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PAX East Impressions



I got the chance to sit down and try out the full version of Ubisoft's upcoming RPG, Child of Light. Using the UbiArt engine made famous by the beautiful Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, the game is wonderful to look at right from the start. The game begins with Aurora as she appears to die, and then wakes in a strange fairy tale world. It may not be apparent from screens and trailers, but Aurora appears to be a 3D model, which sets her apart from the rest of the strange world. She meets a strange little ball of light early on, which is controlled with the right thumbstick. Pressing a button causes the ball to light up, reveal darkened areas, solve puzzles, or stun enemies to get the jump on them.

Combat is turn based, but with a real-time element similar to the old Active Time Battle system(s) of Final Fantasy games. All the player characters and enemies have icons that progressively move along an action bar. Once the icon for a character reaches a certain point, you can select an action. The interesting thing here is each action has a casting time, and if you hit an enemy, or if an enemy hits you during this casting time your action gets interrupted. This creates an interesting strategic pace to combat, and made for some challenging encounters even though I didn't get any additional party members during my time with the game. Also of note is you can still use the little ball of light in combat to heal and delay enemies. I did run into a few technical issues with the game during my demo. The initial loading time was very long, and the game seemed to freeze for a second every now and then. Child of Light is due out soon, so hopefully everything will be irnoned out for this digital only release coming very soon. This is an odd project from Ubisoftís Montreal studio known for Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed, but by the looks of it RPG fans will be hoping it will be the first of more RPGs to come.

I got the chance to sit down with some folks from Citadel Studios, a new indie startup formed by ex-Ultima Online developers working on a game called Shards Online. Looking to make a game specifically tailored to fans of classic RPGs, the demo of the engine I got to see looked very akin to many older Western RPGs such as Neverwinter Nights, Ultima Online, and Diablo. Though the design of Shards is that of an MMO, players will be free to create their own worlds and run their own servers. There will be official servers as well for those not interested in running their own. Whatís interesting is that each server can actually feature a number of individual shards, which can be anything from sets of completely different worlds to slight variations on a single one. Players will even be able to travel between the shards with one character, gaining new weapons and skills from each and allowing players who create their own servers to design their own multiverses. The game has only been in development for six months, so itís still a ways off, but there's a lot of potential if the folks at Citadel Studios can deliver.

Trying out Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition on the PS4, itís surprising how naturally the game plays, even without any prior experience on the PS3. Seeming to port over to the PS4 with little trouble, the game looked great and ran at a silky smooth sixty frames per second. All the features from the previous console releases will be included, and players of the PS3 version will even be able to import their characters. With most shoulder/face buttons reserved for skills, players have a great deal of options in terms of control. Like the previous console versions, the PS4 version supports full four-player couch co-op, and you can mix and max with online players as much as well. As a nice little touch, the light on each PS4 controller will match the colored ring around their character, to help players find the right controller when everyone gets up, or to just help in the instance where everyone is playing as the same class.

There are also a number of interesting additions in terms of co-op play. Youíll now be able to mail items to your friends, and in addition whenever you find a legendary item thereís now a chance one of your friends will get one as a gift as well. As far as loot goes when actually playing the game, each loot drop will be tagged to a specific player, so that regardless of who picks it up it will go to that player so everyone gets a fair share. There's also the Nemesis system, where if a player is killed by a monster, it can level up and be sent to their friends, where it then has a chance to level up even further should they fail to kill it. Finally is a nice change I got to see first hand, where you can quickly cycle through recently picked up equipment with the D-pad and get a glance at how they effect your stats. The PS4 version of Diablo III is set to be released some time in 2014, but based on how well the demo I saw ran, it should be sooner rather than later.

I got a brief chance to take a peek at Y II K, an interesting turn based RPG from Ackk Studios, the developer behind Two Brothers. Taking place in the 90s, the game seems to mix real-world settings and interesting randomly generated dungeons called the mind dungeon. Using the Mother series as an inspiration, the combat appeared to be a mix of battles from that series, with quirky monsters to fight, and the Final Fantasy series with all your characters visible in battle in addition to the enemies. Action and platforming elements will be in the mix as well, though I didnít get the chance to see them in my brief time watching the game. Y II K is looking to be a very interesting indie RPG and fans should keep an eye on it to see how this cel-shaded wonder turns out.

I got the chance to sit down and talk with some of the developers behind EverQuest Next and Landmark, the latter of which is a Minecraft-style game using the same tools the developers are using to build the former. Though currently Landmark is primarily just the creation tools, players have already created an incredible amount of hugely varied content, much of which the developers didn't even realize was possible. More tools and gameplay are on the way for Landmark, with combat and procedurally generated dungeons under the earth coming soon to the game, currently in closed beta. Though Landmark only has one character class for players to use in battle, it will be possible to create equipment that mirrors the abilities of the classes to come in EverQuest Next proper.

The content created by players so far in the very early stages of Landmark is quite impressive, with many detailed recreations of real life locations on display. Players of Landmark will even be able to take part in contests to have their content make it into EverQuest Next. As for Landmark itself, players will be free to sell their creations, everything from tiny templates to larger constructions, for others to use. It's still early, but there seems to be a lot of potential in the combination of Landmark and EverQuest Next. Time will tell if this potential bears fruit.

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