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Editorial

Indie Highlight Reel – August 6, 2017

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Welcome back to the Indie Highlight Reel, where some of the most interesting small projects from around the world get a moment in the sun. The latest entry brings together a stellar-looking JRPG-influenced title, a reworked and massively upgraded Flash game, and a powerful attempt to shine light on a very important humanitarian issue.

BEVONTULE

Bevontule is the debut effort from the two-person team at Ohio-based Multithreaded Games that aims to offer a novel experience, bringing together the strengths of JRPGs, WRPGs, and tactical RPGs.

Beginning life as a short story concept almost 20 years ago, developers Derek Bradley and Andy Fenton have evolved the original idea into a massive story-driven RPG. Taking place in the decaying fantasy world of Onich, Bevontule will follow a small party of characters determined to stave off the apocalypse on an adventure that will take players across a vast, diverse continent.

The game’s designer and programmer, Andy Fenton, says that the inspirations behind the game are almost as broad as the history of RPGs: “The plots and lore of games like Xenogears, Elder Scrolls and numbered Final Fantasies left lasting impressions. Bevontule’s large open areas that beg exploring hearken to Xenoblade and WRPGs, whereas the leveling and crafting systems borrow from Final Fantasy IX, Dragon Quest and Star Ocean.” Despite the breadth on offer in that list, Fenton insists that “Bevontule, in many ways, is a union of these fundamental, and yet sometimes disparate gameplay mechanics, the end result being what [he and Bradley] believe is a very cohesive and novel experience relative to many existing RPGs.”

Although the aspirations, visual style, and gameplay mechanics of Bevontule appear similar to Midgar Studio’s Kickstarter success story Edge of Eternity, Fenton emphasises that his game is a much more tactics-driven affair: “While Bevontule is a turn-based game like EoE, turn order is not driven by an ATB. Rather, a character’s speed determines not only their place in the initial turn order, but how often they can take a turn. Also, during each character’s turn the player can freely move anywhere within the movement radius, the size of which is determined by the character’s MOV stat, and also take an action (attack, skill, item). Since skills have varying degrees of ranges and areas of effect, much more of an emphasis on positioning and timing can be found in Bevontule. With the addition of the combo system (multiple skills executing in succession against the same target do more damage), the battles as a whole are more tactical.”

Multithreaded Games is currently targeting a late 2018 release on PC for Bevontule.

MY FRIEND PEDRO: BLOOD BULLETS BANANAS

DeadToast Entertainment’s My Friend Pedro: Blood Bullets Bananas shares a similarly lengthy concept process as Bevontule, but little else besides.

My Friend Pedro is a short, fast-paced 2D action game that released in 2014 after being initially developed almost 10 years ago. Blood Bullets Bananas is a complete reinvention of that original production, stretching the game’s 15 minutes of action across a adventure estimated to take upwards of four hours, while retaining the nutty story and exemplary acrobatics-infused shooting mechanics.

Despite being conceived as a standalone product, the project’s sole developer Victor Agren says that he now sees the Flash game as “a proving-ground for the ‘flipping through the air-mechanic’ and just the concept overall. I wasn’t certain it was something that was easy for people to wrap [their] heads around and get in to. But lo and behold, people got it and they seemed to love it!” For the upcoming remake, Agren has added a slew of levels, as well as new moves “and heaps of new environmental interactions” to expand on the action-movie antics.

For much of the period between My Friend Pedro’s creation and release, Agren was an employee of Media Molecule, working on the LittleBigPlanet series and Tearaway, and says that the biggest take-away from his time at the highly-acclaimed studio was how it “made [him] grow as a game maker. Mainly when it comes to level design, but it also allowed [Agren] to be around brilliant people who taught [him] about all aspects of game-making, and even life in general.”

My Friend Pedro: Blood Bullets Bananas currently has no release date, but will be available on Steam “when it’s ready.” Meanwhile, the original Flash game is playable here.

MISSING: THE COMPLETE SAGA

Finally, MISSING: The Complete Saga is a small part of a much larger humanitarian campaign to raise awareness about the realities of sex trafficking in India and across the world.

Currently seeking $50,000 on Kickstarter, MISSING: The Complete Saga is an expansion and reinvention of the mobile-based MISSING Game for a Cause that released for free last year. While the original app followed a woman, Champa, in her attempts to escape a life of forced prostitution, The Complete Saga will chart a full life course, beginning with Champa as a young girl in her isolated village, through an attack of sex traffickers, and her attempts to build a new life following her escape.

Despite the dangers of misrepresentation inherent in a game with such a tricky premise, the project’s leader, artist and activist Leena Kejriwal, says that ensuring the story is true and respectful as always been a central focus of development: “For me… it was very important that the story was very true. For that reason I took my game designers Satyajit to meet survivors, to the village [in West Bengal] where we work at the ground level where there are girls who are going missing, I took him to meet a survivor and somebody who used to have to prostitute herself and now she can talk about her life after in the red light areas of Calcutta. I made him walk into red lights that he had never walked into before. It was very important for me that he understands the space that we were talking about… It was very important the game not be voyeuristic or graphic in any way.”

Originally conceived as an augmented reality app, a number of creative limitations led MISSING to be re-envisioned as a real-life RPG, with player choices giving Champa a range of skills that will help her to survive and flourish in a dangerous world. With gameplay changing depending on how old Champa is, MISSING is designed to feel true-to-life, which helps players to empathise with the character. Kejriwal says that this path was taken to ensure that the experience is “immersive” and allows players to feel “responsible for her future and [be able to] experience her helplessness and frustration first hand.”

The entire MISSING project began as a public art installation of “a silhouette of a girl set against the sky, larger than life, like black holes into which millions of girls disappear from the face of the earth,” and has since been expanded with a worldwide stencil campaign and a creative collective encompassing poetry, plays, and art. More details about the wider MISSING project are available here.

The game, meanwhile, is currently expected to arrive in April 2018.

https://youtu.be/Eyo8neCiLj8


Be sure to let us know if any of these projects have piqued your interest. Otherwise, if you are an indie developer interested in having your game featured in the Indie Highlight Reel, please do get in touch!

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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