This year’s PAX East was a bit of an odd experience. The last time we saw the show was just a few weeks before the whole country started to shut down due to the pandemic. After a canceled show in 2021, the Boston Convention Center was once again packed with gaming fans this year, though now all wore masks (with strict enforcement).
Many high-profile publishers who have been present at previous PAX shows were absent this year, whether due to pandemic risks or reduced promotional travel budgets. This left the usual mix of indie developers and publishers clinging to their floor space, but not really expanding to fill the gaps.
Even though the total selection of games on offer seemed smaller, there were plenty of standout titles. Here are the nine games we’ve been thinking about since leaving Boston.
Developer: Half Human Games
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Switch
Expected release date: May 31, 2022
More info: Official website | Steam | Demo
It’s almost cliché for many indie games these days to simply take two popular genres and mash them together to create a new concept. For Dwervehowever, the combination of an action RPG and a tower defense game works to create something special.
While you can attack the various enemies you find in Dwerve directly, you will quickly be overwhelmed if you do. Instead, each battle presents a new opportunity to run while placing various automated defenses to harass the waves of enemies that invade the countryside.
Positioning is key to maximizing the damage potential of each tower and that of the traps that slow your enemies and ideally direct them down a hellish path of death. But battles aren’t “set it and forget it” affairs – as swarms wipe out your defenses, you must rush to replace them without simultaneously exposing yourself to damage.
The standard story of the young boy who goes out to save the world isn’t particularly noteworthy, but even that little structure helps give shape to the seeming uselessness of most tower defense games. And although the onsite demo barely made it past the tutorial stage, the appeal of the core gameplay loop was obvious.
Developer: A je-ne-sais-quoi
Platforms: Windows, Switch
Expected release date: 2023
More information: Official website | Steam
In a PAX lounge dominated by high-octane action games, Dordogne felt like a breath of fresh mountain air on a chilly spring day. It’s an appropriate sentiment for this game, which is about exploring the countryside of rural France as Mimi, a 32-year-old woman who has just inherited her grandmother’s cottage.
The little slice of the game we played, however, took place long before this legacy, with Mimi exploring her memories of a visit with her grandmother at age 10. Going through these watercolor memories, Mimi records sounds, takes photos, and collects stray words from her thoughts to collect them in a journal that the player collects at the end of each play day.
The game’s hand-painted environments and thoughtful sound design evoke childlike wonder, as do small touches like Mimi running around with her hands outstretched at her side as if she’s about to take off. Super Mario World. But just beneath that idyllic, carefree facade are strong signs that Mimi is grappling with traumatic changes in her life and emotions she’s barely equipped to handle.
Even those who didn’t grow up in the French countryside should be able to relate to the painful process of growing up in this charming game.