It’s easy to get caught up in the noise around big-name releases. Particularly at this time of the year, when release season is in full swing, and every week has multiple AAA titles to choose from. Earlier this week, I went to an indie event that was a refreshing change of pace, amid the madness of trying to blitz through big-name games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War, The Evil Within 2, and South Park: The Fractured But Whole.
Devolver Digital and Good Shepherd Entertainment had some vastly different titles to show off in its range of upcoming titles. There was hands-on with Devolver titles, including action-RPG The Swords of Ditto, Tinder-with-immediate-consequences Reigns: Her Majesty, action-packed infinite runner and Serious Sam spin-off I Hate Running Backwards, and Enter the Gungeon on Switch. Plus, there was a hands-off guided walkthrough of Good Shepherd's Cold War-era turn-based strategy game Phantom Doctrine with CreativeForge Games’ Blazej Krakowiak.
I’d already played I Hate Running Backwards at Gamescom, and had fun with it there, so I didn’t take it for another spin. To read more about that, check out this wrap-up here. For everything else, read on.
The Swords of Ditto
This game feels like the kind of cutesy action-RPG title that you could play for a quick quest, or lose hours playing. I played it in local co-op, and had a blast, particularly when we figured out that you could pick up and throw the other player. The better part is if you throw the other player into an enemy, it deals damage (to the enemy, thankfully, not to the friend you just lobbed). Later in the demo, we discovered we could switch out our ranged bow for a golf club (or any number of secondary items), and we started playing tennis with enemies by smashing them back and forth between each other. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to experience the depth of the RPG elements, but the co-op action was enough to make me want to play more. Daniel Wilks also dug it.
Reigns: Her Majesty
I’d never heard of the original title, Reigns, but I have heard that the simple-concept game is incredibly addictive. I was playing the sequel, Her Majesty, on iPad, but it’s also coming to PC. On tablet (or touchscreen) you swipe left or right to make decisions based on the various requests of people asking for you to make a ruling. You’re a queen, you see, but every decision has the potential to impact at least one of four categories: church, army, gold reserves, and peasants. The thing is, while you can hold the swipe before committing to it to see which of those four things it will impact, you can’t see whether it will positively or negatively impact them. And you have to stop each category from being completely filled or exhausted: both seem to result in death. As far as I could tell from my preview, it’s the same as Reigns, but Her Majesty has you playing as a matriarch instead of a patriarch, and you have an inventory for storing useful items.
Enter the Gungeon
I’m actually really bummed I missed out on playing this on PC, because it’s a tonne of fun on Switch. Outside of the odd frame drop in more hectic moments, which I was assured wouldn’t be in the final release, it played at the right kind of pace: namely, insanely fast. It also plays really well as a twin-stick shooter, which means if you own a Switch and don’t want to spend the $90 it seems to cost for big-name releases (hell, or re-releases), this looks like one to grab. Especially if you, like me, missed out on it for the PC release. Co-op is great, too.
I’ve finally shunned my old attitudes and have started getting into turn-based games lately. I particularly enjoyed Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle on Switch, and I’ve used that enjoyment as motivation to start playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown. From the half-hour guided walkthrough I saw of Phantom Doctrine, it looks like I’ll be sinking some hours into this one, too. This alt-history Cold War game makes some interesting changes to the usual turn-based formula. For starters, you have three movement options that can be used before or after a single attack move. There’s also a neat breaching mechanic that plays out for multiple characters in the same move, and you can place off-map assets like a sniper or spotter to open up additional options. I particularly like how weapon accuracy is one of two numbers (which you can see before taking a shot), and isn’t dictated by a dice roll, the logic being that specialists aren’t trained in missing point-blank shots. That’s just the in-map stuff, too. There’s a wealth of content happening at home base or on the meta map, with the promise of a 30-hour or more campaign.