Jammed smack-bang in the middle of the busiest time of the year for video game releases, FutureFive's Darren Price took some time out to fly down to Melbourne to spend a day at Australasia's largest festival of gaming culture.
From the 27th to 29 October the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre played host to PAX Australia 2017. Catering to fans of all types, the expo showcased everything from the latest AAA video games through to collectable card games like Magic the Gathering.
From its humble beginnings as the Penny Arcade Expo, named after the founders' online comic strip, Penny Arcade, PAX has grown into three expos across the US, PAX East, PAX West and Pax South, plus PAX Aus- being the only PAX held outside of the US.
The Australian show is huge, each year it fills the venue. The for the entire weekend the theatres and auditoriums accommodated panels covering everything from creating art from video games to cosplay tips. The main hall had all the heavy-hitters that you'd expect, with Microsoft keen to show of the Xbox One X and Sony creating long lines for their Detroit: Become Human demo.
As usual, Ubisoft Australia's massive booth attracted a huge crowd around the Just Dance 2018 dance floor. The recently released Assassin's Creed Origins was playable in HDR 4K on an Xbox One X in advance of the console's release. I tried out Ubisoft's racing game, The Crew 2, racing on land as well as, new for this sequel, sea and air. Looks promising.
Ubisoft's big game for February 2018 is Far Cry 5. The developers have taken the familiar game mechanics that we've enjoyed for the last thirteen years and shifted the action to the American heartland. Far Cry 5 has players pitted against a cult that has taken over the fictional Hope county, Montana. The demo that I played had me trying to save some captured townsfolk, which didn't exactly go to plan due to a miss-thrown grenade (sorry). I did get to storm a settlement like Rambo, run over some bad guys in a big rig and drop bombs from a bi-plane. Looking forward to this one.
Whilst the likes of the annual EB Expo places the focus on console games, PAX Aus, is a lot more diverse. A huge number of attendees came for the more traditional tabletop and card game vendors. There was a whole area for players to gather with friends and play board and card games. Almost half the show floor is dedicated to traditional games.
PC gaming was also well represented at the PAX Aus. You had the big publishers, that I've mentioned, but you also got an eclectic range of indie developers, both ANZ-based and from overseas, showing of their titles. It was great to see Melbourne's Defiant Developments at the show with Hand of Fate 2, the sequel to a game that I had the good fortune to check out at my very first PAX!
There was also plenty of PC hardware on show. Not only were the best Aussie PC component retailers like Mwave and MSY selling their wares, major vendors such as Intel and Nvidia were also present.
In a behind closed doors session with Nvidia, the GPU manufacturer allowed a select number of journos to get our hands on the newest range of Nvidia Max-Q certified high-end gaming laptops. They also showed of their new GTX 1070ti and a sneak preview of a G-Sync-enabled 4K HDR monitor that should be available early next year.
The PC free-play area was, once again hugely popular. Veteran networking outfit, Linksys, sponsored the area and provided the networking infrastructure. I got the chance to sit down with Vince La Duca, Global Product Manager for Linksys and Greg Morrison, Country Manager of Linksys ANZ. We had an interesting chat about the future of network infrastructure. Keep an eye out on FutureFive for more on this. Linksys were very excited to be announcing the ANZ launch their new WRT X32 router at the show. The Killer-enabled device aims to keep pings low and gaming traffic through your network high.
Overall, another three days of fun from high end PC gaming to classic tabletop games, and everything in between. Roll on PAX Aus 2018!