Welcome back to the Indie Highlight Reel, OnlySP’s fortnightly round-up of the most intriguing projects to emerge from the creative minds of small teams. This latest iteration brings together a story-centric take on the metroidvania genre, a curious platformer/RPG hybrid, a turn-based sci-fi SRPG, and point-and-click adventure that is artistic in more ways than one.
ANEW: THE DISTANT LIGHT
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, Anew: The Distant Light is shaping up as a brilliantly inventive addition to the metroidvania genre.
Created by the two-man team at Resonator (alongside freelance composer Will Roget, II), Anew aims to bring a refined narrative sensibility to the classic genre, though without relying on the traditional method of cutscenes. According to Jeff Spoonhower, the game’s art, story, and sound director, Anew will feature only two cinematics (one each at the beginning and end of the adventure), with the remainder of the narrative being delivered “as cinematically as possible—using audio/visual language.” Instead, “the world literally tells the story. [Players] will pass through mysterious, incongruous spaces embedded in the alien world, and within them… learn more about the game’s backstory, [the main] character, and more.” An example of this approach is found in the most recent trailer (embedded below), which ends with a brief glimpse of a child’s bedroom, hinting at the history of the main character, who was one of the last children born on the devastated planet Earth, sent into space as a baby for a mysterious missions on a moon 20 light years away.
By adopting an alien planet as the setting, Resonator is able to make a number of changes to the traditional format of the genre. While Anew includes a massive open world, game-changing gear, and over-the-top bosses, “players will be able to show off some really insane combat manoeuvres and combos,” according the game’s drector and programmer, Steve Copeland. Some of those acrobatics will require gadgets, but will nevertheless be “baseline play for everyone, while still leaving lots of headroom for fancy, high-skill stunts.” Furthermore, different areas will feature varied gameplay, and Copeland highlights one that will have gamers “circumnavigating the surfaces of asteroids, going upside down, and jumping between them,” as well as zones that will require the use of alien vehicles, including “alien tanks, flying saucers, rocket ships, dune buggies, big mechs, ridiculously big mechs, and [the] insanely huge homeship ‘Hope’ that has an entire explorable zone inside.”
Despite being a debut studio, Copeland and Spoonhower have, between them, amassed more than 30 years experience in the games industry, working on such highly-acclaimed franchises as Bioshock, Uncharted, Borderlands, Saints Row, and Resistance. As with many other AAA-developers-gone-indie, the duo cites freedom as the motivation behind the decision to leave massive projects behind, with Spoonhower saying “after working in the large studio system for over 15 years each, we were ready to do something new and to push ourselves to the max as far as utilizing everything we’ve learned during our careers in games.” “Because of our small studio size, we didn’t need to pitch our vision for Anew to anyone else—no publishers, investors, or middle management were involved in greenlighting our project. We have been free to design the game in ways that will be fun, challenging, and inspiring for players—that includes gameplay mechanics, art direction, narrative techniques, and so much more.” However, one of the best parts of being outside of the traditional development system is being intimately involved in every part of the production: “It’s been awesome to be able to tell folks that the entire game has been built by just the two of us!”
Anew: The Distant Light is currently targeting a July 2018 release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, with the possibility of a Nintendo Switch version being considered.
Finishing a Square-Enix Collective campaign earlier this week with an impressive 90% approval rating, Ved is billed as a 2D platformer/RPG hybrid from Lithuanian studio Karaclan.
Taking place in a fantasy universe inspired by tabletop RPGs, Ved will cast players as Kir, a young man recently arrived in the city of Micropolis to look for work, who inadvertently stumbles on the hidden truth about the city and the curious relationship between science and magic within the world. Exact details about the game are fairly scarce, though Karaclan’s Vladimir Babadzhan explains that Kir is a reserved and pensive youth whose solitary lifestyle makes communication difficult for him. Despite this issue, narrative is paramount in the game, with Babadzhan saying that the team aims to offer an “exciting and complicated story.”
While the core gameplay will be built around traditional platforming elements and combat, the role-playing aspects will emerge through the “many choices” within the interactive fiction, a few of which can be found on the game’s Square-Enix Collective campaign page. Unfortunately, the exact depth of the RPG systems is not clear.
The most intriguing part of Ved, however, is the visuals, which use shadow and light effectively to create an evocative dark fantasy world full of monsters and danger, alongside rare glimpses of true beauty.
Ved is currently targeting a 2018 release on PC, Xbox One, and mobile platforms, with a PlayStation 4 version also being considered. Before then, however, Karaclan intends to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the game, though Babadzhan was reluctant to provide a launch date or funding goal.
Having set a final release date for September 21, 2017 this week, Ancient Frontier is the second project from Iowa-based Fair Weather Studios.
As with many burgeoning creatives, the team is using its sophomore effort to expand on its debut, but in a very different way than most. Last year, Fair Weather Studios released Bladestar, a procedurally-generated shmup, supported by a strong fiction. Ancient Frontier takes the universe and factions from Bladestar and repurposes them for a turn-based strategy RPG. The game’s designer, Christian Mosbo, said that the reason for including this connective tissue between the projects is twofold: “First, it was a way for us to tie our first and second projects together despite them being in very different genres. Second, it gave us a big head start on our second game. A lot of work went into designing the factions, their ships and the locations you would visit.”
Despite the retention of some elements, the developers have also added more factions and locations to Ancient Frontier, resulting in “a creative snowball effect” that helped to expand on successful ideas and provide a context for the generation of new content.
When asked about the decision to make such a radical departure from gameplay style with the newer project, rather than adopting a more iterative approach, Mosbo stated that”the shift in genres was in part driven by what game [the team] wanted to make.” Rather than being burdensome, “the new challenges presented were invigorating and is part of what keeps us coming back, to keep pushing ourselves and trying to perfect our craft,” according to Mosbo. Some of the biggest adaptations for Ancient Frontier have been the need to create higher-quality models for each of the game’s spaceships, and to offer a UI that makes vast quantities of information available to the player in a straightforward and easily-readable manner.
Further details about Ancient Frontier are available in OnlySP’s previous coverage. The game will be available on PC next month.
LONA: REALM OF COLORS
Finally, Lona: Realm of Colors is an evocative and meaningful art game that launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this week.
As with many projects that endeavour to put story and experience foremost, Lona: Realm of Colors is built around the idea of minimal player input. This point-and-click adventure will lack a fail state, and will instead focus on ensuring that players engage with the transportive environments on offer across the fifteen levels. Each of those levels takes place within a painting, tasking users with striking a balance between the dark and logical art of the Mr Ruppel persona, and the brightly chaotic creations of the Mrs Schmidt persona. To do so, players will take the role of Lona, whose profound reliance on painting to escape the troubles of the realm world has caused her to become trapped within her productions.
The whimsical world is heavily inspired by the works of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, while the art style draws from Otto Schmidt, who receives a nod by having a character named after him.
More information about the game is available in OnlySP’s previous coverage. Lona: Realm of Colors is currently targeting a PC release in August next year. In the meantime, the Kickstarter will run for another 25 days, and is currently a little over one-third of the way to its final goal.
If any of these games have caught your eye, be sure to let us know! Otherwise, if you’re an indie developer and think your game would be a good fit for the Indie Highlight Reel, please get in touch!