A couple of years ago I found that I was completely sick of the bland and derivative games that were being released by the top publishers (Fifa 200X indeed :)). So, I went looking around the web for something better, games that could draw me in with innovative and immersive gameplay. This is how I became acquainted with the indie gaming scene. Since that time I’ve compiled a small list of indie games that have really stood out from the crowd for me, games that I felt were more than worth the price I payed for them.
I thought I would share these games with the world in one convenient list. None of the games here are what I would term ‘casual games’ (no puzzlers, tetris clones or tower defense types), also none of these are multiplayer. However, just about all of these are innovative games that will keep you busy for hours on end at a fraction of the price you would normally pay for commercial games (they have certainly kept me entertained for longer than most commercial titles).
Well, without further ado, here is the list, in no.
Mount and Blade is a truly innovative one-of-a-kind game. Have you ever dreamed of being a knight and commanding an army and fighting it out with bandits or lords, for possession of castles or for prisoners, or just for the hell of it. If you have than this game is for you, it simulates medieval combat to a level of realism not seen in any commercial game (not that there are many commercial games that simulate medieval combat). This game lets you control castles and villages, recruit men for you army, hunt down bandits, and rival lords, fight in the arena etc. There is individual combat and army combat, as well as plenty of RPG elements. An excellent game, with a great community, and it is also highly moddable, with new mods constantly being produced. This game has been on production for a couple of years and has recently been picked up by Paradox for publication, to be released in September. You can pick up the beta now for a bargain price which will let you get the full version for free when it comes out. Don’t miss it!
2. New Star Soccer 3
This game looks at soccer simulation from a different angle, why do you have to control or manage the whole team, you’re only one person, why not control and manage the career of only one player. That is exactly what you get to do in this game. It is a strategy/simulation/sports game, you get to create a player and sign him up for a club, then you work on his skills, to make him better, you get to be this player in games against other clubs (you only control yourself on the field). As you get better you can join bigger clubs and make more money, as you get rich you can buy your player better houses, cars and all sorts of other stuff, you can enter into sponsorship deals, so much to do. And controlling your player on the field is lots of fun as well! NSS4 is currently in the works, and should be out pretty soon hopefully, until then you have to play this game!
3. Smugglers 4
It was a while ago that I accidentally happened upon a game called Smugglers 3, I gave it a bit of a play and liked it, so it was a good day when I found out that Smugglers 4 has been released, I went and bought the game straight away and I wasn’t disappointed. The same formula that made Smugglers 3 great is still here, with improvements and additions all-round. You start as a low ranked pilot in a military of your choice, war is raging between the various factions in the galaxy, it is up to you to swing the balance of forces in the favour of your faction. As you go along you will rise in rank and get to control bigger ships, you can even be granted a planet of your own. This game reminds me a bit of Pirates!, and since Pirates! was awesome, i loved this game too.
4. Gamebiz 2
Have you ever thought that you can make games better than the current publishers and surely you could have made the SNES much more popular than it ever was, well in this game you get the chance to give it a go. You can create games as well as launch platforms and if you’re good you watch the money roll in to finance your next big project. If you’re any kind of gamer you will want to try this out. Go ahead make the N64 a worldwide sensation. Best of all this game is FREE!
I am not even going to try to describe this, you have to check this out, anything with a title like that, you have to check out. Lets just say there are zombies and ninjas and pirates and funky cars that fly through space and wacky graphics and … and … c’mon – ninjastarmageddon - play it!
6. Geneforge 4
The indie scene makes a lot of good RPGs, but even there the Geneforge series stands out. Genforge 4 continues the Genforge saga. You take the role of a young shaper, someone with the ability to create life (creatures), how will you use your ability, will you help the rebels or will you support the empire. The world is massive, there are several classes to choose from that all require a different style of play, there are many endings. This game is good for much more than just one play-through.
You have probably already heard of Kudos, it is one of the few indie games that has gained some mainstream limelight. Kudos is a life sim developed by Positech Games, you control a character and perform their day to day activities, the point is to achieve a balance in all areas of your life, social, professional, personal etc. It is a highly original game and the graphics are pretty awesome too. Give it a try.
A game by the same people who made Kudos (title probably gives it away :)). In this game you get to control a rock band and take them to startdom. This time your objective is to keep all the band members happy and raise the popularity of the band. You get to play gigs and write songs, record CDs and sign with a record label, can you become a rock legend. Try this game and find out. The graphics are just as nice as Kudos.
9. Democracy 2
Another game by Positech Games, those guys do some good work (actually one guy Cliff Harris, Cliffsky). This time you get to try your hand at running a country, we all think we can do it better than the current government, c’mon admit it. So, this game gives you a chance to prove it. You can set the policies, raise or lower taxes, try to get your country out of debt and watch your wise decisions, lead your country to glory, or ruin whatever the case may be. This game has a cool interface, so many options yet so easy to access. Well worth the money.
10. Depths of Peril
This is possibly the best indie RPG currently out there in my opinion. You start a a barbarian leader of a new faction in the city of Jorvik. You must destroy various monster that threaten the city and complete quests given by the characters in town. At the same time you compete with other factions in Jorvik, you can either be warlike or diplomatic. Recruit other members to your faction to bolster your power and defenses. If you don’t complete the quests given to you fast enough, they become harder as monster hordes grow and split to form more monster leaders. The gameplay is innovative and fun, there is a slew of options, the character development options are well thought out, the graphic are great. This game has everything!
11. Magic Stones
I usually don’t like card-type games, but something about this one drew me in and kept me playing for quite a while. You play a druid and you have powers over the elements (air, fire, water etc.), you also control certain creatures, you must travel the world and fight groups of creatures to gain control of more creatures and more elemental powers, so that you can fight it out against other druids and win. There is also a quest mode that you can take part in which gives you special creatures to control. If you like card-style games, you will like this, if you don’t give it a go anyway, you might change your mind.
Have you ever though you could make it as a writer well in this simulation you get to put your prowess to the test. You control the life of an aspiring writer trying to get his work published, you make all the decisions. What kind of books will you write, will you get an education or will you be a self-study, how long do you spend on your book projects, negotiate with publishers for royalties. Can you write the next Harry Potter, try it and find out.
Another addictive little game by the same people who brought you the Smugglers series. This time we have a fantasy strategy RPG mix, with a twist. Build up your castle, hire men, go take over villages, avoid your destroy your rival, then go down into the dungeon to find treasure and all this on a tiny little map, you wouldn’t think such a simple looking game would have so much depth and yet, it is fun, give it a go.
14. Aveyond 2
Aveyond 2 looks like an old-school console RPG, and in essence that is what it is since it was made with RPG Maker. But if you’re going to dismiss it because of that, I suggest you think again. From the very first moments you start playing this game, the amount of thought and effort that was put into it, starts to shine through. And this impression is only reinforced as you continue playing. You can recruit companions to help you on your quest, you can shapeshift, you can join a guild and get karma for doing good things. If you loved games like Final Fantasy and miss the console RPGs of yore, give this game a try.
15. Eschalon: Book 1
Eschalon is an isometric RPG, so it also looks a little like the old console RPGs, but the impression is misleading. This game has won multiple awards, and has had numerous excellent reviews and high ratings from all over the web. Most of the game is very random, as everything is calculated through dice rolls. The game is extremely open ended and the world is very dynamic. This is not Oblivion by any stretch of the imagination, but if you like to see a great story unfold and are nostalgic for the ‘RPG that used to be’ then give this game a try. I won’t spoil it for you any more.
16. Evochron Renegades
This is an Elite-style game (if you don’t know what Elite is, you owe it to yourself to google it, it is a progenitor of a whole genre). Just like most games of this sort you start out in space with a ship and go from there. There is lots to do and the gameplay is very freeform. This game has very nice 3D graphics as well which is awesome for an indie game. The amount of options you have is staggering, you can explore, trade, race, fight, mine etc. etc. This game also has a lot of information about it on the website as well as an excellent community around it.
17. Flatspace 2
Flatspace 2 is also an Elite-style game. You start out with a ship in space and you have to travel around and do missions, such as transporting passengers or hunting down enemies. The gameplay is very open ended, so it is up to you to discover what else you can do in the universe. You can upgrade your ship or get new ones. If you like space games, give this one a go.
This is a very interesting game, it is a blend of strategy and RPG set in a fantasy universe. Essentially you have to manage a team of gladiators that you recruit, and have them fight it out against other teams, in order to rise through the ranks and the divisions of the gladiatorial combat arena. You train your mercenary gladiators, to improve their skills, you buy them spells and when you are ready, you fight it out against the computer in turn based combat. Fun!
19. Dwarf Fortress
This game is a real gem. Developed by Bay12 games and released absolutely free (that’s right, free), this game is so massive in scope it is hard to believe. This is essentially a rogue-like, if you don’t know what that is, it essentially means that the graphics are ASCII based, but don’t let that turn you off, because this game is awesome. It is basically 2 games in one, the first is a like a standard rogue-like, the second is the fortress mode. In fortress mode, you start with a few dwarves and some supplies and set out to build a new outpost for your dwarven kingdom. You can control everything, where the dwarves mine, you make them build workshops and sleeping quarters, you create goods for trade, you fight off intruders. If you do well more dwarves come to join your outpost, if you like strategy, simulation and management games, this game is a dream come true. Don’t be put off by the graphics, take the time to learn the controls, you won’t be sorry!
Well that’s the list. I hope you can get as much enjoyment out of it as I did, most of these games have excellent demos, so you can certainly try them out. Games of this calibre deserve our support, so if you really like any one of these games then go and buy them. I hope that mainstream publishers take a note of these games not just for their innovative ideas and excellent execution, but for the value that they provide the gaming community.
I thought this was going to be a small post, but it ended up being massive :), hope you enjoy reading it and discover some cool new games.