Gaming Goodness, Out and About

My 10 Favorite Games @ PAX West 2019

After 4 busy days, PAX West 2019 has drawn to a close and after a full weekend of picking up controllers, demoing builds, chatting with passionate developers and actively avoiding the PAX pox: I’m ready to round up my favorite video game finds from the weekend.

Here are 10 different projects that stood out to me on the show floor, ranging from dog-themed dating simulators to creative takes on dungeon-crawling adventures.

Project Witchstone (Spearhead Games)

Isometric RPGs have been having a renaissance over the past few years, and while many strive to capture the best parts of tabletop gaming, they sometimes fall short in terms of achieving the player freedom found in tabletop games. That’s the gap that Project Witchstone is trying to bridge, with their robust AI “game master” approach to NPCs, skill checks and investment in player agency. With no overarching questline to embark on, players are free to integrate themselves into factions, frame the local blacksmith for murder or forge onward of their own volition.

A Kickstarter for Project Witchstone is set to go live later this year with the game launching on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC in the second quarter of 2020.

Spiritfarer (Thunder Lotus Games)

Spiritfarer is a game all about death. Playing as Stella, a ferry master, you’ll help assorted spirits fulfill their last wishes and eventually help each of them cross over into the afterlife. The game features assistive co-op, with the second player assuming the role of Daffodil, Stella’s cat, and mechanics like cooking, fishing, and gardening. There’s also a neat building mechanic that will result in each player’s ferry being their own unique creation. Most importantly, there’s hugging. Lots of hugging.

An intensely personal project, each spirit that you will meet in Spiritfarer was inspired by a team member’s loved one that has passed. Totally unrelated; Spiritfarer was this year’s winner of the coveted “Reduced Player to Tears” award.

Spiritfarer will be available in 2020 on Xbox One (included in Game Pass), Playstation 4, PC, Mac, Linux and Nintendo Switch.

Roundguard (Wonderbelly Games)

In Roundguard, you pick one of three spherical versions of traditional fantasy heroes (a warrior, wizard or rogue), each with their own abilities and bounce them through a procedurally generated dungeon crawl, collecting treasure, defeating enemies and completing quests via Peggle-like gameplay with a player-friendly rogue-lite spin. Say goodbye to relying on RNG to get the best gear and hello to physics-based strategy!

Roundguard is in closed beta right now and slated to release in early 2020 on PC with console versions to follow.

Best Friends Forever (Starcolt Studios)

Best Friends Forever is a dog-themed dating simulator where you, the player, balance your burgeoning love life in a new town with training and caring for your newly-adopted furry friend. After setting up your dating profile on Woofr, how you decide to train one of the game’s 4 adoptable dogs will affect how they interact with the 6 available digital suitors in the game. Aside from cuties of the human AND dog variety, the game features absolutely hilarious dialogue and flavor text.

You’ll be able to adopt your new furry pal on Valentine’s Day 2020 when Best Friends Forever release on Nintendo Switch and PC. 

Epic Tavern (Hyperkinetic Studios)

At first blush, Epic Tavern seems like it will be all about managing drink prices, keeping patrons happy and carefully managing the level of your mead barrels. After playing for just a short while, however, you’ll discover just how deep this game goes. Not only are you in charge of getting heroes ready to hit the road to adventure, but you’ll accompany them on their journeys and partake in tabletop-inspired skill checks and mechanics to help them in their quests.

The game also has a fantastic random name generator when you are setting up your tavern. In the demo I was the proud owner of an establishment called “The Oyster and Imp”!

Epic Tavern was funded via Kickstarter in 2017 and is available in Early Access on Steam right now with a tentative release date of the first quarter of 2020.

Stranded Sails (Lemonbomb Entertainment)

Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands sets a course to relaxing island survival and exploration. After crashing on the mysterious shores of an unknown island, you’ll be tasked with finding your crew and using crafting, gardening, fishing, cooking (featuring a neat, Mastermind-esque mini-game that you will have to play in order to unlock recipes) and questing your way to rebuilding your ship and setting sail once again.

While you’ll encounter combat, puzzles, and some management mechanics, they are designed with a “no stress” motto in mind, making the game as enjoyable as possible for players interested in different aspects of the castaway life.

Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands will be releasing in fall of this year on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Errant Kingdom (Lunaris Games)

An ethereal and fantastical visual novel, Errant Kingdom features a playable protagonist (complete with pronoun selection), 6 different LGBTQIA+ love interests and even a non-romantic mode for those who don’t want to partake in flirting as they delve into the mystery and intrigue at the heart of the Kingdom of Novus. It will be up to the player and the characters you interact with along the way (whether amicably or with ire) to determine the fate of the world around you.

With 3 different roles for the protagonist to play, an assortment of romanceable characters and even the possibility for polyamorous relationships, Errant Kingdom’s replayability is high. (Before you ask, I’ll be romancing Roux Quinely, the Fae.)

Errant Kingdom is currently on Kickstarter and if funded, the prologue of this episodic story is set to release in December of this year with at least 5 volumes to follow.

Wytchwood (Alientrap)

Set in a beautiful world of gothic fairy tales and age-old fables, Wytchwood is about a pot-wearing witch and her adventures surviving the dark wood in which she and a variety of strange creatures share. Amble through the countryside collecting the magical ingredients needed to brew your potions and whip up enchantments as you solve puzzles and figure out how best to teach the characters you meet the error of their ways. What is a fable after all, without a lesson?

Wytchwood’s release date is clouded by smoke from this bubbling cauldron, but is listed as late 2019.

A Fold Apart (Lightning Rod Games)

A Fold Apart is a beautiful tribute to long-distance relationships, inspired by one of the developer’s personal experience, and explored through the art of folding paper. Throughout the game, you’ll see the relationship from the point of view of both characters involved (with 4 different couples to choose from) and see how their emotional states are reflected in the origami world around them. Fold, bend, flip and unwrap the paper world to help them overcome the barriers of miscommunication and other hurdles in their relationship.

A Fold Apart will be available on Nintendo Switch and PC (Steam) this fall.

Sparklite (Red Blue Games)

After genius engineer, Ada, crash lands in the constantly changing continent of Geodia she must use the power of Sparklite, the world’s source of energy and life, to fuel her gadgets and take down the maniacal baron who’s shady mining business is corrupting the world and its creatures. Stick it to the man in this top-down adventure brawler and bring a friend along for the ride in assistive co-op mode as Ada’s flying robot sidekick!

Sparklite will be releasing in fall of this year on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, Mac and Nintendo Switch.

Check out Episode 223 of the Girls on Games podcast to hear me discuss my hands-on experiences with Project Witchstone, Spiritfarer, Roundguard, Stranded Sails and Best Friends Forever in more detail.

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