Unforeseen, A Poem about Eldritch Dreams
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We are officially in November!
October was a long and rough month for me, at least healthwise, but I seem to be on the mend. It was also a massive month for games with lots of big releases. The standouts for me were Persona 5 Royal finally coming to PC and the massive Rimworld expansion, Biotech. I have yet to be able to pick them up but hoping to do so either this month or Christmas. I may have spent most of my disposable income on another gaming handheld.
What can I say? I like games. I’m at the point where I won’t need another gaming handheld for a while.
Welcome to episode 24 of my Indie Corner series, the show where I showcase all sorts of excellent indie titles. While I plan on continuing this series into 2023 and beyond, I’ll be slowing down the series to prepare my GOTY series for December. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting my schedule and plans: there are some differences from previous years, and I’m excited to tell you all what’s happening! I have over thirty games fighting it out for a place in my Top 10, so I have some tough decisions to make in the next fortnight. I’ll be making a release cutoff point of mid-November, so I have the time to write my series. Sorry, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet!
I’ll be covering three games today, all very different from one another. That’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve found with the indie gaming scene: there’s something for everyone.
Deadeye Deepfake Simulacrum
I discovered this game by covering Ctrl Alt Ego, a brilliant indie immersive sim, and a potential GOTY in my eyes. We’ve got quite a happy little community on Twitter revolving around indie immersive sims: weird, I know. Twitter, happy? Impossible. Either way, I discovered Deadeye through this group, and the developer is an awesome guy. You can read my interview with him by clicking on the link below. Thanks to him for providing me with a preview key to check the game out early.
Deadeye combines retro graphics on par with the 1990s with a depth from the present day, a hacking-focused, top-down immersive sim greater than the sum of its parts. It might not look pretty, but Deadeye is incredibly deep and one of my favorite Early Access games of the year.
So, your character died. Whoops! Picked up and resorted by a typical, shady, cyberpunky corporation, you’re placed inside a little apartment and must work off your debt after a short tutorial explaining the base mechanics. Surprise, the debt is enormous, with a stonking interest rate of 1% every day, and every death comes with another million credits on top of it. So I’m effectively this corporation’s punching bag. Great!
The apartment serves as the game hub where the player can recharge between missions, pick up more quests using the computer, buy upgrades and new equipment, unlock new classes, and experiment with the hacking mechanics. Deadeye’s hacking system is brilliant, making the player type commands in a terminal to gain access and unlock many ways to break through defenses.
I spent the opening hours getting slapped around by enemies. There are several optional missions you can take between the main ones, as well as an arena mode to gain new chips that unlock perks and class upgrades. While enemies hit hard and fast, Deadeye offers many tools for the player to exploit. For my first playthrough, I started with the Necromancer and Technician classes. Using powerful grenades to blow people up, then resurrecting their bloated corpses? It makes an excellent combination, and the mix of hacking provides a plethora of options for the player. When I started writing this, the amount of chips required to unlock new classes doubles with each one you open, but there should be a patch by the time this goes live that’ll encourage easier experimentation.
It might still need to be perfectly balanced, but it’s already in a stable, reasonably complete state. There’s a chunky amount of content available, and even after 10 hours of experimentation, I still have a ton of missions to try. I’m terrible at the game, but like Ctrl Alt Ego, it’s a game I enjoy losing. For its low price tag, it’s worth a go. Deadeye Deepfake Simulacrum has already impacted me significantly. That’s hard to do, and I cannot wait to see what the developer does with it.
Deep and engaging systems
Steep learning curve
Many different classes and unlocks
Some things need balancing
Excellent value for money
Farming sims continue their significant representation in the indie scene. Helped by Stardew Valley’s massive success, they come in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, as much as I enjoy Stardew Valley, I often burn myself out playing it. It’s one of those games I can only play in short bursts. Unfortunately, for a game like Stardew, that makes it difficult for me to return.
We’ve seen plenty of farming sims, but Wylde Flowers focuses heavily on the narrative side. Many trends to the sandbox side of things; are not a bad thing in itself! Wylde Flowers has the usual farming gubbins with crafting, farming, and those kinds of things. Still, it comes attached to a focus on character development, worldbuilding, and story that helps set it aside from its competition. Do not be surprised to find Wylde Flowers in my GOTY list this year. Even though I’m early in the game, I’m having a great time playing it.
This game’s story is beautifully realized. Unfortunately, playing as Tara, returning to the town from childhood to look after your sick, witchy grandmother, Wylde Flowers starts slowly. As a result, it takes time for the narrative to play out, but that’s okay; this is one of the few cases where I didn’t mind it. Every character feels fleshed out and their person, something few games accomplish well.
Wylde Flowers comes with a diverse cast of characters, all beautifully voiced and with personalities. I’ve written for video games before: doing a good job with characters is vital for any narrative-driven game. If you can’t sell a cast or the world, it doesn’t matter how solid the story is. For a small developer, the attention to detail and quality of acting is fantastic; it does a better job than most AAA games. This comes with a lovely art design: the village and surrounding areas are a joy to explore, with controls that work using a keyboard, controller, or mouse. Accessibility is essential for people, and it’s lovely to pick up and play. And yes, it works near perfect on the Steam Deck as well. The only downside is that there’s no way to remap any keys right now, but hopefully, that will come in a future update.
From my experiences so far, the world is expansive but constrained in a good way: it’s not overwhelming. That’s important because it’s so easy to make big open worlds and make them boring to transverse. Wylde Flowers doesn’t have fast travel and is a chill, casual game that encourages the narrative: a gigantic open world wouldn’t do it any favors. The daily grind of watering crops, fishing, and earning money is a staple of the genre, and while the game doesn’t make any major innovations, it does a solid enough job. Time and stamina are resources, with three different modes to manage how quickly the day passes. While the game is more for its story than the farming sandbox, it’s more than enough to appeal to fans of the genre.
While they are early impressions (I’m not too far into the story and I love just exploring and talking to people), they are positive impressions. Wylde Flowers oozes charm with a quality that surpasses many competitors in its weight class.
Well developed characters and great voice acting
World is a joy to explore
The usual grind of farming sims still exists
Cosmoteer: Starship Architect and Commander
The final game featured in today’s episode was released last week. I was very fortunate to play this game early: during TactiCon, I was granted early access to Cosmoteer thanks to the great people at Firesquid and Hooded Horse, and you can read my early impressions of the alpha here:
Space sandbox games are a popular genre and come in all shapes and sizes. While I’ve played many in my time, my favorite space game has to be Starsector, though it’s a shame it’s not available on Steam. Cosmoteer is the closest thing on Steam to Starsector, but it does enough things differently to make it worthwhile. Releasing last week, it’s sitting at very positive reviews, and after getting addicted to its many qualities, I agree with them. This is an excellent sandbox, and the developers have thought of everything to make sure there’s something in Cosmoteer for everyone.
What sets Cosmoteer aside from other space sandbox games is the complete freedom in designing a ship. The number of tools and ways to craft a ship that the players own is staggering. Everything can be customized, from armor, shape, weaponry, equipment, and crew cabins, and this combines great with the simulated crew mechanics. Having them run around and do their thing almost makes it a new game in itself: managing the ship so the crew can be as effective as possible is vital for survival.
What amazed me is how much content Cosmoteer boasts, even in Early Access. There’s a career/sandbox mode to kick things off where the player can explore the galaxy, complete missions, and fight enemies, as well as a creative mode to design ships with unlimited goodies and test the game’s combat system. Any ships can be shared with other players with Cosmoteer’s generous mod support, and did I mention there’s co-op and PVP? Oh, yeah. I wasn’t kidding when I said Cosmoteer has something for everybody. Combined with multiple ways to customize a run to anyone’s needs with a robust roadmap and the reactive feedback I’ve seen from the developers, I’m intrigued by how Cosmoteer develops.
While the game is addictive and enjoyable in its present state, there are a few things I want to stress. First, while the game is easy to pick up, optimizing ships takes time to master, so there will be a lot of trial and error. In Career mode, repairing damage requires ample resources, which can feel grindy. Finally, as much as I’ve enjoyed Career mode so far, I wish there was a bigger focus on narrative and worldbuilding. This is more of a casual sandbox experience.
These are only minor nitpicks, if I can even call them that. I’ve had an incredible time so far with Cosmoteer. Were it not for specific rule changes for how I plan GOTY lists, this would probably be one of the three Early Access games I’d allow in the Top 10.
Deep level of customization
Career mode could use more story and lore
Several different ways to play
Difficult to master
Enjoyable combat system
That’s it for today’s episode! Episode 25 should be available next week, after which I’ll focus all my attention on my GOTY event. Once I’ve worked out my schedule and rules for this year, I’ll write something for it.