RTX - The Games I Played

So the last time I did one of these event recaps connected to games I actually played and didn't just watch offscreen was the PlayStation Experience. But not this time, I didn't even anticipate playing games at RTX but play them I did. So here are my impressions on the three titles I played this weekend:

Livelock

Livelock is a co-op shooter in the style of Helldivers or Alienation from Perfect World and Arc Games. Designed for one to three players, you play as a Capital Intellect machine in a war against other robotic foes in an effort to revive humanity.

Admittedly, I only came across the game because my friend Amanda from Lipstick Nerds works for Perfect World and was working the show floor. So when my friends and I swung by to say hi to her on Day One, she convinced us to try the game out (and gave an excellent pitch if her or her bosses happen to ever read this).

In my group of three, it was Xyger playing as Vanguard (the tank character), me playing as Hex (the ranged shooter pictured above), and a rando playing as Catalyst (the healer). We didn't have a ton to go off of but we started using a lot of experience points to level up some of our attacks and gear before jumping into the demo mission. Once in game, it did feel very much like a top-down shooter. We each have a few different attacks in addition to our standard one. Xyger led us across a bridge, punching enemies as they got in his way. I followed behind a bit, picking off smaller enemies before they could reach him or adding my firepower to his for some of the larger machines. And our third followed behind both, healing us as needed.

The demo didn't serve as a tutorial so much as it did just drop us in the action so we were all a bit unclear on what we were supposed to do outside of shooting and killing everything. For example, there were some pickups along the way that I would try to collect but I'm not quite sure how they played into the game. I'm assuming they would have factored into the leveling up system but I'm not sure. Even thrown in blindly, though, the game was a fun little shooter so I'll probably try to give it a go when it launches August 2nd (UPDATE: August 30th) on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Million Dollars, But... The Game

Based on the Rooster Teeth video series "Million Dollars, But...", this Cards Against Humanity-style game benefited from a very successful Kickstarter campaign recently and was available for purchase on the show floor. So Frank picked up a copy for himself and one for Joe (who was working the Superfight booth at the time). With a few adult beverages on hand, we sat down to play it for a bit on Friday while waiting for the Mario Party panel that night.

The game featured the four of us in the room (Xyger, Joe, Frank, and myself), as well as our friend Jared, who we were hanging out with pretty much all that day. The game is pretty straightforward. There are two types of cards: black trigger cards and golden rule cards. The trigger cards are basically "Million Dollars But...every time this weird thing happens" and the rule cards are "You suffer this horrible experience."

So each player has a combination of black cards and gold cards. One player is the Judge so all the other players try to come up with the worst possible combination from their hand. The Judge reads the cards (e.g. "Million Dollars But...every time you accidentally burn yourself you have to wax your entire body below the neck"). The players and Judge all debate the pros and cons of each combination and ultimately the Judge chooses the one they are least interested in doing. Whoever played that combination gets the point and becomes the judge for the next round.

The debating part is where I often find I'm in my element, trying to use my words to convince people why the other options really aren't all that bad or why mine is clearly the worst thing out there. But I also managed to score points on a couple of the things I thought were mostly throwaways.

I wound up winning so that was certainly fun. As for the game itself, like most of them in this style, the mileage will vary depending on the humor of the people you play with. And I imagine the long-term viability of the game will come from how regularly Rooster Teeth releases new card packs. Every RTX bag included a sample of 6 cards from the game (2 triggers and 4 rules). I opened mine the day after we played and all 6 of my cards had come up the previous day so I imagine if you play with the same people enough, the debates will start to grow stale without a healthy influx of new cards.

Million Dollars, But... The Game has been shipping out to Kickstarter backers and was available for purchase at RTX, but I haven't been able to find when the game will be available for sale in the regular Rooster Teeth store. (EDIT: As if they read my post, the RT store now has the game available for order)

Pyre

Pyre, the next game from Supergiant Games (Bastion, Transistor), was announced the week before PAX East and was playable on the show floor. But PAX East had like a million people and the Pyre demo was about 25-minutes so I wasn't exactly interested in hanging around in line for hours to play it when I could be spending that time with friends.

So when I saw that they were at a significantly smaller show like RTX, and that the line wasn't nearly as long, I figured I'd find the time to try it out. So after the autograph signing on Day Three I swung by the booth.

Pyre puts you in the position of the "Reader," a rare figure in the world who can read the arcane texts that instruct you of the Rites that can restore your status as an outcast. When the demo opens, you are rescued by a trio of outcasts: Hedwyn, a roguish male, Jodariel, a horned woman, and Rukey, a talking dog creature. This band of misfits shows you an old tome they've found. As described above, this text introduces you to the games Rites, which play out sort of like 3-v-3 basketball games.

In the Rites, each team has a lit Pyre with what are effectively health points. And there is a magical orb that can help put out the Pyre, reducing hit points. Each player has a protective aura: Rukey has a small aura, but is extra fast, Jodariel has a large aura but slowly lumbers around the playing space, and Hedwyn is the middle ground character. If you have the orb, your aura disappears. If an opposing player's aura touches you, the orb goes loose and you're player is temporarily "banished" from the match for a few seconds, giving the opponents a potential advantage. On offense, you can dash, jump, or fling the orb and you're trying to get it to the opponent's pyre to put out the flame. On defense, you can attack the opponents either by connecting your aura to them or by "shooting" your aura at them. Lastly, if you "score"/get the orb to the opponent's Pyre, its health drops depending on who scores (if the slower Jodariel scores, it takes 3 health away, whereas faster Hedwyn and Rukey only take away 2 and 1, respectively) and your character is temporarily banished until the next score, making it a 3-on-2 match-up.

That's a whole lot to explain and it makes so much more sense just playing through it, the movement feels like the combat in Transistor. I had a great time in the two Rites in the demo. I look forward to seeing how character progression ties into new active or passive abilities (I leveled up Jodariel after the second Rite just before the demo ended and my options were to increase her aura radius or decrease her cool-down time).

In between these segments, was the exploration of the overworld. In your caravan, you have a limited amount of time to get to the next Rite and a limited amount of fuel as well. At each stop along the way, you're given a few options of how to spend you're free-time. Will you forage the area for resources or train one of your characters to increase their experience?

And the route you take to the right might give you different items based on if you're visiting a place where Rukey knows someone who owes him a favor compared to a location where Jodariel has a history. The story, and many of the interstitial scenes that unfold based on these choices are told through written text (while the characters speak an unintelligible language). Certain choices are given to the player to color the narrative and there are often key words and phrases highlighted a different color from the rest of the text. These words can be hovered over for extra context on the lore of the world and they are also sometimes interactive. For example, the characters will initially discuss you as a male character but you can interactive with the text to correct them and change your Reader to a female one.

All told, I had a great time with my demo and look forward to seeing where the games goes from here. The art direction is just as visually striking as Bastion and Transistor were and the gameplay feels fresh and fun. I'll especially be curious to see if there winds up being a multiplayer component to the game where players can create their own teams of outcasts to duke it out in the Rites in PvP competitions.

Pyre is slated for a 2017 release on PC and PlayStation 4. No word on if it will eventually make its way to Xbox One, as well.