Indies at E3 2019: Five Games to Watch Out For

by David Sanchez June 16, 2019 @ 9:59 am

In the past, the buzz surrounding E3 usually revolved around what the big name publishers were doing. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda. For quite some time now, that hasn’t been completely the case. Yes, those big names draw in the massive crowds, but there are also smaller, more niche titles for folks looking for something a little different. This year, there was an even bigger presence of indie games than ever before. That’s great, because it means there are even more types of games for us to play and to look forward to.

IndieCade usually does it pretty big at E3 every year, and Devolver Digital has a more badass outlaw presence, with its show space located outside the convention center. But what about the rest? I loved what I saw at both IndieCade and Devolver, but there were other games that didn’t get the same level of exposure but were still worth a look. Here are five indie games from E3 to put on your radar.

Eldest Souls (Fallen Flag Studio)

You may have already guessed that Eldest Souls is inspired by From Software’s Souls franchise, but it’s also influenced by other titles such as Titan Souls and Furi. While you are but a mere pixelated adventurer thrust into a grand, beautiful world, the game is less about exploration and more about defeating massive gods.

I played the tutorial level, which taught me the basics. You know the score by now: weak attacks, charge attacks, special attacks. After the game showed me the ropes, though, I encountered the first boss. The creature was massive and bestial, and while it may have been the final part of the tutorial, it took me a handful of tries to defeat the monstrous deity.

The boss threw quick swipes, but it also unleashed area of effect damage, and big ground pounds followed by destructive dashes forward. At first, I swung wildly and rolled away, but then I started using charge attacks, which filled a meter. With this meter full, I could unleash stronger quick attacks or a bigger special attack.

The game was fun and challenging, and I could see where the devs deviated from the standard Souls formula to create something a little different. The folks at Fallen Flag Studio told me they’re still working hard on the game, so a release date is yet to be locked down. The game is being published by CI Games’ United Label indie publishing arm.

Roki (Polygon Treehouse)

Another game being published by United Label is Polygon Treehouse’s Roki, a quaint adventure game that plays much like giant monster fairy tale. In Roki, you play as Tove, a timid young girl in a mountainous region filled with secrets.

Each stage in the game has multiple areas for you to explore, and solving puzzles usually requires that you explore all those sections to find key items. The area I played through had me helping a giant troll who had a sword stuck in his shoulder — surely he was stabbed by some adventurer who thought the troll was a vicious beast. I explored an old cabin and a gated memorial and collected a bear trap and some rope to be able to latch onto the sword and pull it out.

While it was a simple task, the act of exploring the surrounding areas made it fun, especially since I needed other items to discover the bear trap and rope to begin with. Larger, multi-step puzzles can have a nice flow to them when done right, and Polygon Treehouse seems to have a good handle on crafting these lengthier brain teasers.

Much like Baba Is You, Roki is one of those puzzlers that’s more chill and perfect to jump into after a long day at the office. The visuals and music are really nice and fit the laidback style of the game really well. If you’re looking for a calm, relaxing puzzle-adventure title, be on the lookout for Roki.

Cris Tales (Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK)

Maximum Games launched Modus, an indie publishing label, with the intent to fund and release unique or alternative games from developers who maybe didn’t have the means to do so themselves. With Cris Tales, you get a hyper artful RPG that pays tribute to Chrono Trigger, Paper Mario, and other classic turn-based role-playing games.

In Cris Tales, the screen is split up into three sections: past, present, and future. You can interact with the three time periods and alter how things function, the fate of NPCs, and the state of the world depending on what you do in which specific time.

This carries over into the battle system. While you have basic attacks, you can also alter the time period in which the enemies are in for different results. Warp an enemy into the future, and he’ll be a lot older and physically weaker, but he may be able to deal magic attacks as a result of being wiser and more well-versed in spell-casting. It’s an interesting formula that undoubtedly makes for different strategies.

As previously mentioned, Cris Tales is very aesthetically driven. The game looks kind of like a stylish cartoon mixed with the stained glass windows in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Honestly, you’re probably better off seeing for yourself by playing the game’s demo, which is out now.

Cris Tales is due out next year.

Lost Words: Beyond the Page (Sketchbook Games)

Lost Words: Beyond the Page is another Modus-published title. Developed by Sketchbook Games and penned by Rhianna Pratchett, Lost Words follows a young girl as she writes a story in her journal. Words appear on screen, and these can be used to alter the way certain objects function. Placing the word “rise” under a platform, for example, may lift it upward and allow you to reach high ledges that were previously too high for you to jump onto.

This puzzle-y aspect is definitely cool, but another thing that made Lost Words such a joy to play was how creative it got with the narrative. In one instance, the protagonist was writing her story, only to receive news that someone dear to her was not doing very well. She then began writing in her journal about that, and the words turned upside-down and crumbled beneath the playable character as she ran across them. The symbolic nature of the writing and how it reflected onto the actual game world was incredible, and I can’t wait to see this story unfold.

Super Crush KO (Vertex Pop)

The cool thing about indie games is that you can get something more puzzle-based, story-driven, or grandiose. Or, if you’re looking for straight-up action, there’s that, too. Super Crush KO from Graceful Explosion Machine developer Vertex Pop is all about fast-paced, arcade-y, action-packed goodness.

You’ve got all the attacks you’d expect from a game like this, but with an added element of style. You can dash through baddies, uppercut them off the screen, or bust out a blaster and shoot those goons. I especially enjoyed how the character would levitate while firing her gun in mid-air. The game’s comic book aesthetic further drives the wild action, creating an experience that’s lighthearted, challenging, and just a joy to play.

Also, did I mention that the story in Super Crush KO follows a girl who’s out to save the world, but only because she’s trying to save her cat and she might as well save the world while she’s at it because why not? Yup. You’ll get to save that little cat, and I guess the world, too, sometime next year when Super Crush KO launches.

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