With the season of big conventions like E3, Gamescom, and PAX Prime behind us, we’ve come away with a fantastic array of upcoming indies to look forward to playing. Here are three that really captured our attention.
Necropolis comes to us courtesy of the fine folks at Harebrained Schemes, the same team behind the Shadowrun reboot and the upcoming Battletech revival. I’m increasingly fascinated as I learn more about this roguelike, third-person adventure, which feels in every way like a procedurally generated love letter to the Dark Souls and Bloodbornes of the world. You’re an adventurer exploring the long-abandoned sanctum of the great wizard, Abraxis, and your only company is the unhinged ranting of the maze’s magical caretaker, the Brazen Head. Weapons, armor, and loot of all kinds are ripe for the taking in the angular architecture of the dungeon, and combat feels fast and deadly. Harebrained Schemes tells me it has incorporated 32 distinct monster varieties, 60 weapons, and a huge number of distinct traps, potions, and acquirable magic traits for your explorer.
I love the visual variety in character styles they’ve squeezed out of the minimalistic and sharp-lined art style, and the playthroughs I’ve witnessed genuinely change things up as one moves from room to room, including moving platforms, devious drops, and constant treasure chests. I’m also intrigued by the studio’s effort to inject a narrative and fictional background to the dungeon that reveals itself over multiple playthroughs. I can’t wait to die repeatedly in the final version, targeting PC, Mac, and Linux early next year.
Fragments of Him
SassyBot Studios’ Fragments of Him explores the lives of three different characters dealing with the aftermath of an unexpected death of an important person to them, Will. You see how all three characters attempt to cope and remember Will. Think of it like a point-and-click adventure where you click on objects, but you can also walk around the room in first-person. This creates a feeling like you’re on the outside, looking in at these families. “You’re like the mind guiding the character and sometimes the mind wanders off,” says designer Mata Haggis. The three different relationships you explore are Will’s exgirlfriend from college, his grandmother, and his current significant other, Harry. You watch characters interact in their different environments and reminisce about Will through objects and places that remind them of him.
In many ways, you’re just learning about a man’s life and seeing the impact he had on others. The majority of the gameplay focuses on walking around and clicking on meaningful objects in the environment, seeing Will’s life from these different perspectives. The game isn’t meant to be a sad tale about death, but instead sends a message about cherishing people and the memories we have of them. Fragments of Him is due out in early 2016 for PC and Xbox One.
We Happy Few
We Happy Few is developed by Compulsion Games, the team behind Contrast. It has already turned heads for its similarity to BioShock’s art style, but this third-person survival game has more than an interesting face. Set in a bonkers, drugged-out Dystopian City in 1964, people are just a little too happy, as the face-painted locals are on a drug called Joy and are hellbent on going after anybody who doesn’t conform, known as “downers.”
You must survive by finding food and water and crafting weapons to protect you during your trek. The map is procedurally generated and you can unlock multiple characters to play through different stories. To get around the crowds, you can either sneak around them or use antics like crafting clothes to fit in. You can even take drugs to see a rainbow-filled world where no one will attack you for a short while. You can use brute force against them and stealth attacks, but these are best used on the occasional straggler. Trying to make one’s way through the town is thrilling as there’s a lot of tension, especially once the “happy” people spot you and bolt in pursuit. You’re thinking just as much as you’re being caught off guard. We Happy Few launches in June 2016 on Xbox One and PC