Welcome again, dear readers, to the Indie Highlight Reel, shining a focus on more brilliant games from the indie sector. This iteration offers up a quaint medieval city-builder, and a bombastic 90s-inspired action shooter.
With its debut effort, Foundation, Polymorph Games is looking to edge into the city-builder genre, and may succeed in making a name for itself based on novelty alone. Rather than leaping towards the contemporary and future settings so prevalent within the genre, the game instead takes players back to the Middle Ages and aims to replicate the disorganisation of medieval towns.
According to the game’s Creative Director, Philippe Dion, the lack of predefined buildings spaces will among the defining features of the project. The concept, he said, “was born in a context where the majority of medieval City Builders restrict the players to build on a grid. As City Builder fans, we find those limitations frustrating and a contradiction with real medieval cities that are built in a chaotic/organic pattern.” As such, “Foundation is totally gridless and will focus on the building experience of a medieval-looking city.” This idea of free-building expands beyond just the layout of the city, with houses adapting to topography on-the-fly and certain buildings also being fully customisable.
Most city-builder titles, from SimCity to Aven Colony, include high-resource, late-game structures that provide massive boosts to morale or other community variables. In Foundation, such buildings take the form of monuments (churches, cathedrals, castles, and abbeys), which can be designed by the player by selecting individual parts and mixing different architectural elements. To help make each building unique, Foundation will include various different architectural styles, “but exclusively Middle Age ones.” Therefore, while Romanesque and Gothic structures can be built, later forms, such as Baroque, Georgian, or Neoclassicism will not appear. According to Dion, this focus on freedom is intended to allow players “to shape a city out of [their] imagination or to reproduce [a] historical one.”
One of the more immediately accessible features of the game is the quaint art style, with its bright colours that accentuate a sense of peace and prosperity. The tone appears at odds with the reality of life in the Middle Ages, which was often short and violent. Dion addresses this apparent contradiction by confirming that while “Foundation has a lighthearted style, yes there will be more brutal and unpleasant aspects.” Unfortunately, Dion was not at liberty to discuss the extent or shape of those features, although he did hint that they may arise from the relationships that players form with neighbouring cities within the game. Although Foundation will not feature an overarching storyline, it is designed with a sandbox ethos that allows emergent narratives. As time progresses, players will “have to deal with the estates of the medieval age (Church, Nobility and Bourgeoisie). Random events and quests will happen throughout the game and you will have to decide how you react to them, and this will have an impact on your population and your estate relationships.”
Blending a high degree of player freedom with an emergent narrative, Foundation could be a novelty that introduces some revelatory ideas to the entrenched city-builder genre when it releases at the end of next year.
Announced earlier this week, Hellbound is a 90s-inspired horror FPS from a long-established Argentinian studio better known for thoughtful (though still horrific) adventure games. While the FPS genre has increasingly chased spectacle, methodical pacing, and multiplayer, Hellbound is setting all those things aside for its initial release and breaking out with fast-paced, gory violence.
After capping off the well-received Doorways series with Holy Mountains of Flesh in August last year, the team at Saibot Studios began work on Hellbound, which is shaping up as an incredibly ambitious undertaking for the small studio. The game’s director, Tobias Rusjan, says that the classic FPS games, such as Doom, Quake, and Duke Nukem are among his favourites, and that he has “always wanted to make this kind of game, but… couldn’t because of [a] lack of resources and experience.” Only after the successful completion of the Doorways saga did the team finally meet the conditions that would allow it to embark on such an intense production.
Rusjan plays down the team’s inexperience with the FPS genre, saying that several staff members have worked on action games in the past, but beyond simply changing genre, Hellbound also sees the team switching the Unreal Engine 4 after using Unity for Doorways. He calls the engine switch “tough,” but says that the decision was right. “We decided to go to Unreal because we want to reach the highest visual results we can. Unity is faster to make games, but Unreal is still the better option in terms [of] rendering/performance.” This attention on visuals and performance is a part of Rusjan’s philosophy of “quality over quantity,” which will also extend to the shape of the initial release of Hellbound.
For now, Saibot Studios is keeping the vision of the game contained, planning to release a single-player Survival Mode first before expanding from that base. “We would love to make Hellbound multiplayer,” he says “but we decided to make the first steps in something simpler… If things go well in terms of money, we will go to the [multiplayer and single-player campaign].” The closed beta for the Survival Mode is expected to begin “very soon,” with registration currently open on the game’s official website, but the team has not yet decided how to monetise the project. “Crowdfunding is an option,” according to Rusjan, “[b]ut we maybe also offer the option of paying to support the project [directly from the website] when we have the closed beta available.”
Meanwhile, the studio is not releasing any story details (besides the fact that players will take control of a hulking beast of a man named Hellgore as he slays demons in Hell) at present.
Let us know if either of these very different games has piqued your interest. Otherwise, if you’re an indie developer interested in having your game featured in the Indie Highlight Reel, get in touch with us!