PAX Prime 2015: Dive into the Pit

The Behemoth returned to PAX Prime 2015 last weekend with an updated version of Pit People, which had been previously known as Game 4. The early story that explores the origin of Horatio and his merry band is largely the same as the build I tried a year ago, so I spent my time with a 25-minute timed demo over the weekend at PAX Prime 2015.

The main difference I noticed from playing the game during its various iterations over the last year is that the combat feels a lot faster. Each turn still consists of moving your army on a hex grid based on movement points, positioning them strategically (i.e. flanking an enemy, hiding behind cover) and unleashing your attacks or healing actions simultaneously. The core dynamic of deploying stronger melee fighters up front to soak up damage and the relationships between various types of weapons (i.e. blades, maces, arrows) and armour types (i.e. helmets, shields) is unchanged, but the attack and counter attack animations feel faster than before. The effect is pronounced by the elaborate arcade setup that has been used to demo Game 4/Pit People over the last year, I’m tempted to buy a proper Xbox One fight stick to use with the game when it releases.

There are multiple fighters with both melee and ranged attacks that trigger based on field positioning which makes paying attention to remaining health and cycling combatants between front line and supporting roles a critical factor in winning battles. A lot of Pit People’s variance comes with characters making some decisions without explicit user input when multiple options are available (i.e. 2 or more enemies are in melee range), adding a degree of unpredictability during combat.

The world is fun to explore, providing a variety of options at home base such as selecting quest(s) to embark upon and an item store with gear such as healing camps and enemy capturing nets. I didn’t have enough time to fully complete a quest after engaging in some lengthy battles in the open world, a challenge that I could have avoided with the long range stun of a cannonball that can allow the Pit People party to slip by towards the quest waypoints a lot faster.

The unique aesthetic of The Behemoth is distinctively woven through the DNA of this game, and the dev team member who walked me through the demo noted that references to previous games would occasionally pop up as nods to their long time fans. I enjoyed the throwback prisoner heads in Battleblock Theater and the Alien Hominid level in Castle Crashers, all of which are ripe for referencing in the upcoming game as well.

Pit People is bold and brash in a way that feels new, while clearly rooted in many ways with more traditional game design and mechanics. The game doesn’t have an announced release date yet, but fans of the studio’s previous work as well as risk taking game design have a lot to look forward to.

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