It seems increasingly common that larger publishers are lending their backing to titles that would have been completely indie a few years ago, assisting with production and, perhaps more importantly, marketing. While there are indie developers who are great at marketing their games, it’s not quite the same as having the resources of a publisher backing you up.
Square Enix Collective is the brand for Square Enix’s ventures into this space, and their showing at last year’s Rezzed was very impressive, showing off games like Black the Fall, Tokyo Dark and Goetia. This year they continued the trend, showing off more interesting titles. We’ve already discussed Oh My Godheads, which was one of the titles they were showing off on their booth, along with updated demoes for the aforementioned Black the Fall and Tokyo Dark. Alongside these titles were some newer offerings we hadn’t seen before, and we’ve rounded up some of our picks from these below.
Deadbeat Heroes | Xbox One, PC | Deadbeat Productions | 2017
It seems like it’s been awhile since we’ve had good entry in the classic brawler genre, but fortunately Deadbeat Heroes is here to step into that gap. Set in a highly stylised, cartoon version of the 1970s, you play as one of the titular heroes, regular people without any powers of their own. Instead you’re armed with a rocket glove that allows you to hit hard and dash across the room as you try and fight the new strain of super powered crime that’s suddenly springing up all over London. It also, rather usefully, allows you to borrow the powers of any super villains you come up against.
As you’d expect from a game featuring a rocket glove, the combat is fast and frantic, seeing you zip across the room to punch a villain straight into the ground. Although things, for the most part, feel pretty fluid, it does become trickier to get the game to target downed enemies, something that becomes occasionally frustrating when you’ve got a good combo going.
However, when things are going right Deadbeat Heroes feels great. Pummelling a regular grunt before you jump over a weapon wielding enemy and open them up for an attack from behind is very satisfying, as is stealing the powers of one of the game’s super villains, allowing you to set off a huge super-powered attack of your own.
While Deadbeat Heroes does currently have a few other niggling technical issues at the moment, such as some doors not using their opening animation if you dash through them, overall it’s a good package with a lot of potential. The game’s vibrant visuals and high paced combat certainly make it stand out, and it’s hard to dislike any game with a rocket glove in it.
Children of Zodiarcs | PS4, PC, Mac | Cardboard Utopia | 2017
If you love RPGs with a variety of complex mechanics, then Children of Zodiarcs is the one for you. When you first sit down to play the game, you get the feeling that this is going to be a pretty standard turn based RPG. The modern fantasy setting, with gun wielding characters coexisting alongside those using magic, will be familiar to many, and the art style feels pretty genre appropriate. However, when you enter combat and start drawing cards, it becomes clear that there’s a lot more going on here.
While Children of Zodiarcs may present itself in all the trappings of a turn based RPG, you are in fact playing a deck builder. In fact it goes beyond that, as this is also a dice builder game. Your actions in combat are determined by playing one of the cards in your hand, while your success is determined by rolling your dice. You can equip a custom deck for each of your characters, although the game does let you simply select the recommended deck from your available cards, as well of a custom set of dice. Ideally you’ll want these two elements to be complimentary, selecting dice with symbols on that boost the effectiveness of your cards.
A nice touch with this system is the fact you have to actually roll your dice by moving around the left stick on your controller before releasing the A button. While, initially, this just seems like a cool UI touch, you’ll come to realise it has consequences due to the game’s re-roll system. If your first roll of the dice wasn’t to your liking, you can select a number of dice to re-roll, but as this dice rolling is actually physics based, they’re perfectly capable of colliding with other dice you’ve previously rolled, creating an unexpected level of challenge and chance.
It’s fair to say that Children of Zodiarcs isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s systems are complex with a lot of depth, and it feels like a game where you’ll have to put in some real effort to claim mastery of it. However, it also feels like you can start to learn those systems reasonably quickly, and by the end of my time with the game I felt like I was really beginning to get to grips with my characters and their decks. This may well be a niche title, but it’s a niche that’s being filled remarkable effectively.
Forgotton Anne | PS4, Xbox One, PC | ThroughLine Games | Late 2017
Dystopias tend to be confined to the bounds of sci-fi, so it’s interesting to see Forgotton Anne presenting what seems to be a somewhat dystopian society with a far more fantasy vibe to it. It might be more reasonable to say that Forgotton Anne sits on the boundary of sci-fi and fantasy though, with elements that feel distinctly magical mixed into a world with an industrialised society.
You play as the titular Anne, serving Master Bonku, a man determined to return home to the human world via what certainly feels like “Whatever means necessary”. You work as Bonku’s enforcer, a position that grants you access to an object called the Arca stone. Essentially this allows you to see and manipulate the Anima energy that powers much of the world.
From a mechanical perspective, you can retrieve this Anima energy from stores and use it power machinery in the world, solving puzzles as you do so. However, Anima is also present in traditionally inanimate objects, like a scarf or pillow, imbuing them with life and personalities. It’s a cute, Disneyesque idea that quickly becomes rather dark when you realise you can literally steal their life energy.
While Forgotton Anne feels solid mechanically, its real highlight is its art style. Developers ThroughLine Games describe the game as a “2D cinematic adventure”, and it’s certainly a description that fits. With gorgeously detailed, painted backgrounds and traditional 2D animation, Forgotton Anne looks absolute wonderful. Although the backstory of the world has me more than intrigued, it’s this visual presentation that really makes the game worthy of attention. It’s clear that a lot of love has gone into this element of the game, and the results really are absolutely beautiful.