We learned various things about gaming from EGX 2017, from the popularity of esports and board gaming to the surging profile of ‘indie’ titles like Phantom Halls and Jettomero: Hero of the Universe. In fact, according to Gamer Network who organised the show, the indie section this year was the biggest it had ever been.
There are good reasons for this. The power, openness and flexibility of today’s PCs make them the perfect platform for independently-produced titles. In fact, the PC arguably has the widest array of games, from puzzlers to side-scrolling shooters, narrative adventures to cooperative VR and everything inbetween.
Indie games are changing
Meanwhile, digital distribution through stores like Steam and GOG allow developers to sidestep the big games industry publishers and get their products up for sale. The challenge is getting noticed. Which is where a show like EGX 2017 comes in.
Visitors might come for some hands-on with Star Wars: Battlefront 2, but they will also discover some new games along the way. And ‘indie’ doesn’t mean simplistic. Leave that to mobile. Indie games can be beautiful, fast-paced, in-depth, multiplayer-orientated, 3D, quirky, daring and built with the highest of production values. Here are a few that caught our eye…
Black The Fall
This beautifully bleak dystopian platformer sets its 2.5D levels against a gloomy industrial backdrop. It harks back to those days when the only way to beat a level was the ‘die and try again’ approach, echoing the atmospheric gameplay of Limbo and Inside.
Just like those games playing is believing. You’ll find that Black The Fall is an addictive combination of physics-based ledge-leaping and world manipulating puzzles.
In contrast to the shadows of Black The Fall, Figment invites you to explore a colourful hand-drawn world filled with fiendish puzzles and nightmarish enemies. Pitched as “a musical action-adventure set in the recesses of the human mind”, you control Dusty, the mind’s former voice of courage, as he faces his fears head-on (and in pretty isometric 3D).
Created by National Film and Television School (NFTS) student Jonathan Nielssen as his ‘graduation game’, Falling Sky is described as a cinematic narrative adventure set in suburban America.
“The game follows young Daniel and his little brother Tommy in their quest to solve the mystery of their mother’s disappearance,” says the NFTS. “Cryptic messages and bizarre encounters lead the oblivious brothers on a dangerous journey searching for the truth.”
“Imagine a place where everything that is lost and forgotten goes; old toys, letters, single socks. The Forgotten Lands is a magical world inhabited by Forgotlings; creatures composed of mislaid objects longing to be remembered again.”
No less cinematic, Forgotton Anne doesn’t immediately look like a game at all. But interspersed with the hand-animated anime sequences you can see in the video above, there hides a 2D cinematic adventure game that blends puzzle platforming with adventure game elements.
No Truce with the Furies
Indie games can dare to be more inventive than the AAA titles that dominated EGX 2017 and few widen the eyes like this isometric, top-down, police procedural RPG.
Developed by London-based ZA/UM studios, No Truce with the Furies casts you as a police detective in the seaside city of Revachol. There’s a definite Sunless Sea vibe here with a focus on in-depth narrative storytelling. The game even features a ‘story combat’ system, where dangerous encounters are handled in dialogue.
As an RPG, you can utilise various different skills to play in different ways. “Good cop, bad cop, fascist cop, socialist revolutionary cop, criminal mastermind disguised as a cop – you can play any kind of cop you want,” say the developers.
All of which brings us to The Occupation, “a politically driven, non-combat immersive sim set in 1980s north-west England, in which you play as a whistleblowing journalist.” Built in Unreal Engine 4, this 3D mystery unfolds in real-time with your in-game actions and decisions shaping the cinematic narrative.
Beautifully-rendered, and hugely atmospheric, an investigation into a bomb blast drags you headlong into a conspiracy that could determine the future of the entire country. The less we say about The Occupation, the better. Suffice it to say, it looks like a game well-worth digging into.
Missed EGX 2017? Read how it gave us a sneaky peek into the future of gaming.