I’m back, starting a new series, covering indie games! This will also begin the official merger of my Early Access series, because the two go hand in hand plenty; you rarely see AAA titles launch in Early Access…officially, anyway. (Nervous coughs at Bethesda and Ubisoft. Looking at you both.)
These can be in full release, early access or anything that gets my interest. The independent gaming scene continues to grow, with some incredible hits the last few years. Many of my favourite games recently have come from the indie scene, with most of my Top 10 from 2020 being indie games. Who knows, you might see my 2020 roundup later in the year. I’m working on a review for the deep military sim Command: Modern Operations, but I have plenty of ideas to keep you guys entertained in the meantime.
Today, I’m presenting my thoughts on four indie games from the past couple of years.
Urtuk: The Desolation (Early Access 2020, 1.0 Late Feb 2021)
I’ve rarely enjoyed a tactical experience like Urtuk. This indie experience performed well in my 2020 gaming lists, hitting the Top 10 without much of a hitch as well as being featured in my ‘Best of Early Access’. Launching early 2020, Urtuk the Desolation made a full release a couple of weeks ago, and what a strong performer this is!
Single developer games are really ramping up in quality, and this turn based tactics game is really strong. Made by a single guy, David Kaleta, Urtuk: The Desolation is really an interesting game with a ton of polish.
Set in a grim, low-fantasy open world, you command a small force of brave adventurers as you travel through this desolate, ruined realm, looking for a tunnel to advance through the world state. I have to talk about the combat, because I have rarely played such a strong, dynamic system. Heavily relying on terrain, the turn-based system is fluid, highly adaptable with a ton of depth. Your characters are diverse as well. Support your characters with a wide range of styles too, and upgrade them with mutators; dangerous abilities that reduce your health, but vastly increases your options. Attack from range with your crossbowman, snipe them with your assassin blades, be a high risk, high return berserker with a big axe, support them with your monk. Being able to swap out mutators at will gives you a ton to work with, and I mean it when I say this is one of the best tactics games out there.
Like I said before, the terrain gives you plenty of things to do. Shove your opponents into spikes to damage them, into oil pits to slow them down, or down spiked ravines to kill them instantly. Of course, your enemies can do the same to you as well, so be careful. You can also extract abilities from your enemies, who come from a wide range of classes like Scavengers, Beasts, Vampires and Werewolves, and use resources to steal them for yourself. This gives even more replayability. Upgrade your characters to gain more stats, and you gain money and life essence. If your characters are injured, heal them with medicine, which is limited. You can buy more, but this is a gritty world and it doesn’t come cheap. The world grows around you as well, with parties hunting down your mutated characters and they grow stronger alongside you. Your guys also level up and learn new abilities, which gives a ton of awesome new things to do. There’s a lot of experimentation available, and it’s open-ended gameplay is a strength, not a weakness.
Urtuk really is a passion project with some excellent build quality. There’s even a Conquest mode in beta set aside from the main campaign, with lots of unlockable factions to play. It’s also fairly cheap and runs on almost anything, with a great soundtrack.
Urtuk is really good, guys. It’s a tight and well designed tactical RPG, and it might be one of the best in the business. Give it a go, and I think you’ll be as impressed as I am. Really one to look out for. Take a bow, David. You’ve done yourself proud.
When Crosscode first came out, I never gave the game much thought. It wasn’t until a random person in my Facebook friends list recommended the game to me during the winter of 2018.
The game has made waves online and for good reason, but I went into Crosscode not expecting to like the game as much as I did. I ended up liking Crosscode so much it became one of my Top 10 games of 2018.
For a 2D game, this really packs a punch with excellent visuals and a fascinating setting. Set in an MMO-style world known as CrossWorlds, you play an NPC who has lost her memory, and is brought back in simulation to recover it.
There is no slow pace in this, and the controls back up the speed of battle. It’s so fluid I found myself having a blast just playing through the basic game. I’m admittedly not that far into the game with only 20 hours, but it’s some insanely fun combat and shooting mechanics, with challenging puzzles thrown in. I have barely scratched the surface with Crosscode, and have recently picked it up again with the launch of the new DLC A New Home (A brilliant expansion that adds a lot of content for its small price tag. Value is the name of the game with Crosscode!)
Like an MMO, there is a fair bit of grinding, but never so much I get overwhelmed. It’s really quite endearing in how it functions, and from what I can see there is a ton of content for its small price tag. Overall though, it’s cool, it’s fun, it has few weaknesses and I like it. That deserves a spot on my list. For a genre I rarely play, Crosscode hits all the right spots.
Wildermyth (2019 Early Access)
Wildermyth was a breath of fresh air for me. It cracked my Top 10 games of 2019, reaching an impressive ranking of #6. On reflection, it’s probably a lot higher now.
To describe it best, Wildermyth is an roleplaying fan’s dream. The game launched in early access in 2019, and it’s doing great.
At it’s heart, it’s designed for you to make your own characters and campaigns, and there’s already five base campaigns in the game for you to enjoy, with a ton of generated events, battles and content for you, as well as two randomized campaigns with a bit more variation. I’ve played one so far, and starting a second campaign. I found it humerous, well written and enjoyable to play. Your characters age and change, form relationships depending on events, get wounded, get random buffs or even die.
There’s also a beautiful artistic style to the game that really grabs my attention. The art style in Wildermyth is a mixture of cartoons and paper, capturing 2D characters in a 3D enviroment during the battle mode. Their movements are basic, but it’s done well, and the fighting system has a wonderful, simple loop. There’s lots of different weapons and abilities to pick up, and the magic system is unique and well-made, giving mages cool ways to unleash their terror upon the battlefield. I really enjoy the combat system, one of the best I’ve seen in an RPG.
The nice thing about Wildermyth is again, the customization. This is designed so you can make your own characters, campaigns and scenarios. You can edit your characters appearance and write up their histories.
There is a serious amount of depth brewing in this gem of a game. It’s still fairly early in development, but has a lot of content already. I could see this game becoming a massive hit if the devs continue the pace they have with it, with more campaigns to come. The artistic style is cute and fresh, the gameplay is extremely satisfying with a good range of in-game events, the enemies are diverse and there’s plenty of choices for difficulty. Want it to be a fun romp, or a Dark Souls murderfest? The choice is yours.
I have so much love for this game, and I hope for the devs more people see just how good Wildermyth is.
This is a true theme park game, and in some cases it’s better than its bigger and flashier brother, Planet Coaster. Parkitect feels like a spiritual successor to the fantastic Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, and focuses heavily on the management side over its main rival. Planet Coaster still rules the pack in customisation and “build your own sandpark”, but it still lags behind on management and optimization.
This might be the pivotal theme park game in the future, even above the olden goldies. I still believe even in 2021, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 still leads in that regard, especially with the amazing OpenRCT2 mod that enables it to run on modern software and adds a ton more options. Parkitect is turning out to be a strong contender. It oozes charm and runs quite well. It has great sandbox options and a new extensive campaign. I’ve been quite enjoying it so far and it gives you different challenges throughout. Once you complete each campaign mission, you can play the map again in sandbox mode.
I’m really impressed by Parkitect. It feels like a lovechild to the old era, and still going strong in 2021. I recommend it if you’re looking for something different to whet your cabin fever appetite.
That’s all for today. With the merger of my indie and early access sections, I hope to showcase plenty of interesting games to you all. Join me soon for another article!