Indie Triple Feature

I’ve picked up three great games from indie developers over the past couple weeks. Much of the gaming press has talked at length about how Sony is courting independent game developers for their platform and how the future of indie games is with Sony. Well, with Valve and Steam, the future has been here for years. Here are the three latest titles I’ve been enjoying from smaller developers.

Sanctum 2 is a sequel of the first game, a tower defense game wrapped in a first-person shooter. Because you’re active in the map when the creeps come calling, you’re able to use your weaponry, along with your turrets and mazing skills, to keep your base safe. In Sanctum 2, the formula remains the same, although gone are the weapon levelups and instead the game moves to a class-based system where you choose your weapons before the mission. In addition, no more teleporting around the map. Instead, you can leap your maze and towers in a single bound, allowing freer movement. The core of the game remains the same: build a great maze, and bust up some creeps. The controls are a little floaty and loose, but with generous hitboxes, it’s not a huge problem. However, some of the creature designs suffer. The bosses I’ve fought so far are basically only vulnerable in one spot on the back protected by armor, so you basically follow these guys around shooting up their butt. Not exactly riveting gameplay. Although, maybe for some people… Anyway, it’s still pretty fun, and it has four-player co-op, so go get the game so we can play dammit.

Reus is a strategy puzzle god game. You control four giants which represent different aspects of the natural world. You can place down plants, animals, and minerals in a 2-dimensional world, basically just a wheel where you walk around on the outside. Like our actual world, if it were abstracted into a slice. Wait, no, it’s Discworld, but inverted, so it’s actually a world. Analogies fail me. Screenshot below!

reus

So your giants crawl around on the surface of the world, plopping down all sorts of plants, animals, and mines. Each of these natural resources grant prosperity of some kind in the form of food, technology, or wealth. It’s up to you to figure out combinations of a vast category of resources, because as humans settle, different settlements have different requirements. In addition, resources have symbiosis with one another, allowing you to create combinations that are more than the sum of their parts. It’s very fascinating to start from something very small and simple to go to something really big and complex. Not to mention the art and music are charming, and the controls are very simple, and you can pause the game to issue commands and look at why things are the way they are. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Lastly, again in the tower defense genre but a little more traditional, is Prime World: Defenders. I investigated the game because of a Penny Arcade tip, and I was immediately drawn in. This game is basically Warcraft III Tower Defense the Game. The gameplay harkens back to the WCIII TD maps, the art style and creep design is very similar, hell, even the text resembles WCIII. But don’t think this is the same game you played in 2003. There are loads of different towers, maps, and you can upgrade and improve those towers as you play through the campaign mode, so there’s a persistent element to it, which is pretty cool for any RPG fans. You level up and unlock different bonuses, and you can buy new turrets and spells using currency that you can only only gain in the store. There are no micro-transactions here, team. It’s a simple game, but for $12 I can overlook the slightly unoriginal art design and lackluster “story”. I’m calling it here about 5 missions in, we’re in for a double-cross on this Evening Star thing.

The Issue of Immersion

Immersion as a concept and a feature comes up in video games returns time and again as graphical fidelity, world design, writing, and characterizations improve. Designers are getting increasingly talented at creating worlds that feel alive, have existed for some time before your visit and, assuming you fail in your quest to save it, will go on long after your time there ends.

Trouble is, I’m not sure what it’s all for.

I don’t personally put any value on immersion as a selling point or main feature of a game. I’m not sure if it’s a failure of my imagination or a personal fault that I can’t be drawn into a well crafted game world the way that others can.

It may be that my tastes run more toward the types of simulations that don’t really lend themselves well to immersion. The Civilization/Company of Heroes/Sins of a Solar Empire/Advance Wars/Fire Emblem