The last few months of a year are usually crammed full of the big publisher’s “AAA” annual tent pole creations. 2018 is no different. FIFA, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed and Forza will soon be joined by Starlink, Soul Calibur, Read Dead Redemption 2, Hitman 2, Fallout ’76, Spyro, Civilization VI, Pokemon, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Darksiders 3 and Just Cause 4 among others in what can only be described as the most ram packed release schedule in recent history. Of course, just because the big publishers are rumbling into town on a marketing driven, headline-hogging parade doesn’t mean that the indie developers/publishers are shutting up shop ’til 2019. There’s some tantalising prospects still to come in 2018 from small teams to indie publishers and we thought we’d shine a spotlight on them right here, right now;
The Shapeshifting Detective – Releasing November 6th
To say we liked FMV adventure The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, the previous title from D’Avekki Studios, would be an understatement. The game well and truly tickled the Lovecraftian funny bone of our reviewer Jan who awarded the game a rare 10/10 in his review. Now D’Avekki are back, partnering with Wales Interactive (a publisher really making the FMV genre their own) once again, with their next title “The Shapeshifting Detective”. Described as a supernatural-noir murder mystery FMV game which gives the player, in the shoes of the titular Detective, the unique ability to shapeshift into other characters from the game to effect the interactions they have with other characters. It’s a unique premise in a niche genre, which immediately puts it on out radar. Given D’Avekki’s excellent track record coupled with a top quality cast (including FMV icon Chris Jones AKA Tex Murphy), it should probably be on yours too.
Steel Rats – Releasing November 7th
When I got my hands on Steel Rats at EGX Rezzed earlier this year, I was suitably impressed. You play as a bike gang that use their choppers to mangle, bash and otherwise destroy a mysterious robotic enemy that has invaded their city by running over them. Played on a 2.5D plane with 3 lanes to switch between (including driving up vertically too), the game feels like a high octane, Dieselpunk action platform that’s almost peerless right now. Steel Rats has been high on my shopping list since April and it finally hits PS4, Xbox One and PC at the end of November. Personally, I can’t wait to get in the saddle and do my best Biker Mice from Mars impressions while playing…
Squishies – Releasing November 20th
No, not that odd series of squashy toys but rather a PSVR exclusive puzzle platformer from Brainseed Factory. Using the PS Move controllers which are transformed in VR into the equivalent of alien hair driers, you blow the gang of loveable Squishies around levels while attempting to avoid the pitfalls and dangers they contain. There’s also a comprehensive creation suite included too so you can create your own levels then share them with the community for others to try out. Word on the grapevine is that Squishies is damn good fun and while we’ve not played it for ourselves, it’s certainly ticking all the right boxes to get us interested. If you have a PSVR, keep your eyes out for Squishies when it releases on November 20th.
Override: Mech City Brawl – Releasing December 4th
I managed to get a few quick goes on Override: Mech City Brawl at EGX with my son Logan. He beat me repeatedly. It was late in the day and I was tired but the reality is he was just miles better at the game than I was. The fact that the game is instantly accessible for a 9 year old to pick up and play (and then beat a 32 year old with 20 years of fighting game experience under my belt) says to me that this might be a real hit with younger gamers and teens. It was so easy to do really impressive moves with mountainous mechs and beasts while doing loads of damage to the scenery around us that meant it was a real treat for the eye balls, even if it didn’t feel as deep as other fighters out right now. Picking up a giant frying pan and then bashing part of a lunar base into my Mech’s face had my lad in stitches so it already has one fan. Keep an eye out for the reviews for this one. It might end up being a sleeper hit.
S.O.N. – Releasing December 11th
I had to Google some of the details in the opening press release for S.O.N. (or South of Nowhere) because there was this ‘Blair Witch project’ whiff about it that felt like it was based on a true story/location. It’s not, by the way, but it does leverage some very believable context to give it some authenticity. Set in a (thankfully) fictional forest in Southern Pennsylvania, you play as a Robert, an “unemployed, hard-nosed, old school father who drowns out his past demons with alcohol” on the hunt for your missing son Jay who has gone missing in the forest’s vast 300,000 acre area. Here’s the kicker that spooked me in the Press Release – “In 2018, 648 people went missing [in Clarencaster] including multiple search & rescue teams, police officers and hikers. Only 22 bodies were ever found, all children”. Why did this creep me out? Because I’d recently read about such things happening in the real world too. I’m maybe too much of a wimp to play S.O.N. when it releases on December 11th for PS4 and PC but if you like your games to provide the scares, give this one a go.
Desert Child – Releasing December
I first saw Desert Child as a gif going viral on Twitter. It didn’t come with a name or a developer and I had no idea what game it was of, but it stuck with me because of how damn beautiful it looked. Fast forward several months and I spotted a trailer for Desert Child on YouTube triggering one of those “OH, that’s what it was!” moments. It looks even better now than it did when I first spotted It too. An oddity for the “hover racing” genre, Desert Child is played side-on and in 2D but across almost 3D planes. You play as a talented racer who’s trying to “scrape enough cash together through racing and odd jobs to punch your one way ticket to the Red Planet to enter the biggest race in the universe, the Grand Prix.”. I was sold on Desert Child by the art style alone but it comes complete with local multiplayer and an extensive single player campaign too which puts it right up there with one of the most appealing indie games still to launch in 2018. Check it out when it hits Xbox One, Switch, PC and PS4 later this year.
GRIS – Releasing December
Sometimes it just takes an image to sell you on a game. The water coloured aesthetic of GRIS was enough to have me board the GRIS hype train but it was full steam ahead once I saw it in action. In GRIS you play as a young girl who’s coming to terms with a painful experience within a world that is effected by her. The game begins in monotone but as the girl explores, her dress begins to take on colour which then helps her solve puzzles using light, shapes and platforming. GRIS is stunning to look at and it feels like there’s symbolism abound in every clip of the game shown so far. Expect the “are games art?” debate to erupt again when GRIS hits the Switch and PC this December.
Pinstripe – Releasing October 25th
Okay, this one’s a bit of a cheat entry because Pinstripe has already been available on PC since April 2017 and has released on Xbox One and PS4 since then too – BUT on October 25th, the game is launching on the Nintendo Switch and we’re excited about this nonetheless. Following the story of disgraced ex-minister Teddy, the game pits you against Mr Pinstripe who kidnaps Ted’s daughter Bo. Everything is however, as you might expect in a narrative heavy game like this, not as it seems. Like so many other games before it, Pinstripe seems like a natural fit for the Switch so if you’re rocking the new Nintendo handheld and haven’t experienced Pinstripe yet, prepare yourself for a really powerful story in Pinstripe.
Party Hard 2 – Releasing October 25th
Maybe it’s because I’m getting a little long in the tooth for raucous parties (spending most of my time at them thinking about whether it’s okay to leave yet or not – don’t judge, I bet others do that too. Maybe) but the original Party Hard really clicked with me. I know Rossko had a blast with it too. If you’ve not played it before, it’s a game about killing off parties by literally killing of its guests in a variety of gory ways. It’s with great anticipation then then we await the sequel, Party Hard 2. Turning everything up to 11 (before setting it on fire and hiding the ashes) this follow up has a new visual style that sits comfortably alongside the original but shows a real step up in fidelity. There’s a whole new array of ways to throw a “killer” party, new abilities which show off hiding spots, a Multi-Kill ability, new scenarios to do massive gory damage to party guests and there’s even a bizzaro storyline involving a drug syndicate and aliens to boot. October 25th.
Arca’s Path – Releasing December 4th
Combining the core mechanics behind Super Monkey Ball with dreamscape meets papercraft visuals and relaxed vibes, Arca’s Path is shaping up to be a properly pleasant VR game. Using head tracking to move a hexagonal ball, the task in Arca’s Path is “to find a path home” through a gorgeous world. I managed to grab a quick demonstration of it at EGX last month and was impressed with how instantly accessible this was despite it being a genre that is traditionally played on a controller and the game having no HUD or tutorial to speak of. A debut title from developers Dream Reality Interactive and being published by Rebellion, Arca’s Path is a real ‘chicken soup for the soul’ kind of game that I’m excited to see more of when it lands on all major VR platforms this December.
Fimbul – Releasing November
Norse mythology is hot stuff right now and Fimbul, a low-poly comic-book styled romp through Jötunheim, is riding the crest of that wave. In it you play as a warrior who’s setting off to potentially save Midgard from Ragnarök by trying to find an Artefact – but Trolls, Jotun and more stand between you and your destiny. Fimbul looks great and recent previews from PAX and TGS are very positive so we can’t wait to try it out when it launches this November on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch next month.
Baba Is You – Releasing 2018
Baba Is You has already won a number of awards including the “Excellence in Design” gong at the 2018 Independent Games Festival. It’s easy to see why. In the game, the rules you follow are presented in blocks which can be manipulated and moved. For example, when the words “Baba Is You” are presented on screen together, you move the character around, but should you replace the word “Baba” with a Rock, for example, you then move around a rock instead because the rule now reads “Rock Is You”. It’s an ingenious system that’s getting the plaudits it deserves even before it releases but we’ll all be able to play this game before the end of 2018 (hopefully) when it lands on PC and Switch.
There are tons more indie games on the way before the end of year, did we miss the one you’re looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments below or over at @FNGRGNS on Twitter.