written by Isaac Thummel
Saturday manages to get up and running at a smoother pace than Friday did so I manage to get to the Expo Hall by 11am. A new High Score! It still takes me four shots of espresso to feel human, which I nurse while I wait in line for the first game of the day, Shadow Warrior 2!
Shadow Warrior 2 is the sequel to the 2013 reboot of the original 1997 FPS. The original game was developed by 3D Realms using the same engine of Duke Nukem 3D, their smash hit from the year prior. The booth for Shadow Warrior 2 is right off the main entrance to the hall so I figured it is a good place to start, plus the line is short in comparison to other games.
They have set the booth up with each computer hidden under bamboo and leaf covered lean-tos with a large cherry blossom tree in the center. The edges of the booth are lined with busts from characters and physical recreations of weapons from the game. They also were passing out fortune cookies that had custom made SW2 fortune papers inside printed with quips from the main character, Wang.
Wang is the crude, smart mouth, wise cracking protagonist from the previous versions returning to kick some ass. The game picks up five years after the events of the last game. From the demo you learn that a girl named Kimiko has somehow become imprisoned inside the mind of Wang, much to their joint dismay. You are sent on a mission to retrieve some spell components to be able to have her removed from Wang’s head. Now the last game had a fairly linear story that took you through different levels laid out in a way harking back to Doom, Quake, and Duke Nukem. This version seems to be drinking a bit of the ‘Open World’ Kool Aid that has been going around. Now you stay in a home base like hub area where you can buy new weapons, ammo, and accessories. You are given the mission with the option to refuse the quest and its currency reward.
Weaponry in this game is closer to Borderlands or action adventure games like Diablo where you find different stated weapons in the world which you can upgrade and augment to interact with the world differently. Whereas the last game you were given set weapons such as pistol, shotgun, smg, etc, and then you leveled them up through in game XP.
Wang’s magical abilities have returned as well. They too are upgradeable and augmentable just like the weapons.
The level design has also been shaken up. After accepting the mission you get to teleport to a new area via a statue that Kimiko says allows you to warp to it any time through other statues in the world suggesting an open world fast travel set up. Upon reaching the zone you are presented with a mini map pointing you off into multiple different areas to recover the required items in any order you desire.
The enemies you encounter vary in size and style. All of them have visible health bars over their head spouting their name and any special quirks like a mob from an MMORPG or Looter Shooter. When you shoot the enemies you get white numbers that tick off their bodies showing you how much damage you do with each hit. Switching between different weapon types that deal different elemental damage is key to bringing down different enemy types. Throughout the demo there are button prompts that allow you to talk with Kimiko while massacring baddies that give some optional extra story and backgrounds on the characters and world. Once all the items are collected you warp back to your HUB to be greeted with a cut scene and credit roll.
So how was it? Well I must admit that the move away from the more original style of PC FPS games has me worried. The combat while diverse and interesting turned very bullet spongey whenever I fought any of the large enemies despite using weapons that the Devs assured me they were weak against. I played and loved Shadow Warrior for its run and gun old school style of shooting that I feel is very lacking in modern FPS titles. The game also boasts a four player co-op experience that allows all to experience the narrative as Wang while the other people appear to be standard ninja lackeys. This mode was not playable during the demo but it gives the overall feel that they are taking the sequel in a very different direction. Whether this direction is a good or bad thing will be up to you and your preferred style of FPS.
Wrapping up the demo, I headed off to the Co-Optional Lounge Panel. The Co-Optional lounge is a web show where a variety of new media content creators get together to play different multiplayer video games or board games through Table-Top Simulator. It is hosted by games critic John “TotalBiscuit” Bain; with guests Jesse Cox (Content Creator), Brooke “Dodger” Lawson (Content creator), Geoff “Incontrol” Robinson (Retired professional Starcraft 2 player, active SC2 Caster/Commentator), Anna Prosser Robinson (Programming Manager for Twitch.tv), and Genna Bain (CEO of Cynical Brit).
For this panel they started off playing But Wait There’s More. BWTM is a game where players have to pitch their product in their own impromptu infomercial to the rest of the player in a thirty second round, after which they say “But Wait There’s More” and have to pick up a new random card and sell the item with the new addition added on in another thirty seconds . After everyone has their pitch people vote on who was the best salesperson. A level of chaos can be thrown in by using the Tell Us More card which makes the current salesperson have pick up ANOTHER random card and sell the whole thing in a final thirty second round. Hilarity and NSFW innuendos come crashing through the door as soon as the game starts leaving Dodger and Anna tied for the win.
After a few rounds of this they switch up to Red Flags, a card game from Skybound Games, the creators of Superfight. In Red Flags one player assumes the role of an eligible Bachelor/Bachelorette and the rest of the players try to pitch them their perfect match. This take the form of Perk cards which give your candidate positive qualities, you play two of these cards at the start of the game. Yet we all know no one is perfect. This is represented by the Red Flag card which each player plays onto the player to their lefts candidate. Once you know what your new Red Flag is you try to still sell the idea of your date to the Bachelor/Bachelorette who decides who the winner of the round is. The panel ends after only one round with Jesse as the Bachelor and Geoff making the best date.
My party gathers outside of the Sheraton before we decide to wander away from PAX in search of food which leads us past the beautiful outdoor area that Magic the Gathering has transformed into a Gypsy Caravan inspired row of shops, food stalls, and lounge areas. We continue our trek up Capitol Hill and wind up with delicious bowls of Yakisoba in front of us. Afterwards I host them at my apartment for board games, drinks, and tom foolery until the wee morning hours. Sunday is going to be a rough one.