Each week our resident Indie Gamer Nicholas takes a look at a different Indie Game that you may or may not have heard about. Join him on his adventures as he sifts through the rubbish to find The Indie Game of the Week.
Sit back, folks. I'm going to tell you a story. The year is 2050. The world you live in is one rife with magic and cybernetics, filled with mythological beings and advanced technology. You are a shadowrunner - an underworld specialist who does the jobs that no one else wants to do (or be associated with). Life used to be pretty good for you, but you've since fallen on rather hard times. You barely have enough money to survive until the end of the week, and to be frank, you're lucky your apartment isn't condemned or on fire.
Then you receive a phone call from a dead man.
Turns out, your old friend and fellow runner Sam somehow managed to get himself killed. Since he expected something like this might eventually happen, he set up a dead man's switch(coincidentally, that's the name of the campaign included with Shadowrun Returns) to call you. Find his killer, and you'll be rolling in cash (he offers you 100,000 nuyen to figure out how he died).
I'm not going to mince words. While the game has faults(chief among these is the oft-horrendous grammar), Shadowrun Returns is positively fantastic, and feels like a love story written to the isometric fantasy RPGs of the 90s. The turn-based combat is tactical enough to be enjoyable, but not so tactical that things ever feel overly unfair. The 3D models and hand-drawn backgrounds are downright beautiful, and the soundtrack is absolutely glorious. I'm also rather fond of the way Harebrained Schemes handled hacking; players equipped with a deck can enter into a TRON-like cybernetic realm known as the Matrix, where they'll do battle with security programs and other hackers.
Character progression is done through a system somewhat similar to the Shadowrun tabletop. All stats and skills are leveled up through a resource known as Karma, which is gained by completing both sidequests and full missions. This system actually affords a great deal of freedom where building your character is concerned: you aren't actually limited to any one class or skill-set. The six classes (Street Samurai, Physical Adept, Shaman, Mage, Decker, and Rigger) can easily level up any set of skills or abilities they choose.
The races, too, don't have much an impact on what you choose to be, save that several of them have different minimum and maximum values on the abilities governing your various skills. Trolls, for example, can have the highest max strength (at 12), but suffer a considerable penalty to intellect. As such, they probably wouldn't make the best hackers.
The best thing about Shadowrun Returns, though, is the fact that Harebrained Schemes has packaged it with a robust campaign creation tool, which allows players to basically craft their own Shadowrun game from the ground up. I plan to spend my fair share of time with it, and I'm sure many others are going to do the same. Keep your eyes peeled, folks. Dead Man's Switch is in actuality just the appetizer: the best is yet to come.
Indie Game Of The Week: Magicka
This week, I'm revisiting an old favorite of mine - and one that I desperately hope you've heard of. Magicka tells the tale of one to four homicidal, sociopathic wizards, their not-vampire instructor, and an eldritch abomination that threatens to destroy the whole world. Did I mention you can blow up pretty near anything you've a mind to?
Indie Game of The Week: Glare
This week we'll be taking a look at a recently-released platformer known as Glare. You're a being of pure light, tasked with saving a solar system from a race of parasites that are devouring the sun.
Indie Game of The Week: Huntsman: The Orphanage
This week, I'll be taking a look at Huntsman: The Orphanage; a rather fresh take on the horror genre that manages to convey fear and anxiety without any violence or gore whatsoever. It's actually pretty impressive.
Indie Game of The Week: Outlast
This week, we'll be taking a look at Outlast, a horror game that tosses you into the shoes of independent journalist Miles Upshur as he explores the sinister Mount Massive Asylum. Spoiler alert: it doesn't go so well for dear Miles.
Indie Game Of The Week: The Bridge
This week, we're going to take a look at puzzle platformer "The Bridge," a rather esoteric game about a mad scientist, impossible geometry, and a reckless disregard for the laws of time, space, physics, and gravity. Shall we get started?
Indie Game Of The Week: Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
For those of you who've been living under a rock, I've some news: Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs has finally released. It's about as terrifying as everyone expected it to be, but for entirely different reasons.
Indie Game of The Week: Orion: Dino Horde
This week, I'll be playing Orion: Dino Horde. It's a squad-based shooter with dinosaurs. Really, what more do you need to know?
Indie Game Of The Week: Gone Home
We've become pretty obsessed with the idea of violence as a method for storytelling - enough so that we often tend to forget that there are other ways. In order to be a worthwhile experience, a game need neither be couched in a driven narrative nor require a bloodbath. Gone Home is proof of this.
Indie Game of The Week: Bloodlust: Vampire Shadowhunter
This week, we'll be taking a look at Bloodlust: Vampire Shadowhunter. Developed by WRF Studios, Bloodlust is a classic action-RPG that puts you in the shoes of a vampire (or half-vampire) who's somehow managed to find their way into a vast underground city. Although it's still not officially released, what we've seen so far is very promising indeed.
Indie Game of the Week: Retro City Rampage
Ever wondered what Grand Theft Auto might look like as an 8-bit Nintendo game? Wonder no more. This week's indie game, Retro City Rampage, takes the GTA series, makes it old-school, and peppers it with a million different pop culture references.