Away from all the Keyblade photo op’s and cardboard Greek shields in the ‘Big Publisher’ areas of EGX 2018 was one of the most impressive displays of indie games I’ve ever seen under one roof. It was a deeply impressive and potential packed line-up of games across the Leftfield collection, the Rezzed area and dotted around the show floor elsewhere. Rossko’s been writing about a number of them and my 9 year old Logan picked out some in his list of favourites – now it’s my turn.
Here’s 10 potential filled indie games from the EGX show floor that should be on your radar:
The Endless Mission
I wrote about The Endless Mission back in April when I sat down to play the game at EGX Rezzed but the build at the mainline EGX 2018 was a far more fleshed out and stable version of the game – and ho boy is it impressive. In short, The Endless Mission is a game about modding, mashing up and combining iconic game genres with the subliminal aim of teaching people about game development and how to code. In collaboration with Endless Interactive, the creators of Endless OS, E-Line Media are launching the game onto Early Access very soon which will come with 3 genres – A 3D platformer, a sci-fi kart racer and a voxel based RTS – which you can remix together selecting a an element from each. Of course, 3D platforming as a Kart racer is bound to throw up some difficulties so The Endless Mission allows the player to modify dimensions, characteristics and all manner of stats relating to the game to allow you to achieve the aims within that particular genre. This modification can go as deep as altering the C# coding (while the core game coding is segregated to avoid anyone totally breaking the game) in a panel which shows you how each and every element of the game interacts with one another. Combining fun-as-all-hell gaming with this element of enlightenment, educating while entertaining is something that E-Line Media absolutely nailed in their previous title Never Alone and it looks as though they’ve done it again with The Endless Mission. Launching on Early Access on PC soon and promising regular free content updates, introducing new genres to modify, make sure you’ve got The Endless Mission on your radar.
When I met with E-Line Media at EGX Rezzed, I might have gushed a little lot about how much I enjoyed Never Alone. With a nod and a wink, I was told “If you liked Never Alone, we’ve got something else coming that you’ll enjoy”. That ‘something’ is Beyond Blue and they were absolutely right. I loved my demo with it. Beyond Blue is a collaboration with the BBC film makers behind the fantastic documentary series Blue Planet 2. In it, you play as a scuba diver in a virtual near-future version of the China sea in a narrative adventure that puts the aquatic inhabitants at its core. “There’s a story running throughout the game, so if you follow the way points around, you’ll uncover that” the creative director told me “but If you scan animals, investigate them, you’ll get side quests revolving around those too”. Just from the oceanic creatures in the demo – jelly fish, a turtle, a camouflaged octopus that sprays you with ink as you spook it and a pod of whales – I was on-board because the detail on these models is astonishing. That’s what hits you about Beyond Blue. It’s how damn good looking it is, even at this stage in development. The lighting, the particle effects, the way bubbles look in the water, the octopus ink. It looks so real. The demo ended on a ‘tingle down the spine’ moment that’s been playing on my mind since I left EGX and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it lands on PS4, Xbox One and PC next year.
Having 5 young kids means that I’m more likely to be caught listening to a CBeebies Soundtrack than music I actually like these days but when I do get to pop some headphones on and choose my own tracks, I love a bit of heavy metal. Valfris then, a gory heavy-metal infused 2D platformer and spiritual successor to Unity Awards finalist Slain: Back From Hell, is literal music to my ears. Described as “more difficult than Slain, but less punishing, with everything turned up to 11” by its creator, this title is far more colourful that its predecessor and despite loving Slain, was far more fun to play during my demo. You play as a Therion, a bad-ass hair-wipping sci-fi warrior who is returning to his home of Valfaris which has suddenly reappeared after disappearing from space. Featuring stunning pixel art, really fluid combat and a soundtrack that begs to be played loudly, Valfaris is a really promising title.
Before sitting down to play Hypnospace Outlaw at EGX 2018, I’d struggled to find the words to describe it. Now, after sitting down to play it at the Leftfield Collection, I’m still none the wiser on how best to describe it. Imagine combining the best of geocities with the worst of MySpace, sprinkling that with 90’s internet tropes including slow loading images and auto-playing songs, and then being tasked to moderate that concoction by a mysterious “Hyponspace” operator who pays you in a currency you can only spend with him. That’s pretty close to how it feels to play this. Those of you who will remember the heady days of the internet in the 90’s will feel immediately nostalgic over the wacky and inane stuff we used to fill our web browsers with that is caricaturised in Hypnospace Outlaw to fantastic effect. Despite not having long with the game, there’s certainly some suggestion that your moderation of the budding 90’s internet webpages will allow you to delve deeper into the personalities of those that you’re moderating that certainly came through in the Demo. My short time with the game might not have given with the literary tools to really describe Hypnospace Outlaw in a more descriptive way (I think this is a game that’s best played rather than described anyhow) but it has certainly set it upon my wishlist and means I’ll absolutely be there on day one when it launches in “Super Early 2019”.
Dead End Job
I’ve written about Dead End Job a few times over the past 2 years since it was announced and it has featured on every “Top X games of X” even list where it has been playable. I think it’s fair to say (and not even in a hyperbolic way) it’s one of the most promising twin-stick shooters since Binding of Isaac because it’s really nailing a combination of appealing aesthetics, dry British wit and enjoyable gameplay (and I’m not alone in thinking this). What’s more, I’ve previously said this based purely on the content of only the first zone in the game – the office zone. At EGX 2018, I got my first taster of the second area in the game – the park – and I’ve somehow fallen even more in love with it. In this area, typical Park like furnishings become comedic haunted ghouls to shoot then vacuum up like a sentient dog poo bin and ice creams that spawn smaller ice creams which creep across the screen to attack you. It’s colourful good fun – pure and simple – and I can’t wait to finally get my hands on it when it launches on Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC in the first half of 2019.
First: A history lesson. Back in the Elizabethan era of British history, around the same time William Shakespeare was penning his most famous of plays, there lived an astrologer, occultist and herbalist called “Doctor Simon Forman”. This doctor, who treated his patients using rather unorthodox techniques, who dabbled in alchemy, attempted to perform magic on occasion, and claimed to have cured himself of the plague was one of the only practicing ‘physicians’ of the era to keep detailed case notes on his patients along with a number of autobiographical documents. How do I know this? Well, Astrologaster, a comedic narrative game from developer Nyamyam is centred on the unusual character of Simon Forman and how he treated his patients using star signs. In Astrologaster, ‘patients’ come to Doctor Forman with various ailments from the physical to the financial and ask for an astrology reading that will help shape their fate. It’s up to you, the player, to decide on what reading to give to the patron seeking advice but no matter what you choose, hilarity is not too far away. It’s hard to get really engrossed in a game of this genre on a busy show floor but at EGX, I got completely absorbed by the writing, the excellent voice work and the art style to a degree that I actually laughed out loud and made some strangers around me feel really uncomfortable. Par for the course then. Due out on iOS and PC sometime soon, you should be looking to the stars when Astrologaster releases.
Described as a “ragdoll party-game beat ’em up”, Stuntfall is most aptly described as the love child of Rocket League and Gang Beasts and has the potential to be as fun as both of them. On the EGX show floor, I played against and alongside my compatriot Greg in matches which involved putting a ball in a goal by throwing our tiny bodies at it in a top down arena while freefalling. As this is a game about skydiving sports, there’s this lovely table ice hockey feel to the characters movement, with momentum building as you move in a direction which makes turning a bit more tricky. Add to that the fact that the ball you’re trying to score with has various different random qualities like magnetism (which will pull to or push away from you) and a spinning arm that can get you tangled up in it, things start to get a tad spicy. The icing on the cake is that you can punch and kick your opponents in mid-air which, if done enough, will totally detach a limb (sans any gore). Stuntfall has the potential to be really top notch party game and I can’t wait to see more from Level Boss.
When I played Disco Elysium at EGX Rezzed earlier this year, I said it had “Game of the year contender written all over it”. After sampling more of this PC charismatic point and sleuth RPG at EGX, I think that’s becoming a full blown conclusion. Straight from the off I could see that there had been a lot of UI updates made to make interactive objects in the environment more prominent since I last played and this meant I managed to get to see more of the suave and confident writing this game does so well. This was my third time of playing the introduction to the game and it was the third set of dialogue choices I’ve seen, eluding to a truly immense narrative tree, pivoting on the base stats of your hard boiled yet hungover detective. And that art style. Every time I see it my jaw hits the floor. The first 15 minutes of Disco Elysium is showing all the hallmarks of a truly unique, deep and interesting game, something you could get totally lost in, letting its striking visuals take you away to a retro-sci-fi world where you’re just as confused by its mysteries as the detective you’re playing as. Sold.
Straight off the bat, Phogs is adorable. In it you play as a stretchy, two headed dog creature, each of which is controlled by either the left and right thumb stick of a controller or Player 1 and 2 when played co-operatively. What’s most impressive about Phogs is how much gameplay depth is hidden beneath that heavy layer of cuteness. In the EGX demo, one head of the Phog could latch on to a spout pouring out water and the water would subsequently shoot out of the other Phog head. The same mechanics was in play later when one head was attached to a ball of light which made the other Phog head into a torch, beaming out light to clear through patches of fog. It’s an all-round smart game that’s certainly piqued my interest ahead of its release in 2019.
When Tolkien created The Lord of the Rings, he crafted an entire Elvish language. When Leonard Nimoy and writer Harve Bennett created Star Trek III, they hired Marc Okrand to create the entire Klingon language. This kind of minutia, adding a level of authenticity and structure to the foreign and unknown, really hits home for me and it’s something inkle Studios have poured into their upcoming sci-fi archaeological game Heaven’s Vault. Containing an entirely new language for you to translate, built from the ground up while taking inspirations from Ancient Egyptian and Chinese glyphs and styles, the game puts you in the shoes of Aliya Elasra who’s searching for a missing roboticist but uncovers ruins from an ancient civilisation in the process. The fact that Heaven’s Vault contains an entirely new language isn’t the only unique aspect about it either; combining hand drawn 2D character profiles with 3D environments, the game looks stunning. Aiming to release on PC, PS4 and iOS in 2019, this title has cemented itself in my ‘most anticipated’ list.