2013 may have been the last-gen consoles' triple-A swansong, but 2014 is the year of the indies.
After months of waiting, the crowdfunded games that backers were promised are finally cresting the horizon, with smaller studios coming up bigger ideas for what gaming in 2014 should look like. From apocalypses to fantasy warfare, space smugglers to terrified toddlers, these are the 10 Kickstarted games that will shape 2014 - the ones you’ll be able to play, not jsut pay for this year.
The daddy of the post-apocalypse genre returns after a successful bout of crowdfunding that saw Fallout creator Brian Fargo's Wasteland 2 pull in $2m over it's initial funding goal. An old-school isometric RPG in the style of games like Fallout and Planescape: Torment, Wasteland 2 pushes you and your squad of Desert Rangers out into the crumbling remains of post-nuclear America, with all the raiders, robots and radioactive monstrosities you'd expect. With the serious pedigrees that Fargo and Fallout writer Chris Avellone have in the genre, this could be the first big Kickstarter success of 2014.
The first great Kickstarter gaming success, Broken Age (previously known as Double Fine Adventure) is being built by none other than point-and-click adventure hero Tim Schafer - he of Grim Fandango, The Secret of Monkey Island and Psychonauts fame. The game revolves around two protagonists leading at once distinctly separate yet parallel lives: a boy who's trapped alone on a spaceship with a matronly computer, and a tribal girl chosen to be sacrificed to a terrible monster. Don't let that put you off, though: if there's one man who can make solitary confinement and human sacrifice cheery, heartwarming experiences, it's Schafer.
Hyper Light Drifter
What sort of game do you make when you humbly ask backers for $27,000, but end up raking in more than $645,000 by the end of your funding period? Well, in the case of Hyper Light Drifter, you get a 2D action RPG that bits an 8-bit hero against all manner of monsters, robots and skeletal ghouls in a rainbow of beautiful neon colors. Combat's a mix of sword swipes, gunplay, dashes and careful shield usage, making for a colorful rush of nostalgia that, thanks to its massive Kickstarter takings, will launch on PC, Wii U, PS4 and PS Vita in June.
David Braben might not be a name you immediately recognize today, but that's only because you're so young and wholesome. Braben is the man and the mind behind Elite, the original space sim that launched back in the dim mists of 1984, when computers needed rooms the size of actual tennis courts just to play a game of pong. In stark contrast to its wireframe heritage, Elite: Dangerous is the prettiest Kickstarter game we've ever seen, and puts you in the cockpit of your own ship in a galaxy filled with thousands of players and AI characters. You'll be able to play as a fighter pilot making money from bounties, become a trader with your own galactic freighter, or stickit to the law and blow up peaceful ships for plunder.
Among The Sleep
The survival horrors of yesteryear knew that to really freak someone out you needed to take away two things: their ability to fight and their ability to see. Resident Evil had its awkward camera angles and restrictive ammunition, Silent Hill had its fog and few weapons at all. Among The Sleep goes one step further, casting you not as some rookie cop or grieving father, but as a stumbling two-year-old trapped in a nightmare version of his own house with nothing but your teddy bear companion for protection. Creepy.
There's not many a publisher that would touch the idea of a comedy game centered around a plane crash, which is why it's such a good thing that the Dyscourse team had Kickstarter to turn to. You play a survivor of the crash, trapped in a jungle as the de facto leader of the remaining passengers. Jungles being what they are, there's plenty of opportunity for characters to get mauled, poisoned or lost in the trees, so you'll have to protect them through widely branching dialogues, convincing some to trust you, or turning characters against each other to survive.
Double Fine's second Kickstarted project due to launch in 2014, Massive Chalice walks a more traditional path than Broken Age, weaving you into the finely teased beard of a fantasy king defending his realm from a demonic invasion. Combat will be top-down and turn based, like in X-COM, but the twist is that the battle between good and evil has been prophesied to last for hundreds of years, meaning even your toughest fighters will keel over from age long before the war is over. To balance this, you'll have to literally breed strong lines of warriors to ensure you're not left with an army of stumpy morons just when the most fearsome demons show up, without putting your best warriors out to stud and losing skirmishes early on. The game's also being designed with hardcore permadeath players in mind, so if you screw up the balance at a critical moment, you'll have to shoulder the consequences and soldier on.
A spiritual successor to 1996's Syndicate Wars (and developed by the same creator, Mike Diskett), Satellite Reign has all the staples of your classic cyberpunk adventure: mechanically augmented mercenaries, megacorporations with covert control of the government, and sprawling neon cities where it's seemingly never, ever daytime. You're in charge of a group of four agents from a shadowy resistance movement, navigating the dystopian sandbox to take down the corporations using stealth, the media or good old fashioned ultraviolence.
The Long Dark
As gamers, we're pretty well trained in how to deal with the apocalypse when it arrives in our towns or cities. The Long Dark offers a different view of the end of the world: from the window of your log cabin deep in the frozen woods. After a solar flare wipes out all electronics on Earth, protagonist Will McKenzie crashes his plane in a remote wilderness and must battle cold and starvation to survive. Stay out too long in the cold and you risk hypothermia, but running and high energy activities burn precious calories. A true survival sim, you'll have to cannily balance competing needs to endure this end of the world.
Another isometric homage to the RPGs of the 90s, Stasis is in fact an adventure game set aboard a spaceship where everything's fine and nothing dramatic happens at all. Wait, we're thinking of something else. You actually play as a guy travelling through space with his wife and daughter, roused from his stasis pod mid-flight to find his family gone and his mining ship all gloomy and bloodstain-y. Worse, the ship's also in a decaying orbit around Neptune, which means all the mysteries of the dying ship will have to be unraveled before our hero plunges to an equal parts fiery and icy death on the planet's surface.