Indies to keep an eye on at Gamescom 2017
Take a break from the AAA with these must-watch indie games.
If there's one place that embodies the 'bigger is better' ethos, it's any major video game convention. Huge booths pump out music at volumes loud enough to rattle your skull while giant statues of Marcus Fenix leer down at your like you were some sort of grub deserving of the sharp end of his Lancer. That attitude carries over to many of the games, too, with flashy trailers showcasing a dozen different versions of The End Times punctuated by more explosions than Michael Bay could imagine in his wildest dreams.
Spectacle like this can be entertaining, don't get me wrong, but sometimes you just want a game that's a little less loud. That's why we've sidestepped the centre stages and gone for a tour around the periphery of Gamescom 2017's massive line-up, hunting down the smaller experiences that too often get overlooked. Clear your schedule, because these are the indie games you need to keep an eye on at Gamescom 2017.
Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption
Announced just a few weeks ago, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption has its sights set firmly on channelling the oppressive Souls games, but there's more to its monstrous bosses and heavy combat than mere imitation. For starters, Sinner tells a far more personal story than any of From Software's games. Adam, the game's protagonist, is trapped in a twisted realm shaped by his darkest sins, and his quest for redemption can unfold in multiple ways depending on how you approach each of the game's grotesque bosses. Adam may find peace—or he may suffer forever for the sins of his past.
Boss battles are another area where Sinner is distinguishing itself from its inspiration. Before taking on each boss, you'll have to sacrifice one of your stats and level it down, forcing you to fight smarter to compensate. Admittedly, this could get frustrating if you're the kind of player who likes to grind themselves into invincibility, but if it's handled right, it could make for a satisfyingly tense challenge.
Fall of Light
Escort missions are normally the bane of any adventure, so building an entire game around playing virtual chauffeur is a bold move. It does help Fall of Light stand out from other isometric action RPGs, though, as does the game's premise: you're a retired warrior leading his young daughter through a world engulfed in darkness, searching for the one place that still knows the warming touch of sunlight.
Fall of Light promises to use this premise to explore similar themes of love and connection that ICO was so praised for back on the PS2. If it can deliver on that promise, and its animation-heavy combat ends up feeling as good as it looks, Fall of Light could be one of the standout indies of Gamescom.
When Descenders was announced a couple of weeks back, it tickled the itch we've had for years waiting for another Skate game from EA. Whether it really digs its nails in and scratches so good remains to be seen, but you can bet we're looking forward to catching more of Descenders' death-wish biking when it careens its way to Germany.
Away: Journey to the Unexpected
It's been a long five months since Away: Journey to the Unexpected teased us with its delightfully-anime visuals and its endearingly quirky characters. Thankfully, the charming first-person adventure is coming to Gamescom, and we're hoping to see more of how its enchanting trailer will translate into actual gameplay.
AER - Memories of Old
Quick poll: how many people remember Animorphs? If you don't, never fear; with all the '90s remakes going on nowadays, it's only a matter of time before the adventures of shape-shifting teenagers gets rebooted in one form or another. At any rate, Animorphs is the first thing that came to mind when I saw the trailer for AER, a game where you play as a girl who can transform into a bird and take flight at will. That's a power I always wished I had when reading the Animorphs books, and I'm keen to see how AER will use it to deliver the exploration-focused adventure it's promising.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons
Wouldn't it be nice to open up a portal to summer in the middle of a frosty winter? Or to spend a miserable autumn day frolicking in the verdant fields of a flawless spring? This is the power young Ary of Ary and the Secret of Seasons has, and it looks to be just as empowering as it sounds. By conjuring spheres that contain the essence of a particular season, Ary can freeze enemies, melt ice and solve a variety of environmental puzzles that change form from season to season. It's an impressive power with a lot of potential for brain-bending puzzles, and we hope to see some examples of that when the game struts its stuff at Gamescom.
No Truce with the Furies
A 100% dialogue-only RPG set in a world that blends fantasy, sci-fi and cop dramas? That's so close to my dream game it's scary. Throw in the ability to literally take a trip inside your head and have a chin-wag with your thoughts, and No Truce with the Furies has secured the top spot on not just my Gamescom must-watch list, but my absolute must-play list, too.
As encouraging as the increasing popularity of titles like Stardew Valley and Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is, there's still a distinct lack of games that explore themes of co-operation and non-violence. That's why Solo's focus on love and connection looks so refreshing. Described as a contemplative, meditative adventure, Solo has you play the role of a sailor setting out on a journey to find love. Through introspective questions, the game will challenge your thoughts on the concept of love, and the game itself will change depending on your answers.
This reflective narrative is intriguing enough by itself, but Solo also promises a similarly pensive gameplay experience, with creative puzzles to solve, cute animals to befriend and picturesque islands to explore. That's more than enough to grab our attention.