Sunday, 2 July 2017

Steam Summer Sale: 25 Excellent Indie Titles For Under £2.00

If you even glanced at the title, you know exactly what this is about. So, in lieu of an extensive intro, let's get down to business and and answer the obvious question first: With only a few days to go until the Steam Summer Sale ends, why is this only being published now?

The answer: Paychecks.

The Summer Sale itself is a chance to splurge when it comes to spending, emptying most of your wallet on a lot of fun titles and jumping on something which has been on your wish list for an age. Often these are the much more expensive games, the big AAA titles, which have been out for a year or two. With others, it could be for a multitude of titles you have had your eye on for an age, but never bothered to pick up until now. As this new month begins, most of you will have already been paid and started on your spending spree. Well, this list is intended to supplement those purchases. 

These are all those cheap and very, very cheerful hidden gems listed on Steam, the sort of  wonderfully innovative indie titles which were either overshadowed by bigger games but have been lost to time; the kind you'll have some fun with after finishing a newly purchased Witcher 3 or blitzing your way through the Saints Row series. And one or two are admittedly well known, but just very good value for money at the moment.

Finally, for those wondering, we won't be repeating our options from the last Sale related article. Each and every one listed there is well worth your hard earned cash, and I still stand by every word spent praising them, but not all of them fit into this narrow price range. 

So, with that done and no more delays, let's get into a few of these games and why you might want to look into them.

The mere mention of a mobile port on Steam is already enough to make most gamers flinch and immediately sun it. However, Draw Slasher is one of the relative few which manages to stick to the same basic mechanics, but remains engaging. In short, this is an infinitely more arcady Fruit Ninja, only rather than flying melons and the like, you're facing wave upon wave of foes. Zombies, nightmares, nightmare burning zombies, and a few stranger things all show up to keep things busy, and while it scrolls along by itself, there's always a few odd surprises to keep things interesting.

While the actual mechanic itself is one which was originally intended for a touch screen, there remains a surprising level of engagement by just using your mouse. It's simple, fun and very cathartic as you reduce wave upon wave of foes to flying severed limbs - The sort of thing which has always made Dynasty Warriors such a joy to play.

While some would pin this one down as being too similar to the example above, the differences are obvious from the moment you start to play it. Both see you facing off against waves of foes, and both see you using basic interactions to overcome obstacles. However, whereas Draw Slasher focuses upon clicking and dragging, One Finger Death Punch takes the simplicity even further. You click left and right to attack basic enemies, and that's it.

This boils the act of beating down on its foes to the bare essentials, but the sheer thrill factor of it all keeps you hooked. Designed in a manner akin to the old Xiao Xiao series, you flip, punch, throw and smash your way through enemy after enemy, picking up weapons as you go and occasionally bumping into bosses. The fact that each level always throws in some new factor - including gimmick levels such as archery battles and lightsaber duels - helps to offer far more variety than its apparent simplicity would suggest.

Described as "blending roguelike, turn-based, star map strategy, and real-time space battles", Battlevoid: Harbinger is a game which tries to do a bit of everything. Surprisingly, it gets away with it. Your task here is to take command of one of a small handful of vessels, sending them from point to point across the map, as you try to reach your destination without being shot up too often. In a manner akin to The Last Federation, this means you have the option to engage battles partially in real time, but with the opportunity to pause them every few seconds for tactical maneuvers. With up to two allies at your sides you have the option to control a few additional elements of a small flotilla as well, offering some tactical variety to each level.

Most of the time you will find yourself powering along until you get blown up, resisting and fighting your way through system after system, building up EXP for your next run. Naturally this unlocks more free goods, and while grindy it sidesteps the sort of RNG frustration which drove some fans away from FTL. Just don't expect much of a story though, as it's literally a blurb at the start.

Living up to its title, The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human sees you playing as the last human travelling beneath the waves in one final adventure. Focusing upon a Metroidvania style experience with a heavy emphasis upon exploration, and utterly demented bosses. Oh, you can be certain all of them will be water based in some way, but you can bump into everything from a gigantic seahorse to a squadron of sharks wielding spiked wrecking balls on their bodies. No single one is the same, and the moment you start to rely on old tricks is the moment you die.

There's a surreal sort of beauty to the game's pixel art style which is obviously aged. This is no Owlboy nor does it offer the kind of detailed and hyper-defined environments big name SNES titles focus upon, but the rough beauty and atmosphere it builds is enough to let yourself become immersed in this world

This is the first of a couple of "walking simulators" on this list which manage to actually be engaging. Yes, they do exist. In this case, you're not so much walking as falling, as Euclidean promises a "geometric horror" show with Lovecraft style environments. This is somewhat gimmicky and lacks the kind of engagement most would want, but the sheer spectacle and the fun the developer obviously had with the idea shined through. 

Plus, for the truly brave, it has VR as well. Have fun.

With a Battlestar Galactic style plot minus the killer robots, Last Horizon works to have you flying through space trying to find a new home. This is almost as minimal as you can get with this sort of concept, and the mechanics match that albeit with a survival angle. While exploration is encouraged, you will need to manage oxygen levels, fuel and several other factors in order to keep going. Where you end up and how you manage to keep going is also largely up to you.

There are a few other elements which helps to keep things interesting on your way to a new colony. You can't just make a bee-line there, as you need to grab more resources on the way, certain components it needs, and even some odd surprises. Survivors from your race to help re-populate it, remnants left behind by your people and other things can all be found on the most unlikely of worlds. Give it a shot if you're after a rogue-light style experience without any shooting.

Blow up everything you run into. I mean, everything, from airships to mechanized attack robots to stranger things, as you race your way to the end. This is the kind of shoot 'em up which veers within inches of becoming a bullet hell without ever quite managing to force a player into Touhou style nightmare situations.

The big selling point here is the sheer level of violence and the fact someone managed to cram such an insane amount of content into such a basic game. You have more than seventy weapons to work with, well over two hundred enemies to combat and more than forty levels to fight your way through. If you're after sheer unrelenting digital carnage and all the gun that brings, definitely give this one a look.

And now we go from a shoot 'em up to a true bullet hell game, and quite a beautiful one at that. Sine Mora ramps up the difficulty from the last listed game, until you're forced to race about and survive seemingly impossible odds. Rapid reaction times are needed to survive wave upon wave of sheer firepower, and to even just make it through the level alive.

Make no mistake this veers into Dark Souls levels of unfairness at times, and the bosses themselves feature more than a few unavoidable attacks. This would be harmful enough, but it can cost you both precious time and firepower as much as just your life, and even then there's a few surprising traps to be found in the levels themselves. Give it a look if you're up for a real challenge, as you'll definitely get one, but just be warned that this one will push you to your limits.

An oddity to be sure, Seraph is a game where replay value isn't simply encouraged, it's a core game mechanic. You see, while the story might keep you hooked and the aesthetics of the environment is fantastic, it deliberately scales its difficulty above yours over time. There's no way to stop this, as you will always hit that brick wall, and be forced to restart. With all your previous firepower, weapons and upgrades intact.

The challenge isn't so much to outdo everything. Instead, it's to see how far you can get before being forced to start over, and then to enjoy reducing the bosses who gave you so much difficulty previously to a fine red mist. It also helps that the actual mechanics are very solid, offering up a Metroidvania design with plenty of level and hidden lore documents, but with auto-aim present and a number of timed rooms to grab goodies from. Oh, and you also fight a wide assortment of demons, which is always fun.

This is another of the walking simulators mentioned, but the sheer atmosphere and style of the piece is what helps it to ultimately stand out. Following a global epidemic, you are left to make a long journey through the ruins in order to try and find salvation. Abandoned towns, tunnels and forests all show up, each with the kind of bleak beauty which few games manage to truly capture.

You are also given the opportunity to actually interact with the environment in a few ways, from a variety of environmental puzzles to brief bits of lore. Better yet, you're also not entirely alone at points, as you will bump into the odd survivor or straggler to add a bit of flavour to the setting, and keep you on edge during some of the more horrific moments. If you're a fan of Metro 2033's atmosphere or the ruins found in Last of Us, then give it a look.

Well, there was going to be at least one puzzle platformer on this list, but BOOR more than earns its place here. In a beautiful if very surreal world, you play as a creature with the ability to duplicate and multiply itself to overcome obstacles, both to jump platforms and overcome time based triggers.

The actual game itself is bright, colourful and oddly cheerful in its depiction, but this is used to a Tim Burton effect. As in there is something infinitely disturbing lurking below the surface, and while the story itself is minimal and offers few extra answers, the presentation of things is some of the best seen since Limbo. This game offers you a long and surprisingly dark journey, but it always manages to make it entertaining despite this.

Story rich and mechanically light, The Temporal Invasion is one of those games which follows Her Story. You're left with the opportunity to perform an extensive investigation into an odd event, branching out and gradually picking apart the mystery of a seemingly impossible situation. You will not be left looking around buildings or hunting down people, so much as searching though filing reports and old documents, making notes and trying to uncover the next clue.

This is an old-school approach to this sort of thing, but it's definitely a welcome addition to any gaming library. When some of the most innovative and exciting additions to investigation over the past few years have unfortunately amounted to leading you from one hint directly to the next, something which challenges you to do better is a nice change to be sure.

This is combat at its most ludicrous, where you have two groups of very English individuals left yelling at one another. The one who delviers the insults with the most sting in them is ultimately the victor, but unlike Monkey Island this isn't simply a case of getting the right response. Instead, you need to string together the right combo of terms, insults and jabs to inflict the most damage.

The actual damage meters themselves are surprisingly varied, as you have everything from direct damage to their ego to elements which build up over time. A few typical fighting game concepts such as an all-out-assault also emerge in here as well, where you can forgo your defenses in order to hurt your opponent, or pull off a string of attacks which build towards a much bigger blow. This is one which is admittedly best played with friends, but that's true of most games where you're in one-on-one combat, no matter which form it takes.

One of the more bizarre options on this list, Tavernier is a mish-mash of two very unexpected genres, where you have interactive fiction crossed with tavern management. The trick here focuses upon your customers and how you keep them coming back, from getting the right foods to upgrading the right items, decorations and larder. Some are more difficult to get than others, some will draw in certain specific customers. However, the game element of the story stems from the customers themselves and how you interact with them. Certain stories will emerge depending upon how you behave or respond to them, branching out and offering different events.

Naturally, there is a dark secret to this specific town and it can affect your play-through in a few ways. Who you speak to and how they respond can land you in some rather nasty situations, while others could be turned towards your side. While short, this series of options and range of customers permits you to come back again and again to experiment with things.

A revamped version of an old browser-based game, this one relies upon you seeing some of its old charm and the ideas which were original back then. You guide a party of heroes through procedurally generated dungeons to combat bigger and bigger monsters, building up your skill tree and gathering more loot. That's about it really, and it's a solidly delivered concept on the whole, if one which is a bit dated by today's standards.

Another shoot 'em up on this list, Sky Force sees you switching from side-scrolling engagements to flying towards the top of the screen. This naturally broadens the arena and leaves you facing more ground based foes, and the game takes full advantage of this. Many areas almost turn into timing puzzles as you dodge laser turrets and missile barrages, while the enemies themselves scale quickly with your firepower.

The addition of a co-op mode opens up new choices and opportunities, naturally. Plus while the weapons are not nearly so numerous as other options found on Steam, their unique nature and upgradable options makes them relentlessly fun to use. Take a look if you're after more mindless violence.

While sadly better known for their debacle surrounding Broken Age, Double Fine is still capable of delivering the goods with games like this. A fantastic blend of XCOM style conflicts with a fantasy backdrop and legacy mechanics, you guide heroes across an age. Rather than simply upgrading them one by one, you instead alter and change them via their genealogies and what bloodlines they are tied to. Naturally this makes any death hit all the harder, but that's the point, it's supposed to hurt!

The more complex events and ideas which show up are also an edge which this game has over other clones, and it knows it. What seems like a simple engagement at first soon branches out, and the monsters themselves become as weird as they are powerful. Well worth a look if you don't mind the frustration factor these games are legendary for.

Set in the ancient days of the 17th century, you're one of the colonists attempting to create a new home in what will eventually become Virginia. However, upon your arrival you find everyone dead. As a result, what follows becomes equal parts a murder mystery and combat simulator, as you seek to silence the threat which slaughtered your people. With a surprisingly strong atmosphere and very pleasing graphics, this is one of the best looking choices on this list. Better yet, it doesn't simply force you to approach problems in one single way, with steal always as viable as out and out murderous rampages against the supernatural foes.

The system is typical of most of these games, were you run into an environment, fix a few things and move on. However, the good comes with the bad in this classic approach as it offers plenty of secret areas, hidden trophies and a few odd concepts which might change your mind about the game's events.

A rare example of a modern day point-and click adventure title done right, Memoria shifts focus between two protagonists as it pushes puzzle after puzzle in your way. What you will immediately note though is that this has a stunningly brilliant artistic direction and the sort of darkness usually reserved only for a Brothers Grimm tale, with an exceptionally strong story to back it up.

Without spoiling too much, this follows the George R R Martin school of fantasy tropes, where the game is more interested with twisting them over truly using them. This definitely works to its advantage though, and the high concept fantasy elements remain a strong point from start to finish.

It's always difficult to get a perfect over-the-top FPS, as it can easily burn itself out early on. So, when Wrack's big selling point is relentless fighting and blowing away enemies as fast as possible. However, this one pulls it off thanks to its sheer style and open nature. You have guns, bigger guns, laser guns and explosive guns, and plenty of rooms to blow things up in, and it's also very modifiable with support open to any modders. Basic? Perhaps, but there's no denying the entertainment value you can get from slaughtering your way to the end.

Another airborne assault outing, Luftrausers is a game which relies less upon you holding down a button and firing away, and more precision. Your greatest advantage is the ability to switch your engine off and on, diving and dodging around the clouds as you hurtle through the air. While unwieldy at first, you soon learn that this can allow you to drop from the heavens at a moment's notice to dodge enemy fire, flip over and unleash hell as they try to follow you.

Naturally there are more than a few surprises to be found for anyone seeking an easy win. Battleships prowl the seas below, the skies are filled with enemy planes and the difficulty keeps ramping up the longer you last. However, while you're never supposed to "win" it is rarely unfair, and there's a great deal of fun to be had waging last stand after last stand against the unstoppable legions of your foes.

And the best game on this list with a bad name goes too...

In all seriousness, this one proves to be remarkably entertaining despite it seemingly gimmicky nature. Your job is to defend the various underwater miners as they trawl about seeking new resources, fighting your way through enemies and sticking to a few classic Defender style elements. Yet, the visuals prove to be hilarious, the music is fantastic, and you can see that this is an arcadey and supremely (intentionally) stupid game which just aims to have fun. As such, it gets away with it without any major failings worthy of note. If that sounds back-handed it's really not supposed to be, as it honestly manages to strike the perfect balance between simplicity and engaging sheer fun.

A lightweight RPG with plenty of Monty Python style humour throughout, Driftmoon is reliant upon its charm to succeed. While it sticks to more than a few RPG elements in terms of combat, story segments and leveling, it is designed to last only a scant ten hours or so before closing out. To some this might be a turn off, but to anyone tired of sinking a solid fifty hours into a game, it can be a nice breath of fresh air.

The game also pushes to have you explore as much of the setting as possible despite its short length. You will often run into vast areas, and the world itself is surprisingly massive for what is obviously a budget title. As such, there is never a sense that you are being limited to one area in your journey at any point.

The only RPG maker game on this list (to make up for the three which took up the previous article's slots, awesome as they were), To The Moon is an oddity. It doesn't get into the typical tropes, mechanics or combat of these games, but instead it opts to have you go on a very personal journey. Your task is to fulfill the wishes of a dying man, giving him one last happy thought to depart with. Saying anything more would sadly spoil the game, so I will simply suggest you look at the user responses on Steam itself, and say it's one of the essential purchases on this list.

Made by Arcen Games, AI War was one of their first indications of just how insanely creative some of their stuff could become. You start with humanity defeated by a powerful AI force, regulated to one planet and limited in its influence. So, from there, your task is to rebuild your fleets, gather allies, group forces and slowly expand your influence until you can overcome a supremely powerful enemy.

The trick here is to only irritate the AI so much. If it thinks you're a real threat it can and will crush you very easily, but to progress forwards you will always need to fight it. So, limiting your interactions, engagements and carefully picking your fights is essential in the end. With many problematic outcomes and a wealth of DLC options for this one, you would be hard pressed to find an option with more replay value on here.

So, those are this year's budget brilliance listings. There were more to be sure, but we'll need to save a few for 2018, and look to broaden our genres a bit in the years to come. Until then, I hope this proved to be helpful to you, and if you have any suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. As a new Let's Player, I thank you for this list, and I will reference it in the future when I have more funds.