From it's humble beginnings in the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, I knew that the event would surely grow, change, and even someday be more relevant than even E3 or other "trade shows" when it came to my personal interests in gaming. Sure, Microsoft and Sony were still there, but whereas in the past I might wait in the obscenely long lines to play the newest demo they had to offer, nowadays my time is better spent in the back corner of the 4th floor of the Expo hall (and even the 6th floor extension of the hall) looking at what the smaller teams of developers (sometimes even just one person) are bringing to the table when it comes to the future of gaming. After 4 days, I can assure you that future is so bright you gotta wear shades.
I'm going to run through a couple of my favorites from the show, as well as a few honorable mentions. The best part of this convention in addition to playing the games is actually being able to talk face to face with the people making the games themselves. But enough of my rambling, lets get to the best of the 2016 class.
The Honor Roll
I'll be honest, when I saw the trailer for the game, I thought it looked like a simple Diablo clone. After a bit more reading and actually getting my hands on the game at the show, I'm interested to play more of the game when it's released. The first worry I had was that it was being advertised as "point and click" but luckily they had controller support in the build I played. This meant direct control over the character, which to me is the ideal way to play a game like this going forward and developers big and small should make it an option. The fact that it's loosely based on Indian mythos was another intriguing aspect of the game, and even promises of a procedurally generated skill tree makes this a game I'd like to sit down with a few friends a play for at least a few more hours for sure.
This one was completely off my radar, but after some convincing from Chris I decided to give this mobile game a shot. I've got a soft spot for quirky puzzle games, and got a pretty nice "Lemmings" vibe from this one right from the start. It's got a real sharp art style and a simplistic enough interface that makes it perfect for bite sized play. I can see myself getting this on my phone and plugging away at a level or two while the TV is on in the background. I also appreciate that the developers are constantly moving forward with new ideas and putting out games fast without sacrificing quality and not chasing the "popular" trends.
I really didn't have any idea about this game, but decided to give it a shot, and was pleasantly surprised to find a fast paced, precisely controlling and genuinely fun twin stick shooter (the jump is mapped to a trigger to keep your hands on both sticks at the same time). Better still, with some clear inspiration from Ikaruga the game's 2 player co-op mode appears to unlock new levels of strategy. I'm planning on taking a look at the original sometime soon to see if the basis for this sequel plays just as well.
As someone who has fond memories of Call of the Wild, a game about your relationship with a team of sled dogs had me intrigued, but when I saw the game was being demoed with an NES controller I knew I'd like it immediately. After running through their demo, the simplistic, retro look hides what appears to be a much deeper strategy game than is on the surface. With inspirations seemingly from Oregon Trail to XCOM, this game which is out in a few short weeks looks like it will be a fun little adventure, even if one of my sled dogs ruined my chances at winning the race.
There were so many games in the Indie Minibooth, so many that it even swapped their entire lineup after the first 2 days of the conference, but that just meant I got the chance to try out this beauty on Sunday. With some unique characters, retro inspired aesthetic and fast and responsive gameplay I only wish I had known about this one when they had their Kickstarter so I could have pledged back then.
After hearing a bit about this game last year from Dan, I was again led to a game that feels familiar yet still trying some new things with a well worn genre. As a fan of games like Heroes of Might and Magic as well as Disciples, this game has much in common, but with an actual quest system and the promise of true co-op play either on the couch or online, this looks like a game I could jump into with some friends quite often when it finally is released. Doesn't hurt that it has a pretty cool art style either.
I literally knew nothing about this game before walking by their booth within the Indie Megabooth proper, but when a slot opened up to play, I jumped at the chance. It's a simple concept, a Metroidvania with a central "hub" world and dungeons that branch off of the main area. It's got an excellent art style and the lighting effects alone make me anxious to spend more time in the post apocalyptic/sci-fi inspired world that has been created for many satisfying hours.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret (get it) about me....I think Zelda is one of the best series of all time, last few games excluded. But make the main character an adorable fox, add some Dark Souls style combat (stamina meters, monitoring attack patterns) and the classic freedom of exploration of the original Legend of Zelda and you've got a good idea what to expect from this game. It looks jaw droppingly awesome, and when talking to one of the developers it still apparently is in the very early stages. Which makes me even more excited to see what the final product will be.
Listen, Bards always seem to get a bad wrap, they've never gotten to be the "true" hero that they deserve to be. That finally looks to be changing with this game, and I haven't felt such a sense of whimsy and joy while playing a game since the Katamari Damacy release over a decade ago. With puzzle solving as well as a rhythm based music game all blended together and an art style that reminds me of the hand torn construction paper art projects I did back in school, this was truly the biggest surprise of the show for me.
As is always the case, there were several other games I got the chance to try that we will definitely talk about in more detail. I'm just so amazed with how much these small teams (or even individuals) are able to accomplish.