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For the third year running, the TGS Indie Games Area has been a great place to visit on those hyper-crowded public days. While the selection wasn't quite as eclectic this year (no exercise bikes or new NES cartridge games in evidence), it was still an experience.
So here are a few things that caught my fancy along the way. Most of these have not been released — at least, not in English — but they're mostly RPG-related. Either that, or I really enjoyed chatting with the makers.
I actually saw this game at TGS 2014, but it's definitely been improved upon since then. Developer Roy Li of Sheena Games cites all of the classic tactical RPGs (Super Robot Wars, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics) as sources of inspiration for Realm Chronicle Tactics, though he's strived to make things work with smaller maps and simpler missions to provide a quick and enjoyable tactical experience on Android.
The action is easy to follow, with the touch controls working well to direct the variety of unit types around. The demo battles I played included a knight on horseback, an alchemist with a long-range blunderbuss, and a magical girl who could blast through anything on a straight line. There are currently sixty quests ready to play, with forty still in the works, and plans for even more if the game proves popular. All of the recruitable characters have their own scenes scattered throughout the game, giving everyone at least a little background and personality.
Currently it's all still in Chinese, though I impressed Roy with my ability to make wild but accurate guesses about the meaning of things. There are plans to expand this into the Japanese and US markets, so RPGamers looking for a tactical fix on Android might have something to look forward to.
We've covered this one on RPGamer before, but I'll say it again: here's a game that goes out of its way to be crazier than Earthbound, and that's a high bar to pass. YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG is set in the distant future-past of 1999, and features a protagonist who was hipster well before it was cool. His companions of the hour are no less weird, with a sarcastic jazz aficionado and a lanky photographer rounding out the demo cast. The three of them are attempting to investigate a disappearance in a podunk town in the Midwest, and during the demo they have to put down (both verbally and physically) an underpaid cashier, a couple of wannabe cops and robbers, a vapid teen girl, and a cantankerous drunk, just to get directions to where they need to be. Their weapons of choice include electric guitars, vintage records, and flashbulb cameras. Pretty much every attack has some sort of mini-event attached to it, including everything from timed button presses to an obvious homage to Super Mario Bros. 2.
The graphics had a weird sort of vibe to them, but it all comes together well so far. The characters' eyes in particular are very expressive, and the odd expressions that popped up during the more metaphysical discussions were priceless.
Ackk Studios appears to be set on releasing this on as many downloadable platforms as humanly feasible, so odds are that I'll be playing the full game one way or another as soon as it's out.
So far this TGS, I've covered three 2D-scrolling RPGs. Here's the fourth: Black Witchcraft. This one's a Korean-made title with a heavy loli-goth esthetic going for it. Much like its source of inspiration, Odin Sphere, Black Witchcraft is a fast and fluid action experience, with many ways to jump, dodge, and weave around enemies before delivering the fatal blow.
The RPG elements weren't really in evidence with this demo, but Mr. Seok-ho Lee (the developer) was quick to point out which parts of the status bar would eventually be used for things like experience, and told me how there would be an item-synthesis mechanic added in to let the player use harvested enemy bits to make or improve on equipment.
The final game is intended to have somewhere between two and four hours of gametime for the main quest, with another ten or so when he side-quests and monster hunts are added in. Currently, the plans are to release it on the PS4 and Xbox One, and perhaps eventually on a PC platform such as Steam.
From Taiwan, the people at Celad Games brought their newest smartphone title, Children of Doomsday to show off. This game brings us a complete apocalypse scenario, featuring the aftermath of war, famine, pestilence, and of course zombies. A common sort of mission involves leading the party through a ruined area where all the map squares are blacked out. By blind exploration, the player must discover where the routes are blocked, where there may be extra supplies, and where zombies lurk. The goal is to reach the far end and make it to safety, before the party's supply of food and clean water runs out.
With a party of six survivors, the combat could have been quite slow, but that's not the case. Battles in Children of Doomsday feature an action bar, with different characters taking off different increments as they do things. Most of the stong characters seemed to have short cool-down periods, so it wasn't possible to spam just one attacker, and the entire turn had a time limit to encourage quick choices. Points on the action bar did seem to carry over, thankfully.
While I only had a small sample of the story material, thre seems to be a regular theme of survivor vs. survivor on top of the undead menace. One mission consisted solely of wave after wave of bandits attacking the player's base, and there were several allusions to the enigmatic master of Hope, the largest survivor settlement in the area.
For reasons almost certainly connected to the art director's personal interests, this game is dominated by perky, buxom girls — and yes, there is a bit of limited touch interaction with the ladies. The woman who showed me the game was a bit embarrassed about that. Thankfully it's restricted to being a curiosity and not a major game mechanic. Children of Doomsday also has toom to expand, as I learned from speaking with the game's chief programmer, Edward Jen. At some point, they are planning on implementing vehicles, for example. I had a suggestion or two.
I'm not a smartphone sort of person, so it's unlikely that I'll ever play this one again. If Celad Games ever decides to make a 3DS downloadable version, however, I'd definitely try that one.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which is often evident in the indie realm. The first spark of creation often comes from the desire to emulate an experience one has enjoyed, after all. So when I saw a game at TGS this year that was obviously a take on the Harvest Moon series, I was not surprised. When I talked with Sharan Balani, CEO of Quickfire Games and chief designer for Wild Season, I was even less surprised to hear his opinion of the last few Harvest Moon games (hint: he was not a satisfied customer). It's his favorite series, and with Wild Season he intends to give the world a farm-sim RPG to match the experience he loves so much.
Unfortunately, he's a bit behind schedule on his Kickstarter, but the fact that he was at TGS at all is a good sign. It's still definitely not ready for full release, though. The controls were serviceable, but a bit picky on relative position and targeting, and the game's writing also needed some heavy proofing, though he said those things are being addressed right now. In any case, we wish him luck. It's good to see someone following their dreams so thoroughly.
Scattered throughout the main halls of TGS were groups of international booths, many of which were for all intents and purposes indie productions. At one such location, I had the chance to hang out with Kichen Sewradj, researcher and representative from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Yes, the Dutch had an official embassy presence at TGS. The royal government is apparently very pro-active when it comes to supporting the kingdom's nascent game design industry, and there were several small productions ready to show.
One of the more impressive products was Erectus, an online multiplayer sandbox game similar to Civilization that has apparently been up and running internationally for a while now. A quick check online found me a Let's Play video of the game's beta version that matches almost exactly to what I saw at TGS, so let's share that right now.
The game still has some interface issues, though I figured a lot of the issues I had were due to unfamiliarity with the game genre. It's reassuring to see the Let's Play guy, RobJNova, muddle through it the same way I did. I kind of wish I had a better milieu to play it in, since the Dutch embassy booth was not in the most convenient of locations. In fact, it was placed right across the way from the Street Fighter V booth, and the population density in that roughly thirty-five square meter patch of convention space between them was significantly more than the average mosh pit. I really should give the game another try in less compressed circumstances.
The other interesting thing I learned about while I was there was the existence of Gamestad, a Dutch social networking site that seeks to bring together like-minded folks for various game-related projects. There seems to be a decent international presence on the site, so I might sign on despite not knowing much Dutch at all.
Why is the Princess in a Magic Forest?! The central conundrum of this puzzle game is presented in its title, and a young man named Max has the unenviable task of solving it. Max is not the bravest, strongest, or most capable of heroes. In fact, about the only thing he can do reasonably well is walk in a straight line, and turn left whenever he hits something. Faced with explosive sheep, murderous stalker-fairies, and the other awful inhabitants of the deep, dark woods, he's going to need some help.
It's up to the player to arrange things to Max's benefit, placing helpful items or command prompts to keep him moving towards the exit and away from danger. As for the big question of the title, well... for the moment, his is not to reason why; his is but to do or die. From what I've seen, it's mostly to die. Explosively. Not with a whimper, but a "Baaaaa..."
The last title I'm going to mention here today is March of Industry, a factory sim game gone completely gonzo. Somewhere in the many folds of reality, there is an alternate dimension where a former Bolshevik middle manager is put in charge of the fun house, and must produce weapons for the war front. Any weapons. They could be simple blunderbusses and disc shooters, or more esoteric threats like "A Russian Guy Named Ivan Who Drinks All Your Vodka". Seriously, anything goes. One of the most lethal (and lucrative) items available is "Vladimir Putin's Gym Shorts".
The factory itself is a hodgepodge of rickety old miracle machinery, which somehow takes raw materials (sand, copper, iron, carbon, potatoes, etc.) and creates complex or even abstract items from them. Some may combine two items, or load and unload crates. As with any good proletariat-turned-capitalist shoestring operation, there's always the sense that the entire mess is one misstep shy of total chaos.
My own challenge to RobbyZ, the warped brain behind this title, is to now create a game — tactical RPG, RTS, shooter, whatever — where the weapons from March of Progress are actually used in combat. Now that would be a spectacle, for sure.
I'd like to thank all the people who came to show their stuff at the TGS Indie Corner this year. There were a lot of interesting things to be seen, and not nearly enough space to hold it all. Hopefully we will be hearing more about these titles and their studios in the future.
And that's the news from TGS,
Your man in Japan,
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