Rezzed is a gaming event and there are AAA titles on show, but ultimately it’s about indie developers and their products and much like last year, the number of amazing titles was simply astounding. From the ones independently published to those in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign, they all had something new and interesting to offer to our beloved industry.
One of the stops on my first day was the Versus Evil room, as they had not only The Banner Saga 2 there, which I previewed recently—and the reason I’m not including it in today’s write-up—but also a couple of new games I wanted to try. After that, I went to what would become my usual haunt during the following days: The Indie Room, where they collected most of the indie developers that weren’t part of another group, such as the Square Enix Collective sponsored developers.
Here are the games I saw while visiting the Versus Evil folks and the massive indie room!
Like a Boss (Fire Horse Games | Versus Evil) tugged at my World of Warcraft heartstrings. As WoW players, we’ve gone into terrifying raids and challenged monsters for which we were but gnats. We came out on top and conquered them and got that sweet, sweet loot. Then we farmed them to oblivion. But how, do you suppose, are things from the Bosses’ point of view? It’s probably an endless stream of mediocre to intimidating raiders every day of every week, to the point where it feels like they’re just fighting endless waves of them.
That’s what Like a Boss is all about, as you don’t play as the raiders but the bosses, the giant menacing creatures inhabiting the dungeons. You chill around in your boss room and then the waves come. You need to take out the healers, then crash through the tanks, make the DPS stand in fire and kill them. Gain experience, level up and unlock new monstrous abilities as more raiders come and fight you, with ever-increasing abilities and health.
The only problem for you is their unending chatter. “Heals, plz,” and other such nonsense on a regular basis, but there’s one easy fix for that: kill the healers.
Ok, in all seriousness, Like a Boss is a mobile/table action RPG game—much like Diablo—that puts you in the shoes of a myriad of MMO-style bosses as you fight wave after wave of hopeful raiders.
It’s a lot of fun, and WoW players will get a tremendous kick out of it.
Let Them Come (Klemen Lozar | Versus Evil) was on alpha version at Rezzed, and yet what we had there showed the core mechanics perfectly. You stand at the end of a corridor, with a machinegun and your favourite tunes on the radio. Down the tunnel come swarms of alien insects. Imagine yourself in one of those hopeless scenes in Starship Troopers, and you get the idea of what Let Them Come is like.
The more you shoot, the longer you survive and the more stuff you unlock to help you survive even bigger onslaughts.
Let Them Come’s has a one-man development team, and at the time of writing, he still doesn’t have his own studio, though Versus Evil officials told me they’re helping him set one up. It’s a simple game, sure, the mechanics are straightforward, but having played it for a little while I can assure you it’s going to be an addictive thing once it’s complete.
It’ll be one of those, “I’ll just do one more wave,” kind of games.
Man O’ War: Corsair (Evil Twin Artworks) There were a few Warhammer games at Rezzed, but while I like Vermintide and find Total War: Warhammer (aka Total Warhammer) intriguing, Man O’ War is my favourite of the lot. Taking place in an era in the past of Warhammer Fantasy before Chaos had come in and wrecked the place, the game puts you in charge of a ship and its crew as you take jobs and fight menaces on the seas.
And when I say menaces, I don’t just mean Orcs, though the lovable greenskins are here with their cobbled-together and highly lethal ships, but also giant sea monsters. The demo had you fight a Megalodon of all things, with both canons and the captain with a blunderbuss. Talk about making an impact in a demo. I loved it!
But what really makes this game so cool for me is that since playing the Kenway Saga of Assassin’s Creed, I’ve taken a big liking to naval combat games, and Man O’ War combines that new fascination of mine with the Warhammer universe. The only thing that could top that, for me, would be having the Warcraft universe instead!
Expeditions: Viking (Logic Artists) is the latest entry into the Expeditions series. I’ll be honest, I had only heard of the other Expedition games but Viking was the first one I tried. You control the leader of a band of Vikings raiding lands in search for gold and glory and the demo on show at Rezzed had one such mission, where you had to travel into a burial mound and claim the treasure therein. The problem is, the local hamlet didn’t like people going into their sacred place and when you ask him about the sweet, sweet booty inside, he demands a sacrifice.
I’m all about respecting people’s traditions, but I smelled something fishy here so I said no, plundered the mountain and came out and brought the hamlet leadership to their knees. Why? Because I knew it was a trick, they just liked killing people. Their focus wasn’t on protecting their riches or even their customs and the “sacred spirits,” as they’re more than happy to trade it all for someone to kill.
And in making me take those choices, in presenting me with scenarios where I could analyse the morality of the situation and make my own judgement, Expeditions: Viking hooked me in. I was only sad that I couldn’t keep playing, the demo ended there, because I wanted to know more, to take my Viking to his land and build and improve my settlement.
The combat was tactical, moving fighters in a hex grid, and very fun. I did recommend them adding in panning, to move around the area with the mouse, as it’s how most of us would explore battleground in these kind of games. They mentioned tabbing between units as another option they were considering and I told them it was a brilliant idea.
Expeditions: Viking is still some time away from release and even previews, but when it’s available, I’ll be showing it to you, because you have to see it. It is frankly great and I know for certain that I’ve only skimmed the surface of what the title has to offer.
Frozen Synapse 2 (Mode 7 Games) was very strange for me. I remember playing Rainbow Six and planning where my soldiers would go, where they’d use their grenades and where they’d take out enemies. And I remember those plans always failing. But what if I could control what’s happening on a turn-by-turn basis? I could set where my guys are going, then once that action resolves I can then change my strategy. That’s what you do in Frozen Synapse 2. Even more, you can run simulations on the enemies themselves, try out different scenarios depending on their own behaviour. It’s quite good, and I know many people, my brother-in-law among them, who would spend hours carefully designing the right strategy to fight enemy soldiers.
I mention my brother-in-law and I realise this would be the game for him for a second reason, and that is that Frozen Synapse 2 features a massive city with different factions, forces, allies and enemies to interact with, via either negotiation or hostility in a way that is very reminiscent—and a clear inspiration according to Mode 7 Games—to XCOM Apocalypse, where things shift over time, particularly the markets and the balance of power.
If you like this sort of complex and intriguing take on the strategy and tactics genre, then you should really keep an eye out for Frozen Synapse 2. For me it’s a game I’ll enjoy with the danger of staying in an endless loop of retrying scenarios.
Tokyo 42 (SMAC Games) mixes a ton of action games, classics in the genre like Grand Theft Auto, with action movies of the 90s and many more sources of inspiration, but it does so in a “micro” way, at least that’s how the developers put it. There are assassinations and disguises with the same rules as Hitman, but condensed into its simplest form possible, there are stealth mechanics and fortresses like those in Ubisoft titles, but again, in its simples and smallest unit. You have gunfights and bullet hells, but you take one shot and it’s done my friend.
Combine this with a 3D-modelled isometric and extremely colourful and charming version of Tokyo and you start getting the idea of what makes Tokyo 42 so special. The 3D environment lets you change the perspective and find new ways to explore. Your character can jump impossible heights and survive deadly falls because they want you to explore, to find all the secrets and play the game as you want it, with your own playstyle at the front.
The demo had a small section of a futuristic Tokyo, which is bright and colourful in the daylight, because, as the developers said it, “In Blade Runner it’s always night, but you know, there are also days, or at least there are in our universe!” But as they mentioned to me in our chat, the game will have a city that is about ten times as big as the demo, with factions, missions and much more, all for you to explore. There’s even a nudist colony!
It’s big, silly and very, very fun!
Perpetual Night (Studio Genkan) is a curious game, a 2D platforming adventure currently in development and Kickstarter. The game stars a young girl transported to a mysterious dimension-travelling castle that kidnaps people from different realms and forces them to work within its walls in menial tasks. The protagonist is looking for her brother, another hapless victim of the fortress and its master.
But as the castle is not normal and travels to dangerous places, the light within its walls isn’t normal either and so to protect the girl, and presumably all its workers, the castle grants her the ability to transform into a satyr-like shadow beast while under certain light spectrums. The new form is a painful and even dehumanising transformation for the girl, but it comes in handy for its greater agility.
Perpetual Night impressed me considerably, because its demo was very good, very long and showed all mechanics perfectly, and it’s still in Kickstarter. With so many projects on the platform without even a prototype, it’s refreshing and quite exciting to see one with such a degree of work already done. And not only that but the story is interesting and the gameplay, combining careful timing and tricky platforming, is very fun. Yes, there’s still lots of work left to do on Perpetual Night, but I’m confident they can pull it off!
Doctor Kvorak’s Obliteration Game (Freekstorm) has the funniest and cruelest concept I’ve seen in adventure gaming in a long while. You play as a little blue alien, captured from your home world by a deity so bored with eternity that it’s decided to create a reality TV show and force the universe to watch it. The Obliteration Game is so named because failure to complete the tasks will result in planets exploding.
The game takes place on a giant arena separated into a myriad of rooms, each with traps and puzzles you have to overcome, and pieces of Saviour Stones to collect to save the planets. What I liked about this approach is that you can clearly see how much more you’ll have to go through before the game’s end. Your little blue alien waddles his way pushing buttons, changing power sources, moving boxes and solving logic puzzles. It can jump but any fall higher than a few inches will cause it to collapse. I wasn’t a big fan of this, particularly as some puzzles involve some backtracking and jumping down platforms would’ve helped immensely, but I do agree with the developers at Freekstorm, that the weakness matches the character’s build and design. It is a tender chubby little thing.
I played through the full demo and found the puzzles quite interesting, not very hard but unique in their approach, as sometimes to collect a Saviour Stone shard you need to drag elements from one puzzle to another to power a mechanism. It reminds me of collecting stars in The Talos Principle, only here the Saviour Stone shards are obligatory to progress.
Speaking of stars though, Doctor Kvorak’s Obliteration Game has gems, stars and other collectibles strewn across the different puzzle levels, and collecting all of them unlocks new skins for the characters. While making my alien look like a panda is funny, I would like these collectibles to have a deeper meaning, a greater use or have them removed entirely. It’s my opinion of course.
On a final note, the game is available for VR and I gave it a shot…only to remove the Oculus Rift about ten seconds later because I was already queasy. The Rift does not love me!
Seraph (Dreadbit Games) is a game I really liked when I saw it. The developers describe it as an “acrobatic shooter.” Your character, the angel Seraph—could use a better name there, guys—needs to escape her demon-infested prison and recover her powers, and she’ll do so with grace, aplomb and the ability to double jump and dash in any direction.
It’s a pretty fast-paced game and platforming is precise and challenging. Combat is interesting with the character auto-aiming at enemies, leaving you to only shoot, which you can do mid-jump or during one of her dashes. If you keep moving and firing, it’s beauty and violence in motion. It’s the closest we’ll ever get to the Gun-Katas of Equilibrium.
And I dig that!
The Black Death (Small Impact Games) is not my kind of game. I know it’s a terrible way to start a description but it’s the truth. It’s a survival game, and I thoroughly hate this genre, I dislike micromanaging my resources, keeping my character well fed and hydrated. I have enough stress doing that in real life—though my issue is usually not with starving as it is overeating but that’s another story entirely—to add them into a game.
Having said so, I think it’s a brilliant direction for the genre. The Black Death is a medieval survival game. What does this mean? No preservatives, no canned food, stuff rots fairly easily and if you eat something bad you might get an infection, same if you get hurt. And what happens to someone in medieval times who gets an infection? He learns to live with it…for as long as that life lasts anyway.
It makes for a very tense game, one where you have to be careful about what you pick up, what trouble you get into and how your keep your guy healthy. And while that is great in theory, for me, it’s nightmarish in practice.
But if survival is your game, you should probably give this a shot!
Syndrome (Camel 101) is perhaps my favourite survival horror in the past few years. The reason is simple: you’re not helpless. You can pick up weapons and defend yourself. But, and this is the big one, resources are limited so hiding and running away is always an option to save up on ammo and other stuff. The time I spent playing Syndrome showed me that I had a choice in how I played the game, how I approached every moment against a scary thing.
I like that and I hope it doesn’t suffer from the “armoury” issue that plagues most weapons-ready survival horrors, where you carry so much stuff on you that you have no reason to fear anything. The scarcity will help.
But beyond that, Syndrome also has a wonderful atmosphere and when I mentioned it reminded me a lot of Event Horizon—the most amazing sci-fi horror film of all time, no arguments allowed—they mentioned it inspired them a bit, with Virus being the heaviest source of film inspiration.
The atmosphere was so good, so strong on the fear factor that Art Director, and fellow Croatian (though he’s the real kind, not Croatian-lite like me) Boris Raguza had to tell me not to worry because we were on the safe part of the game, no scary bits yet, just so I would keep moving with more confidence instead of creeping around every single corner.
Antioch: Scarlet Bay (Mi-Clos Studios) is a game I read about but didn’t actually play at the event. But I caught up with a couple of friends while they were enjoying the title and being the opportunist that I am, I decided to interview the developer right there while their attention was on the game.
Antioch: Scarlet Bay is a detective story but uniquely, it’s a co-op one. Played on mobiles with a friend, the game presents the story and choices in text form, with your combined choices affecting the story in a myriad of ways. According to the developer, your partner can even derail your carefully crafted and planned plot, sending you on tangents you never even knew existed.
But it’s not just text, but also comic-book-style stills of locations and people and if you scroll up to see your earlier choices or some conversations with key information, you can see them appear in comic-book panels.
Pretty genius if you ask me. As for my companions, they were impressed as well!
Tomorrow I’m closing my coverage of Rezzed by telling you which games were my “Best of Rezzed,” but I realised that to do so, I needed to give you all the candidates.
And now you have them.
I love how diverse and innovative indie gaming is. It’s refreshing in ways the AAA sector of the industry rarely achieves.