There isn't just one Dragon Age panel, unfortunately. It's really confusing what Bioware is doing. They're not showing the game off at the show floor (at least not to the general public, I think press has gotten some access), yet they literally have an entire panel room booked for the entire convention. All four days. It's just the "Bioware Room", and they're having panels about Dragon Age everyday. But each panel focuses on one specific aspect of the game and they sound fairly neener neener, at least from the descriptions. I suppose if I wanted to spend the entire convention hearing about Dragon Age it would be fascinating, but seriously, I have other stuff I want to do. In the end I didn't go to any of their panels because I couldn't really decide which one to go to. I just want a general overview!
OK, here are some thoughts on what I saw today:
Transistor is awesome. I have a confession to make: while I do think the style and atmosphere in Bastion were great, I really didn't like the combat. I didn't like it enough that I couldn't really get into the game. But I don't think I'm going to have that problem with Transistor. The combat is a blast. The whole quasi-turn-based thing works really well, and makes you carefully think about your moves.
Beyond: Two Souls is definitely a Quantic Dream game. I think anyone who played Heavy Rain should have a decent idea of what to expect. While the QTEs are a lot less in-your-face this time around, they're still there. The game tries to make you feel like you have more freedom in what to do, but in the end it's still pretty scripted. Well, at least they got actors whose native language is English this time around. I enjoyed the demo, but then I also enjoyed Heavy Rain despite its flaws.
If I were to describe Ryse with a single word, that word would be 'stiff'. Sure the game looks gorgeous, but it felt clunky as heck. I know a lot of people are calling Ryse MS's answer to God of War, but it really doesn't play anything like a God of War game. For one thing there's a pretty big difference in setting. God of War is over-the-top fantasy action with a Greek theme while Ryse is pretty down-to-earth and slower paced. Which isn't a problem, but somehow the combat in Ryse just doesn't work for me. You know how in most action games your attacks just kind of go through the enemies? Sure they do damage, but the animations don't change that because everything has to be tied together pretty tightly. The animations in Ryse are very detailed and very context-dependent. Swinging a sword that hits and enemy looks completely different from swinging at empty space. But the flip side of that is that the game has start all its animations from the right point and in the right way to make the timing all work out, and sometimes it feels like you're not completely in control, with attacks starting much later than you thought they would or even going after a completely different enemy than the one you thought you were targeting. It's weird.
OK, then there's the QTE thing everyone bitched about when MS first showed off the game. They actually 'solved' this in this build of the game by getting rid of the button prompts...but the QTEs are still there, it's just that now you always press the same button when the game slows down and starts one of its execution animations. Yeah, seriously. I don't really see the point. QTEs at least offered some challenge, and I didn't really hate them so long as they were for bonuses and stuff and passing them isn't mandatory to live. These are so easy it's ridiculous...all you do is press the attack button, every single time. Why even include them?
After much, much, waiting I finally tried out Titanfall. It was pretty neat, I guess, but I have to say that after all the hype I was expecting more. I do like the feeling of mobility, where you just just hope straight up walls and stuff to get on the roofs of buildings. The titans themselves were kind of neat but they didn't feel as good as, say, Hawken. Maybe I just sucked, but they also seemed kind of overpowered. I don't know how you could be expected to take out an enemy titan except with your own titan, but then the game pretty much boils down to using your titan when you have it and running around trying not to die while you're waiting for it to respawn. In the end it's a multiplayer-centric FPS with some cool gimmicks, but not really my cup of tea.
I've been played a bunch of indie games outside of the PAX showfloor. There was the indie game party I went to tonight, but I also snuck into a similar party last night despite not attending the convention itself yesterday. I'm not going to list everything I played, but here are a few that stuck out to me:
Organic Panic: Oh look, an indie puzzle-platformer. Never seen one of those before. But wait, this one has fully destructable environments with a LittleBigPlanet-esque physics engine, multiple characters with distinct abilities you have to switch between to get through the stages, and...uh...vegetables. Yes, the characters are all different kinds of vegetables for some reason. Never mind that, this game is actually pretty rad. Fun, challenging, and creative.
Videoball: The closest thing I can think of to describe this game is asteroids meets air hockey. You are a little triangle ship thing and you have to shoot balls into your opponents side of the screen to score points while they're trying to do the same. Played in 2 vs. 2 team matches this game was a lot of fun despite the minimalistic presentation.
SpeedRunners: This was my favorite game to play in a party setting in a long time. That said, I'm not really sure how well it would work outside of a party setting, and I don't really do that many videogame-related parties these days so I'm not sure I'm going to get it. If I was still in college, living in a dorm room with random people hanging out all hours of the day I would be all over this, but I'm not. Anyway, the game is kind of like a 2D platformer, except it's a race. You're competing with other people running (and swinging off a grappling hook you have at all times) through a course with twists, turns, deadly obstacles, and cool powerups to pick up. But it's not the normal kind of race where you're competing to get to a goal first, it's an elimination race. It's played with all four characters on the same screen and anyone who falls too far behind and goes off the screen--even temporarily--is eliminated from the race. If the race goes on for long enough the borders of the screen actually start shrinking to make sure somebody is eliminated. The last person left wins that round, but the rounds actually tend to go pretty quick (much faster than a course in a typical racing game), so you have to win three times to win the match. I'm not sure I've properly conveyed just how much fun this game is...it's a pretty simple concept, but you really have to experience it.