The Civilization series is famous for playing out in unplanned marathon sessions, where "one more turn" quickly turns into five more turns, which turn into another hour, before the player finally looks away from the screen to...
It's certainly an exciting time to be an independent game developer. With the rise of Kickstarter allowing anyone with the knowledge, the skills, and an idea to find support, we're seeing a larger breadth of games come out that try something a bit different. One such game is Neverending Nightmares, and last year Jonathan Holmes wrote up a nice post about its Kickstarter campaign.
After a few ups and downs, the Kickstarter for this evocative horror title managed to make its funding goal. With release set for September 26, the developers are finally ready to unleash their survival horror game that's far more personal than most would realize. At PAX Prime 2014, I got the chance to check out an updated build and chat with some of the talent behind the game.
Something about the video I posted on Gun Media and Mighty Rabbit's title Breach & Clear: Deadlinedidn't sit well with me. I kept thinking about it the day we ran the story.
After revisiting it that night, it still didn't hit me as to why Devolver Digital had decided to co-publish this game. I just kept feeling that I was missing something important here. So, the next day I decided to reach out to Mighty Rabbit to see if I could take a look at the game in person.
To my surprise, co-founder Josh Fairhurst was nice enough to set up an appointment for me to meet the team on Labor Day. After arriving at Mighty Rabbit's studio, I was given a hands-off walkthrough of the same gameplay segment recently shown at gamescom.
In the team's own words, Deadline is a "strategic tactical action RPG in a modern day setting, featuring Special Forces weapons, tactics, and equipment vs. horrific monsters."
From what I saw during my time with it, I'd say it could be described as having a combination of elements from Rainbow Six, Left 4 Dead,XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and a pinch of Diablo's loot grinding for good measure.
At PAX Prime, I got my first and what could be only opportunity to try Upsilon Circuit.
You see, once it goes live, eight people will be able to play at any given time. That's eight people, total. And the "permadeath" here is actually permanent. You lose? Your turn is done.
While everyone else watches, waiting for their coveted chance in the spotlight to hack away at monsters and explore, they can directly influence the direction the game takes. The audience has control to, say, spec out players' skill trees, or spawn a deadly trap.
Legend of Dungeon creator Robot Loves Kitty is billing this as part online game show, part action-RPG. At PAX, I saw more of the latter than the former, but Upsilon Circuit's Max Headroom-esque digital host Ronny Raygon was set up on a nearby television to talk smack to attendees. He got into an argument with some kid about whose glasses were cooler.
Before you ask who would pay for something like this -- for a chance, maybe, to play once -- know that it's going to be free. In speaking with Robot Loves Kitty's Alix Stolzer, it sounds as if a large part of the monetization will be geared toward trolls or audience members who otherwise want to screw over the player characters, not help out. I told her that was a good idea.
It's still early days for Upsilon Circuit and there are a lot of unknowns, but what was shown at PAX gave me confidence in this somewhat crazy, definitely ambitious project. If the game catches on and finds a stable audience, it's going to be a fascinating experiment to take part in.
Costume Quest, like every Double Fine game, is charming. It's a fresh-feeling, low stakes take on the JRPG genre, more Earthbound than Final Fantasy. Though, as Chad put it in his review, it's "RPG Lite," accessible for all ages.
Double Fine doesn't want to sacrifice that, but does want to make Costume Quest 2's combat a bit more engaging. I was engaged with Paper Mario (or Final Fantasy VIII) style timed button presses that help your attacks do a bit more damage. Similarly, a well timed tap on defense will reduce the damage you take. This engagement, though, make things a bit easier so long as you can hit those button presses.
Nestled in a parking lot across the street from the convention center in Los Angeles was Devolver Digital's phalanx of air conditioned campers. The publisher had a good mixture of highly anticipated titles like Hotline Miami 2 and Broforce, and more recently announced titles. The Talos Principle is one such game, and as usual, Devolver knows how to curate good content.
Though it is being developed by Croteam, which is probably best known for its over-the-top first-person shooter series Serious Sam, The Talos Principle has more in common with Portal. Its first-person puzzle platforming is not built off the most mindblowing ideas, but it is only part of the focus. The rest is on a deeply philosophical narrative, courtesy of Tom Jubert, who delivered a fantastic story in my favorite game from 2013: The Swapper.
Suffice it to say, I left the camper with fairly high expectations for this.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number will have a level editor on the PC! Fans can create their own demented levels, decorate it however they want to. And yes, you'll be able to share these custom created levels with other players.
Narcissus, or so the myth goes, was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. Renowned for his beauty, but also for being somewhat of an ass, he was lured to a pool of water by goddess of divine retribution Nemesis, where he became fixated with his own reflection. (And then died.) The inspiration for Alex Johansson’s Narcissus is truthfully less dramatic, evoked by watching his little brother jump between stepping stones on a river near his home, reflection in tow.
The game was part of the Leftfield Collection at the EGX Rezzed Expo in March and I happened to run into the developer in the closing minutes of the expo. I was met with a unique take on a runner game complete with beautiful pixel art and an 8-bit soundtrack intent on replicating a lost experience.
Max hung out with Dave and Daniel of Spry Fox Games to check out their upcoming title, The Road Not Taken. From the makers of Triple Town, this puzzle roguelike puts the player in an adorable world, with dark undercurrents. It's up to you to save the village's children from perilous evils using sheer wit, and the ability to throw things around. Coming this year to Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC and Mac (via Steam).
If there's one thing that the folks at Double Fine aren't known for, it's being pigeon-holed into making the same game. In fact, almost all of its titles are wildly different from one another. From the likes of Brütal Legend to Stacking to Broken Age, nothing the studio does is derivative of its past works.
It's not exactly a flag that Double Fine waves proudly, but it maybe kind of is, in a way. That's why when I sat down with publishing manager Greg Rice last month to talk about Costume Quest 2, he almost sheepishly started off with "Well, it's the first sequel we've ever done," (apart from the add-on to Double Fine Happy Action Theater, which hardly counts).
The statement struck me as unusual as I mentally ran down the company's list of titles. "Has Double Fine really gone this long without iterating on any of its other games?" I pondered. Apparently so, and Costume Quest 2 will be the game that finally breaks the streak.
And, that's okay, because more Costume Quest is never a bad thing.
As a result of THQ's fire sale at the beginning of 2013, several IPs were ushered off to new homes, just waiting for someone to advance their stories while being published under a new banner. One such example is Homefront, which was met with a relatively poor reception upon release in 2011. Now, Crytek has scooped up the rights and plans to reinvent the property with a sequel.
Homefront: The Revolution sees a continuation of the world that Homefront introduced us to, but from a different angle. It's now four years after the initial invasion by North Korean forces, and the United States is completely occupied. The North Koreans have opted to establish their base in Philadelphia, which is the setting for the game.
We have been keeping our eyes on Chasm for a long time now. Ever since it initially showed up, it looked like it checked off all the right boxes to be a retro dream game. It has procedurally generated dungeons, Castlevania-esque inventory and map management, and absolutely gorgeous pixel art.
Upon starting up the demo at PAX East, all of that was there. I delved into the demo with reckless abandon, and was promptly killed by a wayward slime. Hmm. As it turns out, Chasm requires a bit more caution and care than expected. One missed jump can land protagonist Daltyn in a spike pit, but more frequently, one mistimed sword slash can leave him open to attack.
While scoping out titles in the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX East, I ran into long time Destructoid community member Andrew Benton, and we continued to look at games together. Dyscourse was on my list to play, so we both started up the demo on separate computers.
Though my experience with the choose-your-own-adventure style game was neat enough on its own, the real magic came afterward. After talking with Andrew, I learned that we experienced wildly different stories, despite starting in the same spot and being presented with the same challenges. It highlights Dyscourse's main strength: it varies significantly based on the player's choices throughout the many-branched narrative.
When I was talking to one of the developers of Extrasolar on the show floor at PAX East, I said something that I now regret. "This looks like something I would really like, but might not appeal to a ton of other people." He responded gracefully, simply saying that they have a healthy number of players, and a good percentage of players see it through to the end.
To be fair, the presentation of Extrasolar in the Indie MEGABOOTH was intentionally muted. There, it was shown as a simple exploration game on an extrasolar planet. The player tells the rover where to go, and after a set amount of time it sends back a photo. The intrinsic value of that alone was enough to get me started, and I urge others to sign up for it now to experience it as intended. If you need further convincing, then keep reading. Prepare for minor spoilers.
Anyone that has even the slightest bit of familiarity with Hotline Miami knows what defines it. The neon-swathed visuals, the gratuitous violence, the quick and unforgiving gameplay, and the blaring soundtrack all made the game as loved as it was. With regard to a sequel, any deviation from this formula would result in something that just wasn’t Hotline Miami.
So, Dennaton Games isn’t going to.
Judging by the build of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number that was at PAX East, the pieces are in place to give fans of the original more of what they want. The two stages on display showed off the exact style that many have come to know and love, but also expressed how Dennaton is ready to offer something a little new.