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As I write today’s indie installment, the rain is coming down in buckets outside. It makes me appreciate some of the nicer things in life, especially when I don’t get caught out in the downpour!
We’re on Episode 16 of this series I started late last year, and I’m appreciative of all the support and nice comments I’ve received for writing them! It makes all this worth it. As always, the structure is the same. I’ve been lucky enough to pick up some more great indie titles in July, and August has some pretty cool ones scheduled.
Just off the top of my head, there’s Retreat to Enen, a cool, relaxing survival sim focused around meditation, tactical RPG Vanaris Tactics, Western RPG sequel Hard West 2, another tactics RPG roguelike in Tyrants Blessing, city-builder Farthest Frontier and Axion Ferge 2. All of these are scheduled for the first two weeks of August, with more to come! August is looking like a fantastic month for indies, and you can bet I’ll be picking up at least a few of them.
I have a couple more games to discuss today, so let’s get right to it!
I’ve always appreciated colony sim games. There are many out there on the market, but few of them explore prehistoric times. There have been a few like Dawn of Man, and there is an upcoming one called Roots of Pacha which looks rather promising. I tried out the demo and was impressed by it, so that’s another game I’m excited to play on release.
I’m usually on top of knowing about cool games on release, but I was a little late in the ballpark with this one: I only discovered Sapiens a couple of days before its launch. The child of a one-man developer, it’s the latest talented solo project on the market. Dave Frampton has already made a few games, such as Blockheads, Chopper, and Chopper 2, and Sapiens is by far his most ambitious title yet. I want to offer my thanks to him for the review code. While I’m only a few hours in so far, I wanted to offer my early impressions.
At its heart, Sapiens is a slow-paced colony sim for the prehistoric age that focuses more on learning and relaxation. It takes a long time to get anything going in this game, so I have to start with that. If you’re looking for something easy to get into, plug in, and start building quickly, Sapiens isn’t the game for you. This is a sloth compared to other colony simulators. For me, I love the concept.
Picking a random tribe on a massive, procedurally generated map of Earth, you start the long process of building your civilization. Guided by a very efficient tutorial, the open world and exploration mechanics surprised me from the beginning. I also love the detail in the animations. Watching the little people pick things up and carry them just brings me back to the god-game days of Black and White. While the game is very slow-paced, it’s a unique form of progression. Research and new buildings are unlocked through discovery, which I found pretty cool. The graphics while fairly dated look rather nice at times, and there’s a great amount of freedom in how to build structures. I like that!
Naturally, Sapiens is in Early Access so what we see isn’t the final product. While there is plenty to do already, things are incomplete. Some features are currently missing, and the UI while effective still feels a bit unpolished. For a custom-made engine (Dave made this engine himself from scratch) it runs rather well, but there are some bugs here and there. While the game is relatively easy to control, it’s missing a few QOL features such as setting stored items to a certain amount. Even though I’m getting addicted to the gameplay, it’s easy to see how some people might find it dull; there is a lot of clicking on things and waiting for progress to be made. While there is a massive world, there isn’t really a way to explore it efficiently yet.
Despite these issues, I can’t help but be impressed with Sapiens so far. It’s cool to see new engines be put to use, and I think Dave has a breadwinner on his hands. Provided that the game sees updates and improvements, Sapiens has enormous potential to be great.
It also runs out of the box on the Steam Deck!
This is a game I’ve wanted to talk about for a while but have only been able to recently. The best way to describe Star Dynasties is Crusader Kings in space, which is already a cool concept. Being able to fulfill all those giant, space opera fantasies in a 4X style? Yeah, I’ve been wanting to do that for a while. Star Dynasties does an admirable job at that.
Releasing in Early Access in March 2021 with a relatively quick cycle, it left Early Access in September that same year. While it’s seen some modest success, I had some issues with the game when it first came out. I found its Unity engine surprisingly buggy and heavy on performance, and while I was left impressed by the gameplay, the bugs and crashes put me off playing it further.
To their credit, a lot of work was put into the game to improve performance, and in my recent time on it, I haven’t come across any major bugs. There is an excellent tutorial to teach new players the ropes, something many 4X games sorely lack. The paradox could learn a few lessons on this, although Crusader Kings III is by far their most accessible game to date. While it lacks the deeper systems of other 4X titles, it’s still relatively enjoyable to play, and there’s plenty of customization and things to do. With functional mod support, it has the potential to go further.
There are further options unlocked in their Bloodlines DLC. While it adds a lot to the game and it comes with a very modest price tag, there is an argument to be made that it should have been in the base game, to begin with. Family customization is important in these kinds of games, so I was a bit surprised this feature was paywalled. Still, it’s a fairly solid piece of DLC to own and it’s not expensive, so it’s something I can support. While Star Dynasties is a game I’d struggle to recommend at full price, it’s still a competent grand strategy RPG available on the market. If you’re in the mood for a sci-fi strategy game that’s not mainstream, Star Dynasties might scratch that itch. It’s available on GOG and Steam.
The Indie Corner is a series I plan to keep going for the rest of this year at least. There are impression reviews of Captain of Industry, Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator 2, and Coromon still to come, and these will probably be included in the next episode.
I’m continuing my work with the Steam Deck. Being one of the biggest things in gaming right now, it makes sense to focus my attention on the device. I’m working on a new article exploring how ‘unsupported’ and ‘untested’ games work on Valve’s hot sensation. You’ll be surprised how many run out of the box, and I’m having as much fun trying out weird games to see what works as I am playing things as Elden Ring and Days Gone.