Ten Indie RPGs for 2016
So here's a look at ten titles (out of many others) that are expected to finally emerge from their dev dungeons and into the light in 2016.
Chasm – Discord Games, 2016
This medieval Metroidvania loveletter was Kickstarted way back in 2013 and according to their Steam listing, hopes to finally make its release sometime this year. It boasts a mysterious story surrounding an isolated mining town deep in the frosty mountains, 2D platforming, lots of loot, and procedural areas packed with action.
This looks like a solid contender for filling days and nights with an adventure hammered from a 16-bit aesthetic that's as practical as it is nice to look at. Discord Games have been hard at work on this game for a few years now and to their credit, have regularly updated their Kickstarter keeping everyone in the loop.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Larian Studios, December 2016
The sequel to Divinity: Original Sin which initially debuted on Kickstarter. Larian Studios went back a second time based on the same premise – ask fans to back a bigger, better version of the game they already have in production. And fans responded with a tremendous show of support unlocking a slew of options from new skill trees to additional race options (play as the undead).
Story-wise, the game takes place many, many years after the first game. Sourcery (magic) has become the sole purview of the Divine Order whose leader has become the greatest Sourceror in history. Anyone outside of their reach is considered game for their hunters. And you're one of four individuals that they're looking for. Of course, that's only the tip of the iceberg. If my experience with the first game is anything to go by, there's a lot of secrets waiting to twist things into unexpected directions with even more options on how to get to the bottom of things...and cover entire battlefields with flammable oil slicks of burning doom.
With the first game, they literally leveraged themselves into near-bankruptcy and its incredible success paved the way to make this one. The tactical options were really impressive – you could prep the environment with traps using spells and whatnot before triggering a battle with a wide variety of options – as were the dialogue options and its unique approach to co-op choices.
However, Larian's post-game support was also amazing. The Enhanced Edition they released later was made free to all previous owners of the game adding things like voiced lines, new quests, and a slew of content including new characters. Definitely looking forward to this. (Full disclosure: I backed this on KS)
The Dwarves – King Art Games (PC)
King Art have already delivered two previously Kickstarted titles making this their third time around. This time, they're aiming to bring German author, Markus Heitz's, popular “Dwarves” series to gamers everywhere (like what CD Projekt RED did with Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher). Expect fantasy, an epic adventure spanning dwarven kingdoms, and massive crowd combat where you can wade into the fray the way third-person fantasy meant it to be. Or something like that.
One of the things being played up are the reactive physics to each hit. That means instead of a scripted set of reactions based on location, enemies will react strictly according to where the player strikes them and leave it to the physics to handle what comes later. So you could technically hit an enemy so hard they go flying into the crowd behind them, toppling and spinning enemies as they crash through with random results.
Eitr – Eneme Entertainment, 2016
As a Shield Maiden whose fate was altered by Loki before she was even born, it falls to you to save nine worlds connected via Yggdrasil and discover the truth behind the mischievous god's interference in your fate. This isometric action-RPG is a pixel-art painted crawl boasting a new twist on ye olde experience system – opt for permanent level bonuses, or fleeting favors from the gods instead that disappear on death – along with magic and swordplay.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance – Warhorse Studios, Summer 2016
How about a first-person sandbox RPG with no magic and no dragons? Or if you've ever seen medieval re-enactments and wondered “Gee, what would it be like to live in a world without plumbing or equality?”, this could be your battle standard.
Taking place in a medieval slice of 15th century Europe and starting out as a blacksmith who has lost everything, you somehow get wrapped up in a conspiracy to save a kidnapped king whose nefarious brother has usurped the throne from. How you go about doing that is up to you whether you fight as a knight, sing for support as a bard, or sneak through the shadows as a rogue. Or maybe even a mix of everything.
It will also feature a system where the economy can be driven by your actions. Begin a crime wave and you might notice the economy take a hit. Get caught and you could end up in the stocks or even tortured. Earn a rep as a valiant knight or a conniving thief and see the world react to you. If the game can pull it off, it could be a fantastic, grounded experience. Following a successful Kickstarter, you can still pledge to the game at their official site or buy into and try out the Alpha build when you pre-order from their site before it's expected to arrive in the summer for the PC, XB1, and the PS4.
Grim Dawn – Crate Entertainment, February, 2016
If you're looking for another hack 'n slash fantasy with lots of loot and isn't named Diablo on the PC, Grim Dawn is a great alternative. I bought into it on Steam (it also had a Kickstarter campaign that worked out for it, too) and have been playing through the builds for awhile now, greatly enjoying the despairingly gritty world that Crate has put together. Alums behind the studio had also been responsible for Titan Quest, another fun hack 'n slash that I enjoyed with friends and Grim Dawn has a lot of that spirit carried over into its world and systems.
Essentially, the world is on the brink of collapse and everyone's essentially eking out what they can to stay alive before it all comes down to the end. As for you, somehow you survived being executed as a freak and are now just trying to survive like everyone else, helping where you can and eventually facing off against terrifying monsters. The game is slated to be “feature complete” in February which marks its official exit from Early Access on Steam and the end of a journey that started way back in 2012.
So if you're hankering for something other than Diablo to fill your virtual satchels with loot, Grim Dawn is a pretty awesome choice.
Hyper Light Drifter - Spring, 2016
Funded in 2013 on Kickstarter, this game is getting closer to finally seeing the light of day for PC and Mac users (PS4 and XB1 versions are slated later). On the surface, it looks like a darkly stylized, top down game from the era of the Genesis or the SNES set in a vast, pixelized world where solid light hangs at your side as a trusty sword. A tech sprite tags along carrying your baggage and there are modules, upgrades aplenty, and plenty to explore among the ruins that may or may not be trying to kill you.
Salt and Sanctuary – Ska Studios, 2016
It's from the same studio that created The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai and I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1 and a host of other titles. Now they're stranding players on a mysterious island in this 2D, side scrolling adventure focusing on “stylistic sidescrolling combat” boasting “a huge amount of depth”. Weapons can be one-handed, two-handed, paired with offhand items like shields and crossbows, and then there's weight to consider. And enemies can be curbstomped.
Part of me is getting an Apotheon vibe from hearing about its weapons and the action but looking at the trailer gives me the impression of fighting through someone's sketch book while listening to classic Megadeth. Could be awesome. Comes out for the PS4 and the PS Vita as a limited exclusive.
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption – Transolar Games, 2016
Long, long ago on PCs from another era, Sierra On-Line brought the Quest for Glory series to players everywhere. They looked like one of their traditional adventure games, but these were RPGs where players could choose a class, fight monsters, and solve puzzles seemingly borrowed from King Graham's Daventry. They were a great hybrid of ideas and the original designers of the Quest series, Corey and Lori Cole, hit up Kickstarter with a new studio and a new idea for a spiritual successor. This time, players are heading to Hero-U, a training ground for up-and-coming heroes filled with puzzles, mystery, and hopefully, a lot of good times.
This project's had an extremely long incubation period – its KS started in 2012 – but it looks like it is finally nearing something of an ending in 2016. There's even a short demo showing off a tiny piece of the game on their main site available for anyone to download.
Torment: Tides of Numenera – inXile, 2016
inXile's no stranger to RPGs especially with their most recent success with Wasteland 2 (a really great game, btw). Their alumnus includes Brian Fargo whose Interplay in the 80s brought us The Bard's Tale series and an RPG-take on William Gibson's Neuromancer. His history goes even further back if you count a little known game called Demon's Forge from 1981. So yeah. He's had fantasy adventure coursing through his veins awhile.
Their latest, and presumably biggest, project after having returned to Wasteland is Numenera based on tabletop veteran, Monte Cook's, game of the same name which envisions a post-apocalyptic Earth billions of years into the future with the remnants of civilization standing atop the graves of others layered atop each other. It's a world where these fantastic and forgotten civs have left behind fragments of super science now seen as sorcery (cue Thundarr the Barbarian) while suggesting a thematic and mechanical tie-in to another classic CRPG familiar to fans of the genre – Black Isle's Planescape: Torment.
One interesting note is that both Monte Cook's Numenera and the CRPG based on it by inXile were both successfully Kickstarted. Numenera just released the backer beta for those who qualify (unfortunately, I wasn't one of them) and have entered Early Access on Steam.
Notes on Kickstarter
- Chasm - Pitch $150,000.00 Contributions $191,897.00 Started 4/12/13 Est Delivery May 2014
- Divinity Original Sin II - Pitch $500,000.00 Contributions $2,032,434.00 Started 8/26/15 Est Delivery December 2016
- The Dwarves - Pitch $260,000.00 Contributions $310,091.00 Started 9/1/15 Est Delivery June 2016
- Grim Dawn - Pitch $280,000.00 Contributions $537,515.00 Started 4/17/02 Est Delivery August 2013
- Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption - Pitch $400,000.00 Contributions $409,150.00 Started 10/19/12 Est Delivery October 2013
- Hyper Light Drifter - Pitch $27,000.00 Contributions $645,158.00 Started 9/12/13 Est Delivery June 2014
- Kingdom Come: Deliverance - Pitch $500,634.00 Contributions $1,846,290.00 Started 1/22/14 Est Delivery December 2015
- Torment: Tides of Numenera - Pitch $900,000.00 Contributions $4,188,927.00 Started 3/6/13 Est Delivery December 2014
As you can see from the table above, eight of the ten projects in this list initially debuted on Kickstarter. A few of these, like inXile's Torment, continued to take on funding via other means whether it was Early Access or accepting Paypal on an official site outside of Kickstarter.
One consistent refrain for Kickstarters for as long as I've been following the platform, at least where game projects like these are concerned, is to never rely on initial dates for deliverables. The majority of those projects both in this list and in that I have followed in general continue to prove one undeniable fact – game development is not easy. And in some extreme (and extremely publicized) cases, downright frightening.
The takeaway is that if you choose to back a project, keep in mind that the dates you see are likely pie-in-the-sky estimates subject to a number of unforeseen issues ranging from personal health or technical shortcomings. Another note is to do your own due diligence. Just because a project may have great credentials doesn't necessarily mean it will be immune to delays, or worse, failure.
In 6 out of 8 cases here, the projects missed their estimates by months or years. The other two are estimated to be due sometime this year. Four games, Hero-U, Grim Dawn, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and Torment, offer a form of “Early Access” either on Steam or via a demo.
So is there an indie RPG project that you've been keeping an eye on that you would like to mention? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments! Thanks for reading!