Over the course of this year we’ve had a number of incredible indie success stories come our way, from the majorly popular to the seriously addictive and everything in-between. On top of that, the rise of popularity in platforms like Steam Early Access and PlayStation Plus tie-in launches have made indie games more prominent than ever. With the good ol’ two thousand and fifteen on the horizon, we’ve decided to look ahead at some of the promising upcoming indie games that are in store for us.
After the success of his well-written 2D platformer about four sided shapes Thomas Was Alone, Mike Bithell decided to take a stab at making almost the complete opposite game.
Volume is an overhead 3D stealth game without combat, forcing you to rely on tricks and traps to get around enemies. Mechanically, it’s incredibly similar to the classic Metal Gear Solid, which is already causing my wallet to stir. Stylistically, however, it is anything but. The game is a near-future retelling of the classic Robin Hood tale, with the protagonist Robert Locksley diving into virtual reality training simulators in order to rob from the country’s wealthiest and broadcast their incriminating data to the public.
The cast of voice actors is also impressive, with the iconic Robin Hood character Guy Gisbourne being played by Mister Mocap himself, Andy Serkis. They accompany the visuals that are incredibly reminiscent of sleek sci-fi titles like Tron: Legacy, and at this point my bank is already putting my account on a permanent hold. Blocky shapes with simple vibrant colors make up the environments of the virtual reality challenges you find yourself going through in Volume, with enemies made up up similarly simple shapes and colors.
One of the most interesting parts of Volume is that, beyond the initial set of levels that the game launches with, players will be provided with a robust level editor. Not only can you modify existing levels, you can also create new levels from scratch, and edit things from wall and enemy placement to camera angles, lighting, and enemy AI. You can then share these levels with the community, providing an endless amount of challenges for die-hard players.
Initially pegged for a 2014 launch, the game is now set to come out sometime in 2015, though a final date hasn’t yet been set. The game will launch on PS4 and Vita initially, with PC and Mac versions coming a little later. I’ve gotta go make some calls, move some money around and sell some organs.
After developing the creepy and atmospheric sequel to horror hit Amnesia: The Dark Descent, developers The Chinese Room are returning to their roots of open world exploration-based storytelling with Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. The game made it’s premiere in playable form at E3, and was noted by many to be incredibly out of place there. These remarks were hardly negative, however. In an industry obsessed with high-octane visuals and non-stop action, Rapture was a breath of fresh air to many, with it’s serene environments and tranquil ambiance.
The basic premise of the game is that that you will be experiencing the stories of six different characters, each exploring the world and interacting with landmarks that evolve and change over time. Oh, and the apocalypse happened, or is happening. It’s all pretty cryptic. Unlike it’s spiritual predecessor, Dear Esther, this game will allow much more interaction and manipulation of the environment, helping you feel more involved and immersed in the world.
Despite The Chinese Room’s history with PC games, they shocked many by announcing that their new game would be exclusive to the PS4. They decided to partner with Sony due to fears of not being able to fund the game through crowdfunding or Early Access. So, while countless PC gamers wallow in self-pity, PS4 gamers will get to wallow in six other peoples self-pity when Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture launches on PS4 sometime in 2015!
I almost regret the comments I made about Volume earlier in this article, because they are much more accurate when applied to this title by Hello Games. After a series of quirky side-scrolling racing games similar to the Trials series, Hello Games is making an infinitely procedurally generated massively multiplayer sci-fi epic with ships and aliens and customization and, oh yes, the pigs have begun to fly.
This seemingly impossible game is piquing everyone’s curiosity. Not only because it’s the huge amazing sci-fi game that countless people have wanted since they were kids, but also because they’re actually seriously making this! There’s gameplay, there have been demos, it exists. Not only has Hello Games managed to craft a vast game with procedurally generated worlds and galaxies, but they’ve managed to make it so it won’t end up requiring all of the hard drive space.
Their engine uses incredibly complex math formulas to generate every detail of every planet of every galaxy, and the actual polygons only get generated when the player is near it. Since these are math formulas, they always have the same output, which means that a particular planet will always look the way it does, no matter how many times you fly away and fly back to re-generate it.
The actual game, and a lot of it’s mechanics and structure, aren’t really clear yet. Besides the obvious focus on exploration, by spaceship or by foot, there have only been hints and mentions of things like missions and trading and whatnot. Even without these details, though, everyone has their eyes on this massive indie game, especially Sony. They’ve very much taken Hello Games under their wing, giving them a large amount of support. This also means that the game, when it launches, will be a timed exclusive on PS4 when it arrives in June of next year.
While their debut game Deadlight was exclusively on Microsoft consoles, Tequila Studios upcoming title is being published as a PS4 exclusive instead. There’s a bit of a background to this switch in exclusivity. Rime was being worked on and prototyped even during the development of Deadlight, and was initially greenlit by Microsoft for release on XBLA.
A little later, however, Microsoft decided that the game didn’t fit their vision of the kind of social/content sharing games they were hoping to release on the platform. With Microsoft backing out, Sony proposed a development budget for the game and picked it up for themselves.
Development drama aside, the game is very much about exploration. It takes heavy cues from fellow Sony indie game Journey, with a similar cel shaded art style and focus on narrative through environment, rather than exposition. Rime tells it’s story through exploration of the island and interaction with the environment, and features no kind of spoken narrative. Not much else is known about the game, but it’s clear that the focus is very much on an enriching, expansive open world that’s more about aimless exploration than anything.
The game doesn’t have a solid release date yet, but hopefully within the next few months we’ll manage to get more info on this promising title.
SUPERHOT! If you haven’t checked out this stylish first person puzzle shooter, you are missing out. Seriously, go check it out now, the prototype is free to play online! After releasing a prototype version of their game online, the team behind SUPERHOT (appropriately named SUPERHOT Team) put up a Kickstarter in order to crowdfund a fully featured version of the game. And it worked! They shot past their initial funding goal, raising over $250,000 after asking for only $100k.
So, what is all that money getting us? SUPERHOT is a unique first-person game where time only moves when you move. This means that if you stand still, so does time. If you slowly walk forward, time slowly inches forward. And if you run at full speed then, well, so does time. This mechanic is illustrated through superb and simplistic visuals, as bullets with red speed-trails wiz by your head.
The game tasks you with dodging bullets and other obstacles in order to disarm your enemies, shoot ’em dead, and reach the end of the level. What’s even cooler is that the game has Oculus Rift support, letting you tilt your head to just barely dodge bullets, and peak out behind corners and cover.
The game is energetic and blood-pumping, and the visuals only serve to enhance that feeling. Levels start with huge words in blocky font flashing on screen telling you what to do, and whenever you beat a level, a voice repeats the phrase SUPERHOT over and over as it flashes on screen. It’s basically the coolest thing ever.
The game is slated for a June 2015 launch on Steam, with some murmers of a launch on other consoles like Xbox One and PS4 as well.
And the award for most un-Google-able name of this article goes to Inside, the new story-driven puzzle platformer from the developers of Limbo. Much like their last game, Inside has you playing as a young child in… some sort of depressing dystopian world. The story isn’t very clear-cut, and just like their last game, it seems like you’re tasked with piecing together the narrative as you see it through visuals presented in the environment, rather than cutscenes or voiceovers.
Visually, the game is a big step from their last venture. Limbo was all about darkness in the literal sense, with black silhouettes on gray backdrops and not another color to be seen. Inside seems to certainly be dark thematically, but the visuals present colors here and there to contrast the very dark and oppressive environments that are, yes, lots of grey and black.
The game is planned to launch on every console and their respective kitchen sinks in 2015, though it will initially have a timed-exclusive launch on Xbox One.
Tomorrow sees us turn our gaze away from the indies and back to the major publishers and another selection of fine cross-platform games set for a release next year. We’ll see you then.