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    A Bevy Of New Indies

    While many of the big publishers are hesitant to pull focus away from their triple-A holiday releases during the busy season at the end of the year, the same can’t be said for the independent game scene, where we saw lots of new info emerge in recent weeks. Some are just recently announced, and others have been in progress for a while, but all six of these titles have us interested.

    Guild of Dungeoneering comes to us via developer Gambrinous, and it promises to appeal to anyone with fond memories of scrib-bling out RPG maps on graph paper before a big Dungeons & Dragons session. You run a guild of adventurers slowly building up glory and fame throughout the land. To do so, you recruit adventurers to set out into an as-yet un-mapped dungeon to defeat monsters, gather treasure, and discover secrets. Instead of controlling heroes directly, the player instead chooses between several new features to lay out the dungeon ahead, and then watches to see how their adventurer chooses to proceed.

    One tile might add a new room, but only if its entryways and exits line up with what you’ve already drawn on the graph paper screen. Another card tile might add a monster, but you want to make sure it’s not too dangerous for your fledgling hero. You could also lay down a piece of treasure, like a new weapon or armor piece. These objects attract your dungeon-delver, but hopefully not through an overly dangerous room. Whether they triumph over the dungeon or meet a grisly fate, their journeys through the underground build glory for the guild, and help to fuel your next adventure. The simple mechanics and cute art style has me excited to play more of Guild of Dungeoneering. Gambrinous plans a release on PC and Mac in May, and mobile platforms a few months after that.

    Skytorn garnered lots of buzz out of the re cent PSX event in Las Vegas. The upcoming action/exploration game from Team Skytorn casts the player as Névoa, an explorer armed only with her quick wits and a trusty shovel. She explores a procedurally generated island in the sky that is different every time you play. She’s on the hunt for remnants left behind by civilization before a cataclysm tore everything apart leaving an endless series of free-floating islands. An early look at the game reveals a combination of twitch action and some fun opportunities to shape the world by digging through the ground and walls to create new pathways. The pixel art style and chiptune soundtrack also has us stoked, but there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered about this enigmatic project. Look for a release on PS4 and PC sometime this year, to be followed by Mac and Linux versions.

     For those in the dark, Adr1ft comes from new studio Three Zero One, headed by Adam Orth, a former creative director at Microsoft. Orth resigned from his job after comments he made about Microsoft’s always-online policy that was canceled before the Xbox One launch. After seeing his worst days and becoming an Internet meme, he’s persevering with this new project, which was shown at The Game Awards.

    Adr1ft is a first-person adventure casting you in the role of an astronaut floating through space after a catastrophe destroyed your space station. You’re badly damaged, just trying to survive as your EVA suit leaks oxygen. Adr1ft focuses primarily on exploration; you’re not engaging in combat, but instead just searching for answers and supplies to sustain life. Eventually, you need to find a way to return home. We played the sequence shown off in The Game Awards trailer using the Oculus Rift.

    Space is beautiful, but you’re also sur-rounded by disaster. Wreckage from the space station is all around and you’re helplessly just drifting, listening to your character breathe. Movement depletes your oxygen levels and you’re alerted when they approach dangerously low levels. The atmosphere overpowers everything. Earth sits out in the distance, always reminding you of the end goal. Little things like coming across a lifeless body are dispiriting, and yet the curiosity keeps pulling you in. Who are you? Why did your ship crash? What were the people on the space station like? Orth says exploration reveals the story, keeping you searching. Adr1ft is first launching on PS4, Xbox One, and PC at some point in 2015. It will later be available for the Oculus Rift.

    Drinkbox Studios spent the last year knee-deep in Guacamelee!, its successful and punishing action platformer, releasing DLC and a Super Turbo Championship Edition. Now Drinkbox is ready to move on to something different an action game for Vita called  Severed . The game stars a one armed heroine named Sasha who travels through a dreamlike landscape, exploring the past and future. In our demo we had to venture through a bright and creative world to save one of our family members from a vicious monster. The storyline is intentionally obtuse, as Drink-box wants you to uncover what’s going on through exploration.

    Combat revolves around swiping the Vita touchscreen in the opposite direction from the where the enemy is attacking. Reading enemy patterns and hitting them when a vulnerable spot opens up allows for some powerful counterattacks. This may mean attacking as an enemy raises their arm or waiting until a rotating shield leaves a small opening. As you damage enemies, you charge your sword, which stops time and lets you sever limbs off baddies for equipment and ability upgrades. You can upgrade health, damage, and sever time. The most entertaining feature is how the main bosses let you take a piece of them. For instance, we severed off a boss’ head and then turned the remains into a mask. Severed launches exclusively on Vita this spring.  

    Wander is a non combative, collaborative MMO focused on exploration and story, urging you to find out the world’s deeper mysteries. Creative director Loki Davidson spent his time traveling and wanted to capture the experience of stumbling upon something new and beautiful. You start the game exploring a giant rainforest as a massive, slow-moving tree, but soon you learn how to shapeshift into new beings, such as a griffin. Whether you’re on foot, swimming in the ocean, or soaring through the sky, the world is full of hidden locales to uncover like underwater caves and floating islands. Opera singers even guide you along the way. Scattered throughout the land are ancient lore stones that provide new insight into the world and its inhabitants. Davidson hopes these get players talking and communicating about their findings, collaborating to piece together the larger story and unique cultures. Wander hits PS4 and PC in March and will cost a one-time fee of $25.

    Zeboyd Games has made a name for itself creating quality RPGs reminiscent of 8- and 16-bit era, such as Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World. The team’s passion for capturing the nostalgia for that era is evident, and its latest game, Cosmic Star Heroine, continues to showcase that. Cosmic Star Heroine harkens back to Japanese RPGs of yesteryear and is reminiscent of the Phantasy Star games, right down to its main protagonist. Alyssa L'Salle is a top agent for the galactic government, but life becomes complicated when she uncovers a conspiracy that leads to the government blowing her cover as a legendary spy. The turn-based RPG has all enemies appearing on the map and the combat takes place right on screen in the dungeons you’re exploring. You can also recruit agents and build up a headquarters a la the Suikoden series. So far Cosmic Star Heroine hits all the right ‘90s RPG notes. The game is set for 2015, releasing on PS4, Vita, PC, and Mac.

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