It’s Summer here in the Northern Hemisphere; which means it’s time to spend some beautifully sunny days sequestered inside frigidly air conditioned gaming caves. It also means that at E3 2017 an army of publisher PR flacks unleashed a torrent of silver tongued promises. As a Cliqist reader you’re not here to learn about Super Mario Odyssey or Far Cry 5, you’re here for indie games.
While E3 2017 didn’t feature the sheer volume of indie games we’ve seen at the show in the past, there were quite a few notable showings. Which brings us to Cliqist’s E3 2017 Indie Game Awards.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, Dim Bulb Games
Playing as an anthology of short stories, each written by a different writer, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine gives new life to the idea of narrative driven gaming. Designed to explore the collective identity of America, Dim Bulb Games Creative Director, Johnnemann Nordhagen wasn’t content to just tell stories from his own perspective. Instead he sought writers who would bring their own lived-experiences to the stories, weaving a narrative that was both compelling and authentic.
This experimental approach is a breath of fresh air to a genre that offers so much potential for immersive storytelling. Definitely, a winner in our books.
Best Art Style
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, Ackk Studios
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG may have been inspired by Mother, but its artistic style looks more akin to Salvador Dali or Andy Warhol. The game’s surrealist and creepy world is brought to life by bright and contrasting colors, engaging character designs, and the perfect blend of minimalistic and realistic designs.
The worlds look equally familiar and yet alien – exactly what you want from a game with horror elements. Most of the NPC’s you meet in the game look normal, but they also have a slightly unnerving trait to them thanks to cold dead eyes, or a blank look. The art is mostly understated, but when it does let loose, you’ll find women crying blood, giant lion statues, and pyramids with crying eyeballs. You know, as you do.
Insurgency: Sandstorm, New World Interactive
Insurgency: Sandstorm is the sequel to Insurgency, a multiplayer tactical online shooter. That part isn’t very surprising. What is surprising is that this game has a story mode, which is new to the series. What’s so surprising about that?
Insurgency: Sandstorm is a first-person shooter in which you play a Kurdish woman who just escaped slavery, and is now fighting a group of “radical terrorists” as a rebel militant in Iraq.
That’s right. A game series known for its online multiplayer is introducing a story campaign in which you play an escaped female slave fighting what is essentially ISIS in modern day Iraq. We’re not quite sure if that’s brave, crazy, or both. Whichever it may be, we can’t wait to see the final result.
Most Tantalizing Tease
A Plague Tale: Innocence, Asobo Studio
It’s easy to get suckered into a teaser trailer at E3. The event is full of them, and they’re all designed to be as exciting as possible, and grab your attention. But A Plague Tale: Innocence stood out for a couple of reasons. It’s a history game, which we absolutely adore, exploring a concept we don’t often see – the Inquisition and the Black Plague.
The game also has an interesting premise. You play as a teenage girl, and you have to escort not only her, but also her young brother to safety. This isn’t an action game, it’s a stealth one. You have to hide in darkness, not only from your enemies, but also the deadliest plague in human history. If the final game is even half as good as the trailer let on, we’re in for a real treat with this one.
Indie Spirit Award
The Artful Escape, Beethoven & Dinosaur
Developer Beethoven & Dinosaur has come a long way. When they set out to create their surreal narrative-driven action/adventure, music sampling, platforming, guitar solo of a game they knew they’d have to go big to make the game as weirdly fantastical as they imagined. After they failed to reach their funding goal on Kickstarter it would have been tempting to try something else altogether. Something with more mainstream appeal that publishers would get behind.
Instead The Artful Escape pressed on, complete with all the psychedelic reactionary landscape they’d envisioned. No hallucinogen fueled, multidimensional roadway was left unexplored. The craziest part? It worked. The developers teamed up with publisher Annapurna Interactive and The Artful Escape was prominently featured at Microsoft’s E3 press conference as one of their console exclusive releases for Xbox One. Not bad for such an unapologetically indie title.
Best Crowdfunded Game
Sundered, Thunder Lotus Games
Sundered has never been low-key in its success. Thunder Lotus Games built a solid foundation with their previous title, Jotun and fans were eager to see more from them. Even so, the response from Kickstarter backers was astounding. Sundered managed to raise 100% of its $19,104 funding goal only 6 hours after launching its campaign. The hand-drawn metroidvania ended its Kickstarter with over 4,600 backers rallying behind it.
Their presence at E3 only served to reassure gamers that their enthusiasm for the project hadn’t been misplaced. The final boss teaser video they released proves the game is not only on-track for its impending release, but looking just as amazing as promised. When talking about great crowdfunding campaigns that actually delivered, Sundered tops the list.
Hide & Seek Champion
Shenmue 3, Ys Net
The number of big ticket indie games that either skipped E3 or had virtually no presence even if they were there is stunning. But the clear winner of the Hide & Seek award has to be Shenmue 3. Announced at E3 2015 during Sony’s press conference, developer Ys Net and Yu Suzuki have done an excellent job not only hiding gameplay footage and information, but also important information. What role is Sony playing in development? What role does Shenmue IP holder Sega have? How can you still say the game is coming this year when it only just went into production? Wait, what?!
We only got the answers to these questions as the months and even years went by since the game successfully raised $6,333,295 on Kickstarter, making it the highest funded Kickstarter video game ever. At this rate, who knows when we’ll see Shenmue 3?
Game of Show
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, Ackk Studios
In what many would describe as a low-key E3, it makes sense that a low-key game would capture our Game of the Show award. That game is YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, the best game most of you may not have heard of. Although Ackk Studios couldn’t make it to E3 in person, their game did make it there thanks to Indie Megabooth.
As the name suggests, YIIK is an RPG, but with a surrealist twist. Heavily inspired by the classic JRPG Mother, it’s up to Alex, having just returned to his hometown, to find the whereabouts of a woman who was mysteriously abducted by some otherworldly creature. Alex will be teaming up old and new friends, exploring the town, six unique dungeons, and fighting demonic creatures with a variety of musical instruments in creepy, surreal landscapes.
We don’t have a release date for YIIK: A Postmodern RPG just yet, but there’s a good chance we’ll see it later this year. The game is even getting a physical PS4 and Vita copy thanks to the folks at Limited Run Games. Congratulations, Ackk Studios!
That shuts the door on another E3. Congratulations to all our winners! Did we shut out any of your favorites?
Looking for more E3 coverage? Head check out New Normative’s unique take on the show.