Seven Indie Games You Won’t Be Able to Put Down
Certain games just keep you coming back for more. Kicking back and loading up a title you have already beaten over a dozen times is one of the most relaxing things there is. No surprises, no regrets, and no reason not to have fun. Don’t just take our word for it though! Listed below are some lesser known treasures in the gaming world that exhibit that addictive je ne sais quoi. Who knows: you might even find your next binge.
INTO THE BREACH
INTO THE BREACH explores a seldom seen side of strategy games. Generally, one thing held constant in turn-based titles is a degree of randomness. When you make a decision, there may be strong probabilities of a certain outcome, but you’ll have no guarantee of what will happen until you pull the trigger. With INTO THE BREACH, Subset Games baked a “perfect information” feedback system into the combat, allowing players to receive precise feedback for what outcome any given selection would result in. This addition adds an incredible amount of depth to the planning process, and transitions gameplay to being more proactive than reactive. Having full certainty in their actions, people can make choices that are far riskier, and rewarding, than they’d typically be comfortable with. By removing all reservations, Subset offers a new chance to forgo the same old schemes they have used time and time again, and instead enjoy toying with new solutions to old puzzles. Or, more likely, because INTO THE BREACH pulls 10 to 20 maps from a collection of over 200 each go-around, not only is there potential to try new strategies in levels already conquered, but further replays may offer new experiences altogether.
Have you ever wondered how a snake might survive if it was thrown into a gauntlet of treacherous obstacles? If you answered yes, well, this is the game for you! In SNAKE PASS, players are thrown into the shoes (tail? body?) of a snake and must wrap their head around how contorting their limbless torso causes the sidewinder to slither, climb, leap, and hang in the hope of overcoming all the pits in their path. What really makes SNAKE PASS work is the emphasis it places on mastery over the single mechanic of controlling the wriggly reptile. In order to conquer the jungle gym-style obstacles in place, players must truly think like a snake and respond in kind. With significant areas for growth and improvement, anyone can progress through the entirety of the experience with no more than a primitive competency for snake physics, but those who truly enter the serpent can press themselves into increasingly mind-bending puzzles in search of the shiniest coins.
RPGs often become a test in grinding for higher levels, while strategy games can fail to balance different playstyles and tactics. PIT PEOPLE’s capture mechanic circumvents both. Like Pokémon, PIT PEOPLE is built around recruiting defeated NPCs to bolster the player’s own party. All characters possess a unique ability, from a unicorn that uses its horn as a rocket to an enormous troll that spawns children each turn. Each individual talent can be combined to different effect, allowing for every interaction to be a completely new experience. By utilizing the expansive peanut gallery of enemies, conflicts can range from quick battles with a couple of kobolds to an all out war between robots, penguins, and ghosts. Any encounter, though, no matter how large or small, can force a massive overhaul to a team’s lineup so that the band of unlikely heroes might stand a better chance fighting their foes. While this vast range of possibilities keeps players on their toes, it’s the sheer joy of discovering new combinations that will keep players coming back hour after hour.
SUNLESS SEA is captivating for the way that it ties resource management in with exploration and risk, with the only limits to your freedom lying in your own ability to plan ahead. In setting out from home port into the cloaked seas beyond, you must find a balance between fuel intake, light usage, hunger, and ship safety from the beasts below. The places traveled, the people seen, and the horrors faced along the way are unique to each playthrough, and upon falling victim to the cruel ocean, the world reorganizes like a puzzle box, sliding into a new normal. Never does SUNLESS SEA try to tell you how to tailor your style, though, or threaten you with consequences should you seek something different. Instead, it supports anyone who chooses to take risks, offering small safety nets of supplies and map information to future generations of sea captains after a terrible plunge into Davy Jones’ Locker. To possibly glimpse everything the ocean has to offer and piece together the elusive secrets along the way, gamers may need to command dozens of ships. The long-term result is feeling like you can experiment in traversing the terrifying unknown, while remaining optimistic in knowing failure is only a minor setback in uncovering the overarching mystery afoot.
KINGDOM: NEW LANDS
KINGDOM: NEW LANDS sits you down in the throne of your own private domain, and with the crown comes a massive treasure trove of . . . treasure. Following the age-old adage of “mo money, mo problems,” practically everyone is out to take what’s rightfully yours, from gluttonous invaders to uppity peasants who won’t work without pay. The biggest obstacle to your rule, however, is how willing you are to part with any of your wealth. Given the opportunity, this adventure presents itself as an introspection into a player’s own ambition and greed. Will you spread your gold too thin and open yourself up to attack, or refuse to spend and never expand beyond your starting territory? Both risks are clearly defined yet easy to fall into, so at some point, most people will experience each extreme. These inevitable failures function in tandem with the static setup of the early game to support a system of trial and error that necessitates replaying over and over again. In recognizing the potential for growth and development, KINGDOM’s gameplay and objectives extend the opportunity to learn more about personal balance, and with each passing attempt, failure is nothing more than a new chance to build a sweeping dynasty.
HUMAN FALL FLAT
HUMAN FALL FLAT finds its niche by creating goofy and absurd trials in doing anything and everything. Each locale requests a single thing from the player: reach the exit. This is easier said than done, as your character waddles about with all the finesse of a baseball stadium mascot. The fun comes from exploring, or more accurately, attempting to explore the world, trying to find a route to the finish line with the least risk of tumbling into oblivion. In much the same way that many adventure games might portray a location in a grand scale based off of the requirements needed to traverse the location at all, HUMAN FALL FLAT simply portrays climbing up a staircase to be a grand achievement worth celebrating. When every movement can be seen as a challenge, every moment left standing feels like a success, while the fat ragdoll rigging makes every fall an absolute riot. The biggest dilemma in HUMAN FALL FLAT is deciding whether it’ better to try and succeed for the sake of seeing more of the levels, or intentionally taking a dive for the opportunity to laugh. With defeats that are as satisfying as your victories, there is always an appeal in using newfound motor skills to climb to greater heights (and grander falls).
If I didn’t know any better, I could easily be led to believe that DWARF FORTRESS developed itself. The endlessly unpredictable ASCII empire sim stands strong as the silent longtime guardian of player freedom, strategy, and individual experience in gaming. If you have ever read a retelling of players using rabbits as projectiles, fighting an epidemic of godlike fish, or simply hugging a confused turkey, then you might have found an inkling of what this beast can provide. To even begin, you need to first get a hang of the technical language that drives the game’s flexible systems. That being said, the more you master playing, the more you have to accept that you really can’t master anything at all. Chaos reigns supreme in DWARF FORTRESS, and though immersing yourself within this mind-bending experience will leave you forever enraptured with the stories to be told, once you take a break, you might find a better understanding of how to deal with the disorder in the real world.