Welcome to Episode 19 of the Indie Corner! September is upon us, which brings us more games to try out. We’re approaching the final quarter of 2022, which means, of course, my GOTY series! I really need to start planning that.
I’ve got my eye on several releases due this month. Most of these will be launching in Early Access. We’ve got immersive sim Gloomwood, the highly anticipated sequel to Slime Rancher, an intriguing management sim in WW2: Rebuilder and Potion Permit. I got the chance to try demos of Gloomwood and Potion Permit, and I’m rather excited about them. Naturally, these will be in Early Access and therefore incomplete on launch, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, it’s always better to wait! I always enjoy being part of the development of these games, so I’ll be trying to pick these up.
I have two games to discuss today! I was hoping to get an impressions review for Microprose’s Regiments for this episode, but I haven’t been able to play it enough yet. From my early impressions, it’s a highly competent strategy game, however, so it’s a great pick for anyone interested in dynamic war games. Microprose has still got it. For today though, I bring two more indie releases in Early Access that have caught my attention.
A 3D mix of Rimworld and The Sims with cats? I can see why people would jump all over this! Anything with cute kitties tends to do well. We can see that by how popular Stray has been. I haven’t been able to pick up Stray yet, but from what I’ve seen it looks like a solid game. The appeal of playing as a kitty is a powerful draw, I have to admit.
I had my eye on Catizens for a while, but the game’s launch completely crept up on me. Blame my distractions with the Steam Deck for that, but I wanted to try it out as soon as I realized my mishap. I want to extend my thanks to the publisher Herocraft Games for hooking me up with a key for the game. There is a game dev interview planned, but it will have to wait as the developer is recovering from sickness right now, hopefully, she feels better soon!
Catizens is an adorable, relaxing colony simulator title, with some light RPG and survival mechanics. With a growing family of cats with their unique likes and dislikes, it feels as if someone put Rimworld, The Sims, and Banished into a blender along with some cats and mixed it all up. With that horrible mental image in mind, it’s an Early Access title, so there’s naturally an incomplete game right now. However, it provides a decent amount of content to sink into. There are three chapters of the campaign mode as well as a solid sandbox to delve into, and it has a reasonable price tag of 15 dollars. Many similar games in this genre sit around the 20-25 dollar category on release such as Farthest Frontier, so this should be a pleasant surprise. After spending some time with the game, I’d argue it is well deserving of that price tag, even if it’s in an incomplete state.
The basics are similar to most in the genre: explore surroundings, collect resources, craft buildings, and keep your kittens happy. Simple enough! The graphics are adorable and they look great, plus the game seems to run well even on medium hardware. This won’t be a game where you’ll need a particularly powerful system to run. While I like how it looks and feels, the aggressive fog of war derails the game a little. I know it’s to encourage exploration, but I feel it hugs your current vision a bit too much. I’d prefer it if they reduced the fog of war, or remove it entirely. It’s not a major downside, but it’s a minor nitpick of mine.
The cats have different personalities and quirks which affect how they work. For example, one might require more food, or another will like to scratch things. Some will do better in a fight while others are better workers. Unlike most colony sims, Catizens provides a lot of interaction between the little kitties similar to The Sims. They can talk to each other, build friendships and give each other gifts which is a nice change from other, similar titles. I found myself growing attached to these cats. The story mode has three levels and they contain basic objectives to move onto the next level; nothing big or complicated but it does give a sense of progression.
While Catizens is rough around the edges and will need more content, I like what I’ve played so far. As long as development continues on the game and more content is made available, I think people will find a lot to like with this title. There have been a few great colony sims released this year, and Catizens does just enough stand out among them. It’s a good price for what you get, and there are cats. What’s not to like?
The Chinese gaming market is probably the biggest in the world, and I’ve played some cool games from China. Prime of Flames is the most recent one I’ve been playing, but there are some unique games out there!
Sands of Salazar was an impressive debut in 2020, and it’s a strange mix of a sandbox and strategy game, featuring fast point-and-click combat, RPG, and city building mechanic. It blends elements from Mount and Blade and Kenshi with Diablo. It’s a fascinating little game, and while it’s buggy and messy, I highly recommend it. Amazing Cultivation Simulator takes a game like Rimworld and dials it up to eleven with fascinating Chinese culture and its focus on Wuxia. It has one of the toughest learning curves I’ve ever experienced with a game; it makes Paradox titles look as easy to play as Skyrim at times. While it leaves me scratching my head, it’s a cool game with an insane amount of content. Tale of Immortal has sadly fallen off a cliff this year, as a disastrous attempt to grant mod support broke the game for many players, including myself. Despite these problems, I found the game an exciting experience before the troubles. If the major bugs get fixed, I might return to it.
Prime of Flames came out very recently, and the work of solo developer Rayka Games. What surprised me was the price tag. I was generously provided a review code for this impressions review, but when the price was revealed, I expected it to be around 15-20 dollars at least. That’s not the case! Prime of Flames is only ar10 dollars.
With its large amount of starting content and my early impressions, that’s a bargain for what you get. I asked Rayka Games about that and his response was great: he just wants as many people as possible to play the game. That’s a good approach. He is a very active developer. I’ve spent several hours with the story mode and the endless Abyss mode, and I’m impressed. There’s a demo version available as well, so if this review intrigues you but you’re still on the fence, try out the demo! They exist for a reason.
Prime of Flames combines turn-based tactics with a roguelike experience. There are many different classes and abilities to specialize in, with a huge variety of skills to learn. The map reminds me of Slay The Spire with different paths to take. Some will bring encounters and mini-boss fights, while others grant healing bonuses or recruit new units. I enjoy the graphics and animations, and the combat system is both fluid and dynamic. Different terrains offer bonuses or nerfs, and there’s so much diversity to units it can take a while to work out what works. While the English translation isn’t perfect, it’s just about enough that I didn’t get confused for too long.
The combat is challenging, especially the boss battles. Before some patches balanced them, I had trouble with the Warden. Damn thing kept imprisoning my characters, and by the time I freed them, he just imprisoned another until I ran out of troops to throw at him. The graphics and the animations are fluid with few slowdowns, so the game feels well optimized. There can be many things happening on the screen, so this is a good thing. While the game is tough especially on Abyss Mode (where losing characters is permanent), there’s a lot of freedom too. There’s no penalty from my experience running away to try again or restarting. It might almost be too free, but I enjoy the options available.
Prime of Flames is in Early Access, but it is a surprisingly polished experience. I was taken aback by how solid the gameplay is, and there’s a good amount of content available with light story elements. It’s still going to need some work with translation and balancing, but it’s a great tactical RPG for both beginners and experts. Give it a try. It might just surprise you. For that price, it’s hard to say no.