E3 2018 has been a bit of a roller coaster (to say the least). Whether it was EA’s embarrassingly out of touch presentation or Devolver’s insane performances, E3 has been a series of one extreme after another. By the time PC Gaming Show rolled around I wasn’t sure what to expect. Color me surprised when hosts day9 and Frankie led a conference that was fun, informative, and (most of all) human. The PC Gaming Show boasted a lineup that led the audience through neon synth and dreary eldritch horrors.
While AAA titles may be the face of gaming, there’s no doubt that indies are its heart.
“Satisfactory” (Coffeestained Studios)
Somewhere between Factorio and Minecraft, Satisfactory promises a factory-management game of grand proportions. Where similar games have tackled the base-building aspect of the genre, very few have approached it from the production side of things. Production lines, alien lifeforms, and buggies for you and your friends are just some of the things awaiting you on this expansive world. Get the thinky-planny part of your brain ready, because Satisfactory is ready to scratch that base-building itch.
“Neo Cab” (Chance Agency)
The last few years have seen a trend of coll neon blue tones in games and cinema, but I’m far from complaining. The effervescent synth glows of the 80s are well and alive in the modern era and for good reason. Its ability to set a tone is incredible, and Neo Cab is cashing in hard on that appeal. A heavy bass rumbles as electronic beeps blip into the nighttime cityscape. You, a cab driver, explore the world through your diverse clientele. While the themes may be ones we’ve seen before, Neo Cab‘s distinct flavor may be enough to set it apart.
“Mavericks” (Automaton Games)
You know them. You probably don’t love them. They’re Battle Royale games. Ever since PUBG and Fortnite exploded onto the scene, game developers everywhere have been clamoring for a piece of the BR pie. Mavericks is no exception. While the game ostensibly looks and feels like another PUBG, Mavericks sets itself apart in one distinct way: game size. In lieu of the 100 player maximum that’s become the standard for BR games, Mavericks promises games with upwards of 1000 concurrent players. That’s definitely a tall order, but one intriguing enough for the BR fatigue to wear off just a little.
“Star Control: Origins” (Stardock)
Without saying as much, Star Control: Origins screams “mobile game”. From its flat art style to low-res bare bones gameplay, Star Control does not promise much. Gameplay seems to be something along the lines of Spore, where you expand your specie’s influence across the stars. How exactly you’re to do that is unclear, but what we’ve seen so far leaves little to the imagination.
Stardock asserts that the whole universe of Star Control will be constantly running at all times. Ostensibly, the game is meant to function as a space simulator of sorts, regardless of wherever or whatever the player is doing. Whether that’s a clever mechanic or a tired gimmick remains to be seen.
“The Forgotten City” (Modern Storyteller)
Originally a mod for Skyrim, The Forgotten City is now a standalone game in which players must explore a mysterious Ancient Roman city. A group of 26 explorers are trapped here and doomed to die, and it’s up to you to figure out how to get yourselves out. Fortunately, within the city lies a mysterious portal that allows you to reset Groundhog Day-style and try your best to prevent that from happening. The mystery lies in the exploration, and thankfully there looks to be ample amounts of both.
“Hunt: Showdown” (Crytek)
Despite being in Early Access, Hunt: Showdown boasts an impressive amount of polish. A strange mix of Left 4 Dead, Dying Light, and Battle Royale games has resulted in a hunt-or-be-hunted deathmatch in a Southern turn-of-the-century swamp. As the game chugs along in development, Crytek has dropped a minute-long teaser of goodies to come.
“Archangel” (Skydance Interactive)
Another title currently in Early Access, Archangel: Hellfire dropped a teaser that also promises more upcoming content. Strap into your mech and get ready for high-octane VR action (for those of you that have VR headsets…).
“The Sinking City” (Frogwares Studio)
For all of the influence that Lovecraft’s work has had on modern horror, there’s depressingly little in the way of proper Lovecraftian narratives. In steps The Sinking City, a game reminiscent of the 2005 classic Call of Cthulhu. As a proper period piece, The Sinking City puts players in the role of a detective who’s in way over his head. Fight back the encroaching tentacles of insanity as you delve deep into the terrors of what lies beneath.
“Warframe” (Digital Extremes)
Now in its fifth year, Warframe has revealed a new expansion dubbed “The Sacrifice”. Where Destiny 2 may be on unsure footing, Warframe has never had a more solid playerbase. If this expansion continues in the trend of its previous installments, the game is sure to be around for a good deal longer.
It’s 2018 and Japanese games have never been hotter in the US market. With big hitters like Valkyria Chronicles, Yakuza, Shenmue, and more coming to PC, SEGA is delivering where it counts. While they’ve got some newer titles coming down the pipeline (e.g. Shining Resonance and Valkyria Chronicles 4), it’s encouraging to see that they’re focusing on what they do best: making games and getting them to their players. You may not be rolling with the console dogs anymore SEGA, but you’re still a winner in our hearts.
“Maneater” (Blindside Interactive)
YOU’RE A SHARK. WHY? FUCK IT, THAT’S WHY. In self-proclaimed SharkPG, Maneater puts players in the bloody role of a fucking shark whose goal it is to terrorize humankind. Because he’s a fucking shark. Maneater has no illusions about what it is, but that’s all the better. Sometimes, it’s fun to just let loose and get stupid with it.
“Killing Floor 2” (Tripwire Interactive)
Another in the list of games-getting-content, Killing Floor 2 is unabashedly violent and campy. Some might say excessively so, but those people wrong. “The Summer Sideshow: Treacherous Skies” brings a bloody good steampunk time to the world of KF2. Pick up your Doomstick and get ready: it’s about to get messy.
“Bravery Network Online” (Gloam Collective)
What do you get when you mix cartoons, Pokemon, and stylishly rad aesthetic? Bravery Network Online! BNO will be focusing on online battles, so Pokemon Showdown fans keep an eye out for this one.
Morningstar is a self-described “post-cyberpunk” farming sim, where computers are the soil and data are the crops. That probably made things even more confusing but hey, a little mystery is part of the fun, right?
“Overwhelm” (Ruari O’Sullivan)
Despite the gorgeously stylized cover art, Overwhelm is a starkly simplistic 2D run-and-gun platformer. The unique gimmick here is that as you progress and defeat bosses, the enemies around you get powered up (instead of the other way around). Drenched in a blood red color palette, Overwhelm looks to be as oppressive as its name.
“Jurassic World Evolution” (Frontier Development)
Games… uh… Find a way onto your hard drive. Releasing tomorrow, Jurassic World Evolution puts you at the helm of your very own Jurassic Park. Build, research, and expand your base of operations as you bring creatures from the murky depths of history out into the modern era. Evolution is sure to capture the fantasy (or nightmare) of managing a dino-park. Players must quickly respond to emergency threats, such as power failures, unpredictable weather, and unruly dinosaurs.
And of course, along for the ride is the ever luminous Jeff Goldblum.
Now that VR has settled into the gaming world, big name developers are starting to explore what the technology has to offer. Developed by Insomniac Games, Stormland looks to be somewhere between hardcore parkour and combat Wall-E. Players take on the role of robots as they explore a lush, overgrown world riddled with technology. Insomniac’s excellent track record with platformers show that the understand level design. With games like Edge of Nowhere they’ve certainly begun experimenting with the VR platform. However, it remains to be seen just how these veteran developers will push the boundaries of what we know as fun.
From the moment I glimpsed this game I had become entranced. The muted, cel-shaded palette, the fluid motion, and nostalgic fantasy plunged me into a world that I desperately wanted to explore. Inspired by the likes of Journey and Studio Ghibli, Sable promises free-roaming exploration gameplay in a gorgeous post-apocalyptic setting. With music by Japanese Breakfast, Sable hopes to transport its players to another world of wonder.
“Star Citizen” (Cloud Imperium Games)
The only definitive thing we can say about Star Citizen at this point is that it certainly looks great. One can’t help but wonder if Cloud Imperium would benefit from showing less, a la CD Projekt Red. Well it’s definitely a game and it’s definitely in space. More to come soon?
“Genesis: Alpha One” (Radiation Blue)
Gamers may joke about the prevalence of Battle Royale games, but space building sims certainly outnumber them by a hefty margin. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but it’s hard to stand out in a crowd. Genesis: Alpha One promises to be different by way of adding roguelike mechanics to the mix of base building. Hopefully that will be enough to set it apart.
“Don’t Starve” (Klei Entertainment)
Don’t Starve‘s third DLC expansion, “Hamlet”, is set to release December 2018. The past two, “Reign of Giants” and “Shipwrecked”, introduced a bevy of seasons, monsters, and locations to the already hefty game. “Hamlet” looks to do much the same and expand into a curious world of shops, jungles, and what’s sure to be creepy-crawlies out for your eyes.
“Overkill’s The Walking Dead” (Overkill)
It’s honestly surprising that it took this long for The Walking Dead to get a proper zombie FPS, but here we are. Described as a “4-player co-op” game, Overkill’s The Walking Dead (clever title) may be along the lines of Left 4 Dead and Vermintide. Which begs the question: What exactly does this bring to the table?
“Two Point Hospital” (Two Point Studios)
Despite a rocky start with malfunctioning mics, a bit of dry wit saved the day. Rather appropriate, as Two Point Hospital takes on the sim genre with its own brand of darkly dry humor. Patients of all ailments come to you seeking help, whether it’s their depressing Turtle Head or raging monobrow. It’ll be interesting to see how the humor plays into it and whether or not it fades into the background as gameplay progresses.
Indies have a reputation for the cute and simplistic. While the obvious answer as to why that is may be “it’s easy”, it’s also incredibly fun. Y’know, fun? That thing where you just enjoy something because it’s appealing? Ooblets oozes that sense of cute fun, with bright visuals, poppy music, and what’s sure to be comfy-cozy gameplay.
“Anno 1800” (Blue Byte Studio)
I’m far from the demographic for this game, but you’ve gotta give credit where credit is due: Blue Byte Studios knows the deep strategy genre. However, with the advent of Anno 1800 they’ve put out an open call to the playerbase to help make the game even better. As soon as I have dozens of hours to dump into a game, I’ll get right on that.
“Rapture Rejects” (tinyBuild)
What would the PC Gaming Show be without another Battle Royale game. Thankfully, tinyBuild has a good sense of humor about it all and takes the piss out of the genre with a hilarious preview for their upcoming title, Rapture Rejects. Rampant debauchery abounds in this top-down free-for-all Battle Royale where everybody’s gone to the rapture. Except you. You were an asshole. Go shoot somebody now. Asshole.
While some segments consisted of games that were previously announced, like Realm Royale, Just Cause 4, and Hitman 2, the PC Gaming Show still managed to impress. Even with the Battle Royale and sim/management games taking up a good chunk, there were still more than a few standout titles that were just plain weird. Between the PC Gaming Show, Devolver, and other indie devs smattered throughout E3, it’s safe to say it’s not just the big boys anymore. Indies are here to stay.