I may not be the biggest online PC gamer, but after checking the games that Paradox Interactive brought to GDC I'm starting to think about what it's going to take to bring my ancient PC up to specs to play some of these games.
First up was Magicka, a co-op action adventure that started out not that long ago as a student project and quickly evolved into a commercial game. Using the 360 gamepad, players are wizards from a sacred order setting out on a lighthearted quest steeped in Norse mythology. With a heavy focus on co-op multiplayer, wizards act as a team combating spiders, trolls, and all sorts of nasty looking bad guys using a clever spell casting system. Players gather elements of spells using the 360's right analog stick and unleash them as focused attacks, area attacks, or stat modifiers on fellow wizards. Aside from the basic earth, fire, water attacks, players can combine the elements to forge more power spells that can slow enemies down, heal each other, and more. The action is pretty frantic and with three players running around in my demo there was always something happening on screen. In a nice touch, the game's character dialog sports a sly Monty Python styled sense of humor. While the game looked quite far along in development, we'll have to wait till this fall to get our hands on the final game.
For a more serious look at a medieval setting I was pointed to Mount & Blade Warband. For those unfamiliar with the series, think of this game as a refreshing combination of Demon's Souls and CounterStrike. While there's no magic or wizards, the game presents players with large scale online multiplayer battles across 6 modes and numerous maps. Battles were extremely quick with some players mounting horses and sniping from castle towers, and the competition amongst the beta players I saw was fierce. Those ready to ride will be able to storm the castle later this month when the game releases.
My last stop was to check out Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West. I'll try to be unbiased here, as I tend to love Western themed games, but what I saw here was a ton fun. Taking the fundamentals of Team Fortress and bringing it into the ol' west with a 3rd person perspective, this lean 5 on 5 shoot out looked nice, ran smoothly, and featured some very thoughtful game design. Players are given 5 game types across 6 maps that put a new twist on shooter staples. While the four character classes might sound too light, the game's design doesn't call for dedicated support players and each character type comes with special abilities that cover multiple character types. You've got a mysterious Gunslinger (the quick shooter), a ginger-bear Blaster (who specializes in shotguns and dynamite), a dapper Deputy (with advanced tracking skills), and the lovely Trapper (can set bear traps). This results in matches being exclusively focused on the action with little set up time getting in the way. Those players with Steam accounts should expect to see the game appear on the digital download service in the next week or two, and 360/PS3 gamers can expect to jump in April.