Last week’s madness of AAA game news has mostly subsided, giving way to a host of indie reveals that kicked off over the weekend with the Guerrilla Collective and a few other events. We took a break last week, but we return today with a fresh look at some of our favourite indie announcements.
This week also happens to play host to the Summer Edition of the Steam Game Festival, which kicked off on Tuesday. A Steam Festival is essentially a banner for developer streams, and free playable demos.
We've picked a few of the demos you can play this weekend, of course, highlighted in the second part of this feature. Valve says there are over 900 games taking part, so definitely browse through the event page.
Hot indie games week of June 15
I’ll admit; it took me years to finally appreciate the magic of Ace Combat. Last year’s Ace Combat 7 is the first one of those I truly enjoyed, and it helped expose me to Project Wingman.
Project Wingman is an indie dogfighting game hoping to capture some of that magic. Wingman has been kicking around for a while, having had a successful Kickstarter campaign two years ago. This week, we got a fresh, albeit brief, look at its updated visuals and high production values. The footage is almost indistinguishable from any typical Ace Combat mission, which I am sure was the intention.
The flight model is very arcady, action-focused, also similar to Ace Combat. The full game will have 20 aircrafts for you to play with, and over 40 weapons. The single-player campaign is fully-voiced, including Ace Combat-style squadron chatter and moving music.
Humble Games recently picked up Project Wingman, which is cause for celebration because it means we also have a release target of summer 2020. You can wishlist Project Wingman today on Steam. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s a very old demo on Itch that you can download and play today, but I do hope an updated demo makes its way to Steam at some point.
Carto is a puzzle game where the puzzle is the world itself. Exploration is the main impetus, but in order to explore the game’s beautiful world, its different pieces must first be arranged into a cohesive landscape.
This especially unique approach to presenting puzzles is very intriguing. Carto has a top-down perspective, but the puzzles only start to take shape when you zoom out into map mode and rearrange the different pieces.
It also helps that Carto has an art style that evokes serenity and warmth. Carto was announced this week, and it’s coming to Steam this fall.
Othercide’s look is the personification of a striking aesthetic. The monochromatic environments give way to sharp red and black characters, creating a style that’s hard to be mistaken for anything else.
Othercide is a sort of XCOM tactics game set in a horrific nightmare world that wouldn’t be out of place in a Souls-like. You control The Daughters, manifestation of ancient warriors, in the battle against grotesque creatures from another dimension.
Where things get interesting is how the game mutates and augments traditional XCOM combat. Through a set of unique character abilities and a timeline of actions, Othercide allows you to react to enemy attacks as they happen, or bank moves that can be triggered later on in the fight.
Keeping up with its own themes, the game lets you sacrifice one of the Daughters to help a different one survive. Developer Lightbulb Crew announced a July 28 release date this week for Steam, PS4 and Xbox One. The game is also coming to Switch later in the summer.
Games you can play this weekend
As promised, all of this week’s games are part of the Steam Game Festival, so their demos are available for a limited time. The festival ends Monday, June 22.
Say No More
Say No More is a very simple, one-button game about learning to say No. Set in an office environment in a world where everyone says Yes in order to get ahead, you play as an intern who decides to start saying No.
The game’s art style is very reminiscent of early 3D games, with angular models and blocky textures - which helps add to the chaos and comedy. In gameplay terms, the different types of Nos you can say is each considered an attack, which you will deploy against ingratiating co-workers and self-important bosses.
There's the nonchalant No, the angry No and more. You can even charge your Nos for bigger damage, and say it in many different languages. Say No More is coming to PC, Switch and iOS this year, but you can try out the free demo on Steam today.
Some said this day would never come. But, here we are, in the run up to the launch of a brand new Windjammers. To the uninitiated, Windjammers may look like another air hockey game from the 90s. Anyone who actually played the original, however, will tell you that nothing even comes close to its breakneck pace, satisfying back-and-forth mechanics, unique balance quirks, or earnest presentation.
The idea that a 2020 sequel to this particular arcade/Neo Geo game exists seems absurd, but someone – with a lot of pedigree, too – is doing it. Dotemu, the publisher and co-developer of the outstanding Streets of Rage 4 is at the helm, promising modern netcode, authentic art and music - and above all: game mechanics worthy of the name.
It’s a good thing everyone can test these claims for themselves this weekend, then. The Windjammers 2 Steam demo is available until June 22 like all other festival demos. It supports online and local co-op, and has three of the game’s characters and three arenas. Don’t miss it.
Undying is a special kind of zombie survival game. In it, you play as a mother who, after getting bitten by a zombie, only has a few days before she turns. In the little time she has left, she must pass on as much as she could to her child.
You’ll not only be fighting to survive in that world, you must also teach the boy how to protect himself. The skills you have in cooking, crafting and shooting must also, one way or another, transfer to the boy.
The mother’s demise is essentially the game’s rogue-like element, as you can only do so much on your first run. Undying also has a unique map system that doesn’t self-populate. As you play, you’ll have to manually mark the spots you visited and really make the journey your own.
Undying is in development for PC, PS4, Xbox One as well as Android and iOS. You can play the free Steam demo right now and see it for yourself.
Unto the End
Unto the End is a dark story about a father’s desperate journey across an unforgiving land to return home to his family. It’s also a 2D action game with a particular focus on combat.
2D side-scrolling games don’t often strive for unique combat because of the limited manoeuvrability the perspective offers compared to 3D games, but developer 2 Ton is trying to do that by making animations the focus.
2 Ton calls it “read-react,” because that’s what you’ll be spending most of your time doing in fights. Enemies have elaborate, but very readable attack and movement animations. By watching and anticipating, you’re able to get one or two hits in, fake them out, or rid them of their weapon.
Combat also equally encourages improvisation and creative use of the environment. Unlike most games of this type, you can easily lose your weapon and be forced to grab it back, use something else to defend yourself, or even kick dirt into an opponent’s eyes to buy yourself a bit of time. It looks incredibly dynamic, and the different stances bring even more depth to an already inventive system.
You can experience many of these delights in Unto the End’s free Steam demo. The game is coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch later this year.
Ultrakill is a shooter that makes the Doom reboot’s push-forward combat look like tactical manoeuvres. Part Quake, part Doom and part character action; Ultrakill is a game that rewards precision, style and finesse.
Style is at the very core of the game because it scores your every action and grades your performance at the end of every fight. It’s one of those games where you can infinitely slide to keep the combo going, but also one where a single bad move will end you. If you play along, you’ll learn to master its unrelenting carnage. And it’s necessary carnage, too, because your character heals the more blood splatter it catches.
It’s hard to succinctly describe Ultrakill because it doesn’t quite lean into any of its inspirations all the way. It’s not content with recreating the past; it’s more interested in exploring whether what could be done today with these classic mechanics.
It may look like any of the dozen 90s-inspired shooters on Steam, but it offers something none of them do. The Steam demo is mandatory playing for shooter fans. The full game is coming to PC this summer.
RAN: Lost Islands
RAN: Lost Islands is a battle royale action game where most of the combat is done in melee. The game uses authentic 16th Century weapons, so while you will have access to early firearms, the bulk of your engagements will be resolved in close-quarters.
RAN has an interesting combat model that blends the fluidity of combo-based games with the more reserved approach of a Souls-likes. The map is big enough to support ships, and air gliders. Every player spawns with a grappling hook that helps with traversal and whenever you like to interrupt enemy attack chains.
Horses can be used, too, of course, and they even let you fight from horseback. The game offers nine classes, which you will organically slip into depending on the gear and equipment you find along the way.
As part of the Steam Festival, the developer is offering free access to the closed multiplayer beta. Head over to the RAN Steam page and give it a go. Be warned, though, only North American servers exist at the time of this writing, so European players will struggle a bit.