In my first 2023 episode of my Indie Corner series, I cover the top-down, STALKER esque Zero Sievert as well as the full release of Kynseed, a medieval life simulator game with some fascinating generation mechanics!
I Played Every Single Tomb Raider Game, So You Don't Have To - Part 3
Previous The Best and Worst of Every Pokemon Generation: Episode 2
Indie Corner Episode 26: Catching Up!
It is a new year, and that means more episodes of The Indie Corner!
It took me a while to get into writing this series. I started them in 2021, before dropping the name for the Early Access Corner. One thing I hope to improve with my coverage this year is consistency. My first couple of years of writing for this place involved a ton of experimentation, and it wasn’t until 2022 that I found a review formula that stuck with me. I have a habit of finding some cool experiments and dropping them after a few episodes!
2022 saw the twenty-fifth episode of my Indie Corner series; a show where I showcase games from the indie scene for everyone’s enjoyment. While I’ll be starting a new series this year that focuses on major updates for my favourite games, I’ll continue with the Indie Corner. The formula is fairly simple: I cover two or three different indie games every episode, with a summary and my early impressions of each, with pros and considerations.
For the next several episodes of The Indie Corner, I’ll be focusing on playing catchup on a bunch of titles that were released late last year. Apologies for the delay in getting these out; I wish I could have focused on these sooner. November and December saw me working on my annual GOTY series, and I made the decision to push some of these reviews back. All of the upcoming games I’ll be covering are awesome in their own way, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on them all!
With that little introduction out of the way, it’s time to officially kick off the first Indie Corner episode of 2022!
I’m a big fan of the Stalker series: immersive first-person shooters with a great atmosphere are my bread and butter. While I have hope that the sequel will be good, there’s nothing like the originals. Call of Pripyat, Shadow of Chernobyl, and Clear Sky might be janky experiences, but there isn’t anything else like them on the market today. They also have a massive modding base. Try Stalker Anomaly sometimes, and you’ll know what I mean! There are also multiplayer shooters like Hunt Showdown and Escape from Tarkov. While I’ve dabbled in Hunt: Showdown a few times, I’ve never played the latter before.
What if I told you there is something like this but in a top-down format?
Welcome to Zero Sievert: an indie shooter that feels like the 2D lovechild of Stalker and Escape to Tarkov. This game was released in Early Access around mid-November; unfortunately missing my 2022 cutoff point. I haven’t been able to put much time into Zero Sievert until the last couple of weeks, but I wish I put more time into it back then. It would be a candidate for my Top 10 Best of Early Access list.
Make no mistake: this is one hell of a brutal experience. I both love and hate that, though only because I’m terrible at it! Combining all the awesome mechanics of hardcore survival shooters with RPG tools, and different factions to fight and aid, this game throws the player into the deep end. While there’s an in-game tutorial, there isn’t much help besides that. In a post-apocalyptic, nuclear wasteland, it’s survival of the fittest. Most of the time, that won’t be the player. You start as a nobody; better learn fast!
There are many things to consider while out in the wilderness. Health, energy, thirst, hunger, and radiation are all important to managing; it’s much easier if you keep these topped up to the best of your ability! Zero Sievert is deadly. Enemy animals and people will kill the player with ease, and radiation anomalies throw more screws into the mix. If the player dies while on missions, they respawn back in the hub base, with all the items they picked up lost.
Once you’re out in the wilderness, there’s no easy way of going back. The only way to escape the zone is by reaching an extraction point. This often led to my broken, hungry character running like hell to the extraction point, trying to dodge radiation melting my insides and being hounded by bandits. Of course, the other escape is through the sweet release of death, and that’ll happen often! Biomes are randomly generated, so there’s no telling what you may end up with. The map generation is usually decent, although I’ve run into a couple of issues where the extraction point is in an impossible location, forcing me to restart.
In the safety of the hub base, the player can upgrade their lodgings with varied modules, trade with locals, take on jobs and sort their gear. There are a ton of different weapons and items available, all with strengths and weaknesses. Weapons lose durability over time and they require their own ammo. Make sure you have the right ammo for your weapon before you end up lost with no way to fight back. I forgot to reload while streaming this on Twitch. I died. It was fun!
I’m not terribly far into Zero Sievert, but I’ve played more than enough for me to keep playing. It’s an addictive, surprisingly deep shooter, rich with atmosphere and danger. The extreme difficulty will turn some people away, and sometimes the random map generation can end up with some wonky situations, but there’s plenty to like about the game even in its Early Access state. There’s a lot of content to devour, with more planned for 2023. The developer’s done a splendid job so far, and I’m excited to see how it progresses.
A great deal of content and polish in its early access state
Very difficult with a steep learning curve
A number of deep and complex mechanics to learn
Some occasional bugs with map generation
Immersive atmosphere and gameplay makes for an enjoyable experience
The odd bug: Early Access
I got heavily into farming sims last year. Wylde Flowers made my Top 10 in 2022, a beautiful title that focused on narrative and characters. Stardew Valley’s release in 2015 shattered the dam holding this genre, creating a whole smorgasbord of games to taste. To this day, Stardew Valley still blows me away in scope and value for money, but I do enjoy branching out now and then in the genre. Sun Haven and Grow: Song of the Evertree are similar games I’ve gotten into the last few years.
Kynseed intrigued me when it was first released in Early Access. It takes on many aspects that make life simulators what they are: all the farming, talking to characters, crafting, and the usual things from this genre. After several years in Early Access, Kynseed finally finished its development cycle, fully launching in December 2022. Big thanks to the developers for reaching out to me with a review code! These are early impressions of the game, as Kynseed is a deeply ambitious project. That doesn’t surprise me, coming from some of the minds behind the Fable series! I’m writing my thoughts up based on a new playthrough, starting from scratch.
Booting Kynseed up for the first time introduced me to a beautiful aesthetic. This game has some gorgeous visuals, coupled with music that draws me into the game. Everything pops out from the characters to the scenery, and exploring the world is a delight. The game starts off slow as many games like Kynseed do, introducing the player to the world and the mechanics, all of which are provided through helpful dialog and an in-game codex for easy consulting. We’re seeing more developers do this in their projects, and the added accessibility allows more people to play the game. That’s a great thing!
What interested me most about Kynseed was the idea behind building a legacy. It reminds me of Clanfolk from last year. Kynseed is built to last the player through generations and that builds into its plodding gameplay loop. Time’s on a daily cycle, with the character’s farm to maintain, exploring the large open world and meeting characters, venturing into dungeons, and learning the many skills required.
Some people will be turned off by the significant grind, but I’ve found myself enjoying it. It’s a great way for me to unwind after work. While the world is vast, there’s an effective and fair fast travel system to use if you find walking too tedious.
While Kynseed is technically a fully released game after its long development cycle, some feel it still needs significant work. Development doesn’t end after release, and I agree that Kynseed still needs some finetuning. I ran into several instances of placeholder text, and a few times my character stopped moving entirely, forcing me to reload a save. Fortunately, the saving system is solid, but that’s less polished than I expected from a 1.0 launch. I also haven’t been too impressed with character dialogue: it’s usually the same, uninspired one-liners. That could be improved.
While these issues need addressing, I can’t help but be engrossed in Kynseed. It’s one of those games for the long haul, and it’ll take me a long time before I’ll be confident writing a full review. However, as early impressions go, it’s a unique addition to the life-sim genre, and it’s worth a look if you’re into that.
A gorgeous world to explore with great music and visuals
Slow, tedious gameplay loop
A few things feel unfinished
Many different systems to learn
I wish the farming system was deeper.
That concludes Episode 26! I found this one harder to write for some reason. It’s been a while since my last Indie Corner episode, but I’m slowly getting my groove back.
I have big plans for 2023, and with so many great games scheduled for release this year, it’s shaping up to be another exciting year for gamers. In the meantime, stay safe, and I’ll be back soon!