Five Indie Games We Can’t Wait to Play in 2018
As every year goes by, I find myself playing less and less of the big AAA blockbuster games which typically dominate headlines and events – partly due to so many of them being huge time sinks with seemingly endless amounts of content and sequels – I’m looking at you Persona and Assassin’s Creed. Slowly but surely, I’ve been looking for unique experiences within games to excite me in surprising, new ways.
Looking back on last year, my favorite games (by a long shot) were Night in the Woods, Pyre, Hollow Knight and What Remains of Edith Finch. All from relatively small indie studios, who spend years of their lives putting their heart and soul into their art, creating incredibly personal, different and often brilliant experiences. Now, a month into 2018, I have my eyes set on what I consider to be the most interesting games with impressive concepts, all coming from indie developers, coming out this year – and boy, are they all so different from one another. So here are the five indie games I can’t wait to play in 2018. If I only have the time to play these specific games during the year, I think I’ll be happy!
Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition
Over five years ago, I came across the the trailer for the mysterious and overwhelming atmospheric Kentucky Route Zero. The game took my interest immediately during a time when I was absorbing as many narrative-driven games as possible, such as The Walking Dead and The Unfinished Swan. KRZ quickly shot up my list of most anticipated games, though I decided to wait for the whole game to be released. Five years later, the fifth – and final – act is finally coming out, after over seven years of development. I’ve checked in on the game over the years and have always seen great reception towards each episode, making the wait to play it all the more excruciating.
Heavily influenced by David Lynch and the large cult hit that is Twin Peaks, Kentucky Route Zero is a point-and-click adventure that’s focused on building an atmosphere conducive to its story, rather than throwing deep puzzles at players. Ths focus on narrative and building immersive moments is what drew me to it originally and still has me excited to jump in now. Following a truck driver who is attempting to make his final delivery, the game aims to tell an intriguing story about a secret highway hidden in caves beneath the state of Kentucky. It seems rather strange and cryptic, but pairing the game’s simple yet beautiful art style and ability to define a story through personalized dialogue makes Kentucky Route Zero one of the most interesting games within the point-and-click genre.
The American developers Cardboard Computer have said the final episode will release sometime in 2018 on PC, subsequently followed by the console release, otherwise known as the ‘TV Edition’ on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Personally, I’ll be waiting patiently for that sweet sweet portable version on the Switch.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Do you feel that there aren’t enough games about bleak, American folktales? Or traveling across the great U.S.A. of old, trading stories with strange folk, who’ll give you an insight into the many myths and tales woven throughout American history? Well, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is exactly that – and so much more.
Being developed by Dim Bulb Games, WTWTLW (what an acronym!) appeals to me, someone who hopes to one day travel across the huge history-rich United States of America, on several levels. To see the different landscapes across the dozens of states and meet the people who make up the American dream, is a dream of my own. Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is based in an older time, one wherein trading stories with fellow travelers you met on the road was a key part of life. Especially the stranger, more enthralling tales explored through its dozen plus unique and absorbing cast of characters.
Dim Bulb Games have brought on over a dozen writers to ensure each character is different and well, individualistic, by having a different writer for each main character. Unlike most games which have a handful of writers writing dozens of characters. Some of the talented writers contributing include Waypoint’s very own Editor-in-Chief Austin Walker and Kotaku’s Gita Jackson just to name a few. Furthermore, to really bring these characters to life, several well known video game voice actors such as Dave Fennoy (Lee in The Walking Dead), Cissy Jones (Delilah in Firewatch) ,and Sting (yes, that Sting) are all on board too.
Along with the gorgeous illustrations that occupy the game’s cut scenes and main cast, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine’s cell-shaded art is sure to grab your attention when the game releases later this year.
Manifold Garden first came to my attention months ago through several GIF’s doing the rounds on Twitter and the depth and complexity of the visual designs blew me away. At first, I assumed it was just part of some cool art project and nothing more. But after learning about the design and direction behind Manifold Garden, I knew it was an experience worth keeping an eye on and one that was hard to look away from, due to its mesmerizing art-style.
The developer, William Chyr, takes inspiration from the mind bending art of M.C. Escher, which you’ve likely seen at some point regularly referenced in popular culture (Simpsons are a big fan of Escher). However, Chyr takes Escher’s world renowned art form to a whole new level, which is something I never knew I wanted until I came across those unbelievable GIF’s many months ago.
If you played and loved Portal, Antichamber, or Quantum Conundrum, then Manifold Garden is sure to tickle your puzzle-solving senses. While exploring the seemingly endless levels of the game, players will manipulate gravity to explore and solve puzzles within an intricate world, all while trying to not become forever lost in an endless maze. Manifold Garden reflects upon and borrows many of the elements which made the aforementioned games so absorbing and fun, but instead creates its own experience through the Escher-esque inspired levels and world. I have no doubt that certain levels within the game will likely be featured in Escher exhibitions in the future, and I’m sure many players will lose themselves in Manifold Garden’s world when the game releases on Steam and PlayStation 4.
Children of Morta
Being a roguelike with procedurally generated levels, Children of Morta sure sounds like a standard game concept you’ve heard a few times in recent years; but what the developers have signaled to be the key theme and stand out element in Children of Morta is a strong focus on family and the strength and solidarity which it can bring. Plus, the project is one of the most visually stunning pixel art games I’ve ever seen, with gorgeous vistas and intricate levels you’ll be hacking and slashing your way through over the course of the game.
The story follows the final members of the Bergson family, who have watched over the historic Mount Morta for generations and are now in a dire situation. Their once beautiful home and peaceful mountain has become a monster-infested nightmare, so they’ll need to work together to destroy the corruption that has tainted their lands.
You’ll use all the Bergson family can offer, whether it is the various family members who all possess different fighting styles, inherited talents from ancestors, or the wisdom and knowledge of the elder members which provides crafting and upgrade options back at the Bergson stead. The developers Dead Mage have indicated each event, every victory and defeat, will affect the family and story at large, as players will work to discover the truth behind the corruption. Not only is it a cool concept with the potential for a strong story, Children of Morta’s game play looks fun and deep, and the game even has a co-op mode. So if you’re a roguelike fan and need something to tide you over until the eventual release of Below, then maybe the Bergson family stead can become your new home.
Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t include at least one game from an Australian developer (myself being a full blown Aussie and all), especially since there is a plethora of exciting games coming from the growing industry down under in 2018. Including Florence, The Gardens Between, The Adventure Pals, Necrobarista and Need to Know, just to name a few! However the one I want to highlight for you today, which like so many before it have found funding recently through Kickstarter, is Desert Child, a hover bike racing adventure, which follows a young racer struggling to get by in a futuristic, ruined Earth.
The main hook of the game lies in the fact that the young protagonist has only a few days to raise enough cash to get off the planet and migrate to Mars. During the journey to reach Mars, players will enter various hover bike racing championships, customize their bikes with deadly weapons and neat speed mods – all the while working side jobs to have enough cash to pay for rent and tasty ramen. Although the fast, action packed, and over-the-top racing is a big pull for playing the game, the side missions and quieter moments of down time are what really make Desert Child appealing to me.
The need for cash to survive will have players doing anything and everything to get by, whether that means hunting bounties, delivering drugs to shady fellows, or even throwing races. In order to find this extra work, however, you’ll need to explore the colorful hub cities and network with those still left on Earth. Whoever said living was easy? Especially in the Dystopian future?
For all of the fellow weebs out there, Desert Child’s art direction is largely inspired by anime such as Cowboy Bebop, Akira, and Redline. (By the way, if you’re eager for in-depth discussion regarding anime, you should definitely check out OK Beast’s anime podcast, A+ Anime.)
So, yeah, video games are rad, and they’re some of the coolest things us humans have ever made. Every year studios and creators surprise me again and again, with new awesome concepts and mind-blowing games that make me giddy just thinking about. Leading into 2018, I was excited to see if the year could replicate or even somehow surpass the quality of games which graced us last year. After putting this list together though, I’m not only excited for the next wave of indie games, but confident this will be another incredible year for the entire industry – regardless of whether or not it surpasses 2017’s catalogue.
In case you’re worried these five indie games aren’t enough to quench your first for fresh, creative experiences, be sure to check out Moises’ most anticipated indie games in 2018. We’d love to hear what games you’re looking forward to getting your hands on this year. Drop a comment down below or let me know on Twitter!