The lights are on
The Game Developers Conference is one of my favorite shows. I love searching the show to find new games on the horizon, and it always seems to have a wide range of talent on display. This year was no exception, and I walked away with tons of games to spotlight and discuss. As such, I’ve decided to compile a list of some of my favorites.
The Flame In The FloodPlatform: Xbox One, PC, MacDeveloper: The Molasses Flood
In the Flame in the Flood, your goal is simple: survive. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder than you think. You must scavenge, explore, and learn to make your way through the harsh wilderness. Your biggest obstacle is an unpredictable river that’s procedurally generated, so you never know if it’s smooth sailing or choppy waters ahead. You’ll need to make sure you manage your character Scout’s hunger, thirst, warmth, and energy. For instance, if she gets rained on, you need to warm her by the fire. Everything is a decision, whether it’s where to dock or what resources to gather. You have limited inventory space, so you must take into account your immediate needs. For example, if you’re hungry you can craft a trap to catch a rabbit. The game has permadeath, so it’s all about surviving and making your way along the river. How long you can survive and best each challenge is part of the lure. The Flame In The Flood won’t hand you anything easy, but I had fun thinking my way through every situation in my brief demo.
Alone With YouPlatform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation VitaDeveloper: Benjamin Rivers
You are the only functioning entity left on a planet in the far-off future. Unfortunately, that planet is decaying to the point where it’s becoming uninhabitable. You have 21 days to find a way out, and your only companion is an A.I. that can bring up holographic recreations of past crew members to help you repair an escape ship. During these conversations, you get to know the former crew and have dialogue options to boost your relationship. The creator, Benjamin Rivers, said he was inspired by Persona’s social links. In a way, these intimate interactions are tragic; after all, these people are merely holographs and are long dead. However, I liked the somber nature of Alone With You. Although you’re tapping into high tech and conversing with an A.I., the conversations have something very genuine and real about them. I’m hoping there’s a happy ending to all these bleak circumstances.
FirewatchPlatform: PC, Mac, and Linux Developer: Campo Santo
Firewatch remains my game of the show. Exploratory storytelling is becoming more prevalent since the emergence of Gone Home, and I like how your own curiosity can drive the experience. Firewatch has its own enticing mystery to unravel. You play as Henry, a man who’s had a rough year. His marriage is crumbling and he’s had trouble with drinking and driving. You take a job as a fire lookout in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming to gain some perspective. Your job has you exposing drinking teens, investigating shadowy figures, and seeing the harshness of the wilderness up close. Henry’s only lifeline is his supervisor, Delilah, whom he communicates with via radio. The game starts on Henry’s first day and then jumps around, so you can see Henry’s progression. Most surprising so far is just how much humor is present; it’s not merely an introspective affair.
For more on Firewatch, check out our hands-on preview from the show.
ArmikrogPlatform: PlayStation 4, Wii U, PC, Mac, LinuxDeveloper: Pencil Test Studios
Armikrog caught my eye due to it using stop-motion clay animation, and I was thrilled to see it have a successful Kickstarter. The developers are putting so much love and care into the project and it shows; every physical object and set in the game was built in real life. Think of the backdrops as mini-dioramas. The adventure game tasks you with exploring this strange tower you randomly landed in. You’re trying to figure out what the place is about, but also how you got there. Along for the ride is an alien space dog who can duck into lower areas and retrieve objects. Once he retrieves an object, he eats it, and then throws it up to give it back to you. You have first-person puzzles to tackle to open up doors, which usually consist of placing clues in the right order. It plays how you’d expect for an adventure game, but I love how it feels like you’re interacting with playable art. Ordinary objects become magical. For instance, one room is an accordion, and it’s actually built out of one. The team captured it opening and compressing down, so you could feel right in the experience as you traverse it. These little fun details make Armikrog stand out.
ReflectionsPlatform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PCDeveloper: Broken Window Studios
The trend for exploratory storytelling is alive and well,
but Reflections caught my eye because it’s attempting to do something
different. What do the little choices you make say about you as a player?
Reflections analyzes that. You begin on the day before you’re off to college,
and explore your surroundings in first-person; plenty of doors are locked and
environments light up once you’ve fully uncovered them. Where you explore and
what you choose to do affects your future and says something about you as a
person. Simple tasks are all around to spend your time on, such as playing
horseshoes, calling the movers, and repairing a sink, but you can only spend
your time doing so much. At the end of the game, your personality type is
assessed based on what you did your day before college. Your choices can lead
you down the path of being an office executive, going out in the wilderness,
living with your family, and more. I’m most interested in playing Reflections
just to see how the little choices can matter in the end.
Up next: A turn-based RPG, running your own newspaper, and building your own dungeons
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.