PAX AUS 2019 – Shaun’s Indie Round Up Part One
Player2 writer Shaun Nicholls spent hours on the floor of PAX AUS 2019 getting hands-on with indie title after indie title for the benefit of our readers. This is only part one of the fruits of his labour, so make sure to check out the follow-up as well!
As I was wandering through the PAX Rising area, taking in the myriad of indie developed games I found myself drawn by the sounds of metal from the booth of Metal Heads. Created by solo developer Nathan Francis, Metal Heads is a fast and hectic party game that has up to 8 players competing in a bunch of mini-games.
Every second you keep your character alive earns you points, and the game will try its hardest to kill you. Whether lasers, fire or a giant globe rolling around there is always something trying to kill you. While on occasion it was a bit hard to keep track of what was happening with 8 players running/flying all over the screen, each player is a different colour so that they stand out easily enough.
There are currently 30 mini-games planned for launch and there is also a board game component to the game as well. While I didn’t get too many details on what the board game will entail, the winner of the game will get to take on the role of a boss, with the other players tasked in taking them down to attain some form of vengeance for losing. For those that want to flex their creative muscles, or just to see if they can make their friends rage quit, there will also be a mini-game editor and board game editor.
Metal Heads is currently planning to launch on Steam in April next year with a demo to be released by the end of this year, and console releases to follow after that.
This is a game that was both fun and frustrating in equal measure. You attempt to control an astronaut in zero gravity and complete set tasks. It sounds simple but in practice is anything but thanks to the quirks of trying to do anything in zero gravity.
While the game is designed to be able to be played alone, the true shenanigans begin when you have two people trying to navigate the claustrophobic interiors of a space station. Each thumb-stick controls its respective arm, with the trigger buttons grabbing hold of walls, objects, and your fellow astronaut. The different control schemes led to my partner and I spent the first few minutes looking like our arms were made out of cooked spaghetti as we tried to come to grips with the controls.
Fortunately, after getting the hang of it we started to make our way through the station towards our objective. In this demo we were tasked with getting outside to fix the solar array, the only problem is the latch which opened the door broke off. Luckily I had seen the two players before my turn find a crowbar so I made a beeline for the tool that would help me complete my mission. I pulled it out of its hiding place and promptly let it go after pressing the wrong button. The result was my astronaut frantically swimming after it as it floated to the other end of the station. Finally, I succeeded in using the crowbar to open the door, hooked myself up to the safety line and opened the airlock to start my space-walk.
I didn’t realise my mistake until everything loose was sucked out of the station, my unfortunate fellow astronaut included. Oh well, I pressed on and turned the crank that would fix the solar array while he re-spawned….. and proceeded to close the airlock in revenge. Thus there we were, I was stuck outside the station and he, having successfully locked me out, resumed his swimming/flailing until our time ran out.
The entire journey was hilarious and I want to see what other types of shenanigans I can get up to in other scenarios, which I am told will have varying degrees of difficulty. The truly unfortunate bit is that Heavenly Bodies is still pretty early in its development. Two Point Interactive are hoping to have a release in early 2021 but will hold it a bit later if they feel the need.
After seeing the recommendation of the one and only James Swinbanks, I made sure to have a look at this beautiful-looking RPG set in our very own country. While there was not much to see, with the developers not long having revealed an alpha trailer, what I saw makes me want this game.
Apart from the stunning graphics, that depict a distinctly Australian wasteland with Kangaroos hopping around the rundown town, the morality system for the game sounds damn right intriguing. Rather than a moral system predicated on good, bad or neutral, Broken Roads will have your player able to encompass multiple ideologies, with skills and traits locked behind those ideologies. If your moral compass starts to shift due to your actions and choices you may find yourself locked out of those traits and completely new ones opened up. However, you can always swing your moral compass back to where it was to regain access to those traits once again.
The developers have said that your moral compass and ideologies will also affect the other characters in your party, with some leaving your group due to actions or ideologies that conflict with their own personal morals and beliefs, such as recruiting a raider into the party. It will bring an interesting balancing element to play that a character will have to try to keep multiple people happy.
Combat will be turn-based and will have a mix of guns, grenades, and melee. There was a particularly brutal looking cricket bat with saw blades wedged in shown in the display art that looks like it can do some damage.
While there was not a lot to see in their PAX demo, Drop Bear Bytes plan on releasing an alpha in March/April 2020, with full development to be completed in 2021. They want to take the time to set a standard for what a really good Australian RPG can be and plan to release on PC, consoles and even mobile platforms.
This year’s PAX had several party games on show, and one that I had a lot of fun with is Brimstone Brawlers. A top-down arena brawler set in a Fantasy/Victorian world, Brimstone Brawlers gives you the option of choosing from Heroes, Monster’s or even regular townsfolk to partake in fisticuffs in all in brawls. Ategig is currently running an alpha inline with up to 12 players fighting it out at a time and have plans to have alternate modes such as team death-matches for those who want to get competitive and tactical.
While the full roster wasn’t available at PAX there were still many characters to choose from, such as the dwarf that shoots bombs, a butcher that can pick up the pieces of meat found in the world to use as clubs and, my personal favourite, a wraith that wields a giant scythe. There are currently plans to expand the roster even further in free content drops after the full release of the game, with a circus-themed event to take place and introduce characters like a strongman and ringmaster.
The arenas are varied as well, with environmental dangers players will have to watch out for. My first brawl took place in an old school boxing gym which was kind of safe, but I found myself having to switch on the situational awareness when fighting on rooftops so I didn’t get knocked off, or get run over by trains in the train station.
Because I played a couple of rounds I made sure to try a few of the different characters to see how they played and there is a big difference in how you play. As the wraith I just waded into the action swinging my scythe at anyone near me, however when playing as another character (please forgive me I didn’t write down the names as I was having too much fun) I found that she needed to constantly keep moving as she did not have the health to slug it out with the heavy hitters. To compensate though she threw down seeds that spawned vines that would attack the other players to support me. It is nice to see the balance there and I am sure that given enough time anyone would be able to find a character that they enjoy playing as.
Currently, Brimstone Brawlers is hoping to release into early access on Steam sometime in February 2020 and they are currently talking to all console platforms holders about a potential release.
Look out for Part Two of Shaun’s PAX AUS 2019 Indie Round-Up in the near future.
Shaun has been playing consoles since the days of the NES. He was fortunate enough to find a wife who not only supported his gaming habits, but has also encouraged his eldest daughter to join in as well.
When not playing games, working, or just being a dad in general, Shaun
is hitting the gym in his own personal quest to have a crack at Ninja