pax 2015

The Best Indies To Watch From PAX 2015

by Game Informer Staff on Aug 30, 2015 at 11:00 AM

PAX Prime is one of the final opportunities for major publishers to show off their game line-up before the holidays, but it's not unusual for the independent developers to steal the show. The Indie MegaBooth is a utopia of fresh ideas and new directions, and our team is setting out to find the coolest independent games on the show floor and bring them to you in quick-hit fashion. This list will continue to evolve over the course of the show, so check back often for the latest updates!

This article features contributions from Game Informer's PAX Prime 2015 team, including Ben Reeves, Brian Shea, and Daniel Tack.

Fat Princess Adventures
Developer: Fun Bits Interactive
Estimated Release: Fall
Platforms: PS4

If you love Diablo-style loot fests, the original Fat Princess, or the jolliness of cake then keep this adorable 4-player monster grinder on your radar. Unlike the original arena combat game, Fun Bits' newest Fat Princess title is a hack-and-slash title aim at those who love Diablo but want a more casual experience. Up to four players can play together at any time (through either couch co-op or online play). As you work your way through the hordes of monster of Great Bitten you'll level up your characters and find piles of new loot. The traditional barbarian, mage, and archer archetypes are all present, but the forth class is an engineer class, who is a decent close range fighter who also comes equipped with grenades. However, you're never locked into one particular class; you can swap between Fat Princess' four different classes at any time – retaining all your levels and gear when you do. Heroes who take too much damage can heal themselves with cake, and those who indulge a little too much will grow temporarily obese, which acts like a kind of berserker mode, where you grow bigger and do greater melee damage. A variety of side quests are scattered around the world, which help break up the action of the main plot that sees you rescuing not one but two princesses from evil minions. Gear is also shared between heroes, so if your friend picks up a particularly sweet looking sward it will show up in your inventory too. Fat Princess Adventures isn't too far from release, so expect to see it hit PS4s in the next few months. – Ben Reeves

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


SpeedRunners
Developer: DoubleDutch Games and TinyBuild
Estimated Release: 2015
Platforms: Xbox One, PC

Originally released as an Xbox Live Indie Game on Xbox 360, SpeedRunners tasks players with outrunning their opponents. Using jumps, slides, and various power-ups, players must do their best to keep up with the fastest player as they run a race through a 2D platforming level that serves as a racetrack. The camera follows the leading player, and anyone who falls too far behind runs the risk of reaching the edge of the screen and dying. Once the first player is out, the screen begins to shrink, making it easier for subsequent players to fall off screen. The last player standing wins. With simplistic control schemes, we were able to pick up and play the game with minimal time required to learn how to play effectively. Best enjoyed with players sitting next to you, SpeedRunners could become a fast-paced indie hit for those who have groups of friends with varying levels of gaming experience. – Brian Shea

Anarcute
Developer: AnarTeam
Estimated Release: 2015
Platforms: Xbox One, PC

Anarcute is an adorable way to take out your frustrations with The Man from the safety of a large mob. You control a gang of creatures who wonders one of several cities, collecting other like-minded citizens who are ready to start a riot. Your gang will automatically pick up stop signs, road cones, and other debris to use as weapons against the city’s watchdogs, a group of armed police called the Brainwash Patrol. During our demo, we took to the streets of Tokyo as a group of fish, frogs, and other anthropomorphic animals and dodged sniper fire before taking back the city for the common folk. Once your group is big enough you’ll be able to toss cars, which pack big explosions, and even knock down buildings. – Ben Reeves

Fast Racing Neo
Developer: Shin'en
Estimated Release: TBD
Platforms: Wii U

If you have a hunger for speedy, sci-fi racing games like F-Zero and WipeOut, but have been left malnourished by the big developers, then Shin’en’s Fast Racing Neo should be a great meal. In case you had trouble reading its title, Fast Racing Neo lets you race futuristic souped-up hoverers really, really fast. The game feels extremely responsive and runs at around 60fps, which is good because the background screams by in the blink of an eye. One track had us jumping between sections of track that swung over a river, and another featured a giant walking mech that crawled overhead while we raced. Like many futuristic racers, boost pads scattered around the track will help you secure a healthy lead, but in order to use them you’ll have to swap the colors of your car to match the colors of each pad. This nifty color swapping mechanic adds a nice twist to the ultra fast racing. Up to four players will be able to race each other via single system split screen, and up to eight players online. – Ben Reeves


Just Shapes And Beats
Developer: Berzerk Studio
Estimated Release: TBD
Platforms: TBD

Described as a game where you control a shape, avoid red objects, and exist in a world where everything on-screen moves to the beat of the song, you would be forgiven for thinking this is a clone of 2012's Sound Shapes, but Berzerk Studio's Just Shapes and Beats is a very different experience. Placing you in an empty world with no weapons, your only mission is to survive as long as you can as you move your shape through a side-scrolling barrage of sounds and shapes. Your only defense a boost button, which not only gets you out of danger, but also grants you temporary invincibility. Upon starting up a level, you are treated to dance music-inspired chiptunes that get the adrenaline pumping and foreshadows the intense bullet hell that's to come. Though we only had a chance to play through three levels, it was a good sampling of the varying levels of difficulty (the levels ranged from hard to seemingly impossible). Just Shapes and Beats is an interesting concept that is made far more intriguing by its awesome soundtrack and minimalist art style. – Brian Shea

Below
Developer: Capybara Games
Estimated Release: 2015
Platforms: Xbox One, PC 

Below's design may look simple, but hidden under the understated colors and gorgeous backdrops is a satisfying experience that draws major inspiration from two of the most beloved action games of the past few generations. Taking cues from the Souls series for its concept and Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for its combat, Below punishes reckless players while rewarding the methodical and precise ones. As you explore the bleak world presented to you, you encounter enemies ranging from docile wildlife to fierce combatants who want blood. Once they draw blood, your character will slowly bleed out, depleting your health even after you exit combat – unless, of course, you can find some way to cauterize the wound. When you die, you lose everything and begin again as a new character. Each time you die, however, the world resets in a random manner to emulate the idea of a new explorer entering the area. Find the whereabouts of your fallen predecessors, and you'll recover all of the items they had on them when they left this world. Below looks to be crushingly difficult while remaining exceedingly beautiful, and I can't wait to dig deeper into this experience. – Brian Shea

Hive Jump
Developer: Graphite Lab
Estimated Release: Q1 2016
Platforms: Wii U, PC

Hive Jump, the Kickstarter-funded run-and-gun game from Graphite Lab, isn’t shy about its influences. With an environment that feels like a throwback to Super Metroid and gameplay that would feel at home in the Contra series, Hive Jump is right at home on a Nintendo console. The single-player component seems intense enough, but when you add three other players for four-player simultaneous cooperative play, the excitement and the intensity is upped that much more. With procedurally generated maps, customizable loadouts with purchasable upgrades, and a seemingly endless supply of arachnid antagonists, Hive Jump has a lot of potential to lure in fans of classic gaming. – Brian Shea

The Banner Saga 2
Developer: Stoic
Estimated Release: Winter
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Vita, iOS, Android 

The first Banner Saga immediately drew me in with its 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 clan's journey to find safety. Like the first game, you 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 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 Direguards are support enemy units that transform the battlefield, buffing their allies and creating traps. Choices you make off the battlefield will often affect your win conditions in combat, so make your decisions carefully. Fortunately, you'll have a little bit of time to think about these choices since this second entry in a planned trilogy is set  for a winter release. – Ben Reeves


Darkest Dungeon
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Estimated Release: 2015
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Vita

We've had our eye on the gothic roguelike Darkest Dungeon for some time now through various stages of early access, and things look incredibly promising from the PAX Prime build. Exploring the new Cove dungeon full of aquatic terrors and the Siren boss was a challenging exercise, and served to showcase just how far the game has come since our first look at it. The Lovecraftian lore and dungeon delving make this foray into the unexplored recesses of caves, ruins, and coves an incredibly satisfying trek, and I'm quite excited to see the game when full release happens later this year. – Daniel Tack