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Monday, September 5, 2011

PAX Prime 2011: TopWare Demo

Saturday morning promised to start off well as TopWare Interactive had invited myself, my wife, Kyle, and Kyle's fiancee to a hotel room in order to take a look at a handful of titles they were sharing this year. I had no clue what to expect from a personal hotel room demo session (what with being new to this whole thing), but when I arrived it seemed like it was just going to be us and the PR rep hanging out and learning about some cool new games. Over the hour we learned about an expansion to Two Worlds II, a pirate game that's at least a year off called Raven's Cry, and a really fascinating tile called Scivelation. So hit the jump and let's take a look at what we saw.

Starting with Two Worlds II: Pirates of the Flying Fortress, the story from Two Worlds II picks right up and tasks you with joining a pirate crew and taking out a nasty pirate by the name of Ed Teal. Those who were super into Two Worlds II will be happy to know that the expansion adds roughly 12+ hours of gameplay from just the main quest, not including all the sidequests you can get into. I can definitely get behind that.

While I'd never played Two Worlds II (I certainly will now), I felt like I could hop right into this new story and enjoy myself. I believe I've already mentioned before that I'm not easily impressed by graphics, but the demo had me fawning over that which rarely inspires a response from me when the incredibly detailed landscape appeared before me. As one of the TopWare representatives walked around the areas, I was just enthralled looking at the world that glistened all around.

They're so confident with their graphics by the way that they're allowing the player to look at anything they want thanks an item that's essentially a flying camera, giving players the chance to solve some simple puzzles like fly around a corner and zap a basilisk in the eyes to make it safe to fight, or just to hover up to a spot that's unreachable to the player and inspect the textures at a more critical level. And somehow everything holds up even under close scrutiny.

A lot of personality is going into Pirates of the Flying Fortress as we were shown the inside of a nightclub for the dead, the part of the demo that most stood out to me. The sidequest requires you to somehow acquire a Death Certificate to enter, then lets you wander around and see how all these deceased creatures spend their time, including a group of dancers. The style of "let's make a strong game, but let's also have fun" is ever-present, at least from what I was shown.

Probably one of the coolest features is the method of release. Sure, you can download the expansion pack like you would any other expansion pack, but I'm more inclined to buy the Game of the Year edition of Two Worlds II that includes the base game and the expansion. Why? Because it will be at the cheaper price, be bundled with a bunch of extra swag, and come in either a red or black velvet case. That's classy right there.

Next we were shown Raven's Cry, a very much still in development titlefrom topWare and Octane Games that only had a concept and a live-action teaser trailer to show off. The game follows around Christopher Raven, a pirate who's been wronged and isn't going to stop until he's gained his vengeance by slaughtering all the pirates who killed his family. Now stop, before you say "Hey, haven't we seen this before?" let me tell you that no, you haven't. Not in a video game at least. When was the last time a pirate was allowed to be a pirate? An honest-to-God bloodthirsty, evil, scary-as-sin pirate? Not for a while.

Well Raven's Cry hopes to fill that gap with all the blood and guts you could hope for. It's shooting for a solid M rating, a step in the right direction. One of the main gameplay mechanics revolves around fear, so if you're better at dispatching enemies and looking like a scary mo-fo, you'll find yourself forcing enemies to just flee rather than stand their ground and fight. I joked and said, "So Christopher Raven is definitely not Christopher Robin, right?" I got a few stares, even from my group, but I believe the overall answer was, "No Chris, you're an idiot for saying such a thing. Raven would kill Christopher Robin just because he spends his days with stuffed bears and honey."

There will a heavy emphasis on both land and sea combat, and a lot of (hopefully) original and interesting characters, but as the concept stands now I'm ready for it to come out and wipe Capt. Jack Sparrow from my mind. Huh, "Sparrow." ..."Raven." I see what they did there. Look for more about Raven's Cry in the coming year.

Finally we have Scivelation, a title that is going to be controversial no matter how you slice it. This is because the story and setting deals with a post-apocalyptic world where the Judeo-Christian apocalypse described in the book of Revelation has come to pass and now the world lives under the rule of an oppressive government that enforces Christian doctrine in all the wrong ways. Sound like someone's going to have a problem with this one? Well not me.

I was very happy to hear that the developers at TopWare and Black Wing Foundation aren't framing the game around bashing religion or believers or anything like that. Rather, the whole point of the story is about a government abusing much of the religious teachings and enforcing the wrong aspects of the faith. Gee, sounds like someplace I could imagine...

The story itself will follow around two different rebels seeking to take down the evil guys, known better as the Regime. The first is a woman named Elisha Angelina Amano, who specializes in stealth, and the other is a man named Mikhail O. Ivanov, a character who specializes in more direct combat. Of the two, we only saw Elisha's character in action during the demo and just from that I'm impressed. The game is still a long ways off, so the current build is only four-months-old, but in that four months we already have an incredibly impressive world set up that's just waiting to be fleshed out from the story.

My only major hangup thus far is in Elisha's outfit. Right now she looks as stereotypical as a futuristic rogue agent in a video game can look, and has the unfortunate cliches of the usual short-shorts and cleavage window as her main visual characteristics, thus making me worry that the overall concept of the game will be lost in the usual braindead "Hot Girl In Future" style of storytelling we see too often. I want to be engaged with this world and I really want this story to work, but when things start off with a needless shower scene and then show our female protagonist strapping up in the most revealing and sexploitative outfit possible for her profession, I don't know, I get worried.

All of this is a moot point until Scivelation is further along in development though. Currently I'm psyched since stories with religious under- and overtones really get my blood pumping, so I'm withholding judgment until I know more. Expect a lot more to surface throughout 2012.

And that's my TopWare demo breakfast in a nutshell. Three awesome games, one excited gamer (me). I like how TopWare has decided to do business, so I wish them the best over this coming year! What about you guys? What strikes your fancy from this group? Anyone as skeptical about Elisha's costume as I am or am I just looking for problems where there aren't any?

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