Admittedly, when I first started gaming, I used to only play AAA titles. Give me all the Madden and Call of Duty titles that you could offer. But, as my tastes slowly changed, I’ve learned to love the creativity and risks that independent developers would take; something that is often sorely missing on the AAA scale. Each and every year indie devs manage to top what they did in the previous year and 2020 seems no different. I made a list of five of my top upcoming indie games. This list could have easily hit 10, 20 or even the 30 mark, but these five were those ones that really hit the mark, whether due to their creativity, the devs past titles or a combination of both. These are my five most anticipated upcoming indie games.
You know the saying, “never judge a book by its cover?” Well yeah, I judged this one by the first screen I saw. Cris Tales looks absolutely stunning. Add to the fact that it is said to be a love letter to classic JRPGs, and you have the perfect blend of what loads of people are begging for. The game’s unique feature is that, during turn-based battles and when out in the overworld, you have to shift enemies to the past or to the present. For instance, your talking toad companion has the ability to shift, and in one area, you have to plant a seed and then shift to the future to get the fruited plant. In battle, you use a water attack on an enemy’s impenetrable shield and then shift to the future to make it rust to discover its weakness. Just those two instances alone provide high-hopes for the Cris Tales might unravel in its later levels.
With such a unique story, a creative art design and really going back to classic JRPG roots, it’s easy to see why Cris Tales is on my most anticipated upcoming indie titles list. Still not sold? Maybe a demo might sway your opinion? There’s a demo that is roughly 45-minutes long that lets you touch various different aspects of the game. You can experience a few turn-based battles, you get to dip your toes into the lore, use the time mechanic and meet a slew of key characters. Seriously, download the demo and try it out for yourself.
Demo Download: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1079830/Cris_Tales/
Developer: Dreams Uncorporated @D_Uncorporated, SYCK
Publisher: Modus Games @Modus_Games
Systems: PS4, XboxOne, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 2020
What’s the easiest way to get me to sign off on a game? Set it in a cyberpunk Universe. Checkmate to Cloudpunk. But, as the general aesthetic drew me in, the art style and visuals put an exclamation point on my excitement. How absolutely stunning is Cloudpunk? As their official site explains, “Your name is Rania. This is your first night working for Cloudpunk, the semi-legal delivery company based in the sprawling city of Nivalis. You go everywhere, from the Marrow below to the spires that pierce the grey clouds high above before scraping the edge of the troposphere. No delivery job is too dangerous, and no one is faster than a Cloudpunk driver.” A unique take, being a delivery driver in a cyberpunk world has all the offerings one could ever want. It could also be my recent watches of Blade Runner and Akira, admittedly.
It’s something that games have been doing exceedingly well as of late, taking mundane tasks and making them exciting. These tasks are in a universe that truly sets them apart from what came before and makes. what essentially amounts to fetch quests… fun. Oftentimes, its games just like that that draw more story out of its characters, more life, than ones that pound in dialogue via expansive blocks of text or convoluted dialogue. Their simplified gameplay structure usually parlays into a meta-commentary which helps to round out the total package. I’d be shocked if this weren’t the same for Cloudpunk.
Developer: Ion Lands @ionlands
Publisher: ON LANDS, Maple Whispering Limited
Release Date: Early 2020
Time loops are nothing new in any form of media, but there is always something about them when they are done well in video games. Twelve Minutes sees you having a relaxing evening with your wife before a cop breaks through the romance by accusing your wife of murder and proceeding to kill you, and then boom. You are back to the moment just before you open the door, 12 minutes to discover what can be done to avoid your fatal fate. I’m not usually all that high on top down games, but the premise and seemingly contained story has me thrilled. I’ve been keeping tabs on the title from its first reveal and can’t wait to see how the story is twisted loop after loop.
After watching Kinda Funny Games playthrough of 40 minutes of an alpha version, the organic way the player learns is quite stunning. In the game, your wife tests you on how you can prove that your afternoon is restarting, and you have to use cues picked up throughout that first 12 minutes to do so. It is a sort of point & click style game, but it never seems to be as random as some of those can be. From watching them play, it felt far less frustrating because they didn’t have to pixel peep throughout the play area. Connecting objects felt natural, if a tad limiting in the alpha footage. Luis discussing how nearly everything is interactable in the apartment was a sigh of relief since the story appears to be contained within the apartment’s handful of rooms.
Developer: Luis Antonio @facaelectrica
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive @A_i
Systems: XBOX One, PC
Release Date: 2020
In 2017, Sidebar games released an eclectic golf rpg, aptly named Golf Story. The mix of an rpg with a golfer looking at one last change to become a pro was an interesting premise. I didn’t think there could really be all that much to explore, but the various lands where you were tasked with things from battling disc golfers to solving murders proved my initial thoughts very, very wrong. Add to the fact that the dialogue was witty and extremely sarcastic, I shook my head just about as much as I laughed, a must for a 13+ hour title.
So, what sport does Sidebar games decide to tackle for their next sports rpg? Apparently all of them. My only complaint with Golf Story was that the golfing mini-type games droned on a bit, but I can’t imagine that would be so with the plethora of sports that will be a part of Sports Story.
Developer: Sidebar Games @sidebargames
Publisher: Sidebar Games
Systems: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Mid-2020
You know those games where the helpless hero tries to fight against a man-made abomination? Yeah..this time, you are the man-made abomination taking out your revenge on the helpless workers and soldiers. Labeled as a reverse horror game, Carrion is a metroidvania-lite title with tons of gore of slithering smooth controls making it a must-buy. Being able to demo the game during VGAs (I believe) quelled my fears of how the killer blob navigated. The movement was a bit loose, but a handful of minutes allowed for perfect execution of my captors. There was just something about slinking around and murdering that just felt so good. Certain parts of the demo were even a bit difficult, but because you are able to grow and evolve (including getting new abilities), the game felt both fair and fresh.
I think one of the two most enthralling aspects of the demo were the sound design and the locomotion. Hearing your captors scream as a huge red blob of death approaches was morbidly hilarious. The movement, which was easy to come to terms with, was also a spotlight because it allowed for quick, fluid death. It seemed far less about precision and more about how quickly you could, sometimes clumsily, kill things.
Developer: Phobia Game Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital @devolverdigital
Systems: XBOX One, PC
Release Date: 2020
This is my list of my five most anticipated upcoming indies. Will this list be added to in the future, or maybe even a new post looking at future indies after these release? Most certainly. Odds are, that list will be closer to 10-15 upcoming games.