PAX East 2013 is over. We got to see many games at the show, and while this week and next will feature thoughts on each of them, today we are thinking about our shiny awards that we have to give for the games that we found to be the cream of the crop. Games could qualify for nominations in multiple categories, but only win one award, so it was a tough decision in several cases. Onto the shinies!
Best MOBA – Heroes of Newerth
This was a tough one, but we decided to go with HoN in large part due to the recent HoN 3.0 changes, which overhauled the graphics and environments, as well as added elements that should help players that are new to the game to learn and hone skills. None of this compromises HoN’s position as a challenging game. It’s a MOBA that has a lot of layers to it, with a community that is truly making an impact on the game as well. The MOBA market is ever more crowded, so standing out is important. The new maps and towers feel more alive and the first community-created bot was recently added to the team.
Rising Star – Dungeon Defenders II
Dungeon Defenders II was just announced last week right before the show. While half of the game is set to be the familiar co-op game that fans of the original Dungeon Defenders know and love, the second part of the game will be a MOBA. Following the third-person view path pioneered by Smite, Dungeon Defenders II earns its place here by its blend of MOBA gameplay, plus adding elements of RPG progression to the mix, along with a streamlined item system. The MOBA portion of the game is in a limited closed beta, which was playable at the show. While there is work to be done, Trendy Entertainment has already put together a MOBA that puts the commonly cited accessibility of gameplay goal into play. It’s definitely one to watch, and therefore is our Rising Star.
Mobile – Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
This game isn’t exclusively for the mobile platform. However, with more and more games going cross-platform (in fact, most of the games on this list do, or will, feature a mobile release. We chose Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft because mobile makes such a huge difference in the appeal of this game, Blizzard’s first free to play competitive title. The collectible card game is particularly suited to free to play and on the go. Add to that the mix of lore from Warcraft and WoW, quick matches or mini-tournament modes, the ability to see your opponent make moves in real time, and more. This seems like a game that many might not sit down to play that often, with all the other titles out there competing for attention when sitting at a computer, but for mobile entertainment, the quick matches, strategic gameplay, and Warcraft content make for something with greater appeal. The decision to release on iOS adds a real coat of promise to Hearthstone.
Most Anticipated – Civilization V: Brave New World
Civilization V was called one of the more “quietly successful” series of all time at the PAX East Firaxis panel on Saturday. The first gameplay was shown at PAX. Where the first expansion Gods & Kings added layers of depth to the early and mid game, by introducing Faith, bringing back a developed religion system, providing more options for diplomacy, and even improving city-states and making them more useful. Brave New World looks to continue adding layers, this time concentrating on mid-to late-game. With a new culture victory condition, added ways that Great Works can help bring tourism, new civs, a World Congress that looks to be able to turn some games around, and hey, an XCOM squad, it’s just no surprise that Brave New World is something we look forward to.
Best of Show – Anomaly 2
11-bit Studios is a small Polish indie development studio, but with the release of Anomaly: Warzone Earth, the team there achieved multiplatform success little by little with a core of RTS gameplay and addictive challenge. Now, the team is working on Anomaly 2, which builds on the foundation of earlier games, but is distinctly offering more. A blend of tower offense and tower defense, you can play as either humans or as the towers themselves. Anomaly 2 wins our best of show award for several reasons. It is an unabashedly challenging game, with the pace adding to the challenging aspects. The need to constantly revise your strategy and adapt to the situations and your opponent. And the way the mech mode for units and abilities ranking system add both another layer of challenge and a degree of customization. If things continue the way they looked on the PAX East floor, then Anomaly 2 will be fun for the RTS/strategy fan that enjoys a good challenge.