I’m back again! It’s been a busy few weeks for me lately, and the year goes by quickly. With only a few months left for gaming in 2021, things are really heating up for my annual GOTY awards. Just like last year, indie games have been doing really well for me. We’ve had somewhat of a lull in 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m sure delays will continue for some time. 2022 is looking stacked for gaming, at least. Despite that, I still find new games to interest me almost every day. I bring some new indie titles for you today, all of which are in Early Access and released this year.
Is civilization doomed to destroy itself? Is humanity alone in the universe? Both are fascinating questions that I have no answer for, nor is it the right time of day for me to discuss them. I need some coffee first.
I saw The Fermi Paradox a while ago before it launched. The concept intrigued me from the start. A sci-fi-strategy game where you guide a civilization from infancy to harmony, with plenty of story events to keep you going? Where do I sign? The idea is fantastic in theory, but the execution is a little haphazard at this stage.
Fermi is in a fairly early stage, so while you can do a good amount, the execution is a little odd at times. You gather a kind of currency to spend on different events to evolve your species (You can control up to ten at a time), which you can receive either through certain events (killing off someone entirely gives you a lot for the next generation, for example) or by clicking on bubbles. The latter mechanic is…quite dull, if I may say so, and it’s probably the weakest point of the game so far. A lot of the time, I found myself waiting for things to happen. While the number of events that trigger is varied, I found them to repeat after some time. Your species have several categories in population, science, aggression, ethics, and resources, and juggling them takes a lot of micromanagement. The gameplay is fairly grindy in its current Early Access state, and I would like to see more active gameplay, which isn’t clicking nodes for points. At times it feels like playing a mobile game while you wait for things to happen. While you can raise many different creatures, they don’t differ very much.
However, the game is early in development. Despite its simplistic nature in its current state, I’ve found it relaxing and enjoyable to play. The roadmap provided shows there’s a lot to come. You can buy The Fermi Paradox for about 18$/£14.49/16EUR right now on Steam. The game won’t be for everyone, but I find it a relatively chill experience, if rough around the edges. I’d say it’s worth looking into if you want to support an active developer who is creating a cool concept.
Speaking of cool concepts, I first discovered Empire of Ember back in April. While I picked it up at launch, I didn’t get round to playing it until this week. Made by a single-man team in Poleaxe Games, this is one ambitious project. The best way to describe it is this: imagine a twisted Lannister offspring of Mount and Blade, Heroes of Might and Magic, and Legend of Grimrock. Fortunately, the child is more like Myrcella than a Joffrey. It may be early days for this title, but there is a potential winner brewing in this bubbling stew of different games. The last time I was reminded of something similar was Kenshi.
Despite its rough edges, I was quite surprised to find it mostly backs up the promises it makes. Mount and Blade Bannerlord has a much bigger budget and team size than Poleaxe games, and on some levels, Empire of Ember eclipses that. You play as a sorcerer’s apprentice, and the voice acting is pretty solid off the bat while not professional. Finishing off a tutorial, I emerged from the dungeon to find a city destroyed by a horde of goblins. With my tutor dead, it’s my job to restore the city, recruit an army and find out what happened to my tutor. The game packs quite a lot of things into its mesh. Unrestricted town-building, army recruitment and training, procedurally generated dungeons, and siege warfare with fully destructible terrains. The magic has a lot of cool stuff too, and I feel Dark Messiah vibes with the way combat is done. With all sorts of ways to abuse the terrain to your advantage, there’s a lot to like here.
With every ambitious early development title, however, come caveats, and Empire of Ember has those. I found the combat quite difficult at first, and it’s very easy to get yourself killed. This was made tricky because of the combat animations, which feel rather clunky. It’s manageable; it just takes a while to get used to. There are also quite a few bugs which is something to be expected from something so ambitious. After a rough opening launch, the game has seen several patches with improved tutorials, bug fixes, and added content. Right now, I’d say it’s in a decent position, though there’s still much to be improved.
I’m growing rather fond of Empire of Ember. You can pick it up on Steam for $25/£19.99/22 EUR, which I believe to be a fair price tag for what you get. There aren’t many games like this on the market. In time, this could become a real sleeper hit.
This is how you do Early Access. What happens when you combine the old-school brilliance of games like Fallout 1 and 2 with present-day controls and technology? You get something truly special like this. Death Trash is early in development like the other two games I’ve covered today, but this is already shaping up to be one of the best indie games of the year. While I usually find it hard to recommend story-based games in Early Access due to frequent restarts and not wanting to spoil myself early on (I’m feeling this with Baldurs Gate 3 especially), Death Trash broke that rule for me and I recommend everyone tries it out.
Created by a single man in Stephan Hövelbrinks, Death Trash is a genius in game design. One problem with the classics is that they haven’t aged well, and they are pretty frustrating to play in the present day. Death Trash has none of these problems, focusing on a real-time, fluid combat system, easy-to-learn controls, and quality of life features like saving anytime and being able to leave dialogue at any point. Set in a twisted, vile Lovecraftian-esque world, Death Trash has you thrown out into the world as an outcast by the machine menace, leaving you on a journey of self-discovery and survival. Death Trash oozes charm and quality in every orifice with its great aesthetic, quick gameplay, and smooth controls.
The quests, while simple, can be completed in multiple ways, and there are different approaches to virtually every situation. The dialogue is snappy, intelligent, and doesn’t waste your time, something other RPGs could learn from. The current version has nearly two dozen locations to explore and several quests, though the main story is only around a third complete right now. I’d say you can get 6-7 hours in a single playthrough right now, so there’s a long way to go until this is finished. However, there’s a good amount to explore and do, and the locations are great. There are also different ways to play with permadeath and pacifist options, so there’s good replayability for the current state. Hell, there’s even a local co-op!
I found very few bugs in my time with Death Trash and few complaints. The only negative thing to say is I wish I could play the full game right now, but there’s time for that. You’re in very good hands with Death Trash. I predict by the full release. This game will join other indie elites such as Satisfactory, Rimworld, and Factorio. It’s that good.
You can pick up Death Trash on Steam and GOG for £17/20$/18 EUR right now, and it’s well worth the asking price. This is true quality in the making.
That’s all from me this time, but I’ll be back soon!