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Indie Corner Episode 30: A New Milestone
We’re now at Episode 30 of my Indie Corner series!
I remember starting this series in 2021 — when I struggled to find a formula that worked for me. There are just so many games out there! Every day, I find something new. As someone who plays many different games, I love what I do. Sure, it leaves me wearing dozens of brightly colored hats, but that’s what I love about the gaming industry — the sheer variety of games. The indie scene continues to grow, and with plenty of AAA struggles on PC, it’s a perfect comfort-eating cheeseboard.
Since my last milestone episode in September, quite a lot has changed for me. I started a new editor job at Plarium Games in February, which is scheduled to last until June. For obvious reasons, I have slowed down my content creation while I prioritize my job. I’ve learned that a full-time editing schedule makes my own writing projects exhausting! As a result, I’ve built up quite a backlog of reviews to work on. They are all in the works, however, and I’m excited to share more of my work with you all! I have several interviews with developers in progress too, so I’ll be providing a steady trickle of content over the coming months. To all the wonderful folks who have provided review codes — don’t worry! All of you will be featured.
Since Episode 30 is a milestone in my series, I’ll be reviewing three games today.
The RPG Engine
Okay. This isn’t exactly a game review by any means — it’s a tool for playing tabletop games. Still, I love stuff like this, and when I was offered a copy of The RPG Engine to experiment with, how could I say no! It’s hard to directly review this as a game. Most of my experiences have been experimenting with maps, adding a ton of props, and exploring the movement mechanics, so it’s more of a ‘sandbox’ impression.
Tabletop games have always been popular, and it’s great seeing tools to assist with enhancing that experience. I’m not heavily into the D&D/Pathfinder franchise, but I have played a couple of D&D campaigns before with friends and greatly enjoyed myself. I ended up playing as a massive prick of a character, a necromancer rock gnome called Thissorn. He was perhaps the most foul-mouthed character I’ve ever played, and it was a blast playing him. I’ve missed that.
Having a great dungeon master is essential, and access to tools like RPG Engine only enhances the player experience. The developers know their audience!
RPG Engine was released on Steam in early 2022 in Early Access, and it’s received frequent updates ever since. It’s quite impressive how much they’ve packed into this engine. With the ability to create your own dioramas, characters, and worlds, it is an excellent piece of kit. You can check out my interview with the developers by clicking on the link below:
What I find most helpful about the RPG Engine is what it offers. For tabletop gamers, only the host needs to buy into the game. Other players only require downloading the free demo. The £16.39/20$/18 EUR base price tag is incredibly generous, especially in the ‘tabletop world aid’ genre. As I’m writing this article, the Steam Spring Sale has offered a 25% discount for the package. There are no add-on packs, no microtransactions, or paid expansions. What you see is what you get. While the game is in early development, this is subject to change, but the amount of content available is exceptional. With the thousands of props, world choices, and Steam Workshop integration, there is no shortage of things for creators to discover.
I’ll be the first to admit it — this is not my usual type of game. Superfuse feels like a cyberpunk Diablo in certain ways, and what drew me to the game was the art design. Superfuse has struggled with considerable launch issues since its 31st January release, but frequent patches have fixed most of those problems. While this Early Access game has a long way to go, I’ve enjoyed my time with it so far.
While launch issues are never fun to experience, they are, unfortunately, a fact of life. An online game will always struggle with server issues — I can’t think of one that didn’t. Just look at the Diablo IV beta problems, so Superfuse’s small team size makes their rocky launch something I’m willing to overlook. That doesn’t make launch problems acceptable, of course. We would all prefer our games to go off without a hitch! While these hiccups have resulted in a ‘Mixed’ Steam review score, I’d argue that Superfuse has improved enough to warrant a second look.
Superfuse starts off in a grimy, broken-down world. Diablo in space was my early impression before I started playing, and it comes close to accomplishing that. The visual design is stellar for the genre, and the hub world breathes life into every orifice. With so many Action-RPGs taking place in a dark fantasy setting, this is a refreshing change.
Starting off from a selection of characters and base classes, the player is thrown into this space world. It’s the classic Diablo style of mission design: pick up missions from the hub world, travel to a new area, explore and kill stuff, complete quest, and grab loot and rewards. Rinse and repeat. There are plenty of items and other loot to pick up during missions, with a healthy selection of cool powers and weapons. Sure, this part of the game does a little different from other looter RPGs, but the space station environments look great, and the voice acting is solid overall.
Along with the art style, Superfuse offers impressive character customization. My current character — Xavier Inaros — carries nifty spider leg augmentations, as well as the ability to summon robots that do his bidding. The Fuse system allows your power-ups to be tailored with tons of different powers, depending upon what you need them for. For example, my Decoy robot power can be fused with a lightning attack upon summon, or when attacked, can spew poison everywhere. While the upgrade system could use better explaining — I was confused about how it worked at first — it is a cool feature.
While several patches have improved performance and QOL for Superfuse, there are still a few issues. Pathfinding and movement are clunky — often I found my awesome cyber-spider boy stumbling into walls, and I wish there was an auto-fire button for some of the power-ups. At launch, I ran into several server crashes, and while patches have greatly improved the server reliability, I still ran into a few disconnects here and there. Despite these niggles, Superfuse has come a long way.
A refreshing setting for the Action RPG genre
Movement and combat is a little clunky
Great visual design and music
Character customization is stellar: a lot of options
Upgrade system is challenging to learn
Fuse upgrade system allows for a ton of variety
Moving from lovingly crafted JRPGs, I’m so happy I got the chance to play this one. I missed the initial hype around Scarlet Hollow’s early access release, but with their new chapters in 2022, I finally got around to it. A huge thanks to the developers for providing me with a review code!
Scarlet Hollow is, at its heart, an unsettling visual novel that goes beyond most competitors in the genre. With a wide cast of diverse characters, excellent dialogue, and deeply messed up writing, this is one hell of a game to experience. I’m a little sad that it took me so long to play it! While the game is still in Early Access, there are four chapters in the current version, with over half a million words. This is one chunky visual novel! With the various branching paths and choices that actually matter, it continues to leave a lasting impression. Sure, I have only completed the first episode, but I couldn’t justify waiting longer to write up my impressions. This game is damn impressive in scope and design, and I’m loving every moment of it.
There are no jumpscares, thank god. I’ve never liked this in games — I always found them a cheap way to bring a rise out of the player. Don’t worry: Scarlet Hollow is terrifying enough without needing them. The world setting blends a miserable town from a Victorian/coal mining era with Lovecraftian horror that dwells in every orifice of this cruel world. There’s an Uncanny Valley vibe to everything and everyone in Scarlet Hollow, and the huge range of dialogue options available provides plenty of replayability.
Meeting your grouchy cousin Tabitha after a long bus journey in which I had to chat with a disturbed asshole, Scarlet Hollow’s story takes a dark and unpredictable turn throughout. That’s the only spoiler I’m going to offer — the game is just something that needs to be played, without looking things up. The last time I felt like that with a video game and going in completely blind was Outer Wilds, one of the most captivating video games ever made. So yeah, this impressions review might seem vague. That’s the point. I can’t say enough about it apart from this. Buy it, and play it. You will not regret it. After Episode 1, I’m hooked.
Stunning writing and characters
Unsettling setting: horror done right!
That’s it. That’s the only ‘gripe’ I have if it is one. The game is awesome. Try it.
Large amount of content for price
Choices actually matter, and there are a lot of them!
That’s the end of Episode 30! It took me longer to reach this milestone than Episode 20 did, but I’ve been blown away by the great feedback everyone has given me.
There are plenty of reviews to come, including Ancient Cities, Zombie Cure Lab, Spacebourne 2, Pokemon Scarlet, and so much more. Hopefully, during the summer I’ll have more time to work on these articles, but for now, I’m content with my current output.
In the meantime, enjoy gaming! I shall return soon.