Happy new year everyone! 2014 has come and gone and let's be honest, it was a moot year for exciting game releases - we got a bunch of pretty cool sequels, but nothing really to call home about. 2015, however, has gotten the team here at Xmashed all excited. We're looking at the release schedule, and we're all marking dates on our calendars, especially for the indie releases. Indie games have always been at the forefront of innovation, it sheds the baggage triple A titles carry, and use their freedom to explore interesting ideas, both in design and aesthetics. Let's take a look at some of the most beautiful titles coming up in 2015.
1. Pillars of Eternity
I've been following (backing) this title since it's inception on KickStarter a few years back, and it's finally near its release date. Made by the creators of Fallout, Neverwinter Nights and Planescape Torment, it promises to be an RPG reminiscent of old school Baldur's Gate games, right down to the isometric visuals and strategic battles.
The latest gameplay videos released showed off the visuals of the game, and my oh my do they look sweet. You can hardly believe the developers built this on top of the popular Unity engine - the game sports 3d polygonal characters moving atop a 2d hand-painted background, then spices it up with effects powered by the Unity engine. The results were phenomenal, to say the least. Definitely keep a lookout for this title coming up in the next few months.
2. Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter is the brainchild of one Alex Preston, who dreamt of a game that's a neat cross between Diablo and Zelda: Link to the Past. Preston, who's also the lead artist and animator of the project, worked as an animator for several years before he finally jumping on his dream. He asked for $27,000 on Kickstarter and got over $600,000, which enabled him to hire several programmers and designers to expand and complete the project.
Needless to say, the visuals looks amazing. There's something about glowing pixels that tugs at the heartstrings, combined with daring color schemes and lively, believable animation, this title definitely ranks amongst one of the best looking indie titles of the year.
3. The Witness
The Witness, orignally announced in 2009, is finally on the horizon. Famed indie Jonathan Blow's next game after 2008's Braid, is a long awaited title for many fans of Blow's interesting perspective in game design. Blow describes the game as heavily inspired by Myst and a challenging project for him and his team. He describes the game has having elements of puzzle-solving and exploration, but declined to reveal more as it would act as a "spoiler" for the gameplay. The shroud of mystery he hides the game in makes the anticipation even worse for me, can't wait to see this game in action.
The visuals remind me of a Pixar production, an artstyle which has good company (Team Fortress, DOTA 2, etc.). It seems to work well from what I can see in the trailer, but without knowing the story Blow is trying to tell, I cannot be completely sure. One thing for sure it is that it definitely looks inviting and worth a try.
In all honesty, I don't know much about ABZÛ, other than the fact that it looks breathtaking. It's the first project of a developer named Giant Squid, and from the trailer, looks to be an underwater Journey, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Giant Squid describes the game as "epic adventure into the depths of the ocean, where they will encounter majestic creatures and discover long lost secrets". Sounds like a heavy emphasis on exploration, Xmashed approves - if this game gives me back the sense of epicness I felt while playing Aquaria, every cent I spent on it would be worth it.
By now, you'll have sensed a trend - yes, I love games with a heavy focus on exploration. It's that sense of wonder when something new is revealed and the idea of "what comes next?" that keeps me playing, Below is no exception to that rule. Made by Capybara Games, the awesome peeps that brought you Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP, the game is scheduled to be released on Steam and the Xbox One console later this year. Capybara describes the game as a "tiny warrior exploring the depths of a remote island". The game, which features randomly generated levels and permadeath, is designed to be difficult, with a focus on exploration and survivial.
I find it hard to comment on the visuals because it's so utterly original - the game seems to take on the traditional flattened top-down perspective reminiscent of old school Japanese role-playing games such as Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest, but with a decidedly unqiue flair to it, accentuated by both the lighting (or lack of it) and stylized rendering style of the characters and backgrounds. I so want to play this game right now.
If you mistake Rime for the next animated theatrical release from Disney, I doubt anyone would blame you. It reminded me of the classic Team Ico games - Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Maybe this is due to the way the game is presented, a young, frail looking boy, venturing across an immense landscape, braving overwhelming odds to reach a goal, or maybe its just because there doesn't seems to be a whole lot of talking involved. In any case, if your game reminds people of two of the most influential and critically acclaimed games of all time, you're likely to be on the right track.
Visually, the game is a far cry from the developer, Tequila Work's, previous zombie survival horror game, Deadlight. Both games are stunning in their own right, but Rime has so much individualistic flair to it, that it towers over the other in my opinion. From the trailer, the animations and cinematics are top notch, there's a whole lot of good acting involved, even with the little pig that runs away when the character approaches it, that adds heavily to the liveliness of the world.
That's a wrap!
Okay, that's our list for now, stuff we're going to be keeping an eye out for in the next few months, mainly for the visual treat they offer us. Are we missing out anything awesome? What's on YOUR list for 2015, hit us back in the comments and let us know! We'll all benefit from your wisdom. ;)