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Brigador Interview — Hugh Monahan of Stellar Jockeys

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I had the good fortune to ask a few questions of Hugh Monahan from Stellar Jockeys, co-creators of the stylish and action-packed Brigador, and these are his revelations about the game’s past, future, and the difficult road he and his studio have had bringing it to life. While this certainly isn’t what frames every indie developer’s experience, it’s certainly a good look into the kinds of difficulties many smaller studios find themselves dealing with, especially when they’ve yet to ship their first game.

 

MJR: We posted our review a little while ago, but just in case some of our readers haven’t checked it out yet, why don’t we start with a quick rundown on what Brigador is?

Hugh Monahan: Brigador is an isometric mech action game, or more legibly we just call it a Kool-Aid man simulator. Tactical combat in a fully destructible environment with plenty of customization and mechanical density for people to get into.

I’ve been curious to hear more about how Stellar Jockeys got its start. And why do you and your brother have separate branding despite working together on the same project?

The company started very organically. After finishing college I spent some time teaching high school and in my spare time started working with students from the University of Illinois’ gamebuilders club to cut my teeth on game design. None of us really knew what we were doing but we had a good mix of guys and within a year we’d made a wonderfully terrible Star Control clone. That whet our appetites for game development, and after a lot of hemming and hawing, two of the members from that original team and I ended up starting Stellar Jockeys together, which would have been the summer of 2011. My brother Jack at the time was doing his own independent work, which included an impeccable blog on game design called Design Reboot, which is also where he formalized his work/business identity as Gausswerks. We realized it was a bit ridiculous for the two of us to be working on two different independent games at the same time, so after a long chat we decided to throw in together. Gausswerks is included as a co-developer on Brigador in the case that should the two of us end up working on separate projects he has an already-established reputation. In the meantime, though, we’ll keep collaborating. Ideally we can end up in the hallowed ranks of artistic pairs like the Coens or Nolan brothers.

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I used to play tabletop Battletech and Mechwarrior as a younger man, and I also have fond memories of the now almost entirely forgotten Epic classic Fire Fight. I have to imagine you guys share a similar heritage. What inspirations led you to create Brigador?

Wow. So we were introduced to a lot of games we’d never heard of before, including Desert Strike, Future Cop: LAPD, and MechWarrior 3050, but this is the first time I’ve seen or heard of Fire Fight. It’s a curious thing as most of the games people site as touchpoints for Brigador were ones we were completely unfamiliar with during development, and frankly our direct inspirations run much further afield. As far as games go, Syndicate, Crusader: No Remorse, and Mech Commander were the most direct influences. However, there were also design tenets from seemingly unrelated games that played a fairly major role in our design methodology. For example, the ‘Carmack rule’ (spamming ‘enter’ gets you immediately into gameplay) is something we held to. We did our best to flesh out the world and story for players, but we also didn’t want that work to bog down the game itself, which is why you find the more traditional linear narrative is almost entirely absent. Brigador is a game about destruction, and we wanted that to be the focus. There’s plenty of story if you look for it, but we offloaded that to descriptions and to the book/audiobook we produced alongside the game.

I’m also incredibly curious about your inspirations on the fiction front. Brigador’s world is a provocative one that I really enjoyed digging into, and I loved the bleak, future-corporocratic tone of so much of the writing. What spoke to you when you started creating this universe?

Aesthetically and tonally the original Alien and Blade Runner are of course major touchstones. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is worth mentioning here as well. Both my brother and I are fans of those alternative forms of future-tech, though the difference is that at the time those films were produced the technology and particularly computers depicted seemed like logical forward projections of future technology. By contrast our work in establishing the Brigador universe knowingly departs from a ‘realistic’ take to a more stylized one—something the Fallout series did in its own way with great success. There’s something about the late 70’s, early 80’s understanding of what the future held that we find captivating, something about the blocky tech and massive, fuzzy CRT monitors that possesses unique substance. It also helps that these instincts happen to coincide with a lot of design trends coming back into vogue. Jack in particular is an avid fan of Kow Yokoyama’s Ma.K. and its kitbash style, which influenced not only our aesthetic but his art production pipeline as well. The process he developed for digitally kitbashing models to create game assets is the only reason we were able to complete the game with a single artist—his method was so efficient that our turnaround time by the end of the project for taking an asset from concept to integration in the engine was less than a day.

I’m also a big fan of the Ma.K style, and a term like “digital kitbashing” says so much about the look of Brigador. That’s very cool. But back to fiction, you guys actually went so far as to hire Brad Buckmaster to write a novel to accompany the game, which got quite a good audiobook rendition as well. It’s a nice surprise given how often game development neglects writers. How did that relationship come about, and have you guys been pleased with the end result?

Brad and Jack became friends through a mutual appreciation for obscure 20th century military hardware, which led into Brad’s involvement as a kind of ad hoc consultant on the game. The man is a veteran of multiple military tours and has an exhaustive knowledge which greatly aided us in developing the world of Brigador. As we got further into the process, we learned he was also doing his own writing, the Contractor series, which read very closely to how we’d have wanted a Brigador novel to turn out. What originally was a pie in the sky idea for Jack and I was quickly formalized into a proper work contract with Brad, and we couldn’t be happier with the result. The idea of adapting it as an audiobook came after the first draft was finished—we like it so much we wanted to ensure as many people as possible would read it, and an audiobook adaptation was the best way to go about that. Enter Ryan Cooper, who did an equally impeccable job on giving voice to Brad’s writing.

It was better than I expected it would be, and I’d definitely recommend anyone interested in the fiction to take the time to listen. Actually, one of the things that interested me about the Brigador itself and the book was that the tonal and audiovisual aesthetic feels really directed and consistent throughout. It can be tough to get something that seems so single-minded out of people working on different moving parts of the same project. How much of that was a concerted effort, and how much was serendipity?

There’s always a degree of serendipity when it comes to finding collaborators that you mesh well with; in that regard we were extremely fortunate in that across the board the guys we worked with immediately clicked with the project. Generally speaking when we work with contractors we want to be as hands off as possible—establish what the world is and what we’re trying to accomplish, then just let them roll. It’s what we did with Makeup & Vanity Set for the soundtrack and it’s what we did with Brad Buckmaster on the book. In both cases the majority of our input was “this is really good, keep going.” Part of that just has to do with having really talented guys to work with, but part of the onus is also on our end in providing the best circumstances for people to succeed. There are certain cases where you need to micromanage, and for the most part I tried to just handle those elements directly. With both the OST and the book we trusted the instincts of our collaborators and didn’t need an exhaustive set of parameters to be fulfilled, so they had the freedom to pursue the work as they saw fit. We couldn’t be happier with the result.

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So Early Access sometimes seems like a roll of the dice for indie devs. What lessons did you learn from doing your first game this way, and would you have done anything differently in hindsight?

As far as the explicit design of the game, Early Access was a great boon. It showed us there was a great demand for a more directed ‘campaign’ style mode, and also showed us that there was an appetite for the world and lore we’d created up to that point, so we were encouraged to keep pushing along those lines. Unfortunately EA also introduced a lot of difficulties from a marketing and publicity side—in retrospect I wouldn’t have announced the EA launch at all and just kept our heads down and worked. The problem is that unless you’re a big fish, there are only so many times you can get media outlets to cover you, and we spent a lot of that capital when the game wasn’t ready for showtime.

From what I saw during earlier periods of the game’s development, it took quite a bit longer to get to release than you initially anticipated. What were some of the biggest unexpected setbacks?

There were no major moments where it was like “this thing didn’t work and set us back a year!” It was more just a combination of working together for the first time as a team and the tremendous iteration time required in coming up with new styles of gameplay and production. There were multiple things we simultaneously built that were extraordinarily demanding—a new 3-space aiming scheme in isometric space, gameplay centering around fully destructible environments, a new art pipeline based on digital kitbashing and sprite rendering, and achieving all the former points in an engine we were building from scratch.

You made a post that got some traction about how hard it is to get noticed as an indie developer, and that even building something you’re proud of isn’t always enough to move product without reaching a wider audience. How have things gone since you made that post?

Better, but still a long way to go. Ironically the posts about not getting attention have been what, at least from a sales point, have gotten us the most attention. The reality is that it’s a hard market where nearly everyone is scrabbling for attention—combine that with large discounts on fairly recent and established games and it’s very hard to convince people to give a new developer the time of day, both from consumer and press standpoints.

A lot of indie devs struggle with that issue, and it sometimes really does lead to heartbreak when what somebody has invested just never gives a return. Is there anything your experience with Brigador taught you that would help other devs trying and failing to break into the wider market?

At the beginning of the project I naively thought it would be a Field of Dreams scenario for us, but the more I see of the games industry the more I believe that isn’t the case for anyone. Whenever you see something going viral, particularly with games, it’s very rare for that to be a truly, I guess naturally viral thing where the developer didn’t have a hand in it and it just happened to blow up. Rather it’s a case of continuous cultivation. My price post on Steam probably wouldn’t have gone viral if I hadn’t tweeted it out and messaged some press about it asking their opinions. If something looks effortless, in my experience it’s not because it is effortless, you just can’t see all the work that’s gone into it.

Entirely agreed. Either way, I think Brigador is a strong title with a lot going for it, but it also seems like there’s room to expand upon that foundation if you were given the opportunity. Do you guys have any big plans for Brigador’s future?

Our hope is to continue making games in the ‘Briga-verse’ for the foreseeable future.

Once the dust settles on your first game, are there other projects you’re burning to undertake?

I’d love to do a “Brigador: Tactics” in the style of something like Front Mission / XCOM / Advance Wars, but that’d be an enormous project. It might still happen, but that’d be down the road once I’ve recovered more from the 5 year ordeal of developing our first game, and hopefully with a bigger team on hand.

 

For more on Brigador, check out Stellar Jockeys and Gausswerks, read GoombaStomp.com’s review, or head over to Steam to get a copy of the game for yourself!

Michael J. Riser writes weird fiction and articles about videogames. He occasionally posts stuff at Bookruptcy.com, and (more frequently) @Quemaqua on Twitter.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Vortiguant Atadesk

    July 27, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks for the interview. I’ve been playing Brigador since EA and it’s great to see these guys get as much press as they can, they deserve it.

    • Michael J. Riser

      July 28, 2016 at 5:53 am

      It’s a great game, and I certainly hope it gets them the base they need to keep going strong. Would love to see them explore that universe further!

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Game Reviews

‘Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ Defines Three Incredible Generations

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the best bang for your buck compilation that the Super Mario Bros. franchise and the Nintendo Switch currently has to offer.

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Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: Platformer, Action | Platforms: Nintendo Switch | Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch


After nearly half a year of rumors, it was no surprise that Nintendo was going to jump up super high with another compilation title on their red plumber’s next special numbered anniversary. It’s absolutely undeniable to say that Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the best bang for your buck compilation that the Super Mario Bros. franchise and the Nintendo Switch currently have to offer. However, there are still a few pesky problems that persist through its leaking warp pipes. Nonetheless, what you are getting here is three updated masterclass retro classics that I probably don’t have to sell you on.

Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy are not only some of the most critically acclaimed titles on their respective systems, but they’re also among the most influential games ever made. Having all these platformers on one modern console handheld hybrid system sounds certainly promising, but how do they hold up in comparison to other games out on the market today? Is this really the best way to play these three classics? Have they been obliterated by time? Of course they all still hold up exceptionally well, but there are some upsetting answers to be found. Veterans and newcomers of Mario’s three-dimensional adventures will be rather pleased though by what is being offered in Super Mario 3D All-Stars.

3D All-Stars is a great best-hits package that can sometimes skimp out on features and upgrades, but it’s simply exceptional nonetheless.

Taking it all the way back to the past, 1996’s Super Mario 64 still holds a candle to many of today’s modern platformers as it flaunts its rebellious spirit through open environments and selective mission paths. The Nintendo 64’s shining star is just as good as you’ve heard or remember it to be. Despite some of its troublesome camera rotation and weird analog movement, the first three-dimensional Super Mario title still lives up to that high standard you would expect from a Nintendo release. Even after all these years, Super Mario 64 still comes out on top as the king of its generation.

There are plenty of cleaned-up trimmings, including new textures and user interface icons sprinkled here and there that benefit the original game’s noticeably aging areas throughout it’s latest rerelease. In comparison to its bundled successors, however, Super Mario 64 received the short end of the enhanced stick. While I certainly won’t say that Super Mario 64 was utterly cheated out on receiving the gleaming treatment it deserves, in comparison to something like Rare’s remasters of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, Bethesda’s recent DOOM 64 port, or even just the other games within 3D All-Stars for that matter, Nintendo’s fifth-generation golden goose has disappointingly been adapted to Switch, to say the least.

Not only is the game not in widescreen like the other titles, but the framerate is still capped at 30 frames per second. Nintendo has created an authentic experience for those looking for the same adventure players witnessed when this groundbreaking masterpiece initially hit the public, but that does not mean these features could not have been optional. Considering Super Mario Galaxy is running at 1080p, sixty frames per second, surely Nintendo could have gotten the more primitive Nintendo 64 title up to that pristine quality.

Revisiting 2002’s summer vacation to Isle Delfino was a tear-worthy experience for me that one could say was fludding with nostalgia. I am not going to lie, Super Mario Sunshine was one of the very first console games I ever owned and it is still one of, if not my all-time favorite titles out there. However, ignoring my deep-rooted connection with the GameCube, objectively speaking Sunshine may perhaps be the Mario game that benefits the most from this compilation. Not only does the game look fantastic in widescreen format and high definition like the other games, but that extra field of view increases Delfino’s sense of scale and vision. It is truly incredible how well some of Nintendo’s earliest library of sixth-generation titles hold up visually despite being almost twenty years old.

The biggest concern longtime fans of Super Mario Sunshine will have going into this collection is how the control scheme would function. As someone who has played through the GameCube release dozens of times, I can happily confirm that Nintendo has done a fine job porting the game over to Switch. For those who are unaware, Sunshine originally allowed you to dictate the amount of water pressure F.L.U.D.D. would power out depending on how far you held the right trigger in. Due to the Switch’s lack of back analog triggers, replicating the original game’s experience was going to be difficult from the get-go. Nintendo’s solution was to make the character operate entirely on full power mode. This may sound like a major change, but in reality, the old control scheme was merely a feature that was fun to mess around with rather than a game-changing aspect. Outside of the late game’s irritating casino pachislot before the King Boo boss fight, there is no other area affected by the alteration.

While Nintendo’s newest GameCube emulation is surely impressive, it may not be entirely flawless for every perfectionist’s liking. Sunshine does indeed contain some minor faults that can likely be fixed in a future patch if Nintendo ever so chooses to release one. There are two notable quirks that will bother longtime fans although it should be mentioned that these are incredibly nitpicky changes in the grand scheme of things. For one, I noticed that a specific sound effect heard multiple times before timed missions had been changed to an oddly annoying censored beep- way to make El Piantissimo and Blooper racing bother more newcomers. Secondly, during some of the Fluddless missions focused on platforming, textured blocks that players are not supposed to see can appear that indicate an object’s trajectory.

Speaking of trajectories, its time to talk about the outer space adventure veterans probably have the most questions about. To bring this library to a close, we have 2007’s astronomical hit Super Mario Galaxy– the most critically praised game in this entire package, with the highest Metacritic and OpenCritic scores out of these three monoliths. Super Mario Galaxy is definitely the closest game to hit the modern standard of Mario’s latest globe-trotting adventures. When it comes to gorgeously designed landscapes and compact areas to explore, there are times where Galaxy could quite honestly stand toe to toe with Super Mario Odyssey from a distance. On top of this, we have what is arguably the most heartfelt Mario story to date as its beautifully constructed narrative never pulls any punches with its wholesome story entirely told through chapters of short text and subcontext.

Galaxy heavily utilized the Wii remote and nunchuck, but Nintendo is offering players with quite a few ways to now enjoy the title. Both Pro-Controller and Joy-Con proclaimers can breath easy because Galaxy supports both formats. While they may not be as pinpoint accurate as they previously were, the latest control schemes are exceptional. When playing with either of these controller options, you will have to utilize either motion or gyro to move the Luma cursor used to collect star bits, stop enemies, or solve various puzzles. Since the Switch lacks the intricately designed motion controls of the Wii, the developers have smartly mapped the right trigger to reset the cursor to the center of the screen.

The only aspect of Super Mario Galaxy that can often become problematic is when the game is being played in handheld mode, but this really only applies to specific sections of the game. In regards to on the go action, the game’s motion controls have been optimized for the touch screen, however, anyone who has played the Wii release can probably tell why this would not always work efficiently. When it comes to specifically collecting star bits, Galaxy can be a nightmare to try and multitask as you have to either pull your hand away from moving the left stick or inputting basic action commands like jumping. Menus and motion puzzles work great in handheld mode and can even be easier to play at times, but it is odd that the docked and tabletop control schemes can not be used with attached Joy-Cons.

Outside of the core three titles, Nintendo has opted out of including any special modes or features, unlike some of their various other notable anniversary titles such as Kirby’s Dream Collection or even the original Super Mario All-Stars rerelease on Wii. Without the additional extra content that properly commemorates the history of the Super Mario Bros. series, this anniversary can feel dishearteningly shallow as it looks more like a hangout than a massive birthday on the surface. Aside from including each game’s incredible soundtracks that double down as a way to always mix up your main menu experience, there are no art pages, interviews, design documents, or anything significant to glance at in this collection when it comes to additional trincites to awe at.

At the bare minimum, Nintendo could have at least included each title’s original manual for players to browse through, but even that is absent here. Even Super Mario Maker’s physical release came with a special booklet for fans to peruse five years ago. The games are obviously what matters most, but for something made to celebrate such a noteworthy milestone, audiences will definitely be expecting more from a character as iconic as Mario. The Super Mario Bros. franchise has such a fascinating history with a literal ocean of trivia and art worth exploring that you can find across several official artbooks, social media platform pages, and wikis. It is truly a shame that Nintendo did not go the extra mile to include any of this when commemorating 35 years of their mascot, but once again, the games at the spotlight are what truly matters most.

Despite its minor emulation issues and missing opportunities, 3D All-Stars manages to defy three incredible generations in one worthwhile package.

With its outstanding lineup of three masterclass generation-defining titles, Super Mario 3D All-Stars exceeds in a value rightfully way above its retail price tag as it bundles together three incredible journies into one package. Whether it is your first time getting to know Mario’s fantastical world or you are coming back to relive your childhood memories, this is a special title that offers some of the finest platforming adventures the red plumber has embarked on. Outside of the fact that it is literally a limited-time release, Nintendo’s latest anniversary best-hits extravaganza is well worth running out to purchase. If you have not played Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy, you owe it to yourself to experience every one of these games.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is indeed lacking in bonus content to make this truly feel like a shebang worth celebrating, but its three games keep the entire party from ever being less than exceptional. All three games included still remain tremendously entertaining as they prove to excel upon the passage of time. Perhaps it is not the grand superstar it could have potentially been, but it will put a huge smile on any veteran or newcomer’s face as they explore Peach’s castle grounds, take on a thwarted island vacation, or skyrocket into the cosmos that have brought decades of enjoyment to audiences of all ages. Collect your coins and get it while you can or begin plotting a Bowser-like scheme to score a copy in the distant future.

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PAX Online: ‘Unpacking’ and ‘Infernax’

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game the calm and relaxing Unpacking and the not-so calm and relaxing Infernax.

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Unpacking and Infernax

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game that takes a hated activity and somehow makes it relaxing and another game that will leave you clenching your buttocks.

Unpacking

Unpacking game

Platforms: PC
Release: 2021

As someone who is coming fresh off of moving just a little over a month ago, you couldn’t have blamed me for being a little skeptical going into what was dubbed a “zen puzzle” game based on the final stretch of the process. Unpacking is just that, though. It’s a calming, almost therapeutic exercise that happened to serve as a wonderful way for me to unwind at the end of a day.

Unpacking is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no scores, no timers, no leaderboards, just you, and a few boxes with various items in them that need to be placed somewhere. The demo starts with a single bedroom in 1997. There’s nothing in the game that tells you where something should go, only your own taste and intuition; a locked diary would probably go in a desk-drawer while a soccer trophy would probably be displayed on a shelf.

As I slowly unearthed items one-by-one, I gradually got a feel for what the room’s new inhabitant was most likely like. The endless supply of stuffed animals implied someone of younger age while the numerous art supplies indicated someone inclined to right brain thinking. It’s rather engaging to learn about this person’s life purely by their belongings.

Every item taken out was like a delightful surprise and would sometimes even make me feel a little sentimental such as when I took out a small device that was clearly a Tamagotchi. More importantly, Unpacking nails that sinking feeling of when you feel like you’ve used all your available space but still have boxes left. Reaching the point of just throwing stuff wherever it fits is such an immediately relatable feeling that I was almost offended. And that was only for a single bedroom!

Unpacking game

The demo’s second stage was a little more involved with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the year of 2004. The hilarious moments of finding a boot in your kitchenware box or a bra with your toiletries also felt like a call-out to my own hodge-podge packing methods. It’s something I can’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle at.

It was also neat to see how this person has grown since their earlier abode. Much fewer stuffed animals but more art supplies and a brand new computer imply this character is maybe entering the working adult world. I’ve never actually seen this character, but I can’t help but feel a connection to them already, and that was only after two moves. The full game will have eight total moves to follow them through and I am genuinely curious to see how our nameless and faceless protagonist grows throughout them.

Now if only unpacking in real life could be this soothing.

Infernax

Infernax

Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Some players may recognize Berzerk Studio for their excellent 2018 bullet-hell, rhythm game Just Shapes & Beats. Coming hot of the heels of that hit they immediately pivoted in the new direction with Infernax, a delightfully edgy 8-bit adventure platformer that takes cues from old-school Castlevania titles.

Our hero returns to his land after a successful crusade only to find it overrun by horrible monstrosities in every which direction. With nothing but mace in hand, he sets out on a quest anew to rid the land of the undead filth. Immediately apparent upon starting is just how tightly the game controls; anyone fond of earlier NES titles will feel right at home with Infernax. I quickly got a handle on my exact attack reach down to the pixel and began mowing down the zombies in front of me. It emphasized how much joy a game is possible of eliciting from simply a jump and attack button.

Getting to that proficiency is important too because the game doesn’t waste any time in taking off the training wheels! Even the base enemies shaved off half my HP if I got careless and that difficulty ramped up at a rapid rate as new enemy types were introduced at a decent clip such as flying evil eyes and jumping rodents. Not only do these foes burst into tasty experience points and gold to be spent on upgrades, but also into extremely satisfying fountains of blood.

Infernax isn’t particularly shy about turning up the gore factor, but it’s still impressive by just how creative they get with it using simple pixel art. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are killed. Every single enemy type has a unique kill animation when they deal the final blow to our hero. From the chump ass pillbugs to the big bad bosses, all of them mutilate you in a different way and it’s honestly morbidly mesmerizing to witness. It made me want to suicide against every enemy I came across just so I could see what creative way they took my life.

Infernax

Depending on your playstyle you might not want to do this, though, as Infernax features two different ways to respawn when you die. Hardcore respawn sends you all the way back to your last save point, just like in those classic NES titles. Casual respawn lets you restart right where you left off with no loss in progress, but choosing to do so locks you out from Hardcore the rest of the game. It’s a sort of mark of shame that I was glad to wear during the demo after I came up against the final boss and promptly got my ass handed to me. It sounds a little cheeky on paper but is actually very consistent with the game’s overtly edgy tone.

Infernax feels like a game that was lost to time during the NES era and is just now being rediscovered. Those looking for for a game that harkens back to the simplicity of the olden days need not look any further.

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Games

Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

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Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

Animated GIF

Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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