PAX East is always a wild time, and even after 3 years of attending, I always find something that surprises me. Fans of big titles may have been disappointed by the lackluster presence from triple-A companies (where’s Spyro? Fortnite? Was Bethesda even there?), but indie seekers had a lot to appreciate. I spent a few days on the show floor, and these are just a few of the games that stood out to me as having great potential, in no particular order.
Ashen was one of the last games I saw at the con, but one of the best. The game from New Zealand-based Aurora44 highlights low-poly graphics with an elegant design. The demo I tried had me delving into an ancient cavern and taking on a shadowy boss monster. The creature was a dang tough fight (I died, horribly) but not in the trite, repetitive way where many games tend to falter. The changing attacks necessitated dodge rolling and constant attention. My favorite part of the game though? The passive multiplayer with no game chat, allowing for serendipitous connections with other players. The developer I spoke with promised a massive open world experience with the combat of Dark Souls but the friendly interaction of Journey. All that combined makes for a fantastic sounding game — if they can pull it off. Ashen’s release date is still TBA.
I’ve been following the production of Overland for a while now, and I was super excited to try it out at the con. It’s yet another in the line of impressive low-poly games that remains eye-catching, this time in a tactics-based survival game. You play as survivors of some sort of alien apocalypse, attempting to drive cross-country to safety while stopping for gas and other useful supplies. The grid tactics are reminiscent of XCOM or Into the Breach, but simplified to a perfect fit for the world. Your aim is not to kill all the aliens, or defend earth — you need to get what you can, and get the hell out. The strategy and ambience to the game work in tandem to make it a much anticipated new game for me. Developer Finji Co has said the game will be released sometime in 2018.
Anyone who knows me knows I love beautiful pixel art. This game is not that. This game is disgusting, gross, gritty pixel art with disgusting, gross, gritty narrative. There’s a puke button. And I love every grotesque pixel of it. It’s a dystopian cyberpunk post-apocalyptic trash heap that makes you want to light it on fire and roll around in it. Its focus is on narrative and exploring its nauseating expanse and the crude people within it, but don’t worry, your hands get dirtier than that too. It’s also a bloody top-down shooter where you can kill basically any moving chunk of flesh around. No official release date from creator Talecrafter yet, but I’ll be festering in wait until then.
Few games caught my eye faster than Relic Hunters Legend, the latest game from the Brazilian studio behind Chroma Squad and Dungeonland. With its bright, cartoony graphics and fast-paced action, RHL is an utterly satisfying top down shooter. I played the demo with a friend, and both of us were impressed with the tight controls for a game that’s still in development. The full release promises a “touching” RPG story mode as well as well as online co-op for up to 4 players, twitch integration, and — get this — it’s free. 100% free to play, forever. Relic Hunters Legend is set to drop in late 2018, so be sure to keep these ducks on your radar.
Three words. Fantasy. 70s. Detective. Disco Elysium is set in an urban fantasy city resembling our 70s, but with just enough grit and mystery to make it completely unique. You play as a detective in this gorgeous open world isometric RPG, investigating and interrogating to get down to the truth. The story promises that choices matter, allowing you to be a good cop or bad, and customization of psychological skills. The key word that got me excited was D&D — the rep I spoke with said the devs are huge fans of tabletop RPGs, and the game was made with that in mind, with dice rolls going on in the background. Honestly, the concept looks so good I’d play it as a digital game or tabletop. Release date for Humble-published Disco Elysium is still TBA.
Okay, look. I know what you’re thinking. It’s just another dating sim. And maybe you’re right, a little bit. But look at it. It’s CUTE okay? There are a plethora of monsters to date, each kind of evil in their own way, all romance-able regardless of gender, and the dialogue I’ve seen is well written, and pointedly fun. Plus, no longer do you have to try to date monsters alone in your room — Monster Prom features multiplayer mode, so up to four friends can go to school and compete for their bloody hearts. I really just want to date monsters with friends, okay? Beautiful Glitch’s Monster Prom is set to release on April 27th.
No indie list would be complete without a platformer, and Eagle Island topped that category for me. Trek through jungles, clear obstacles, and fight native fauna by throwing your owl at them. Yup, just chuck a bird at all your problems to make them go away. But seriously, Eagle Island is an adorable metroidvania that’s equally challenging and rewarding. You can give your owl elemental powers to deal with different obstacles, and upgrade it along the way in this procedurally generated world. Eagle Island, from solo dev PixelNicks, is set to release in late 2018.
Disclosure: I was provided a copy of Relic Hunters Legend by the developers. I try to keep my reviews unbiased regardless, and I received copies of several other games I opted not to include in this list.
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