The Game Developers’ Conference is one of our favourite events of the year. While E3 and Gamescom also provide ample opportunities to meet game developers face-to-face, San Francisco’s spring meetup is a more relaxed affair. We still find ourselves darting from meeting to meeting, but can also attend talks where devs deliver post-mortems on our favourite games.
GDC is also a great opportunity to check in with the indie development community – last year we enjoyed some Atomicrops gameplay and chatted with developer Danny Wynne about why he decided to add guns to the tranquil farming sim formula. We also tried out some Carrion gameplay and found that devouring humans is quite good, actually.
As the game industry grapples with COVID-19, the decision was sensibly taken to postpone GDC until August and run a series of virtual sessions instead. Despite not heading over to San Francisco last month, however – and while heroically ignoring the fact that we missed out on all those Lori’s Diner breakfasts – we still want to highlight some of the cool games we were due to see. Strap in.
Company of Crime
This criminal empire-building game is the result of the devs’ adoration for XCOM’s gameplay and the vibe of 1960s London. Assemble a crew of cockney gangsters or Scotland Yard’s finest to either take over the criminal underworld or destroy it. Expect tactical turn-based battles in pubs, clubs, vets, tailors, harbours, and other areas dotted around the Big Smoke.
GTFO invites comparisons to Left 4 Dead as it’s a co-op shooter in a less-than-ideal setting, but it’s the influence of Aliens that stands out to us. Left 4 Dead gets frantic but shooting zombies is part of the fun. In GTFO, you’ll want to avoid it at all costs. You and your team are flung into an underground complex where you’ll need to communicate and coordinate while avoiding confrontation to protect resources. It’s this feeling of helplessness in GTFO that puts us in mind of Alien: Isolation.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars
If you like your strategy games with a vampiric theme, then Immortal Realms may be your next download. It has all the turn-based combat and empire building you’ve come to expect from the genre, but a selection of magical abilities and spells, too. Each clan and vampire lord you can play has access to a different set of cards, which brings unique abilities and potential for combinations.
This survival game comes from the creators of Mount & Blade: Warband’s CRPG mod. You can tell when you engage in Last Oasis’s combat, which involves directional attacks and blocking. Aside from the usual genre fancies of foraging and base building, Last Oasis has a cool hook thanks to its wooden mechs – you can design them either to shift cargo or steal it from other players in acts of ligneous piracy. It’s a simple hook, but an undeniably cool one.
Port Royale 4
Port Royale 4 puts you in the boots of a young governor who wants to grow their small settlement into a bustling trade city. Doing this involves heading out to sea and engaging in turn-based battles with the colonial powers of Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands. The game is set in the 17th-century Caribbean, and features oodles of trade negotiations and colony management.
Managing a starbase that’s been abandoned for 17 years certainly sounds challenging. Once you’ve got the essentials back online in this empire-building strategy game, you’ll have to maintain three space station decks, entertain eight different species of aliens, and defend your newly found cosmic homestead from its enemies in classic RTS skirmishes. All while an AI narrator berates you along the way.
Pendragon blends a story-driven, single-player RPG with turn-based strategy mechanics and pretty, manuscript-like 2D visuals to explore a critical moment in King Arthur’s reign (yes, that King Arthur). It’s AD 673, Camelot is in the dust, and every turn you take will change the course of history. Inkle’s indie epic will take you on a journey through Dark Ages Britain as you assemble a band of loyal, albeit quirky, followers and contend with combat, love, and a drunk Sir Gawaine. Oh, and while you’re at it, trying to save your beloved sovereign along the way.
If you’re a fan of city building games, adventure, and seeing what happens when you plonk humans, dwarf, elves, and orcs together to create a new civilisation, Distant Kingdoms might be right up your street. Orthrus Studios’ upcoming game mixes a dash of the Tolkienesque with strategy and simulation, tasking you with building a new kingdom in the “fabled land of Ineron” against the threat of dragons and other menaces. It’s also got tabletop-RPG type elements, shaping your gameplay through choices and consequences in a “world filled with secrets, quests and magic”.
Filament is what you get when you mix puzzle games, Gravity (the movie), and gorgeous, almost Breath of the Wild-style visuals. Beard Envy’s indie game is out later this month (along with a whole host of other excellent April games) and sets you loose on the decks of The Alabaster, a complex, and surprisingly homely research vessel as you set about trying to discover what happened to its missing crew. You take on over 300 “challenging and varied puzzles” in your hunt for the truth, and recruit the help of its stricken pilot, Juniper. Best of all, you get to rifle through the crew’s knick-knacks, you know, to aid with your search. That’s always fun.
Main image courtesy of Game Developers Conference.