Hidden Gems Returns for the First Time Again at PAX West!

We’re proud to announce that our PAX panel series, Hidden Gems, will make its return at PAX West! This will be the first time our panel will be at the proverbial prime PAX, and we’re excited to see what offerings the expo has in store for us in its hometown of Seattle.

If you’re unfamiliar with Hidden Gems, this is how it works: we scour the show floor, looking for unique and undiscovered games and experiences to highlight and discuss for you, the PAX attendee. If you’d like to hear our previous Hidden Gems panels, you can check out our recordings from PAX East 2017, PAX South 2018, and PAX East 2018.

So if you plan on being at PAX West, please join Ward co-founder Dylan Ilvento, Polytron producer Felix Kramer, Spawn On Me host Kahlief Adams, and Waypoint editor-in-chief Austin Walker on Friday, August 31st, at 5:00 pm in the Cat Theatre as we explore our hidden gems of PAX West.

Hidden Gems Rides Again at PAX East!

We’re pleased to announce that our panel series, Hidden Gems, will be returning for the second time at PAX East this April!

What is Hidden Gems, you may ask? Why, it’s where we highlight all the cool games and experiences on the showfloor that you don’t want to miss!

Our panelists for this PAX East include Ward Games co-founders Dylan Ilvento and Mason Brown as well as our colleagues Mike Futter, author of the GameDev Business Handbook, and Felix Kramer, producer at Polytron!

Hidden Gems: Discovering the Undiscovered at PAX East will take place on Friday, April 6th, at 4:00 pm EST in the Bumblebee Theatre. If you’d like to see what we’ve discovered in PAXes past, check out our recordings from PAX South 2018 and PAX East 2017. We hope to see you there!

Best Games Played 2017: Freshest Ideas


These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2017 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2017, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


From the ex-Hitman developers at Ultra Ultra comes a unique and fascinating game that seems to have gotten overlooked in a overwhelmingly fantastic year for releases.

Echo follows En, a woman that travels to a planet in search for a technology to save someone she lost. She descends into a palace beneath the sterile surface to look for it, but is met with a twisted surprise: the seemingly endless palace, with its polished marble halls, is filled with robotic copies of En.

To reach her goal, En must defeat her doppelgängers. Using her suite of abilities in refined stealth action gameplay segments, En has the ability to eliminate or simply sneak around her clones. With each fallen clone, future ones will use their adaptive artificial intelligence to learn, mirror, and counter the patterns the player been using, forcing them to adapt their playstyle to stay one step ahead of the copies. These sections further allow you to hone your strategic mind with opportunities to chain your assaults together that, if pulled off right, allows the player the chance to take out a group of enemies in one fell swoop.

In between these combat encounters are quiet walk-and-talk sections where En attempts at conversing with her ship’s AI, London. While London seems more interested in actively antagonizing En about her quest, she’s still able to maintain a conversation with him. In these dialogs, they discuss topics from En’s past to the history of the planet. These slow, quiet talks between moments make the world richer and fuller.

So much of Echo feels completely unique, from its aesthetic – which could be described as cyberpunk neo-baroque in early parts of the palace – to its combat, which takes a refined stealth action foundation and adds an adaptive enemy AI on top of it. Echo is a brilliantly made and expertly paced first entry from Ultra Ultra, and we can’t wait for more.

Hidden Gems Returns for PAX South!

We’re excited to announce that our panel series — Hidden Gems — returns for PAX South this upcoming January!

What is Hidden Gems? It’s where we bring to you all of the unique games and events on the show floor that you don’t want to miss out on. PAX is an amazing show, but it can overwhelm you. Hidden Gems is our way to help point attendees towards overlooked treasures.

Our panelists for our PAX South panel include Ward co-founder Dylan Ilvento as well as our friends and hosts of Instant Replay Live: Nick Nundahl and Joe Wetmore! We’re really excited to have these guys on the panel, and we can’t wait to hear what special and unique experiences they find at the con.

So if you want to find out what secrets PAX South has to offer, join us at the show January 13th, at 1:30 pm in the Armadillo Theatre.

And if you’d like to find out more about our Hidden Gems panel, check out our recording from PAX East 2017.

Best Games Played 2016: Best Personal Interactions


These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


Oxenfree wins the award for Best Personal Interactions, both creatively and mechanically. Creatively, it tells the tale of teens lost on an island, fighting an evil presence, and trying to use their pubescent communication skills to save and connect to one another. At the same time, Alex, the protagonist, tries to grapple with the past loss of her brother and to connect with her newly-minted half brother, Jonas.

Mechanically, the narrative system, of being able to move and talk as humans do, evokes the now-trademark Grand Theft Auto series’ use of dialog during driving sequences, as well as the use of walk and talk shots in television and film. It’s a story perpetually in motion, best exemplified by the fact that Alex is constantly moving.

The dialog options appear as speech balloons above Alex’s head, invoking the idea that these are all the things she wants to say, but what it’s up to the player to decide the best course of action. Alex – like Geralt of Rivia, Henry, and Maxine Caulfield – speaks for herself, you’re the angel (or devil) on their shoulder. Sometimes, she interjects when something important is on her mind. Other times, she waits for there to be a lull in the conversation. At all times, you and her are trying to help make the situation better. Rarely does it work out.

Night School Studio has created a ghost story as a way to deal with personal loss, and because you have the somewhat shy, teenage Alex as your vessel, you must work together to say what’s on your mind.

Best Games Played 2016: Most Empowering


These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


Life is Strange captures the feeling of being in high school again, of the start of a new school year with crisp fall days, imbued with the Lynchian tones of the Pacific Northwest, contrasted with overly sterile hallways and sanitized relationships with the high school staff.

Life is Strange is one of the most exquisite experiences out there, and it’s not because of its time rewinding mechanic. The supernatural elements are mostly a backdrop for the main character, Maxine, trying to rekindle a lost friendship after returning from an unceremonious move to another city.

The game captures what makes it so stressful and difficult and scary to be a teenager, and then the game adds real, physical threats to the existing pile of existential ones, from town-destroying storms and kidnappings to addressing issues of child abuse, mental illness, suicide, bullying, and personal growth. It’s a stunning blend of Twin Peaks, Juno, Superbad, with a touch of Donnie Darko.

There are some cracks in the veneer of the game, such as the somewhat stilted dialog caused by a French team trying to write about an American town in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a flawed, beautiful thing, much like the life of its characters that it’s trying to portray.

Best Games Played 2016: Best Open World


These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


In what might be our most traditional game award, Fallout 4 excels at making you want to explore every nook and cranny in post-apocalyptic Boston.

Moreso than any other other Bethesda game that came before, everything in the game, from the addition of voice acting to the player character to the settlement building, is made to feel as if this is your world. Sometimes that comes with a price, such as the sacrifice of previous Bethesda games’ amazingly creative dialog options. In Fallout 4, dialog options are more of a leap of faith, that you’re able to interpret what the abbreviated options on the screen are what you meant to say.

But with that in mind, the possibilities of the world are amazingly impressive. Maybe you want to save your son from the hands of the Institute, maybe you don’t, but what’s important is that it offers you the choice to do so. And maybe it breaks down after a while, after you become the king of everything and you’re one-shotting deathclaws, but most contemporary Bethesda games do.

Fallout 4 still gives you meaningful choices concerning the main forces in the Commonwealth, similar to those found in its predecessor, Fallout: New Vegas. Even after you’ve finished the main quest and completed all the side stories and downloadable content, there’s always another rock to turn over, another corner of the world to explore, another little story told through environmental clues and terminal entries. Even after playing for scores of hours, you may find another companion to join you on your journey, making your story in this place all the more real.

Best Games Played 2016: Best Escapism


These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


Sometimes, you just want to break some rocks, till some soil, and grow some crops.

A spiritual successor to Harvest Moon infused with parts of Minecraft and Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley is hypnotic in the cyclical nature of its gameplay. The dopamine effect of getting rewarded for progressing every day makes you feel accomplished within the systems of the game.

Little by little, step by step; as the virtual days tick by, the physical hours slip away. When you wake up from the trance, you’ll have created a little farm to call your own and hopefully someone to take to the Flower Dance.

Best Games Played 2016: Best Direction


These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


Inside looks, plays, and feels like a game that took six years to make.

Every puzzle, every set piece, every situation feels like the product of careful and iterative design from six years of refinement. In a popular, possibly pejorative turn of phase, Playdead has made a better Limbo.

When we say direction, we mean it every meaning of the term. Inside has one of the most resolute visions of any video game. Its art direction is impeccable, using 3D models with stark, low poly lighting and desaturated color that portrays the dread of its broken world. The gameplay and interaction design is stunning, creating well thought-out puzzles mixed with environmental visual cues that ensure any puzzle solution is far enough out of reach to make you think, but never far enough to frustrate you.

The back third of the game may stretch your brain in its narrative choices, but overall, Inside is a tiny, neatly dressed package that’s worth your time.

Best Games Played 2016: Most Innovative


These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


With Pokémon Go, Niantic has proven that Pokémon has the ability to stand the test of time. When the original Pokéfans were children, they’d play pretend Pokémon by going outside, turning their baseball caps backwards, and throwing plastic Pokéballs into tall grass to catch invisible animals. Now, Niantic has created a novel approach that combines location-based presence and alternate reality to rekindle the magic we had as children.

Pokémon Go allows you to explore parts of your city, town, or neighborhood that you otherwise would have overlooked. It was an opportunity to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t talk to. It encouraged people to be more active, and they started congregating in cities, parks, and piers.

For a few brief weeks it was beautiful, but nothing lasts forever. The game has unfortunately suffered from rote battle mechanics, severe stability issues, and removed or slow to rollout features that have somewhat doused this otherwise watershed moment for AR gaming and Pokémon. The game doesn’t have the same daily active user numbers that it did at its peak, but it still sits near the top of the top grossing list six months later.

The zeitgeist of everyone on the street trying to be a Pokémon Master may have already passed, but the narrative of Pokémon has always been a much more personal journey. It’s about you, your team, and the bonds you’ve created, and Niantic has captured the physicality of that narrative better than any other Pokémon game that has come before it.