It’s me again! I promised some reviews of newer indie releases, so here we are! First, what’s been happening lately? We’ve seen the release of several games both big and small, divisive and impressive. Mass Effect Remastered came out earlier in May to a solid reception despite some launch issues, while the PC port of zombie hit Days Gone has been a stunning success. Persona 5 and Ghosts of Tsushima when, Sony?
We’ve also seen THQ Nordic’s heavily hyped and awaited title Biomutant release to some… interesting reception. I’ve been playing some of it and hope to have a review for the game soon! Today I bring some of my thoughts on the indie titles I’ve been playing in recent weeks, and hopefully, this will give them the attention they deserve.
Let’s kick off with a nice, chill indie game. Releasing at the tail end of March 2021, Dorfromantik is a relaxing strategy game where you join tiles together to build a landscape. Villages, forests, rivers, farms and train tracks, the world is your oyster. Completing challenges gives you more tiles to use, and when you run out of tiles, you start over.
It’s beautifully simple and works very well. It reminds me a lot of Islanders, another big indie success, and so far Dorfromantik has similar success with overwhelmingly positive reviews. The soundtrack matches the gameplay perfectly and it’s been my go to game when I need to sit back and relax. Listening to a podcast or zen music in the background while I solve these puzzles is a lovely pasttime. It’s very easy to learn but hard to master, and is been an interesting journey of rinse and repeat. I do wish the game had an option where you could repeat the last turn if you make a mistake like Islanders, because it’s very easy to screw up. There’s an Endless mode coming at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later. As much as I like the current mode, I find it difficult to rack up a big high score, and it does come down to some RNG for what tiles you get. There’s a good amount of stuff to unlock though, so there’s a nice incentive to keep playing. I’ve racked up 30 hours so far, and I expect to play it more in the coming months.
So far, however, I’m really enjoying this game. It’s the perfect game when I need some downtime. Addictive, cute graphics, doesn’t take much to run and it’s inexpensive at 10$. I can’t think of any flaws with the game right now. All I can say is pick it up and give it a go!
Lacuna – A Sci-Fi Noir Adventure
What started as a minor interest has rapidly become one of 2021’s strongest indie releases so far. A fantastic interactive fiction game that goes beyond others in its genre, Lacuna – A Sci-Fi Noir Adventure has been exceeding my expectations so far.
This is a very interesting genre because there are so many different ways to go about it. Many are point and click sequences with little interaction, but Lacuna breaks the mould in allowing more action. You move your character around like any action game with your mouse and keyboard, or a controller, which gives it an edge over rival games off the bat. I like interactive novels for certain as well as point and click, but more games in the genre should do this, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. It moves and plays great.
After a short introduction, you play as Neil Conrad, CDI agent and absentee father. Awoken by the news of a murder, you rush into an investigation that soon challenges the life of those around it. Taking place in an intergalactic, cyberpunk noir-esque world, the graphics and art style leapt out to me from the beginning. It feels great exploring the little nooks and crannies, which is helped by a great soundtrack that really improves the game’s visual design.
Oh, and you can’t save. There’s no going back and repeating conversations to pick another choice. What you pick stays with you, and the choices actually matter. This really helps sell the world design and you feel like a detective, going through your notes and working out what the right decision is. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I will be giving it a full review when I have. So far though, Lacuna is shaping up to be one of the best indie titles this year, and don’t be surprised to see this game in my Top 10 of the year outright. The writing and worldbuilding is brilliant, the atmosphere hits the mark, and you really feel like a detective. So far, I have no complaints, just having a great time. It doesn’t cost much at just 15$, and it’s one high quality release. Pick it up and give it a try.
I did some beta testing for this one! A few weeks before launch, I was contacted to see if I was interested in trying out the game, and I’m happy to say it was a fun experience. Releasing on the 12th of May of this year, Sherwood is a free-to-play parkour and archery game in a medieval setting, as the Sherwood name suggests. I’m pretty sure Robin Hood didn’t leap from a cliff along a zipline and shoot the holy heck out of enemies, however! It’s in Early Access for the time being, with a full release scheduled for the end of 2021.
Free to Play always feels like a double-edged sword with the industry, but so far, Sherwood Extreme has broken the mold for that at least in its early version. There is a cash store to support the devs with purchases but nothing I found that breaks the game in any way. You can buy anything in-game with the currency you collect from playing. Just thought I’d mention the price model before I went into my impressions review. So far, I haven’t found anything too concerning, but as with any freemium model, it’s something to note. Hopefully, as the game continues to evolve, the microtransaction model doesn’t suffer for it, because that’s where so many games like this falter.
The gameplay loop is short but satisfying. You have several levels to play through, but they have hundreds of different combinations for the level design which helps a lot with variation and replayability. That’s a good thing because of the short level of time, so it gives you the incentive to jump back in for more. The movement feels fresh and quick, and the point of the levels is to go around destroying barrels and goblins with your bow, jumping to platforms and ziplines to get off the best attacks. It’s a speedrunner’s dream with a ton of ways to get to the top of the leaderboard. This is not a game where being slow and steady wins the race! The music is rather cheesy but it helps sell the atmosphere with the low-poly but enjoyable graphics. It feels like a little romp through a fantasy of pirate life, which makes me smile. There are lots of unlocks and customization for your character, so there is a sense of progression.
I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous going into Sherwood because I have little luck with free-to-play games, but I’m happy to say it’s a lot of fun so far. I get Borderlands vibes in the way both games feel like you’re playing a scene from a comic book. It’s daft and silly, but you know what? I like it. I felt like one of Robin’s little merry band of archers if they learned how to jump about like a dude from Assassin’s Creed. I love the bullet-time mechanics as well. So far, so good.
There are a couple of minor niggles with the game. One is the bugs. I’ve come across quite a few graphical glitches, including one crash. This is an Early Access title and it’s a video game, so bugs and glitches are to be expected. I haven’t tried the co-op yet, but that is an option in the game as well. My other minor gripe is the controller support hasn’t fully been recognized yet. It’s compatible, but I still have to use the keyboard and mouse to use some of the menus. Right now, I’d probably recommend going full mouse and keyboard for now.
It’s free-to-play on Steam so there isn’t much of an excuse to stay out of this one. Try it out! It’s a great way to kick off a morning with some quick play in between life, and it has massive potential. I’m keeping an eye on this one.
I was hoping to get my thoughts on Galactic Mining Corp into this one, but I want to take more time with it. However, it’s a very promising recent release with excellent mechanics and a really addictive gameplay loop. Look it up on Steam if you’d like to know more, but rest assured I will be getting out an impressions review for that soon. In the meantime, have fun and stay safe!