, especially without a press pass.) It was the first time that I truly got a scope for how passionate the Australian gaming community truly is. That was all last year and, now, it has also become my first official press gig. I felt that, going into PAXAus 2014, I was prepared and knew what to expect. I was prepared, for sure, but what I experienced was so far beyond what I expected that I’m still reeling from it all.
GameCloud loves indie, that’s no secret, and this year there was an incredible showing of support for indie devs. The ANZ Indie Pavilion was twice as large as last years at least, with some truly remarkable and creative ideas being thrown around. Big name vendors were back with a vengeance and a much better showing than last years; surprise announcements were abound, like Gearbox’s smorgasbord of upcoming gaming treats or BattleCry Studios reveal that the beta will be Australia and New Zealand exclusive. Cosplayers, hardcore fans, interested “non-gamers,” – it seemed that PAXAus was somehow able to encompass everything about the culture, industry and community inside of a three day whirlwind.
Best of all, there were no tents! No makeshift walls to keep the rain and the elements out, no cramped walkways where personal space becomes a precious commodity. The Penny Arcade guys absolutely listened to all of the complaints, comments and feedback, then turned around and said, “no problem, here’s a better con.” It’s amazing to think that Australia has garnered such a reputation that events like this not only want to come here, but want to keep coming back and keep refining the experience. Needless to say, I’m excited for next year.
PAX came and went like the sleep deprived frenzy of bright colours, smiling faces, and loud noises that it was. There was so much on offer, trying to decide where to go next amounted to an existential crisis. There was hardware, software, tabletop, panels and concerts, all rolled into one giant Katamari-like blob of entertainment. Every facet of nerdiness was catered to, every dimension of geek was explored, every single person could find something to enjoy there was that much to do. But, like all good things, PAX is over, and now I’m confused about how to fill the void its absence has left in my heart.
It was a glorious three days dedicated to weird, geeky things that could be enjoyed among the like-minded weirdos that you would never have met otherwise. It wasn’t so much about the games as it was about the community. From the moment you were part of the queue, you were part of the community of like-minded, geeky individuals just like you. It sounds really cheesy to say I felt like a part of something; considering, however, that video games are usually designed for online play or for when you’re alone, it’s incredibly reassuring to see other living, breathing human beings enjoying what you do. At points, I’d even say it was empowering, being part of the giant blob of awesome human beings that understood me. Truly, it was a fantastic place to bond with complete strangers about the most familiar of topics…
… And get loot. Let’s not kid ourselves, conventions are prime freebie hoarding locations, and PAX delivered. Gearbox gave away season passes to an entire theater of people, Sennheiser were giving away $250 headphones to random people on the floors, and steam codes were being handed around like Pokemon trading cards to anyone willing to accept them. There was a strong vibe that developers not only appreciated players, but that they appreciated Australian players in particular. They understood that we’re an isolated bunch and their generosity was merely the expression of gratitude to those who supported them from a place where ‘internet speeds’ is slang for ‘slower than a wombat on fire’. I didn’t feel any national pride, but I did feel a little special.
Overall, PAXAus was excellent in almost every regard. From the games from indie devs to the tabletop games being played in the back, everything was a joy to engage with and the lines weren’t utterly ridiculous either. I’m profoundly sad it’s over, but the very second tickets become available for next year’s PAX, I’m grabbing one. I don’t care if I don’t get to go as media, I’m still going.