e3 2015

The Best Indies To Watch From E3 2015

by Ben Reeves on Jun 19, 2015 at 04:25 PM

There are a lot of big name titles at this year's E3, but the indie game scene is still burning bright. Here are some of the most inventive and exciting new titles coming from smaller teams that you should have on your radar. We're trying to get our hands on as many titles as we can, so keep checking out this evolving list of the best indie gems from E3 2015.

This story includes contributions from the E3 2015 crew, including Ben Reeves, Matt Kato, Tim Turi, Kyle Hilliard, Mike Futter, and Jeff Cork.


Relativity
Developer: Willy Chyr
Estimated Release: 2016
Platforms: PS4, PC

This first-person puzzle game combines fascinatingly intricate geometric patterns with unique gameplay that allows players to walk on walls and ceilings. Colors change to indicate which surface currently acts as the floor, helping players keep track of their place in the world while trying to solve the next puzzle. Simply navigating the elaborate, perfect 90-degree structures can be a puzzle in itself, but many situations call for players to move key-like crates around the world, mastering use of the fluctuating gravity to open the next path. Developer Willy Chyr says the concept of Relativity is partially inspired by the rule-breaking physics of Inception and the odd geometric designs of the film Interstellar Fans of games like Portal and Antichamber should keep an eye on this one. – Tim Turi


Nuclear Throne
Developer: Vlambeer
Estimated Release: Fall 2015
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Vita, PC

The studio that brought you Ridiculous Fishing and Luftrausers is back with arguably their most challenging title yet. Nuclear throne splices together skill-based dual-analog stick gunplay with procedurally generated worlds packed with unforgiving gunmen. Players can choose from a host of different characters, like a crystalline commando that can deflect bullets by turning into a huge, invincible gem, or a samurai chicken who can survive even with its head cut off. Vlambeer’s tradition of tight controls continues with Nuclear Throne, which assures players that if they die on the way to the titular Nuclear Throne, it’s their fault. I love testing out the varied arsenal of guns on the copious waves of enemies, like precise lasers that cut through multiple enemies and shotguns that devastate at close range. The retro art style also gels well with the old-school difficulty. Nuclear Throne is in early access on Steam now, but thankfully we don’t have to wait long for the full version to release. – Tim Turi


Soma
Developer: Soma
Estimated Release: September 22
Platforms: PS4, PC

Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent inspired a new trend in the horror genre with its non-combat focus on puzzles, stealthy enemy evasion sequences, and exploration-centric story. Those elements are in full force with Frictional’s SOMA, a sci-fi horror game that takes place on the ocean’s floor. The demo I played begins similarly to Amnesia, with the player character waking up with memory loss. The derelict underwater base is in a state of disarray, filled with broken equipment and hastily written notes explaining how the well-worn systems are barely holding the station together. On my journey to the communications room I come across a badly damaged robot named Carl pleading for help in a sympathetic and convincing human voice. I’m unable to help, but I try flipping a nearby switch to see what happens. Power is rerouted and Carl is electrocuted in the process. My surprise is heightened as Carl begins to scream and curse in pain, made all the more unnerving thanks to the voice actor’s authentically harrowing howls. 

Later in the demo, another robot emerges from some chamber of the station and begins a calculated patrol of the tight corridors. The bizarre mechanical menace looks like a robot crossed with a disgusting barnacle. It scans each room with a yellow light, and digital distortion pops up on the screen whenever It draws near. After carefully evading the sentry I finally make my way to comms room, where I’m able to get in contact with headquarters. Of course, something goes awry and an explosion rocks the room as piped begin to fall and water rushes into the room. Eventually a huge hole tears in the side of the station and my character passes out. When he comes to, he realizes his pressurized diving suit has saved him, and the demo draws to an end as I crawl out onto the coral-laden ocean floor.

So far, SOMA looks like a natural next step for Frictional Games. The developer seems to be just as comfortable crafting a gritty sci-fi horror experience as they were making the Victorian-age terror of Amnesia come to life. – Tim Turi


Salt & Sanctuary 
Developer: Ska Studios
Estimated Release: 2015
Platforms: PS4, Vita, PC

From Software’s Dark Souls has made an undeniable impact on video games, with many developers drawing inspiration from its risk/reward XP system and demanding difficulty level. Though Salt & Sanctuary is a 2D side-scroller, it’s clearly influenced by the Souls games from top to bottom. I played around with the berserker class, which was a great introduction to the basics of combat. Players have a light and heavy attack and can dodge roll to evade attacks, all of which drains a stamina meter. Like the Souls games, players even replenish their health from flasks and save/level up by kneeling at illuminated checkpoints. One unique element in Salt & Sanctuary is that players’ maximum health drops each time they heal, incentivizing players to avoid abusing their healing items during tough battles. My hands-on time concluded with a boss battle against a giant knight with brutal combo attacks. Dodge rolling behind him to avoid his attacks worked about as well as it does in 3D Souls games, and I was surprised by how well my experience with those titles translated into a 2D space. But like the From Software games that obviously inspire it, Salt & Sanctuary’s bosses demand focused observation and deliberate, disciplined attacks to overcome. Unfortunately, my run ends by the hand of the Sodden Knight. Given the unique perspective the game offers, however, I’m confident it will just be a matter of time before I have my revenge. – Tim Turi


FutureGrind

Developer: Milkbag Games
Estimated Release: Early 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4/PC

FutureGrind is one of those games we all love, with gameplay that urges you to chase the high score while telling yourself, "Just one more run." The player controls an endless-running futuristic cycle. The cycle has two arms with colored wheels on either end – one light blue and the other pink. You must jump from platform to platform and match the color of either wheel to the corresponding platform. In mid-air you can also perform a few tricks to boost your score (more points are scored for not repeating tricks). It's a simple premise, but one which demands all your skills for you to survive and hopefully post a good score. Since all you have to do is land any part of the wheel on the platform (on either the top or bottom of it) you're free to pitch the arms at any angle in order to survive. This is how you maintain your rhythm, keep tabulating good combos, and set yourself up for the next platform. There are also white platforms which you can land on with either color wheel, but they negate your combo. Naturally the tracks and their platforms get trickier as you progress, including some perspective-jarring loops. Different cycles also mix up the experience by being faster, slower, or with longer arms. FutureGrind is being developed by the two-person team at Milkbag, and its clean visual aesthetic helps you focus in on your flow. – Matthew Kato


Gnog
Developer: Ko-Op Mode
Estimated Release: 2016
Platforms: PS4, PC, iOS

This perplexing adventure game plays like a collection of abstract puzzle toys inspired by the trippiest animated sequences from Adventure Time. I spent most of my playtime tinkering with colorful monster heads while trying to figure out what makes them tick. I routinely tapped buttons using the in-game cursor, moved sliders, and turned dials until something lit up or changed in some way. In one instance, I had to push a button that lowered the water levels inside a bright yellow submarine until a floating life saver lined up with a red switch. Once aligned, the switch turns blue along with another set of switches, which teleport me to knew puzzles which will unlock new features on the submarine when I’m done. It’s an odd game that’s difficult to effectively describe, but approaching the bizarre, often cryptic puzzles with a laid back attitude and open mind provides a uniquely intriguing experience. – Tim Turi


Galak-Z: The Dimensional
Developer: 17-Bit Games
Estimated Release: Fall 2015
Platforms: PS4

The inertia-based physics of Asteroids unites with the shield-focused combat sensibilities of Halo in this Japanese anime-inspired sci-fi shooter. Galak-Z’s spot-on controls are the star of the show in this slick-looking throwback. I loved getting a feel for my ships forward and reverse thrusters, tapping them carefully to weave between floating asteroids and dodge enemy fire. Flying past an enemy ship then spinning to face them while blasting a barrage of laser fire and missiles is a joy. If Galak-Z’s mission structure and progression system live up to the moment-to-moment gameplay, we should be in for a stellar treat when it releases later this year. – Tim Turi


Cloud Chasers
Developer: Bloodflug Studios
Estimated Release: TBA
Platforms: iOS, TBA

When we hear about immigrants, the stories that are often told are about how they're fitting into a new culture. That's interesting, but developer Blindflug Studios thinks that aspect isn't the most interesting part. With their game Cloud Chasers, they're following a father and daughter on their voyage to someplace better. Judging from their grim location, "someplace better" could be virtually anywhere. The pair live in a world that's running out of water, and their homeland has turned into a desert. For Francisco, a farmer, that means it's time to move on. 

He and Amelia go on an arduous journey on foot while keeping a close eye on their water levels. If they spy clouds above, they can fly using a little glider, converting the clouds into drinkable water. The longer they stay aloft, however, the more likely they'll be discovered by hostile Cloud Harversters. The game is a roguelike, meaning you have one life to trudge through five procedurally generated deserts. Along the way, Amelia and Francisco talk to each other about their experiences, adding a nice narrative to a style of game that's often devoid of any emotion beyond, "I hope I don't die!" Cloud Chasers doesn't have a release date or list of platforms, though it was running on iOS at Indiecade. – Jeff Cork

SMS Racing
Developer: Turbo Button
Estimated Release: Fall 2015
Platforms: TBA

The texting-while-driving game SMS Racing has gone through several iterations over the past few years, from its beginnings as a browser game and then getting a VR overhaul for the Samsung Gear. One thing has remained constant: It's a safe and lighthearted way to show the very real perils of swapping your focus between the wheel and your phone. Turbo Button is working on honing the game, adding pedestrians and support for more devices, but the core is going to be the same.

You drive using a traditional analog stick and triggers setup, and texting is handled by the face buttons. Your friends text you constantly during races, and you have to respond with the correct text within 10 seconds. Take any longer (or botch the text), and you lose that friend. Once you lose three, it's game over. Fortunately, texting is easy, but still distracting. Letters pop up, each mapped to one of the four face buttons. Press the right one, and you continue until it's time to hit send. It took me a lap to get comfortable darting my head up and down to split my focus, but I did get the hang of it. By that time, I slipped to the fourth position (from a field of five). I might not have won, but I was just happy to emerge unscathed. – Jeff Cork


In Tune
Developer: Tweed Couch Games
Estimated Release: TBA
Platforms: PC

According to Tweed Couch Games' site, "In Tune is a game that deals with bodies, their interactions, and giving/withholding consent." Does that sound fun to you? It certainly didn't to me, but I wanted to see what it was all about. I saw it on the last day of the show, and at that point people had become meat obstacles blocking my way to where I needed to be. In Tune snapped me back to reality.

The gist of it is that you and your player 2 hold PlayStation Move controllers, cycle through poses of two artist mannequins, and reenact the positions. Before Tweed Couch Games' Allison Cole and I began, she walked me through various levels of consent. Holding the PS button meant you were consenting to the interaction, letting go meant that you weren't into it, and pressing other buttons either cycled through the next pose or let you bail immediately. After being married for more than 10 years, I hadn't thought much about any of this; my wife and I established our boundaries years and years ago. 

The first few poses were pretty easy, giving each other high-fives and doing a weird patty-cake thing. Then things got slightly more intimate. In one pose, we stood next to each other and touched foreheads. Afterward, a prompt came up, asking us to recommend something that we think the other person might like. Allison said I should check out a site, and I shared an album that I'd been listening to a lot lately. The 15 seconds you have to hold each pose gets awkward, which is part of the experience. I was having fun, and then a pose popped up where one of us had to mime choking the other person. That basically stopped me dead in my tracks, since I try to avoid choking people if I can help it. Allison explained that couples were generally too open to all the silly or traditionally intimate poses, so Tweed Couch inserted poses that were more provocative. We moved on to a different awkward pose, where I kneeled and she stood behind me and put her hand on my head. 

Of all the things I saw at E3, In Tune was probably the most meaningful for me on a personal level. Allison was funny and easy to talk to, and it was a rare moment where I was talked to someone about something other than what games I saw and what my flight into Los Angeles was like. It's certainly debatable if it's even a game, if you're expecting conventional video games from the Indiecade section, you're bound to be disappointed. – Jeff Cork


Death's Gambit
Developer: White Rabbit
Estimated Release: TBA
Platforms: PC

Castlevania collides with Dark Souls in a brutal mashup filled with aggressive enemies, classic-yet-attractive visuals, and a demand for care when engaging in combat. The stamina bar, dodge roll, and parry mechanic will make Souls fans feel at home, while the 2D exploration with multiple paths gives the game the feel of an earlier Castlevania game.

Players can equip two different primary weapons, three magical abilities (like a lightning bolt or ice shield that freezes attacking enemies), and a healing item. Choosing the right gear for the situation is crucial, as in our short demo we encountered enemies demanding different tactical approaches.

The one boss that was showcased was huge and brutal, requiring precision and smart choices. Becoming too comfortable or getting too aggressive was the path of disaster, as the boss unleased a variety of close-quarters assaults and long-range icicles. Right now, Death's Gambit is planned for PC, but developer White Rabbit is leaving the door open for console ports should the opportunity arise. - Mike Futter


Capsule Force
Develolpers: Klobit, Iron Galaxy
Estimated Release: Summer 2015
Platforms: PS4, PC

Just when I was starting to tire of the two-versus-two arena combat games, along comes Capsule Force. Klobit's take on the burgeoning sub-genre is fast-paced and original, with the two teams playing a version of base defence.

The concept is simple: push the opposing team back to its final screen and capture its galaxy. The mechanism for accomplishing that is far more challenging, though.

On each of the differently configured maps, there are two trams. In order to advance a screen, you need to ride one of them and reach the edge of the current field of view. While this is happening, your opponents can shoot and kill you (either with a quick blast or a charged sniper shot), or simply bump you from the tram with an offensive use of the spherical shield each character can flash on for brief periods.

Fighting for priority on the trams is tricky and frenetic, and often you'll think you've succeeded only to realize that a member of the opposite team was just a bit closer to the edge on the other tram. At certain intervals, the trams will speed up, making the already blistering fast gameplay that much more intense. Capsule Force has the potential to knock Towerfall out of rotation (at least for a little while) next time you have friends together for some gaming. - Mike Futter 


Party Hard
Developer: Pinokl Games
Estimated Release: 2015
Platforms: PC, Mobile

"You killed PewDiePie!" was not the exclamation I was expecting from the person showing me Pinokl's Party Hard. The task is to stealthily kill as many people at a party as possible without being seen (and subsequently arrested). Surprisingly, when I killed "PewDiePie" sitting at his computer, he wasn't streaming at the time (I assume) because none of his millions of subscribers called the police.

Players are armed with a knife, but can use a variety of environmental hazards like cutting down a tree to fall on part of the house, electrifying a puddle of water, and poisoning the keg to eliminate the carefree party guests. My personal favorite was triggering a high speed golf cart that left a long red streak in front of the patio.

Party Hard is simple in its design, but a bit more elegant in its execution. With planned releases on PC and mobile, I think I'd be more inclined to play on the latter while waiting in line at the bank, or otherwise killing a few minutes here and there. The game plays quickly, which is a great fit for on-the-go quick bursts, but I'm not sure it has the hooks for extended PC play. - Mike Futter


Thumper
Developer: Drool
Estimated Release: 2016
Platforms: PS4, PC

When Thumper was announced for PlayStation 4, I wrote about it because of its quirky premise and streamlined controls. All you need to play is a thumbstick and the X button on the Dual Shock 4. It's the application of those simple controls that makes Thumper a pulse-pounding experience, though.

Players take on the role of a shiny, blisteringly fast space beetle. The X button by itself jumps over (and captures) laser blasts from enemies, with a second press rocketing it back to damage the foe. There are different obstacles that require a press and hold of the X button to barrel through.

The trickiest moves are the slides, handled with a press of the X button either left or right on the thumbstick. The music adapts to these moves, reminding me of playing Rez for countless hours. Two-man development team Drool has deep roots in the music gaming scene, as both come from Harmonix. I suspect that Thumper will bring back the tiny "gaming trance" music sub-genre in a big way next year. - Mike Futter


Space Sluggers
Developer: Rocktastic Games
Estimated Release: 2015
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

Space Sluggers is all about impossible odds, a throwback arcade aesthetic, and a bipedal walking death machine that looks like ED-209. Oh, and that stomping instrument of destruction is just one of the playable characters. Each of them have their own weapons and abilities, which can be upgraded in a number of ways giving Space Sluggers more depth than the coin-op vibe it gives off.

Gameplay feels a bit like Smash TV, with waves of aliens rushing toward players. The goal is to get to the exit for each room... so you can do it all over again in the next zone. All told, I got a strong "Gauntlet in space" vibe from Space Sluggers, which most certainly piqued my interest.

The title is slated for release on PC, Mac, and Linux. There's no news of a console port, but I think it would find a following if that opportunity were available. You can look for it later this year. - Mike Futter


Shape the World

Developer: Hollow Tree Games
Platforms: PC

Stu Maxwell is a member of The Coalition team working on Gears of War, but you would never guess that by looking at his pet project, Shape the World. The game draws more from Journey than the violent blood-soaked chainsaw video game he’s working on for his day job.

In the game, you stroll through a world as it builds around. Bushes and trees pop up around you as you move through the world looking into the distance to touch markers to further change the landscape. One marker I touched, bathed the world in white making it look like winter. It was a cerebral, relaxing experience even on the thumping E3 show floor, and despite its mellow pace, I was excited to see where it would take me next. - Kyle Hilliard


Luckslinger

Developer: Duckbridge
Estimated release: July 16
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Wii U

There’s a reason so many indie games adopt the pixel art style – it’s charming, looks great in a classic way, and makes gameplay feel smooth and specific. Luckslinger doesn’t do much to separate itself visually from the pack, but it plays well, has a great soundtrack, and interesting luck-based hook.

Inspired by spaghetti westerns, you play as a bounty hunter cowboy and a flying duck companion as you help a small hub town by taking on missions and returning bounties. It’s a 2D shooter, and the more jobs you do, the more luck you can gain, which makes fewer bad things happen. If you’re luck is low, a pit might periodically appear beneath your feet, or a windmill might crash on you as you walk by. If your luck is high, this will happen much less.

The game’s soundtrack also stands out as a highlight, with pounding hip-hop beats backing the action. The team is locked on PC, PlayStation 4, and Wii U, and is in talks with Microsoft to bring the game to Xbox One. - Kyle Hilliard


Butt Sniffin Pugs

Developer: SpaceBeagles
Platforms: PC

Butt Sniffin Pugs is hard to ignore at the E3 Indie booth thanks to its gigantic tennis ball controller and plush pug butts sticking in the air. The developers basically ripped apart a mouse and made giant tracks balls which you use to move your pug around. Two buttons on top activate interchangeable actions like barking or pooping, and the plush pug butt is pressed in order to sniff the other pug and steal their ability.

Goals are loose as you basically just walk around an environment and see how the world reacts to your pug actions. It reminded me of Noby Noby Boy with its loose goals, and its creator Gabe Telepak said the game is really more of an experiment. It’s a prototype of what he expects to be a joyful little playground pixelated pugs can play around in. It’s unclear what the future of the game will be, but it’s weird and silly, and proved to be a strange, but undeniably memorable staple of the Indie booth. - Kyle Hilliard


Mother Russia Bleeds

Developer: Le Cartel
Estimated Release: Spring 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC

Mother Russia Bleeds takes us back to the age of beat-em-ups like Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Thankfully, storytelling and mechanics have matured, even if the graphics for this bloody tale of drug addiction and revenge haven't.

In addition to a standard repertoire of kicks, punches, charge attacks, and grapples, Mother Russia Bleeds introduces a clever drug addiction mechanic. Each player has a syringe with three doses. A single use can be used to heal up, but consuming the entire syringe sends your character into a rage of instant, bloody kills. Refilling the vial requires drawing the blood of fallen, convulsing addicts.

Because of the psychotropic angle, players are subjected to terrifying nightmare hallucinations. Enemies I fought in the sex club stage were appropriately decked out in inappropriate attire for everyday wear. Leather, chains, and masks were the prevalent theme.

The four fighters all have different strengths and weaknesses, special moves, playstyles. This also plays into the extra modes, like versus play, escort missions, and survival scenarios. - Mike Futter


Shadow Warrior 2

Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Estimated Release: 2016
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Shadow Warrior 2 is what happens when a game unexpectedly draws more attention than expected. The violent, funny, and bloody title that initially was released on PC and then made its way to current-gen consoles is getting a significantly improved sequel.

Instead of the linear corridors, areas are open, with multiple ways to progress through missions. The maps are procedurally generated, so that returning to main missions or taking on side-quests (a new feature) give players new surprises.

The exploration and mission structure is in service of a new loot mechanic. Watching the game played reminded me of the jump Vigil Games made from Darksiders to Darksiders II. The experience seems deeper, especially in light of cooperative play.

There are also new traversal moves that give the game a parkour feel, most akin to Techland's Dying Light. The weapon count has been significantly augmented, with 70 available compared to 10 in the first title. Enemy types have been increased three-fold, and a new augmentation system lets players slot gems into weapons to increase stats and add elemental effects.

This time out, Flying Wild Hog is planning a simultaneous release across Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. You can look for the game next year. - Mike Futter


Eitr

Developer: Eneme Entertainment
Estimated Release: 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC

Eitr plays upon the popular Souls style of games, with a different perspective and aesthetic. The title is deeply rooted in Norse mythology, with players taking on the role of a shield maiden who must traverse the nine realms to undo damage caused by Loki, the god of mischief.

Players must manage both health and stamina, know when to retreat and when to strike. There is both a block and parry mechanic, the latter of which has the same risk/reward element of From Software's titles.

Like the Souls games, players have both a regular level and a "favor" level. The latter of these can be lost upon death, but building favor instead of turning it into permanent boosts makes for more potent benefits.

The game has large bosses, overwhelming numbers, and gameplay that captures what we love about From Software's titles without aping them entirely. You can look for it to release next year. - Mike Futter


Crossing Souls
Developer: Fourattic
Estimated Release: Mid-2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC

Crossing Souls is an adventure game ripped from the 1980s, complete with VHS scanlines, tape distortion, and heavy synth music. As a team of five teens, you must keep a mystic stone out of the hands of a villain who wants to use it for nefarious purposes. We understand why one would want an army of the dead, but following through on it typically makes you the bad guy.

Players can solve puzzles by looking into the spirit world (and controlling a recently deceased party member who can walk through some walls). Each of the five characters has his or her own abilities and fighting style, and they can be switched among on the fly.

The combat isn't overly challenging, and serves more as set dressing. The encounters with police and the Charles Branson lookalike villain serve to drive home that the protagonists are being hunted.

The demo ended with a Battletoads-style bike riding segment. It was every bit as maddening as its source material, but I also wanted to try again and again with the belief that the next time would be the one that saw me through to the end.

Crossing Souls is bolstered by its 1980s aesthetic, and I can't imagine the game would show as well without it. I'm looking forward to checking out more when it's released next year. - Mike Futter



Enter the Gungeon

Developer: Dodge Roll
Estimated Release: Early 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux

We've played Enter the Gungeon before (you can read our PAX East preview). This time, we had a chance to go hands on with a PlayStation 4 build.

The game controls extremely well on console, with firing and the all-important dodge roll mapped to R1 and L1 respectively. Refreshing on the controls was trial by fire, as we were thrown into a new area of the Gungeon: the catacombs.

There, we encountered new enemies with new abilities. Large ice blocks slide across the ground to slam into us, while also shooting out icicles. Horde-type foes crumble, but have a chance to immediately respawn.

Thankfully, new elemental weapons can give players an edge. Shooting electrically charged guns across the water trail left by the giant ice blocks electrifies the wet ground, for instance.

When the game ships in early 2016, it will include approximately 10 different areas, 200 guns, and 100 items that complement the armaments. There will be about a dozen bosses, mini-bosses, and secret areas to explore. Hidden zones are tough to find and extremely challenging, with their own enemies that want to fill you with lead.

Enter the Gungeon is one part roguelite, one part bullet hell. Thankfully, those two things blend quite well. And if you're wondering about a Vita release, it's not set in stone, but Dodge Roll is making every effort to port the game to handheld, also. - Mike Futter

Moon Hunters
Developer: Kitfox Games
Platform: PS4, Vita
Release: Late 2015

Originally launched as a Kickstarter, Moon Hunters is a 1-to-4-player, mythology-building action RPG with roguelike elements. Set in the fantastical version of ancient Mesopotamia, the world is thrown into chaos when the moon suddenly goes missing. In true roguelike fashion, the game only takes a few hours to play through, but will be different every time you start it up. However, your actions leave tiny impacts on the world, so you might encounter people who recall your old hero or whisper legends of your heroism. People will remember if you terrorized them just for fun or if you were noble and helped save them from monsters. At the end of your journey, your hero becomes a constellation in the sky, forever marking your progress in the world. Fortunately, every time you jump back into the game you unlock new character classes, tribes, and environments. Combat plays out in real-time and each hero has their own upgrade tree. An up close fighter class called the Spellblade has a shockwave ability that knocks enemies back. However, his vacuum blade upgrade makes it so he actually draws enemies towards him before stunning them for a few seconds. The Ritualist is a long ranger fighter who shoot energy bullets at foes, and one of her upgrade makes her projectiles pass through multiple foes, so you can line up enemies and whittle down their health in one shot. The game encourages players to work together and coordinate their attacks. This is an intriguing little indie game with some great music and a cool pixel art style. – Ben Reeves

Bedlam
Developer: Skyshine
Platform: PC, Mac
Release: 2015

Centuries from now, civilization has spiraled into a Mad Max-esque wasteland. The last bastion of human civility, known as Astec City, lies to the South, and it's your job to pilot a giant fortress on wheels through the desert and reach this utopia. Unfortunately, the desert is filled with marauders, rogue A.I., and toxic mutants. Based on the Banner Saga engine, Bedlam lets you outfit your mobile fortress with a specialized crew and as many supplies as you can carry before making a run for the border. Throughout your journey you'll encounter various landmarks, eccentric strangers, and rival clans. Some of your interactions with these groups will lead to turn-based strategy battles. There is no turn order during combat, so battles play out more like chess where you can move and attack with any of your characters once per turn. I found this level of strategy refreshing and fun. I liked maneuvering my units so they were out of the opponent's attack range. Bedlam features four different unit types and each have their own specialties and attack ranges. Bedlam looks to offer up a great deal of challenges since there are no game saves and you'll only get one change to get your crew across the wasteland. Fortunately, the game will play out differently each time you sit down to it, so there will be plenty of reasons to keep trying to send your forces through the Bedlam. – Ben Reeves

The Banner Saga 2
Developer: Stoic
Platform: PS4, PC, Vita, iOS, Android
Release: Winter

The first Banner Saga immediately drew me in with it's lush Disney-inspired visuals, and narrative rich viking/fantasy world. The ex-BioWare developers that formed Stoic developed a challenging, yet rewarding top-down strategy game that shouldn't be missed. The sequel looks to continue the first game's epic story about the end of the world and one clans journey to find safety. Like the first game, you'll manage a clan as they make their long journey through a fractured land, making difficult choices and settling disputes among your band. The battles themselves remain deep and challenging, and the combat challenges are more varied than ever before thanks to new units and enemies. Certain objects on the battlefield will offer cover for your units, but these objects can also be destroyed. Like the last game, your units have both health and armor stats, but their health is tied into their strength so as they get wounded they become weaker and begin to feel the exhaustion. Dredge Skullkers are a new enemy unit that look like mutated hounds. They can turn invisible and often hunt in packs and try to surround your characters. Meanwhile, Dredge Direguard are support enemy units that transform the battlefield, buffing their allies and creating traps. Choices you make off the battlefield will often effect your win conditions in combat, so make your choices carefully. Fortunately, you'll have a little bit of time to think about these choices since this second entry in a planned trilogy is planned for a winter release. – Ben Reeves

Chasm
Developer: Discord Games
Platform: PS4, PC
Release: 2015

After a small mining community goes dark, a young soldier named Daltyn is sent to investigate. Unfortunately, Daltyn finds the mines overrun with all sorts of paranormal activity and quickly finds himself trapped in the mines. Chasm is a platformer that takes inspiration from hack 'n slash dungeon crawlers and exploration-based Metroid games. The unique twist here is that the game is procedurally-generated, which makes it different each time you play through. I was initially skeptical about this, but after playing through an early portion of the game, my fears subsided. Each room in the game has been hand-crafted, but the order with which you attack them will get mixed up each time you play the game. However, players can also input a specific seed number into the game before they start if they want to play through the same layout as a friend. The game features six massive areas all filed with their own unique enemies and power ups. Players might not find the same weapons, equipment, or power ups each time they play it, so that will add to the games replayability. After my brief hand on this Chasm, I'm more excited than every for this unique twist of Metroid and Hack 'n Slash titles. – Ben Reeves