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Editorial

Exploration and Narrative — Indie Games at PAX Australia 2018

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PAX Australia 2018

Back in October, PAX Australia came and went again this year: three long days of excitement, busyness, energy, and neurological storm; games, culture, friends, late nights, and probably too much alcohol. However, is the annual congregation of the great unwashed known as PAX Australia, now in its sixth year, a victim of a cultural shift and esoteric corporate mergers, or does it retain its magic?

Held, according to tradition, during the last weekend of October in Melbourne, PAX Australia has undergone few changes over the years. Finding its feet and refining itself into the show it is today was a quick but imperceptible change for PAX, and this year was, quite possibly, going to be the largest shift yet. Announced earlier in the year was the merger between Australia’s two largest conventions – PAX Australia and the retailer-run EB Expo. What this merge essentially promised was the size and venue attendance of PAX combined with the publisher clout of the country’s largest brick and mortar game retailer.

Not to get too deep into how the sausage is made, the merge essentially meant PAX was absorbing EB Expo. But would the corporate consumer culture of EBX white ant the more friendly and affable atmosphere of PAX? How would this change PAX?

In short—the merge changed nothing. This year was a good old familiar PAX experience, right down to the banner in front of the Melbourne Convention Centre welcoming everyone home.

In a big move this year, the PAX Rising indie game section was moved from the established spot next to the side entry doors, instead taking pride of place right in front of the main entry hall. The shifting of the indie section away from the side doors to the front entrance gave the booths a prominent position in the con-goers’ minds, but maybe not the ease of traffic afforded by the more widely used side entrances; it was more of a statement of intent, with PAX firmly affixing its brand to support of indie devs. Whether or not foot traffic to indies increased or decreased with this move would be a fascinating statistic.

OnlySP’s picks of the show would probably be Quantum Suicide, Necrobarista, Speaking Simulator, Totem Teller, Dead Static Drive, and Where The Snow Settles. However, to pick just a handful seems to sell the rest short—plenty of other great games were on show and this list is in no way definitive.

Quantum Suicide is an Australian developed visual novel that tells the story of a crew stuck on a space ship. The game’s writing is strong and it presents an interesting mystery in a novel way. The art is also great.

Necrobarista is a narrative driven visual novel, but with a cinematic vignette twist. Set in Melbourne Australia, the game is a quirky neon anime-stylised exploration of coffee and necromancy, and the people—and former people—the café’s staff meet along the way.

Speaking Simulator is QWOP for mouths. The concept is simple—players control a robot who has to talk to people by moving your facially-situated flesh-flaps, and do so via a complicated series of manipulations. The game is as hilarious as QWOP but about words so it is bound for success.

Totem Teller was a strange experience: top-down exploration with a glitch-filtered aesthetic, telling an impressionistic story about creativity and momentum. Still not sure exactly what was going on, but the game has style in spades.

Dead Static Drive has been at PAX before, and the year or so extra development has done it the world of good. A post-apocalyptic road trip survival game, Dead Static Drive‘s desolation and solitude really add to its strangely relaxed atmosphere.

Where The Snow Settles is a top-down exploration game. In the depths of winter, the player’s sister goes missing, so their task is to set out into the snowy wilds and bring her back. The game has a certain charm to it, and some great looking snow.

Check out some of the larger titles that we saw at PAX. For more on single-player gaming, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Former Editor in Chief of OnlySP. A guy who writes things about stuff, apparently. Recovering linguist, blue pencil surgeon, and professional bishie sparkler. In between finding the latest news, reviewing PC games, and generally being a grumpy bossyboots, he likes to watch way too much Judge Judy. He perhaps has too much spare time on his hands. Based in Sydney, Australia. Follow him on twitter @lawksland.

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Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in May 2019

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May

May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.

RAGE 2

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

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