The day picked up early – instead of taking advantage of media getting an hour early access to the floor, I opted to go across the street and check out Intel’s press event showing off some gaming laptops and mobile devices from partners that were packing Intel parts. The Razer Blade we’ve already seen, but this was the first time I got to get my hands on its rival from MSI, the GS70. The GS70 has all the bells and whistles of a gaming machine at 17″ – nVidia graphics, the latest i7 inside, 16GB memory and huge storage space – but weighs less than 6 pounds with its ultralight aluminum chassis. Before i got to play with it i picked it up and kind of moved it around in the air (under the watchful eye of the Intel folks) and can tell you the weight’s no joke. And they had it running Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, which looked all sorts of candy-like delicious. The chips inside ran with Intel’s Iris graphics built in, which are reported to support 4K Ultra HD (on up to three screens) and much quicker video editing and processing than the 3rd generation i-core chips that came before. I can’t really vouch for how well my eyes can tell that precisely, but they can tell that the screens looked pretty damn good.
They were also showing off their Next Unit of Computing (NUC) devices – tiny little boxes (as you can see from the image) that pack some power and seemed to have grown since I saw them at PAX East earlier this year. Instead of Ivy Bridges, the guts of these units were running i3 and i5 Haswell core chips (with turbo) and Intel HD graphics 5000, which isn’t bad for starting at $400. The outside featured network, USB 3.0, HDMI and DisplayPorts. So what did they do after showing us the specs on these units? We got to game on them. There were a few stations there that were driven by a NUC stuck to the back of the monitor, that still provided a high-grade gaming experience that I would expect from a desktop build. They mentioned that they were going to release a Pro edition, which we’ll keep an eye out for. To be honest I’d consider using these in the enterprise too in pro mode. On a personal note, what was probably the nicest part of the Intel show had nothing to do with going over specs or gaming on their ultrabooks – it was the business card raffle from which I won an i7 4770K processor. So guess what kids? It’s build time.
The other game I was glad to finally get my hands on was Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns. Having played the first and second one through, the series kind of grew on me, and Lighting became one of my favorite Final Fantasy characters of all time. I knew the gameplay on this one was going to be a little bit different than the previous games in the XIIIuniverse, and did like what I saw. Lightning is a solo player (at least in the demo) and the overworld work that has to be done is more than just walking around and only being able to jump where there’s a flashy spot on the ground. The demo featured a slice of the game where you have to chase Snow down, of course learning the mechanics of the game on the way. Similar to paradigm shifts Lightning can switch between classes on the fly to unleash a broad range of attacks. These classes each have a different orientation – in the case of this demo it was defense/life, attack power and magic. It almost reminded me of the dress spheres in Final Fantasy X-2, just done a lot better in the combat style of the XIII universe. Staggering your opponents changes a little bit, but the core concept is similar. I for one enjoyed it, and as I am a glutton for completion, will definitely be picking it up to close out the trilogy.