We are spoilt for choice aren’t we? We’ve already done a lovely list of six indie titles that should make you very excited about the forthcoming New Year. But the sheer breadth and depth of Indie titles coming in 2019 means we have to do another list of Ones to Watch, just to do all of these brilliant looking games the justice they deserve.
Even just a few years ago, branding something as an indie game would have meant it was just a handful of people in a small office, or even working out of a front room. These days, there’s a grey area being filled between “indie” games and big budget titles, ranging from established independent studios going it (almost) alone through crowdfunding, to AAA publishers deciding to back and fund smaller projects. The games in todays collection skew toward the larger end of this scale.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release Date: 2019
The original Psychonauts came out way back in 2005, and it hasn’t become any easier to spell in the thirteen intervening years! In video game terms, that might as well be a century, but it’s always been considered a cult classic, and with Double Fine shifting away from relying on third parties to publish their games and toward crowdfunding, they announced a sequel and VR spin off back at The Game Awards 2015. Three years on and we got the first official trailer.
Psychonauts 2 picks up the plot right after the conclusion of the first game. Upon returning to Psychonaut Headquarters, Razputin Aquato, our intrepid hero, learns that the organisation he has been working for isn’t all that it appears to be. Tim Schafer, back for a second round of game directing duties, has said story strands introduced in the first game, such as Raz’s family and their mysterious curse, will be further explored in the sequel. He also stated that Raz will discover what the term ‘girlfriend’ means, which might a little risqué, but we’ll assume it’s handled innocently enough.
The game retains a similar gameplay format to its precursor; this is a third person platformer with a smattering of puzzles and a humorous and quirky story. Raz will have to use his psychic powers to overcome adversaries, some return from the original; such as Telekinesis, PSI Blast, and Pyrokinesis. Whilst others are entirely new, the problem is we just don’t know what they are yet, as Double Fine are insisting on being a big tease.
Platforms: PS4, PC – Release Date: August 27th, 2019
Another game from the class of 2015 announcements, Shenmue III’s Kickstarter was unveiled at E3 of that year and has been a regular within Ones to Watch ever since. It sounds like this will be the last time, and as I type this I can still barely believe it. We’ve been waiting seemingly forever to finally see a conclusion to Ryo Hazuki’s tale and discover if maybe, just maybe, he’ll catch his father’s killer. But maybe not, as apparently Shenmue III will not conclude the story, and Director Yu Suzuki hopes to continue the franchise. As long as we don’t have to wait another eighteen years for Shenmue IV, I suppose that’s OK.
Judging by the trailer, Shenmue III still retains those distinctive ‘Dreamcast’ visuals that were all part of the originals charm, though the graphics have certainly got a lot more nuance to them now than at the start of the game’s development. Still, that means ‘rigid wipe clean mannequin’ character models, which – having loved the original games – is fine by me!
How Shenmue III can hold up in the modern world of video games is anyone’s guess, but should it manage to walk the tightrope of balancing exciting martial arts combat, with a compelling storyline and ridiculous mini games then this will certainly be one to watch.
Sea of Solitude
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release Date: Early 2019
Sea of Solitude’s visuals are absolutely beautiful. Its distinctive combination of fluid animation and gorgeous swirls of deep and contrasting colour truly make it look like a cartoon brought to life. Joyfully, in an age of teasers for teaser trailers, we know remarkably little about this game.
Kay, the player character, explores an empty subterranean city in order to discover why she has become a monster. Ultimately, she wants to discover a way to transform herself back into being a human, and this will require interaction with an ocean filled with monsters, just like her.
And that’s about all we know. Developed by Jo-Mei Games, under the EA Originals banner, Sea of Solitude is described by creative director Cornelia Geppert as her most personal and artistic project, and that its story has led her to probe her own fears.
This is Pool
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch – Release Date: Early 2019
Sometimes all you want to play is pool. Forget your expansive open worlds, leave your emotional undertones at the door and shove your boundary pushing gameplay mechanics where the sun doesn’t shine, because I just want to smack some balls into some pockets. That’s exactly what This is Pool promises.
VooFoo studios have stated that This is Pool will be a genre-defining cue sports simulation. With its stunning photo-realistic graphics and true-to-life game physics clear to see, it’s certainly difficult to argue with their proclamation. The game will include every major rule set played worldwide, alongside mini-games, a career, multiplayer, trick shots, scenarios and more.
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch – Release Date: 1st March 2019
Another game long in development, ToeJam & Earl will finally make their return in March. Greg Johnson is at the helm of this revival, which blends the gameplay of the Mega Drive classics, alien rapping and somewhat more modern production and ideas.
This time TJ hit a big button labelled “Black Hole – DO NOT PRESS!” which ripped Earth apart and broke the space ship up… again. So, in what’s a kind of mash up of the previous games, you’re exploring an isometric world trying to find space ship pieces and get back on their way. There’s also time travel, which is sure to mix things up further.
Platforms: PC, XBO – Release Date: June 2019
Coming from the creator of the original X-COM, Phoenix Point brings plenty more classic turn-based tactical and alien weirdness to fight again. Again, there’s a combination of an overworld map that features threats for you to take on, but you’re exploring this Geoscape not just to help people under attack, but also find resources to keep your outfit on the move.
When you do find yourself in a skirmish, it will be that familiar turn-based gameplay, but with a couple of added twists, like being able to aim for specific body parts and a more nuanced take on spending action points through a turn.
The game’s currently in Early Access on PC – Nick went hands on recently – but will be coming to Xbox One when it launches in the middle of next year
That rounds out another set of six games. What are you most anticipating? Or perhaps we’ve left your favourite off the list? Let us know in the comments below.
Next up in Ones to Watch in 2019, we’ll be taking a peek at the most exciting racing games heading our way.