Boston was overrun with tens of thousands of video gamers this weekend — many dressed as their favorite characters — as PAX East took over the Boston Convention and Expo Center. The annual video game expo from the creators of Penny Arcade, a hugely popular web comic, gives gamers the chance to play upcoming games months before release and hear from game developers, in addition to a variety of community events such as concerts and game tournaments.
While Sony and Nintendo skipped the show and Microsoft was primarily showing off games already out, big publishers like 2K Games, Bethesda, and Ubisoft duked it out with some of this year’s upcoming big releases. But for the first time, the combined might of the Indie Megabooth — a collective of small game studios that band together on the show floor — might have dominated the expo in terms of both overall size and diversity of experiences. Here are some of the most interesting games I played at this year’s PAX East.
Below: Xbox One, PC
Capy Games’ dungeon-exploring adventure game is one of the Xbox One’s most anticipated indie titles, and for good reason. It’s a gorgeous, atmospheric roguelike that has you exploring a mysterious land until you eventually — and inevitably — meet your end, at which point you take over a new character, who continues the quest. The game’s world is procedurally generated, meaning you’ll never run out of new areas to explore. Unfortunately, Capy doesn’t have a release date in sight, so this one could be a long way’s off.
Enemy Starfighter: PC, Mac, Linux
Ex-Bungie developer Mike Tipul worked on that one-off space combat mission in Halo: Reach, and now he’s branching out into new worlds with Enemy Starfighter. The game plays similarly to PSOne classic Colony Wars, with sleek visuals and fast, frenetic ship combat. But strap on an Oculus Rift headset and it’s a game-changer, offering an exhilarating sense of speed and vertiginous thrills as you hurtle through space and attempt not to hurl up those ill-advised chicken fingers you ate on the show floor.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: PC, Mac
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a two-player co-op game that demands teamwork in order to succeed. Players work together to pilot a spaceship and defend it from hordes of encroaching enemies. One player steers while the other mans turrets and activates shields, running back and forth, swapping responsibilities when necessary — and screaming in delight when it all falls apart.
The Evil Within: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Since Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami left Capcom, the series has become more overblown action movie than survival horror. But Mikami’s The Evil Within looks to pick up where he left off with Resident Evil 4. Although the game wasn’t playable, a demo showed off some very surreal, very grotesque, and very familiar gameplay sequences. Can this spiritual successor to Resident Evil supplant the original series by delivering genuine scares and horrors?
Evolve: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Turtle Rock Studios revolutionized co-op shooters with Left 4 Dead, and they’re aiming even bigger — monstrously bigger — with Evolve, an asymmetrical multiplayer shooter. Teams of four players each control a different class character and try to take down one large, player-controlled monster in the ultimate boss battle. Evolve requires constant communication for players to track the monster, and the longer it takes for you to find it, the more the monster has the chance to, well, evolve into something much bigger, more powerful, and harder to take down. With its variety of distinct player abilities and unique monster mechanics, Evolve feels like a real evolution of the co-op shooter genre and was my favorite game of the show.