Sarah LeBoeuf Biography
The PAX Rising (up-and-coming indie games) and PAX Australia (indie games from down under) booths were conveniently situated right next to each other, so every time I passed through, I was able to get some hands-on time with more weird, colorful, strange games. Here are a few of my favorites.
On paper, Gorogoa is a pretty basic puzzle game. In execution, it’s something else entirely.
While previous attempts to simulate city life were certainly fun, City Living surpasses them all by making the new locale of San Myshuno feel alive, bustling, and connected.
Square Enix’s flagship Final Fantasy series has undergone many evolutions in the last 20 years, but there are still some hallmarks expected from a game in the core franchise. Final Fantasy XV does have some of these familiar elements: dudes with hair reaching varying degrees of spikyness; a grand, high-stakes story involving a prince undertaking an epic journey; there’s even a grumpy old man named Cid. But these familiar details are juxtaposed with some pretty big departures from the formula. That’s not necessary a bad thing, as I discovered during my hands-on session with FFXV earlier this week. If anything, the demo showed me that the long-awaited next entry in the series is a lot of fun if you’re willing to let go of nostalgia and embrace the new.
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, the latest in a landmark strategy series that spans decades, is less a game of sweeping changes than it is minor tweaks—and that’s a good thing. Civ V, released a lifetime ago (in video game turns) back in 2010, was damn close to perfection and kept gamers—this one included—coming back for hundreds and hundreds of hours. Messing with that formula too much might have been a recipe for disaster. Instead, Firaxis kept what worked and enhanced everything along the way.
Turn-based battles. Straight-up dungeons. Random encounters. For decades, these were the calling cards of the Final Fantasy series, making it one of the most prolific and beloved RPG franchises of all time. In recent years, however, Square Enix has strayed from its origins, using more real-time, action-based fighting sequences set on wide-open maps. Whether or not that’s a good thing is entirely dependent on your perspective, but one thing’s for sure: there’s still plenty of room in the modern gaming world for the turn-based RPG, and World of Final Fantasy scratches that itch in the cutest possible way.
Nintendo’s E3 was all about The Legend of Zelda. Literally. Its booth in the Los Angeles Convention Center was transformed to look like a locale straight outta Hyrule, and the only title on display was the next game in the decades-old action/adventure series. Nintendo is putting a lot of eggs in one basket with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, making some big changes to the classic Zelda formula. I was worried that the massive open world and Link’s host of new abilities (he can cook!) would make Breath of the Wild feel less like a Zelda game, but after spending some time in the reimagined Hyrule, I’m no longer afraid of change.
I usually take very thorough notes when reviewing a game. I keep my notebook next to me at all times, pen ready, and will often take a break between rounds to jot down my thoughts. That didn’t happen with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered. Maybe it’s because I already played it back in 2008, when it originally launched on the PS3, but I found myself without words as I made my way through its early battles and story set-up. When I did finally pause to write something down, it was simply this: “This game is still so good.”
After two years in existence, the newest PAX is still relatively small. There are few big-name publishers exhibiting on the show floor, with many of the biggest booths belonging to hardware companies like Intel, Alienware, and Astro. There aren’t as many prominent figures in gaming walking the halls of the Henry B. González Convention Center in downtown San Antonio, TX. And the expo floor certainly isn’t as big and sprawling as PAX’s counterparts in Boston and Seattle. PAX South is a low-key show, for sure, but that’s all part of its charm.
A top-down, twin-stick action game? Not that unusual. A Pikmin-esque game in which the player controls an ever-growing mob inspired by the culture of ancient Greece? That’s a new one. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got my hands on Devolver Digital’s Okhlos on the PAX South show floor, but the madness of mob violence quickly won me over.