PAX West is a great place to find new games to check out, but we also wanted to highlight a few games we were already pretty familiar with but still loved seeing at PAX West 2023.
Alterium Shift caught my eye last year at PAX West 2022, and I’ve been following its progress ever since. It’s a throwback RPG that lists Chrono Trigger as a specific inspiration, but with a visual style that’s sort of a half step towards the HD2D look pioneered in Octopath Traveler.
The team had a much bigger booth this year and was showing off a build that’s a little more updated than the Early Access version we looked at earlier this year. There’s not much new to share about this one, except that it still looks great, the team still seems passionate and energized, and I’m still eagerly awaiting its launch on Switch.
Demonschool caught my eye last year thanks to its stylish art style. The game combines manga-inspired pixel art with 3D models that look like they are ripped from a cursed PS1 demo disk to create something really special.
When I got to play it, though, its unique twist on tactical combat is what hooked me. You control a squad of high schoolers who have to fight demons to keep them from moving across a small battlefield. The fun comes from the turn structure feeling a bit like Into the Breach. You plan out all of your characters' moves in advance, and success is dependent on making use of each character's unique abilities to reposition enemies for maximum effect.
The chunk of the game on display this year was the same chunk as last year, though it has gone through a lot of fine-tuning. I chatted with the developer again, and things are progressing well. It sounds like he's still taking feedback from each day he shows the game off to tweak the build overnight.
I can only hope that all this focus on the demo slice of the game means that the whole package is getting the same level of refinement.
I swear I'd never heard of Wingspan until Kenny got super excited about this demo, but now I'm hearing about it everywhere. Anyway, here's Kenny thoughts about the bird game:
This is the electronic version of a board game. It was created by birders in conjunction with the Audubon Society. Every card in the game is unique and hand-drawn, and each one contains unique facts about the specific bird.
While the game was difficult to play with a controller, but on a computer it is fun and relaxing. I try to play at least a few games every morning with coffee.
The latest expansion (which largely seems to be why the team had a demo at PAX) really changes a lot of gameplay aspects. It adds a 6th food item and “end of game” cards. I didn't get a chance to see how those affected everything in the demo, but I am looking forward to playing it when it is released on Steam.