Welcome, welcome one and all to Week 46 of 52 this year (11th-17th November).
Bringing you your weekly dose of IndieGems pulled from the forge that have caught my eye.
All three of these games do storytelling in distinctly different ways, proving that games is an exceptional medium for narratives. It can be dug up and interacted with, created hand in hand with the developer or told traditionally through character narration. No method is lesser than the other, but the variety is why I love games when it comes to the power of telling a story.
Below you will find my reviews of three games that caught my eye this week and hopefully (probably already has) caught yours.
Top 3 IndieGames
Developer/Publisher: WorldWalker Games
Genre: StoryRich, RPG, Strategy
"It empowers you to craft iconic characters who grow through deep, rewarding battles and interactive storytelling."
Anyone who is in love with storytelling like me will appreciate this game. From the very beginning, the characters you start with have randomly generated stats and traits. A very common mechanic these days to add flavour by creating a party as varied as the seven dwarfs. You'll have the grumpy one, the greedy, the cowardly and bashful one... except... this game also generates a full history for each of the characters. When first seeing this I knew I was going to enjoy the next few hours, my characters were already alive, I knew their dreams and likes and hates.
Currently in Early Access, so some campaigns aren't available yet, but the first campaign is a rich and full one that left me excited to play more. Eager to jump back in after this review, but I promise to be disciplined enough to not rush through my thoughts on this gem.
Going through the core mechanics, they are very much the same as many turn-based strategy games out there. You have your ability and movement points, your flanking, counters and area effect attacks. That hasn't changed here, so for any familiar with this genre, it should be a comfortable play style to jump straight into. What makes this stand out is how each characters personality and history effects their stats and even sometimes their abilities. For example, being a human (although I've not seen any other races... yet), gives different bonuses to stats and even a sense of wanderlust or background being a farmer, these are all factors that determine who the character is and what they can do. Alongside that, there are relationships with each of the characters, rivalries, friendships and romance can blossom between your characters leading to further influences. The depth of how your character can grow and become a living person is amazing and gives cause to an infinite amount of replayability and not to mention how attached you can get to them too. Yes... that's right, there is permadeath in Wildermyth. When their health drops to zero the first time you get to decide between letting them take a breather or die heroicly. If you let them take a breather they'll travel to the nearest town, patch up (get a cool hook hand sometimes, did I mention how your character develops in so many ways?) and they'll be ready for the next fight. However, if they are downed a second time, it's usually for good and you then get to choose if you want to memorialise their legacy forever on the Start Menu.
Looking back on that paragraph I have a lot more to say, there are so many small details that I commend them for thinking about and it is those small details that bring life to the world and the characters in them. I won't take up too much of your time, so let me move on to another great addition to Wildermyth and that is the built-in editor. They have spent a great deal of time in tweaking the comic panels and how fluid the game plays so that YOU can create your own campaigns. Wildermyth, after all, is made by two great people (husband and wife team Nate & Ann) who have a tremendous love for pen and paper games where you create your campaigns and stories to share with friends. It was only natural to dedicate a big portion of this game into letting others have a play around too. The possibilities for the future will surely keep Wildermyth alive, especially with a growing community I envision it will receive.
Developer/Publisher: Galvanic Games/Way Down Deep
Genre: Narrative, Adventure
"As you explore, the memories of the people who lived there come to life with the help of ARORA's Memory Reconstruction system."
I will start by saying I loved this game and the storytelling methods, but it won't be for everyone. Now for the hard part... trying to write the review without any spoilers.
So, I think I can say this without spoiling as it is on the Steam Page, there has been a global catastrophe of which we could not imagine. The results are a post-apocalyptic world (a favourite setting of mine) in which the air is not breathable. But let out a sigh of relief, this isn't another run of the mill fallout photocopy, it's main focus is exploration and storytelling.
Enter another setting I love, archaeology. The story and game revolve around you finding the Sunken city and exploring the environment. There is no combat, no inventory or anything, just you and the ancient world around you. This is where the diverge of opinions would come in to play, some would argue this has no gameplay, it is just a 'walking simulator', a term that I feel is used poorly for so many games. In a grain of truth, they are right that there isn't much gameplay, I find myself moving room to room, scanning clues and letters until my AI has enough evidence to recreate probable memories... then moving to another room and repeating. What kept me going was watching these memories build on top of each other, watching a seemingly unimportant past come to life in a story that I was urged to finish. Along with the past, there is a wonderful relationship being built between the two main characters. They are from different cultures and ideologies, meaning their comments and interpretations of what you find are interesting and at times funny.
Again, without going into spoiler territory... it's worth it.
There's very little to say about voice-overs, as there is none, you'll be doing lots of reading as you excavate the past. The music itself is also taking a little bit of a backseat, beautifully floating in the background. The strength of this game is weirdly the lack of sound. There are subtleties in the ambient sounds and music has very few crescendos to distract. For the most part, you are bathed in the silence of a place not explored for hundreds of years. It's fitting.
In my final thoughts, I'd like to echo what I said at the beginning, this game isn't for everyone due to its lack of gameplay, but I still recommend it to anyone with a thirst for digging up history and observing life from the perspective or others.
Genre: Adventure, Action, RPG
"Smash, clobber and bash... in this darkly funny action role-playing game that changes every time you play."
The animation and folkloric setting were major attractions to me when scouting indie games to play this week. It keeps to that feeling and atmosphere throughout the game with its use of rhyming in the storytelling. The tropes of a greedy ruler sending you on impossible missions and the iconic Baba Yaga herself in a house on chicken legs. It brings me good feelings and memories from tales that I have read in the past.
I'll say without any doubt that I have enjoyed this game and the journey it has led me on, BUT with all it's praise (that it deserves), there are some frustrations that I have been met with. Should I start with the good or the bad? Let's get the bad out of the way, for as frustrating as it was, it didn't stop me from continuing with the game.
So here we go, the bad luck system. On paper, it's curious and fun. Adding that extra spice of challenge to make things interesting. As time goes by, your 'Bad Luck' meter increases. Other factors that will come in to effect depend on the weapon you're using and actions you decide to take when interacting with people and altars. Yes, there are ways to decrease the bad luck meter, so an attempt at balancing has been satisfied, but in my opinion, it requires just a little bit more tweaking.
What's so bad about the meter getting more and more full? Well, constantly coins will be getting dropped, forcing me to backtrack a lot to retrieve them. At first, it was a cute and cool feature, "oh look, they really thought about this", it very soon became tedious. My greatest frustration, however, was when my weapon would just break in the middle of a fight. If I had no other weapon (like the first time this happened), then I would be left to fend with nothing but my fists. After the first encounter with this, I made sure to always carry at least 3 weapons with me in case it happens again.
Now I call this a minor negative since it probably doesn't affect everyone, those with better skill than me will be scoffing at the remark and I'll not argue. Some will be fine with it, some like me might not be.
Let's talk about the awesome stuff now. Foremost at the front is the art and sound design. I am absolutely loving both. As you can see on the image above, the art is magnificent and they have done wonderful research into the lore of Slavic Mythology. Whenever I encountered a new boss, I was always at awe of the detail in the design. Matching the art for greatness is the sound design. From very well done voice overs to outstanding music performed by Romanian Hip Hop band Subcarpați. Fusing modern urban samples with folklore instruments to create something quite astonishing. Even outside of the game I have listened to the soundtrack on occasions.
On the surface, Yaga may seem like a cookie-cutter game where you explore procedural levels, kills beasts and then move onto the next one, but there is much more to learn. Some features under the hood is the crafting system, where you pick the metal that your hammer is made from and then a selection of enhancements, and there are many to pick from. Your choices will determine the kind of person you are becoming, from greedy to smart to just plain dumb. All in all, there are five personalities and five different endings you can get. My favourite mechanic has to be when you choose what day to start your adventure and the different curses and gifts you can receive. They add so much flavour to the gameplay and changes how you fight your battles. Whatever day you pick, it can give you stronger attacks or health recovery when resting, among other effects. Curses and Gifts are creatively designed, taking the edge of some difficult situations. It's best to try and collect as many as you can as they stay permanently.
In closing, I do recommend the game. The combat is really fun, rolling and attacking and throwing your hammer like Thor, only to be returned to you. It is very satisfying. The gifts and curses add that flavour I need and makes for very interesting playthroughs. And with your hand chopped off, it's always cool to see little Ivan get creative and Forge something useful as a replacement.
I love the world and setting, music is amazing and the art just as beautiful. The only thing I would tweak is the Bad Luck mechanic, but as outlined before, that me personally.
You should definitely go out and give it a go.
With my "short" reviews not looking so short, from here on they will be posted for each individual game instead of as a Top 3.
So keep an eye open throughout the week as I bring you my top picks fresh out the Forge. I brave the overwhelming out pour from Steam, so you don't have to.
If any devs want to get their freshly made gems- I mean games- fully reviewed, drop me a message on here or on my email [email protected]
I will check out your page and see what article or video I can make for you. Also can help with creating Presskits and Promotions for those that need it (whether being released soon or in the far future)