PAX Australia hit Melbourne like a cyclone full of boxing gloves over the weekend, bringing with it Mandalorian cosplayers, cultists of The Lamb, and New Blood Interactive's
incredible merch. Sadly, someone committed the frankly un-Australian act of complaining about New Blood's "Sick Cunt" T-shirt and they had to remove it from display, but they'll always be the sickest of cunts in our heart.
The return of PAX Australia also means the return of PAX Rising, the indie games area where the nation's finest upcoming games are demonstrated. (And a few already released—shout-out to Samurai Punk, showing the arena shooter Killbug, which is like Devil Daggers with evil ladybugs and can be bought on Steam right now.) Some of the highlights were games we've already covered, like Broken Roads, The Drifter, and The Dungeon Experience. Here are a few more, some with demos you can try for yourself right now.
I used to play Warlords 2 Deluxe, a strategy game with a map pack full of wild scenarios including Dante's Inferno. You could play as factions like the Virtuous Pagans, the Fraudulent, or the Lustful, each vying for control of a faithful rendition of Dante's netherworld. Solium Infernum is a modern version of that, or to put it in language more people will appreciate, it's like Civilization in Hell, with Lilith instead of Queen Elizabeth.
Though it's inspired by an online multiplayer game of the same name, this incarnation of the simultaneous-turns-strat-em-up can be played against AI archfiends. The demo lets you try the first 20 turns of a campaign, which for me was just over an hour of scheming and conquering. I publicly announced a plot to take control of some places of power, knowing I'd get more prestige for revealing it openly than if I kept it secret, then insulted my neighbor Erzsebet so she'd declare a vendetta, allowing me to trespass on her hexes and take the Theater of Sloth. Meanwhile, she took advantage of the vendetta to capture my Vats of Torment, and then it was on between our legions of armored demons.
Solium Infernum has the makings of a knotty strategy game, and it looks gorgeous. The little legions marching around are like tiny Warhammer armies and every event has a splash of gothic art that looks like a painting.
Conscript is a survival horror game set during World War I, like a low-tech Signalis. Navigating the trenches with a shovel as my primary weapon, hoarding bullets and rushing through pockets of gas, I kept expecting a supernatural twist. Is that the sound of a zombie around the corner? Nope, it's an ordinary soldier in a gas mask who I'll have to bludgeon with an entrenching tool until he stops wheezing.
The ordinary horror of war turned out to be plenty scary in the 45 minutes I spent with Conscript, though in the end I was defeated by the maze-like trenches and had no idea where I was supposed to go next. Still, it's an atmospheric throwback to old school Resident Evil complete with combinable items and plenty of those moments where you desperately reload a shotgun while an enemy races toward you.
Drăculești is a visual novel set in an alternate 1930s version of Bram Stoker's novel where the first lawyer sent to visit the mysterious Count is one R. M. Renfield. There are three paths through the demo depending on whether you as Renfield choose to pursue a romance with the castle's ghost, one of Dracula's brides, or Dracula himself. I picked the latter, because as the sign on the booth put it: "Gay Dracula, need we say more?" Drăculești is an evocative remix of a familiar story, adding new characters and giving new life to existing ones, like the underwritten brides.
The most exciting thing that happens when I catch a train is I sometimes see a dog, but private detectives can't seem to go near a train without a locked-room mystery spontaneously developing. Detective Ridelle combines first-person escape-room puzzles aboard a train with a visual novel—the j'accuse scene in the trailer seems like it's right out of Danganronpa—and the demo focuses on the puzzles, with combination-locked doors to open and jigsaw pieces to find. The developers helpfully left a pencil and notepad next to the keyboard at their booth, and I definitely needed them to figure out the solutions.
Detective Ridelle's demo introduces a few of the characters then ends right as the mystery kicks into gear, and I can't wait to find out more.