Thanks to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, the independent market in video games has been gradually growing. New titles, many of which might not have ever seen the light of day in today’s publisher climate, are emerging and giving the medium some badly needed evolution. At the time of writing, some of these funding campaigns have expired while others are still ongoing. Check with each item to see which is which.
Wildman- Chris Taylor and the studio that brought us Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander are at it again with the currently titled Wildman. Wildman is billed as an RPG/RTS set in a world with a strong Conan the Barbarian vibe. Players create their own (male or female) barbarian warrior and begin the game in a Dungeon Siege format, battling monsters and leveling up in traditional roleplaying format. Yet at some point players will receive a quest to clear out a stronghold. As a reward the encampment is theirs to manage however they see fit.
While the premise sounds promising, shortly after revealing their Kickstarter project Gas Powered Games announced mass layoffs and a worrying amount of downsizing. It was later revealed that this project is something of their last bid for solvency and that some of the kickstarter funds would go towards hiring back enough employees to make the game. While from a business standpoint this feels unsettling, from a gamer’s view I must admit I do hope Chris and his merry band can get it together for one last game.
Platformines: Besides some clever wordplay in the title, what is Platformines about? Platformines is a two-dimensional action platformer that cites elements of Borderlands and Terraria on its Greenlight page. Having played the demo which is available for free through the developer’s website, I have to say that is not an entirely accurate description. While Platformines definitely has Borderlands’ legendary “shoot and loot” gameplay, I don’t really see much of Terraria’s iconic building or crafting mechanics. On the other hand, the game IS fun and quite playable even if the plot is somewhat simple.
Platformines traps players in a randomly generated network of abandoned mines and ancient ruins. In order to escape, they have to search this labyrinth to collect the pieces needed to construct a gigantic mining machine powerful enough to dig to the surface. Along the way they must navigate past traps, bandits, and monsters in an experience that hearkens back to 2D platformers like Halloween Harry and Monster Mash.
Project Awaken- I am admittedly at a bit of a loss to fully describe Project Awaken. It feels as if someone played through Sucker Punch’s Infamous series and decided to turn the basic concept into an open-world roleplaying game. The premise behind PA is that certain future technologies like cold fusion and human genetic manipulation were realized over the past two decades through some suspected temporal manipulation (finding out what, if anything, lead to these developments is supposed to be part of the story.) Subsequently we have a fairly present-day society that is tearing itself apart over the implications. This is the world the player is thrown into, where they can essentially be any kind of hero or villain they want and shape the world however they see fit.
From my perspective, there is one hurdle bigger then any other facing this project and that is its ambition. The developers promise a vague modular system that in theory allows the player to create any sort of superhero they desire. On paper this sounds fantastic, unfortunately it also sounds similar to the power-based system initially used by City of Heroes… a system that was completely scrapped before the game was through beta because it turned out to be impossible to balance in a way that was fair. If the Project Awaken team can overcome this it will be fantastic, but until then the question remains how do you balance katana-wielding ninjas against armored super-soldiers with machine guns so that it’s fun for both sides?
Planetary Annihilation- Uber Entertainment (the company that brought us Monday Night Combat) is making an RTS inspired by Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. Technically that should be all I need to say. However, special attention should be given to their Kickstarter trailer… oh good grief the trailer. If Uber can deliver on half of the scale shown the game will be incredible. While Supreme Commander had players fighting over some very large planets in a single mission, Planetary Annihilation has us fighting over entire solar systems. The trailer had one player assemble a massive base before blasting off to build another one on the planet’s moon. If that wasn’t enough, the same player won the match by sending an engineering team to a nearby asteroid, converting it into a giant ballistic missile, and launched it into the enemy’s main base. Was it utterly and unnecessarily over the top? Very much so. Was it mind-blowingly fantastic? You better believe it.