With indie projects becoming larger and more ambitious undertakings, the line between what is considered “indie” and what is not is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. For some, the distinction stems from the absence of a major publisher while others view it as a representation of a project’s smaller scale. With the term becoming ever more prevalent in the mainstream, the latter is quickly becoming the more acceptable of the definitions.
No matter how you spin it, E3 2014 – while dominated by many high-profile releases – also played host to some wholly impressive indie offerings. With major players like Sony and Microsoft touting their support of the indie scene, it’s refreshing to see that support manifesting itself in some truly imaginative and fun titles. This, alongside the ever-present indie powerhouse that is Indiecade, show that the scene is continue to blossom and mature into something that has a real presence in the industry.
Rather than continuing to find the elusive modern definition of “indie” though, continue on to see the seven indie games that stole the show for us at E3 2014.
Without a doubt one of the most recognizable faces in indie gaming is Capybara Games. Coming off of their action-packed time-bending shooter Super Time Force, the indie juggernaut’s next title instead casts players in the role of a lone warrior entering the depths of a mysterious, randomly-generated island. While the focus here is on roguelike mechanics and a harrowing difficulty, the real show-stopper is the game’s visual style and sound design. This is no surprise coming off of visual masterclass Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP which also boasted the musical talent of Jim Guthrie.
Slowing players down with a much more methodical pacing, the act of exploration comes to the forefront here and relentlessly draws the player into a world where they truly feel small compared to the wonders of the subterranean environments surrounding them. This is not to say that the combat is an afterthought though, as fighting creatures in Below takes on an almost Dark Souls level of finesse and danger. Coupled with Capy’s expert grasp on evoking atmosphere, this is shaping up to be one of the most exciting indie titles on the horizon.
Below currently has no release date but is planned to have timed exclusivity on Xbox One before releasing on PC.
Citizens of Earth
If there is one RPG series that gamers have been yearning to see return for years, it is the Mother or Earthbound series. Eden Industries’ upcoming title Citizens of Earth looks to fill that void. Set in a somewhat similar “reality” to the SNES classic, Citizens of Earth is an RPG that eschews fantasy tropes for a cartoony “real-world” aesthetic where players take control of the Vice President of the World as you – unsurprisingly – attempt to save the world and win over your constituents.
Where this game deviates from the RPG norm is in its handling of NPCs. Every character that you meet can either be recruited to your team or is an enemy of some sort. In this way, the Vice President never needs to get his hands dirty. Your party is comprised of three constituents like your own mother who can nag enemies into submission. With such a vast array of different characters with different skills to mix and match as well as turn-based combat that takes a page out of Earthbound‘s books with funky visuals and music, Citizens of Earth could be the refreshing RPG experience gamers have been waiting for.
Citizens of Earth is slated to release sometime in 2014 for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita, Wii U and 3DS.
Close Castles by Sirvo is the kind of game that draws influence from the far reaches of the gaming industry. All at once, it manages to be a minimalist tower defense, city building, resource management, short-form fighting game. Developed by the team behind the mobile hit Threes!, Close Castles places an emphasis less on the sheer speed of a player and more on their carefully executed plans for success, tasking players with placing buildings that will fund and protect their quickly growing – and falling – kingdom.
Players can place towers for protection, markets for added funds, homes for soldiers and roads to guide these troops on a small, white grid. All at once, up to four players are competing to grow their kingdoms in a way that will maximize their revenue and enable them to push forward and destroy their enemies. It’s incredibly fast-paced but rewards careful thought and placement of buildings. Just like previous effort Threes!, Close Castles is a minimalist dream that breeds the kind of smart competitiveness that gaming needs more of.
Close Castles does not currently have a release date but is planned to release on PC and Mac.
Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter is gorgeous. This was a common theme among this year’s indie offerings, but there’s something awe-inspiring about the fluidity of Hyper Light Drifter‘s movement and combat. Touted as the lovechild of A Link To The Past and Diablo, Heart Machine’s upcoming action RPG sports a combat system that feels skill-based in the way that Dark Souls manages to achieve, while remaining accessible and relatively easy to pick up and understand.
Armed with an energy sword and an assortment of other futuristic weaponry long-forgotten by the world around you, you play as the Drifter on a hunt for the cure to your own illness. While the demo on hand only highlighted the dash-heavy combat mechanics and furious dicing-up of hordes of enemies, it’s clear the a great amount of care has gone into realizing a truly inspired fantasy world with sci-fi tinges that will serve to enhance the already-strong gameplay.
Hyper Light Drifter is due out in late 2014 for Xbox One, PS4, Vita, Ouya, Wii U, PC, Mac and Linux.