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Indie Corner Episode 18: Reviving Old Classics
Today I cover two games which try to recreate the originals! We've got Coromon, a solid spiritual successor to the Pokemon series and Deus Novum, an exciting solo project that is attempting what few have tried: recreating Lionhead Studio's beloved cult classic Black and White.
By TheThousandScar Posted in Gaming, Indie Games, PC, Reviews on August 26, 2022 0 Comments 12 min read
Gamedev Interview: Mikhail Sherstennikov (Regiments Developer, Microprose) Previous Gamedev Interview: Tyler Goodale Next

We are approaching the end of August. The last few years have flown by, haven’t they? It feels like I woke up yesterday and it was still March. It’s odd how time goes, sometimes.

I hope everyone is keeping well and trying to survive the heat! Things have fortunately cooled down where I live. As I write this, the sun is shining and it’s pleasantly warm, but not molten like it has been lately. There’s nothing worse than trying to cool down in the humid summers the UK gets, and we don’t even have air conditioning! In winter at least we can do things to warm up. You can’t really do much when it’s boiling hot, besides wanting to remove your own skin.

Two games I’ve had my eye on were released this past week. First is Way of the Hunter published by THQ Nordic, a hunting simulator similar to Call of the Wild: despite some bugs, it looks intriguing. I have yet to install it, but it is high on my priority list. Another is Regiments, a high-quality, real-time tactics game set in the Cold War. Published by resurgent publisher Microprose, it seems to be receiving a lot of attention. I’m hoping to receive a game dev interview with these guys in the coming weeks, and I intend to pick up the game as soon as I’m able. I’ve always been a fan of strategy games, and Regiments looks like one of the stronger ones out there.

Today, I bring another episode of The Indie Corner, where I like to cover and review the indie games I’ve been playing. One of my favorite things about the indie gaming industry is innovation. There are all sorts of experiments you rarely see with big published titles. Sometimes, all it takes is the right pair of eyes for people to learn about these games.

I’ve received several review requests this year, so one of my priorities is to work on a Review Guideline for the site so developers will know what to expect. Expect to see that sometime in September! In the meantime, I have a couple more indie games that reinvent old franchises. Once more, I’m sticking to the two-game formula as I had a lot to say about these ones.

Deus Novum

One of my favorite classic video games was Lionhead Studio’s Black and White. One of the biggest cult classics of the 2000s and certainly one of the most anticipated games of all time, it remains a giant among the god game genre to this day. It might be heavily flawed and didn’t reach its full potential, but it’s such an innovative and fascinating title that it’s earned a permanent installation on any computer I own. There’s a good reason why Black and White is one of the most heavily requested games in the GOG forums. Sadly, that will likely never happen. The Black and White franchise and the license are in a state of permanent limbo between Microsoft and Electronic Arts.

Although Black and White was massive for its time, nobody has really attempted to replicate it since. The 2005 sequel to Black and White was a decent game but struggled to make an impression. Poor sales and a rough development process were a big problem for Lionhead Studios at the time as they attempted to make Project Ego, or Fable, a reality. Eventually, it ended up in Microsoft buying the studio, tying Lionhead to Fable until their eventual demise in 2016. Games such as the Black and White series were forever placed on the backbench. Both games are abandonware these days, and still worth playing to this day. Even Black and White 2 has its strengths. It looks incredible for a 2005 game and makes for a competent colony simulator. I argue it can challenge even present city-builders. I talked a little about Black and White in this old article:

While a few small developers have worked on the god game genre in recent years with mixed success, I haven’t seen anyone try to recreate Black and White’s magic until this year. That game is Deus Novum, a spiritual successor of sorts to the series, the work of a solo developer. You can read more about his ambitions and development process from reading the interview I held with him here:

The game was released on Steam very recently, and it was only through a post on a gaming forum on Reddit that I learned about it. Marketing is one of the biggest obstacles for any game developer: if nobody knows about the game, it’s going to struggle. Now, I have an obsession with god games and Black and White so as soon as I discovered Deus Novum, it filled me with nostalgia. I want to thank Tyler for the review copy and for the great talks. You have no idea how much respect I have for anyone who makes a game, let alone somebody trying to recreate one of the 2000s most anticipated games of all time. That takes a lot of guts. There’s a reason hardly anyone is attempting it!

(The early game tutorial) The UI may be basic, but it gets the job done.

Starting up Deus Novum for the first time fuelled my inner, god-game-obsessed child. Black and White came out in 2001 when I was eleven years old and starting the final year of primary school. It was a delight to play then, and it is still a delight now even with its many flaws. Deus Novum is an Early Access title, and fully aware of its current status. Animations are placeholder, and the graphics/character models are simplistic. If you’re looking for amazing graphical quality, you’re in the wrong place right now. Personally, I don’t find this a major problem. I rather enjoy the environment, even in its early state. When you invest in a game in early development, these things are expected. If that’s not what you’re looking for, it’s always better to wait for a complete product. That’s alright as well!

(The starting village on the first island) The nostalgic vibes are real…

Delving into the game really feels like looking into Black and White. After picking a name for yourself and your starting creature, the game kicks off. There’s a Creature to train, a godly hand that is your persona on the world, picking up objects and throwing them around. Deposit food, wood, and other resources into stores for future use; pick up water and fish from the sea. The building mechanics feel like a crossbreed between the first and second Black and White, offering free building. There’s a progression system to gain powers, such as healing, chucking fireballs at enemies (or your own villagers if you need to teach them who the god is), or providing resources like food and wood. There are plenty of diverse powers to enjoy, and while I haven’t got a load of time in the game yet, you can see the developer’s passion and creativity. He studied what made the Black and White series so memorable, and is trying to improve on them. That takes talent.

(The village center) There are a lot of bugs.

I would recommend a powerful system to play Deus Novum. Right now, optimization and stability are problems that need to be addressed. While I do not have a powerful system with a laptop 1060 GPU, I found frequent frame drops even on low settings. Disabling shadows can help with performance, but this is a power-hungry game. There have also been several bugs, but the developer is active in dealing with these. Already, frequent bug-fixing patches have been introduced. It’s early days, and it is important to keep an eye on these things. So far, so good.

For anyone who remembers the best of the god-game genre, I ask you to think about supporting this guy if you want to explore development. There are a lot of rough edges right now, and it’s going to need a lot of work. That is the nature of game development. There isn’t a single game on the market right now that’s attempting what Deus Novum is trying to accomplish. For that reason, I want this to succeed. It has the potential to be amazing.

Coromon

I meant to have an impressions review of Coromon much earlier than this, but life got in the way. Fortunately, it’s fully working on the Steam Deck, so I’ve found it easy to jump back into the game whether away from my laptop or not. Pokemon is such a giant in the entertainment industry it beggars belief. Even with its ups and downs, it’s an absolute juggernaut for the games industry. I don’t think there is a single franchise that beats it in volume, except maybe the Sims. With Pokemon Scarlet and Violet launching later this year, all eyes are on Game Freak to see if they can turn things around.

(The opening cutscene) I love Coromon’s visual design.

It’s a shame it doesn’t want to make the jump onto the PC, but there are several games out there trying to accomplish that goal. Nexomon Extinction, Monster Sanctuary, the Siralim series, and MMO-Lite Temtem all have their own twists on the legendary Pokemon model to varying degrees of success. Monster Sanctuary is a personal favorite of mine which received a large update not long ago, but Coromon is more geared to the standard Pokemon formula. Made by fans of Pokemon, it’s received a lot of attention for a refreshing variant while still adding its own quirks. With plenty of quality of life features, built-in randomizer and Nuzlocke modes, and various difficulty options, there’s a lot of customization. Finding the game too easy or difficult? Just change some options! You can do all this on the fly and it’ll just work, which is nice. Other games require this to be locked in when starting a new game with no way to change back, so it’s nice to see Coromon being so open about it.

At its heart, Coromon feels like a more refined Pokemon game from the Game Boy Advance era. The graphics are cute and they look nice while appealing to a retro fan’s side. The battle system is reminiscent of Pokemon’s turn-based combat, with different types and enjoyable monster designs. Learning everything as you go along kept me entertained, while a Codex made sure I wasn’t too frustrated. I’m only up to the first Titan in the story, but I’ve been enjoying Coromon so far. The story isn’t anything unique: evil organizations trying to take advantage of a new alien threat, but it’s easy to follow. The dialogue and world follow a lot of current-world memes and events which took me out of the game a few times. It relies on humor more than it probably should, but it’s still a decent experience. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is okay. The moves and abilities Coromon can have are fun to experiment with, and the same Coromon can have different powers. Some of these can help in the overworld, like keeping Coromon away in dungeons or lighting up dark caves.

(Receiving my first mission inside the lab) On the road to be a Pokemon…Coromon Master!

While Coromon has a good thing going, it had a fairly buggy launch. Most of these problems have been fixed, though some people have experienced memory leaks. While the game doesn’t require a powerful system to run, these are issues that will need addressing. Coromon also places a lot of focus on puzzles, many of which are mandatory for game progression. For those who don’t like those, that can be a turn-off. I certainly ran into a few roadblocks until I worked out how to complete them. I can understand why some players bounced off them. I’d prefer battling more.

It may have some flaws, but Coromon is a solid experience for anyone who wants a more ‘retro’ Pokemon title on the PC. It’s also available on the Nintendo Switch as well as Android, although the mobile port is incomplete. While I doubt Coromon will make my 2022 Top 10 games list, it might surprise you.

Conclusion

This ended up being a longer article than I expected! I was planning on covering three games today, but I had a lot to say about Coromon and Deus Novum, with the latter being the ‘main event’ of this particular episode. Hopefully, I’ll be back to the original formula soon.

I’m not certain when the next episode of Indie Corner will be. I’ve recently received review copies for Catizens and Prime of Flames, two promising Early Access titles which I’m enjoying my time with. I want to cover both as soon as I’ve got the free time, and I plan on writing the Steam Deck battery life article too at some point. There are a lot of projects to work on, but I guarantee I’ll be back soon.

#adventure #gamer #indiegame #pcgaming #rpg #Strategy #videogames


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