It wasn't just big booths and big games making all the news at PAX South 2017. At big conventions, even the little guy can get noticed, and sometimes make a name for themselves.
I like to tell the story of my very first Gen Con in the summer of 1993. People jammed the aisle around the tiny 10' by 10' booth operated by a company that had released its new game, Magic: The Gathering, which had launched just two weeks prior. Four years later, Wizards of the Coast bought Gen Con. You never know.
Here's a smattering of some of those other titles that we checked out at PAX South. Some you might not have heard of, while others are more notable titles that didn't have anything major to announce. We hope you find something you like!
Brawlhalla (Blue Mammoth Games)
Blue Mammoth was back at PAX again, touting its popular free-to-play brawling game. It's now been downloaded over five million times, and Blue Mammoth is putting together some big events for the competitive scene. Sanctioned tournaments will be hosted worldwide, culminating in the $100,000 World Championship event in November.
But you don't need to be ultra-competitive to enjoy the game. Brawlhalla's still one of the easiest online games to get into, and the cash shop is as non-intrusive as can be. Knock some heads with friends or jump into online play for loads of furious action!
Brawlout (Angry Mob Games)
What's this? Another platform brawler? More than a clone of other similar games, Brawlout has a unique style all its own and a cast of colorful characters with a distinctly mythical feel. Unlike Brawlhalla, it won't be free-to-play when it launches into early access in March on Steam and Xbox One. Later plans call for tournaments and other e-sports events.
Brawlout is built in the Unity engine and looks gorgeous. It feels more polished than the simplistic Brawlhalla, but for games of this nature, the proof is in the pudding – by which I mean the gameplay. After coming off of a match of Brawlhalla, I could definitely tell that it played differently from similar games. If you're looking for something a little different, it might be right up your alley.
Dreadnought (Grey Box)
Dreadnought was back at PAX, showing off its enormous spaceship battles to long lines of players for its third straight year. Seriously, who hasn't played it already?
In case you've missed it, a lot's happened in the last year of the game. Progression was totally revamped, going to more of a “tiered” system similar to games like World of Tanks. The battles themselves got 60% bigger, going from 5v5 to 8v8 affairs.
The PC beta is nearly coming to an end, with launch planned for PC and PS4 before sometime in the first half of 2017. Then maybe you won't need to stand in line at a convention to play it.
Eternal/The Elder Scrolls: Legends (Dire Wolf Digital)
Dire Wolf's been keeping busy with all manner of projects, from developing The Elder Scrolls Legends for Bethesda to making its own free-to-play CCG, Eternal. The company also produces physical card and board games, and was showing off its newest deck-building game, Clank!, at the show.
Many of the people at Dire Wolf go back a long ways in the CCG industry, from working on digital versions of Decipher's Star Trek and Lord of the Rings CCGs to making up the bulk of SOE Denver and doing its digital card games, like Legends of Norrath. They know what it takes to make a CCG work online, having made massive changes to Eternal during its beta and continuing to innovate on TES: Legends.
Here's a title I didn't know existed until I went to the show. Foxhole is a massively multiplayer, persistent world, WW2 game with lots of freedom to explore, fight, and strategize. You control your soldier via an overhead view, not unlike an RTS, and set out to achieve your objective, whether it be to kill the enemy or destroy their fortifications with artillery.
Foxhole's got a large play area to explore and plenty of customization options for your soldiers. Salvaging and crafting also play a major role in the game. Finally, it's totally free-to-play – “a passion project,” as the developers told me at their booth. That can be either good or bad, but for now, you can check it out for yourself on Steam.
Mages of Mystralia (Borealys Games)
Mages of Mystralia is a charming RPG with more customization than you can shake a wand at. Its primary selling point is the ability to craft your own spells using a number of different options and modifiers. The lead developer took me through a spellcrafting demo – and even he wasn't sure what he'd come up with! From fireballs that bent around corners to stationary turrets to bouncing balls of death, there seemed to be no limit to what you could do.
Mages of Mystralia comes bundled with a story by Forgotten Realms author Ed Greenwood, and 30 dungeons to make it last. It will arrive on Steam and PlayStation 4 this spring.
Shadow's Kiss (Clockwork Throne)
Inspired by White Wolf's World of Darkness, Shadow's Kiss is a vampire MMO – do you really need to know more? OK, fine. As a corseted or spandex-clad warrior of the night, you'll start off as a peon of the greater vampires of the city, vying for influence and control by doing various quests and missions. Combat is turn-based, and you can chill in your own edgy vampire lair during your downtime.
The build I saw at PAX was a little rough, but Clockwork Throne is taking things slow, estimating a full release for Shadow's Kiss in May of 2018. In the meantime, you can hop into a pre-alpha build right now by backing the game on Patreon.
Starpoint: Gemini Warlords (Little Green Men Games)
Little Green Men Games bills S:GW as “a unique blend of space sim, RPG, and 4X strategy,” and it was described to me as a cross between Sid Meier's Pirates and Mass Effect. Those are some lofty comparisons, but it looks like it might just deliver.
You base yourself on an upgradeable space station, from whence you set out to establish trade with or conquer your rivals. There are also quests and missions to fulfill, with branching dialogue in some cases, granting the game its RPG-like status.
I'm not familiar with the Starpoint Gemini series, but one eager fan who was hearing the description next to me could hardly contain his excitement. I'll consider him my proxy for giving this game an endorsement. It's currently in early access on Steam, with a projected release date in Q1 2017.