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The Kickstarter Compendium

Our regularly revised feature keeps you up to date on the Kickstarter games worth watching, and helps you track projects both before and after they’re funded.

Welcome to the Kickstarter Compendium, a gathering of games and game-related projects that we’ve come across that deserve your attention. The crowd-funding model for video games has resulted in some fascinating new game ideas, and new projects are going up on a weekly basis that deserve your attention. 

The only problem is keeping track of it all – what’s worth watching, and what are these different projects about? As an ongoing feature, our Kickstarter Compendium is your guide to games seeking funding through Kickstarter. After funding projects are complete, this feature will also track what games (and game-related projects) got funded and which ones didn’t – and, where possible, offer links to the projects as they are developed. 

[Editor's Note: This feature was co-written by Matthew Stolpe, Jason Dafnis, Wayne Stainrook, Cameron Koch, Isaac Federspiel, Katie Seville, Liz Lanier, Kayla Herrera, Ali Rapp, Mike Mahardy, and Matt Miller.]

Games Seeking Funding

Americana Dawn
Developer: Bit Bonton
Fundraising Goal: $70,000
Funds Due By: December 27

Graphics are looking better than they ever have with the dawn of the new generation of consoles, but there’s a certain beauty to the sprites of retro games – a beauty Americana Dawn remembers all too well. Americana Dawn evokes the best of ‘90s RPGs as it tells the story of Foster, a traveling water spirit who takes the form of a lumbering, yet gentle 7-foot-tall man.  For two centuries he roams the American frontier ignorant to race, politics, and war. But despite his peaceful nature, Foster finds himself pulled into many of America’s conflicts.

Battles take place on macro and micro scales. Microbattles put new twists on ATB-style combat; certain abilities can manipulate enemies’ positioning on the grid and party members don’t gain experience points, but rather develop proficiencies with items instead. Macrobattles pull from American history; players control historical figures and their armies as they partake in large-scale wars. But all the conflict won’t change the tides of American history – that’s set in stone. The real draw of Americana Dawn is watching how Foster changes in the wake of America’s development.

Codename: Morningstar
Developer: Trapdoor Technologies
Funding Goal: $18,360
Funds Due By: January 4

Anyone who’s ever played a tabletop game knows the frustration of having to halt a battle to look up an obscure rule in a manual. It’s an unfortunate, but necessary evil in a form of gaming that keeps distributes its extensive guidelines across several tomes. Enter Codename: Morningstar, a tabletop app that puts all the core components of the experience players’ fingertips but doesn’t eliminate the roundtable fun.

Built around a standard PRD ruleset, the app replaces nearly every pen and paper component of tabletops with a digital interface. Players can quickly make characters and campaigns, generate NPCs, roll virtual dice, and look up rules all with a few swipes. Morningstar also allows users to share their campaigns with friends, or publish them online for the world to play. Don’t fret if you don’t have a tablet; all game documents are cloud-based, meaning you can just as easily pull them up on a laptop as you could on a mobile device. You can even print them out if you’re set in your ways.

Crossing Souls
Developer: Fourattic
Funding Goal: $45,000
Funds Due By: December 17

Crossing Souls takes you back to the summer days of your youth, when it was just you and your buddies trying find ways to pass the time. On one particular day, five friends discover a stone that allows them to travel between the living and dead planes of reality. Players will control this group over the course of their magic adventure as they solve puzzles and fight enemies ranging from soldiers to dinosaurs.

Filled with vibrant neon hues, Crossing Souls borrows an ‘80s aesthetic, but it’s not parodic like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’s. Rather Crossing Souls comes off more as a loving recreation of the games of days past with its orthogonal 2D perspective and blocky characters.

Hollow Knight
Developer: Team Cherry
Fundraising Goal: $35,000
Funds Due By: December 18

Many modern games have a tendency to infantilize their audience, telling players how to complete mission objectives and quests in overbearing detail. Hollow Knight stands out in contrast, giving players little guidance and tough challenges. As the eponymous hero, players will discover their quest for themselves as they platform their way through the kingdom of Hallownest. Hollow Knight’s mechanics are indebted to classic platformers, but the game doesn’t crib their visual style. Hallownest and its inhabitants come to life in gorgeous 2D animation despite their ghastly appearances.

Last Year
Developer: James Matthew Wearing
Funding Goal: $50,000
Funds Due By: December 19

Ever get frustrated at a horror film watching characters make stupid decisions like “splitting up” that inevitably get them killed? Well with Last Year, you can finally show the world how you’d take down the killer. Last Year is an asymmetric multiplayer game that pits five horror stereotypes (the jock, girl, nerd, popular girl, etc.) against one killer out for blood.

Players controlling the teens have to accomplish mission specific tasks like calling the cops or getting a truck ready for a grand escape, but they’ll need to keep the killer at bay too. That’s easier said than done though. Players controlling the killer have a nifty power called Predator mode that allows them to sneak past the survivors and ambush them from hiding spots, just like in the movies.

Developer: Lunarch Studios
Fundraising Goal: $140,000
Funds Due By: December 20

Developed by PhD-level MIT students, Prismata is an unconventional project that blends elements from card games and real-time strategy titles, yet doesn’t lay claim to either label. Aesthetically, it looks like a card game, but there are no decks to be found. Instead, players get their units on the field by spending resources, which they farm during the matches. Both you and your opponent share the same pool of randomly selected units to choose from too, so if you’re defeated with a trump card, you only have yourself to blame for not using it first.

Lunarch has crammed Prismata full of content; players can partake in standard duels, customize their units with cosmetic items, stream their matches, and play an episodic campaign spanning over 40 missions. What’s more, the developer plans to update the game with new units and tweaks every month. If you want try a match for yourself, check out the demo on the Prismata website.

Remnants of Twilight: Age Of Arius
Developer: TwilightTeddiez
Fundraising Goal: $21,500
Funds Due By: December 28

Promising over 50 hours of gameplay and full-voice acting, developer TwilightTeddiez has an ambitious undertaking on its hands with Remnants of Twilight: Age of Arius. The story-driven RPG draws its inspiration from well-known franchises like Persona and the Tales series, but character sprites give it a retro flair. With a robust item-crafting system, zodiac-inspired art direction, and an active time battle system, there’s a lot to like here if you’re a JRPG fan.

One of Age of Arius’ coolest bits is how it takes one of the most satisfying parts of JRPGs – the summons – and makes them a core part of battle. Instead of calling forth a behemoth to devastate your foes, your characters become their own behemoths in mid-battle transformations that open up new combat possibilities.

Rocket Ranger Reloaded
Developer: Cinemaware
Fundraising Goal: $89,999
Funds Due By: December 17

If you’re a gamer jaded with morally ambiguous villains and yearn for the day you could just take down good old-fashioned baddies, then look no further than Rocket Ranger Reloaded. Reloaded is an update of Cinemaware’s Rocket Ranger, a 1988 action game inspired by the rocket man serials of the ‘40s. Players will once again have the opportunity to take control of Rocket Ranger as he squares off against the Nazi menace.

More than just a remake, Cinemaware is pulling out all the stops for Reloaded. Besides boasting a massive leap in graphics from its humble Amiga origins, the game will feature new territories and locations for players to explore, new weapons and gadgets for Rocket Ranger, and new action sequences.

That Dragon, Cancer
Developer: Ryan Green & Josh Larson
Fundraising Goal: $85,000
Funds Due By: December 12

If you have even a passing familiarity with empathy games, chances are you’ve heard of That Dragon, Cancer. This touching point-and-click adventure is a tribute to developers Ryan and Amy Green’s son Joel, who tragically passed away in March after a four-year battle with cancer.

That Dragon, Cancer places a strong emphasis on narrative as it chronicles the third year of Joel’s struggle with the disease. You won’t find any puzzles to solve or platforms to reach. Players need simply to be present in the moment as they experience the hope and heartbreak Joel’s family did. Although originally set for release on Ouya, this Kickstarter was created to bring That Dragon, Cancer to more platforms and a wider audience. 

Thimbleweed Park
Developer: Ron Gilbert & Gary Winnick
Fundraising Goal: $375,000
Funds Due By: December 18

The point-and-click adventure game is back in vogue thanks to Telltale Games, but Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick pioneered the genre over 20 years ago at LucasArts (then LucasFilm Games). Together the pair created highly influential Maniac Mansion and worked on the wickedly funny Monkey Island games of the early ‘90s. With Thimbleweed Park, Gilbert and Winnick are giving players what they call a “true” point-and-click adventure, and not a title merely “inspired” by its predecessors – that means tough puzzles and pixel-art graphics.

A Twin Peaks-style murder mystery lies at the center of Thimbleweed Park; players start off controlling a pair of detectives investigating a dead body found outside of town. As the game progresses, three more playable characters appear, each with their own part to play in the story. It remains to be seen if Thimbleweed Park can reach the heights of its spiritual predecessors, Gilbert and Winnick seem to be tackling the project with aplomb.

[NEXT UP: Peruse the numerous games that have been successfully funded through Kickstarter, and track their progress after funding is complete]

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