It’s me again with another episode of the Indie Corner! The Steam Summer sale is right upon us, and I have my new Steam Deck on the way. You can bet quite a lot of cash I’ll be doing some reviews and articles on Valve’s greatest invention since Half-Life, but I just need to be patient until it arrives.
It’s a hot summer’s day here in the U.K, and while I swelter under the joys of no air conditioning, here I am with more rambles about cool indie games. Today I want to cover two games that are in Early Access: as usual, I like finding the weird and wonderful.
Let’s kick things off with one of the big Early Access launches of the year. The Planet Crafter had a chunky playable demo available earlier in the year, and I enjoyed it immensely. Sent to a hostile planet for crimes against humanity, it’s up to the player to set themselves free. How to do that? Nothing like a healthy bit of terraforming, of course? The Planet Crafter’s goals are what the M.C.R.N in The Expanse series wanted to do with Mars: Transform a living rock into a garden of Eden. Check out that series if you haven’t, it’s awesome.
The Planet Crafter is a survival crafting game. Yeah, it’s one of those. There are hundreds of these out on the market today, though it’s not as big a trend these days. That belongs to the roguelikes! However, Planet Crafter is an excellent example of a survival game. Even in its Early Access state, there’s a lot to dig into, and it is easily worth the price tag. All the core systems are in place: survival and resource management, building, crafting, all those gubbins. I have played many survival games in the past, and The Planet Crafter might be one of my favorites, even if it’s more of an impressions review than anything else yet.
There’s food, water, and oxygen to manage, though they are relatively simple. Planet Crafter as a survival game is reasonably kind to you, and making more stuff like water bottles is as simple as a single click. Oxygen is the big one, and running out of it quickly turns into a platformer when you’re scrambling to run back to safety before collapsing into a drowning puddle. It makes for some harrowing experiences.
The point of the game, of course, is terraforming: the closer you get to that target, the more things get unlocked. Different buildings require different amounts of energy to keep going, so making sure the power grid can handle all the buildings is important. Grabbing plants to put into oxygen tubes provides oxygen, while heaters will slowly bring the planet to life. It’s a slow-burn game, but the gameplay loop is enjoyable without being overwhelming. The greater the terraforming score, the more buildings, and improvements are unlocked.
Scavenging the planet for resources is important: plenty of raw minerals are essential for survival and building. Shipwrecks and ruins can be scavenged for resources and important blueprints, so there’s always an incentive for exploration: another thing Planet Crafter does well. I enjoy making little outposts everywhere, making sure I have a haven when I need to get some oxygen back. Improving and upgrading my gear allows for more options, and it’s done in an organic way which shouldn’t annoy the player too much. Meteor showers dynamically change the landscape, providing rare resources at random as well.
The game is still a bit grindy, and I wish the building mechanics were slightly more refined. Despite these minor nitpicks, I see a strong future for Planet Crafter. It has ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ reviews on Steam, and from my experience, it certainly deserves the praise. Do not be surprised to see this game pop up in my end-of-year post!
I love open-world RPGs. I think many people do. They just have that vibe of exploring a world where we can kick back and try to ignore the stress of reality. That’s a good enough excuse to game in general, to be honest!
While the open-world RPG is still massive, many people have experienced burnout. Big open worlds are nice and all, but where is the love? Where are the handcrafted, enjoyable missions? It’s easy to get burned out on these gigantic games, and the AAA open-world formula can get a little stale. Open World RPGs by the indie scene can bring some fresh air to an oversaturated market, but with fewer resources available, they can have their issues.
It’s rare to see these games in Early Access, and they can be difficult to recommend. Dread Delusion has broken the mold for me, however, and it’s something I can recommend even in its early state. Yes, the game is unfinished, and yes, it’s Early Access. Despite these, the amount of love in the world of design and lore is great, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my time with it.
The graphics are old-school and something which belongs in the age of Morrowind, Doom, and Quake, but they get the job done and the atmosphere is fantastic. Calling it a modern Morrowind-lite wouldn’t be doing it an injustice, and it’s much easier to pick up and play. The feel may be old-school, but Dread Delusion doesn’t skimp on accessibility. There’s full controller support as well, and I’m excited to try this on the Steam Deck when mine arrives.
A Lovecraftian, hellish landscape floating in the sky is packed with weird features. Bloated corpses, giant mushrooms, deadly creatures, and airships make for a delicious piece of eye candy. Starting as the classic Elder Scrolls “Prisoner but Suddenly Important”, the Inquisition has called for the head of a rival. This takes the player on a sprawling journey through this open world. The current Early Access build contains part of the main story, several side quests, a region of secrets to explore including several towns, and functional combat.
The movement and combat are rather basic right now: with sneaking mechanics, magic, and several different weapons, but they are rudimentary at the moment and will need some finetuning. The combat works, but it feels like I’m a small kitten trying to beat up an elephant at times: enemies hit hard but they can be beaten by moving around. Chugging potions and using the bed to sleep and heal is an important way to survive. So far the quests feel entertaining and the world is thick with lore.
It’s early in development and needs polishing, but Dread Delusion is already brimming with promise and the potential for something great. If the developers continue their good work, this could make my Top 10 list end of the year. It’s a decent chunk of content for the price tag, give it a try.
That’s all for today. I wanted to cover Symphony of War: Nephilim’s Saga in this article, but I realized I want to spend more time with it first. It’s a potential GOTY in the making, and if I want to write about it, I want to do it correctly.
For now, everyone stays safe, and I’ll be back soon!