Friday, 29 December 2017

2017 Steam Winter Sale: 25 Excellent Indie Titles For Under £2.00

With Christmas done and the New Year right around the corner, now is the time when most people devote themselves to the ongoing sales. As video games remain our wheelhouse - and it's something of a tradition to highlight the best bargains and underrated releases - this is a time when we go through the cheapest gems you can buy a dozen of at one time. That and, to help open up a few people to indie titles they might have otherwise ignored.

As usual, there are going to be a few omissions here. Why? Because they will have been covered on previous lists. If you want to see those for yourself, you can find them here, here and a somewhat related one here. They're all winners, so if you see one you like then check it out on the Steam storefront. The same goes for this lot here as well.

So, with that done, here are a few games which might take your fancy.

Bit Blaster XL

One of the retro revamps done right, Bit Blaster XL is Asteroids on steroids. Intended to be small, short, with constant replay value and a multitude of power-ups, it pits you against wave upon wave of enemies. Your job is to keep going until your starship finally explodes from sheer attrition.

Along with various objects to dodge and bullet hell style projectile patterns, you need to contend with collecting coins and remaining constantly mobile at all times. Coming to a standstill equates death.

A House of Many Doors

Praised for its rich story and dark gothic atmosphere, A House of Many Doors is an unusual take on any game. You are trapped within the House, a parasite which is seeking to traverse between realities and steal from them in order to survive. As you make your way throughout it on a steam train driven on a hundred pistoned legs, the world becomes ever more surreal with every story told.

While you cannot directly confront or combat the other beings about the House, you can turn various situations to your advantage. As the game's blurb promises "You are an explorer, poet and spy, launching yourself into the unknown in search of adventure. Rig an election in the city of the dead. Visit a village lit by the burning corpse of a god (careful not to inhale the holy smoke). Sell your teeth to skittering spider-things for a moment in their library. Over 90 bizarre locations await discovery in the dust and the dark."

Olav: The Story of One Boy

The first of several 16-bit style creations, Olav: The Story of One Boy is one of the much better examples of the walking simulator genre. Turning you into a part of the ongoing tale rather than rediscovering it, you play as someone who is starting to notice the injustices of his world and seeks to rectify that by seeking out likeminded souls.

The story here is the main drive, with themes of choice, life and connectivity with others. While it disguises this within a relatively mundane world, it uses this to subvert the more humdrum qualities of everyday life at just the right moment. It's an interesting and very different take on typical video games, but be warned that it is held back by a poor English translation.

Space Pilgrim Episode I: Alpha Centauri

The first of a multi-part episodic series, Space Pilgrim Episode I is a point-and-click adventure crafted in RPGMaker. That fact alone (along with the usual promises) should tell you this isn't your usual quick cash grab by a wannabe developer. This initial start to the tale follows Captain Gail Pilgrim as she ferries various passengers across Alpha Centauri. While certainly more diverse than usual, she expects this to be a typical cut-and-dry operation. She's about to be proven very wrong indeed.

The game utilises various minigames and small hunts to slowly construct the first part of a larger story. Through logical puzzles and backtracking, it's your job to ensure that everyone involved makes it to their destination without incident, even when the worst seems to have come to pass.

Orbt XL

No, believe it or not, that's not a typo in the title. Orbt XL is another simple and direct game which sees you orbiting a black hole. Your job is to stay there and prevent yourself from falling into its centre by dodging the constantly inbound objects at every turn. The longer you go, the faster each turn becomes and the more objects you need to dodge.

Operating on the tried and tested "one more turn" mentality, its arcadey qualities are used to make it quick and simple to play. Due to the constant pull of the black hole itself, you need to vary exactly how you weave and dodge about the incoming obstacles, and track possible threats on the screen itself.

Labyrinthine Dreams

A very brief but extremely engaging puzzle game, Labyrinthine Dreams opts to tell the story of someone potentially hours from death. Travelling back to the defining moments of her life Beth, the protagonist, seeks to change and adapt to find greater meaning in her life.

The puzzles themselves are a mix of mazes, with many which are constructed to reflect primarily on one moment in question. This means that each one offers some twist, some unique alteration which helps it to stand out from all others and forces the player to rethink how they approach the challenge ahead.

Alien Attack: In Space

Taking the retro-inspired qualities of Bit Blaster XL a step further, Alien Attack: In Space operates on many of the same qualities. You have a single ship, you're facing down constant waves of enemy ships and you need to stay one step ahead of the enemy guns. The same old ideas, right? Well, Alien Attack operates on a much faster frame rate and a broader array of weapons.

Along with full integration of gamepads and joysticks, the game's difficulty varies depending upon your initial performance. A few easy or trying early victories will completely alter your overall experience from there on.


Breaking away from the space-themed games in favour of an underwater experience, Anoxemia sees you traversing the seabed in search of a few key items. You need to hunt down oceanic samples while maintaining your oxygen meter and avoiding the potential threats which surround you.

The game is heavily atmospheric, using deep shadows and singular colours to define each environment. While favouring platforming elements and logical puzzles, it gradually builds a story through visuals and excellent voice acting as your character narrates events to himself.

Blade Kitten

An anime-styled 2.5D platformer with a heavy emphasis upon combat, Blade Kitten is a fast-paced experience requiring precision and rapid reactions as much as sheer speed. It sees the player utilising a mix of long and medium range attacks to keep the enemy on the backfoot.

The levels found within the game are sprawling obstacle courses which use slides, jumps, double-jumps, wall-jumps, wall and ceiling climbs to progress to the end. This is limited only by a stamina meter, requiring the player to carefully consider their moves and time rapid leaps for as and when they are needed most.

Diamo XL

One of the far more successful mobile style games to transition to Steam, Diamo XL is a simple puzzle which needs the player to quickly judge which threat to respond to first. Placing a ball in the middle of an angular maze, the player then directs it about the area, intercepting and absorbing threats before they can reach the middle. The longer you last the higher your score.

As with all such games, the challenge increases as you continue onward. With each successive challenge, the threats constantly speed up and become more complex. While you can call this a time waster or a simple thumb-twiddler, it's a mechanically solid and retains an oddly addictive quality thanks to its easy score system.

Open Sorcery

Blending magic with computer programming, Open Sorcery sees the player stepping into the role of a fire elemental bonded with C++ code and tasked with protecting others. This Shadowrun-esque experience is purely text-based and driven by a number of key decisions, which will alter and define the story as it progresses.

Along with the risk of more threats arising as you progress through the game, the choices will significantly alter how BEL/S - the program in question - will develop over time. Everything from gaining full sentience to risking deletion and making an enemy of your employers is all possible.

Doom & Destiny

A full-blown parody of standard JRPG games which promises "the nerdiest adventure of your life! " Doom & Destiny is a loving mockery of the genre. While mechanically stable and sticking to many of the usual tropes of the 16-bit era, the turn-based mechanics and typical quests openly mock them at the same time. Everything from the order of combat to the skills themselves is used for humourous effect, sometimes for a quick gag or in other cases to fully break the mechanics and the fourth wall itself.

The game is nevertheless a competent JRPG in its own right, if somewhat short at twelve hours in length, but bereft of many of the grinding and backtracking issues which often plague the genre.

Trick & Treat

With a premise worthy of a low budget 80s movie, Trick & Treat questions what would happen if a Halloween event went wrong. A group of children go about their rounds asking for candy while in full costume, only to accidentally end up in the house of a vampire. It's your job to guide them past the multitude of bad endings and to the only good one left.

Rather than full-on stealth, the game emphasizes logical challenges and puzzles. Figuring out the layout of the building, the clues left behind and possible threats is essential to overcoming many late-game threats, as is predicting possible future challenges. Plus, it's completely free, unlike most on this list.


A curious one by any standard, Habitat is set in the wake of a cataclysm, your job is to build a new home for people in orbit of its remnants. This means delving through junk, hunting through the debris field and picking out the few items of real worth left out there. Unfortunately, you're not alone out there, meaning that a constant priority along with resources to supply and expand your home is uncovering new weapons.

The game features both a full campaign mode and a survival challenge test to keep things interesting. What's more, as the game leans heavily toward the surreal side of things, your weapons are far from conventional. So, rather than a full turret, some rare defensive elements can consist of things like a robotic T-Red head which spits fireballs. Combine that with an excellent soundtrack, and you have a winner.

The Novelist

A notably grounded and surprisingly dour look at the life of a writer, The Novelist is a constant balancing act on the part of the player. It's ultimately a life simulator, where the risks, stresses and challenges of being a novelist influence your path. You have a single long-term objective to achieve and need to constantly devote enough time to complete it without losing touch with your loved ones.

A few notable decisions help to direct the story toward certain outcomes over others, and while these offer only general changes, a few can offer a few very negative long-term effects. This is one for those who desire interesting experiences and ideas over outright joyful entertainment.

Leviathan: The Last Day of the Decade

One of the visual novels which has attained popularity over the last few years, Leviathan: The Last Day of the Decade focuses more on exploring its dark fantasy setting over getting into someone's trousers. You play the role of a nameless dweller who meets with several members of the nobility who rules the realm, and the mysterious Plague King who resides above them.

The narrative and general script aims to tackle deeper themes than usual, with more of a Game of Thrones style internal web of betrayal and politics. The choices you make can massively affect any one of the characters you are associated to in a different way, and it is easy to be out-gambitted if too much is revealled to the wrong person.

Black Sails - The Ghost Ship

Another horror outing for this list, Black Sails is a point-and-click game following the survivors of a shipwreck. Having taken shelter on board another mysterious vessel, they find it seemingly empty. At least at first.

The point-and-click genre's main traits work in favour of it here, as the slow pace leaves the player vulnerable to the shocking twists, while hunting for items can leave you questioning what threat you might bump into. With a strong story and an incredibly well-developed atmosphere atop of this, the game is less an outright jumpscare than it is a slowly building sense of rising tension. You know something bad is coming and things will go horribly wrong, but you're just counting down until it does.

Race The Sun

Another in the "simple yet incredibly entertaining" category of video games. Race The Sun is surprisingly self-explanatory. You are quite literally racing the sun as you fly a solar-powered craft, and the lower the sun dips over the horizon, the closer to death you are. While the game doesn't focus upon the usual mix of circuits and tight turns, it instead requires the player to react to challenges ahead and the constant kaleidoscopic obstacles which arise in your path.

The road in front of you relentlessly changes and develops, with altering mazes and rising challenges. Mixes of narrow paths and ever altering roads allows the challenges to constantly change even as you close in on them.

Red Comrades Save the Galaxy: Reloaded

A revamp of the wildly exaggerated parody of Communists saving the planet, Red Comrades is a crude and overt point and click adventure hell-bent upon parodying itself. Set during a Russian civil war, it follows two heroes initially attempting to reclaim a stolen flag for themselves.

The artistic design of the game makes it visually distinct and suits the tone of humour almost perfectly. Along with this, it even has a few helpful mechanics which assists considerably in speeding up events, such as a much better item management system to keep track of when you picked something up and where.

Deep Under the Sky

A phosphorescent neon beauty which serves as a complex platformer, Deep Under the Sky is a difficult breed of game to exactly pin down. It certainly fits into the platformer genre, but lacks many of the usual essential threats and retains a much more free-flowing series of mechanics and movements to keep things moving. However, there's an almost leisurely pace to this, and it holds back from turning the game into a series of breakneck reactions.

The main challenge and objective is to complete levels in the fastest time possible. In constantly racing through the levels and swinging about the environment, you need to learn exactly how to slingshot your way about the level and to overcome all placed in your path.

Shattered Planet

A turn-based strategy of sorts, Shattered Planet is a constant challenge to survive a harsh world and survive in it. The rogue-like element of the game means that death is a frequent risk, and the threatening environment rarely pulls its punches. You relentlessly risk death and need to consider how best to conserve your few resources in the name of survival.

What separates Shattered Planet from many of its contemporaries is how it uses the turn-based system and grid-based environment to give the player time to think. Atop of this, however, the overall UI is incredibly streamlined until it can easily be navigated and items selected with a few basic clicks.

Bear With Me

The first part of an episodic trilogy, Bear With Me is a very different take on the Noir genre than what is usually found here. You play as a young girl seeking to uncover the fate of her brother while assisted by her sentient living teddy, Ted E. Bear.

The game has the usual Noir stylings with a few childish twists here and there. The actual tone and detail of this is balanced surprisingly well, thanks primarily to the game's refusal to wink at the audience and play things relatively straight-faced. Furthermore, the story remains an incredibly strong one despite the subject matter, with a genuinely gripping cliffhanger and a surprise twist to keep you guessing as the mystery deepens.


One of the more meta examples here, 199X experiments with subjects of free will vs video game characters, and what that means for one which has become self-aware. As it openly states "In 199X, you control Clara. That's the problem." As such, rather than the more playful turned horrifying tone the likes of Undertale opted to follow, 199X instead attempts to take the same time loop concept and lack of free will with more of a Lovecraftian vibe.

clara herself becomes more disturbed as you go through the game, starting over and over, slowly becoming aware of the medium she is in and having no control in her life. While certainly brief, it nevertheless raises many interesting questions, and it's the sort of thing which could have easily served as a Twilight Zone premise.

The Crystal Nebula

A rare example of a VR option on these lists, The Crystal Nebula is a direct and simple space shooter. Yes, we have had a few of those, but this one is notably different in terms of both style and presentation. For starters, the VR design means that the game has been built with directional movements in mind, with your head helping to direct the course and positioning of your ship, while your hands utilise the main guns.

Along with a variety of enemy attack fighters, your plane needs to hurtle through several interior complexes, Star Fox style. While there is no innate ending besides a scoreboard, your primary objective is ti retrieve every crystal dropped from enemy attack ships.

Eon Altar

A local co-op Action RPG of a different breed, Eon Altar's main gimmick stems from its control interface. Rather than a typical controller or interface, your smartphone instead serves as a direct link to your character. While it sticks to visible inspirations from Diablo - especially the classes - it isn't afraid of experimenting with past successes. This is most evident with how combat is semi-turn-based over being an outright button basher, giving you more time to co-ordinate with others and plan your moves between engagements.

As the smart phones provide another screen, this also means that the main monitor is less cluttered, with individual user information broadcast to the handheld devices. This encourages communication, updates and information between players to announce their status or items they retain.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Netlix’s BRIGHT Fails To Credit 60 Artists For Their Work (Film News)

David Ayer's Netflix production Bright has proven to be polarising to say the least. Along with behind the scenes criticisms, the story has been slammed by critics and has suffered from scathing reviews. However, the fantasy buddy cop film has nevertheless garnered praise for its visual presentation, to the point where it is on the shortlist for a Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar. Unfortunately, a number of those responsible for this work are notably absent from the credits.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Doctor Who: Twice Upon A Time (Episode Review)

Another era of the long-standing show draws to a close, and with it a return to past ages. To kick off a few major changes to the show and even to introduce a number of new ideas, we have a multi-Doctor story. A full one, connecting the classic series fully with the modern one - at least as fully as can be hoped given the decades that have passed. It needed to make this memorable as a result, to have it close out Capaldi's era and Steven Moffat's work on the series, set up a new status quo and leave room for an entirely new writer to take the reigns. They were facing an uphill battle no matter the outcome, and perhaps that's why the story opts to subvert expectations for better and worse.

The Synopsis

Kneeling in the snow, the Doctor fights against his body. Actively denying the constant push toward its regeneration, he tries to finally end it once and for all. Yet, his struggle is interrupted by an old and very familiar face: The Doctor. The First Doctor, the man who started it all. Yet, even as they begin to talk, they realise that events are in motion which shouldn't be. A mysterious force lurks about them, one capable of even trapping the TARDIS, and they seem especially interested in the fate of a mysterious soldier of the Great War.

The Good

It's very easy to quickly pick out what works with this episode from the start, with the Doctors being the most obvious here. While it has been a tradition for incarnations to bicker or even feud with one another (something Pertwee and Troughton turned into a fine art) the take here adds some real life to the story. The First Doctor and Twelfth are polar opposites of one another in every sense, from their mannerisms to values. This goes beyond the mere trading of insults to more of a commentary on how times have changed for the show. Social attitudes, styles and even how threats are dealt with are among the big ones, which help to show just how much the show has changed over the decades. Better yet, this isn't some one-sided exchange of comments. There's an equal level of banter from both sides, which is less a direct old vs new take than it is a clash of different experiences.

Much of the above works thanks to the actors involved. By this point, Capaldi needs no justification nor defending, as he is an excellent Doctor. Even in episodes which gained only a single star rating, he's the reason it kept that star in the first place. However, David Bradley proves himself a worthy successor to William Hartnell and Richard Hurndall in the role. While he clearly takes a multitude of ideas and inspirations from the former actor, he isn't above adding his own slight quirks and spins on the character. This was essential as, along with allowing Bradley to stand out, as well as preventing him from coming across like a simple replacement. Many of the best scenes stem from how Bradley conveys someone who is both younger and less weighed down by events than his later incarnations, but is still wise and caught in a moment of severe personal conflict.

Interestingly still, the story actively tries to subvert many tropes which have weighed down past regeneration tales. Typically these sorts of stories have been presented as the blockbuster events of the franchise, with each typically featuring all of reality at stake and a billion Daleks facing them down. While this sets up to follow that same direction, a twist takes it down a very different route. The benefit of this allows it to stand out from its predecessors and focus more upon character qualities, developments and conversations over running battles. There are certainly action moments, right down to a full battlefield, but it doesn't play out in quite the way you expect.

Easily the best part of the episode is how each incarnation comments and reflects upon the other. Whether it's the First Doctor discussing his departure from Gallifrey to Bill (Welcome back, by the way, Pearl Mackie) or the Twelfth being oddly set in his ways, you see how each made their mistakes but also won their victories. You also come to understand why they made their decisions, and it comes about with a message of respecting the past while at the same time celebrating the future. It's a remarkably well handled one, and the smaller moments of the episode serve as a reminder as to why the Doctor is needed, and all the good that his various incarnations have done over the centuries. From the small victories which led to massive improvements for all, to seemingly impossible feats no one could have hoped for. It's signifying an end of an era in more ways than one, but it isn't nearly so disrespectful as one might think, nor does it try to sacrifice the past to purely support the future.

The Bad

For all the good present, it isn't hard to pick out exactly what's wrong with the story. In fact, listing off every story error would make this review seem like a broken record. Nine-tenths of them stem from Moffat's old sins, and a number reflect the overarching issues with his attempts to build upon the mythos of the series. Perhaps the biggest one is how he has emotion and human commentary override basic continuity or even logic at many points.

To offer a minor spoiler as an example - Neither Ben or Polly show up in this past the introduction. While the two do put in an appearance and even have new footage provided via replacement actors, the second the fanservice is done they up and disappear without any excuse offered. It's not the result of the frozen time event, nor is even an offhand comment about the subject. They're gone and that's it.

This same flippant attitude towards basic continuity or trying to brush over big "we don't have to explain it" moments keeps cropping up as the story moves further and further along. While they are not obvious at first, by the time the third act comes into play, the flaws become extremely apparent. It's obvious that few to no answers will be granted to justify any points offered in the episode, and even major groundbreaking changes which should seriously alter fate are brushed aside. It's the same "Just because" attitude which has unfortunately served as a major hindrance to the stories of the past era. The sort which go beyond simple narrative convenience to moments of such rampant stupidity, it's impossible to ignore them. There's no single massive moment, no gigantic crossing of the line, it's a thousand tiny cuts in this regard which rapidly wear away at the script as it goes along.

Another definite problem is how the script itself is so visibly bloated. It doesn't reincorporate ideas, nor does it focus upon maintaining a singular cohesive action. Instead, it sprawls about, trying to jam in a bit more fanservice and shout-outs to get the fans on its side. These can be worked into a streamlined story, and we have seen such a thing in past episodes. Here though, they arise, have something happen, and are promptly discarded, each never to be seen again. At least part of this is almost certainly intended to help disguise the nature of the story. Yet, that doesn't fully excuse how it keeps struggling to maintain a clear focus upon its core message, nor how it actually keeps distracting from its main themes. In its effort to pull a bait and switch, and establish an entertaining alternate story, it ends up effectively being two very different tales. In a move comparable to The Angels Take Manhatten, you end up with a very good episode hidden away inside a rather bland if not outright bad one.

Perhaps the most pressing problem is how it, while trying to wipe the slate clean for Chris Chibnell's new era, may have left a great deal of baggage for him to cope with. This cannot be commented upon further until the next story is seen of course, or even just the next few years, but the ideas it abruptly introduces with little restraint seem like the sort of thing which should have a major impact for years to come. The sort of thing which might alter the entire history of the show, and even the fates of multiple companions, if not a multitude of massive storylines involving life and death. While this might sound petty, it's inclusion is one of a few which weakens the sense of desperation and real threat which can stem from the life and death struggles the Doctor faces. Especially the sort which require gaining information from those long gone.

The Verdict

Rather fittingly, Twice Upon A Time serves as a culmination of everything from the last few years. In fact, in thematic terms it could be seen as a reflection upon all that has come before it. The story is notably bloated, retains more than a few unnecessary scenes which exist purely for fan service and author appeal. It utilises the fairytale logic and moments of humour to try and gloss over major logical fallacies and inconsistencies, and there is an infuriating lack of answers. 

Yet, for all that there is great characterization here. Bold, stark figures who play off of one another near perfectly, and a very balanced level of irreverence for past and future, while paying it respect when needed. The tale isn't unwilling to play towards the unconventional, and to take risks when it feels there is a better story to be told. Finally, it pushes to create moments which will stick in your memory. Send-offs, character discussions and arguments which culminate in a few excellent moments. It's a mess of a tale. but a beautiful one nevertheless. In that regard, it reflects wholly upon Capaldi and Moffat's contributions to this series to date.

This is hardly Moffat's best work, nor is it the highest note to go out on, but it is still the best regeneration story we have seen for some time. To what degree you will enjoy this will largely come down to the style of storytelling you favour, the "return" of the First Doctor, and the major twist toward the end. As overengineered as it was however, it's hard not to smile when the Doctor passes on a few words to his future self.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

25 Fantastic Games You Probably Missed In 2017

As the Steam Winter Sale has just kicked off, now seemed like the best time to go over a few major successes of 2017 which slipped under the radar. While we will be covering another massed listing of bargains, for the moment this is just a chance to highlight a few exceptionally fun outings which didn't get the attention they deserved. That or I didn't have the chance to review them in full. 

Some you might have heard of before but either quickly faded from memory or were just overshadowed by bigger releases. Others are indie gems which simply lacked the media hype they deserved. Keep in mind that these will not get the usual full review treatment, merely a paragraph or two outlining their strengths and essential qualities.

25. Hearthlands

One of the much better stabs at an accessible Dwarf Fortress (besides Rimworld), Hearthlands puts you in control of a few settlers in a procedurally generated world. You control a city, building it up from nothing and slowly establish a civilisation. While you cannot directly control the individual actions of your civilians, you can manipulate their roles, daily tasks and occasionally nudge them down the path you want.

Along with building allies and establishing trade routes, you need to ensure that you have a stable source of magic and a solid defensive force. It's entertaining in its own relentlessly unforgiving way, as there is a thousand and one ways to fail, and for everything to fall to bits.

24. Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943

Rather than being your standard RTS, Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943 opts to embrace simulation aspects for troop control and directions. Management and tactical cohesion is more important than simply spamming units and trying to rush the enemy, and it needs more than being able to perform a dozen clicks every second.

To give you some idea of what to expect: The game is divided up into a turn-based tactical movement phase, a deployment phase and finally an engagement phase. You only fully engage the enemy in the final point, and you cannot micro-manage your tanks, only convey orders through your commanders.

23. Fall of Light

Set in a world consumed by darkness, Fall of Light is a dungeon crawler with far more of a story than you usually get. Dark, atmospheric and with extremely unrelenting combat, it sees you dying a lot and requires little in the way of number crunching.

Combat requires you to predict enemy attack patterns, carefully select how to best approach your foes, and avoid early traps. The deeper you go into the nightmarish world, the more surreal and twisted the reality about you becomes, until you're not entirely sure just what else is lurking alongside you in the dark.

22. Old Man's Journey

In contrast to the last example, The Old Man's Journey emphasises storytelling over mechanics. Simple, direct and leaning towards the casual side of things, it pushes to make the player enjoy a story of loss, recovery, and exploration over killing the next boss. Almost all story elements are conveyed non-verbally and through the environment over line upon line of dialogue.

The main engagement stems through various puzzles, from fetch quests to logical conundrums. The artistic presentation and soundtrack help to add depth to the world, and through it the game manages to be more than simply the sum of its parts.

21. Distrust

The developers of this game advertised it as John Carpenter's The Thing: The Game, and it embraces that quality wholeheartedly. The game sets you up as one of several researchers trapped inside a winter locked base as things start to turn strange, and then take a turn for the homicidal. 

The game requires you to carefully conserve resources, keep the base running, contend with outside threats, and deduce just who is the threat among you. The risk of failure is high and it's easy to die very early on without approaching the world with extreme caution. Best yet, it even has a co-op mode. That said, to warn those looking into it, the game is still being patched for bugs. Keep that in mind when you're looking into it.

20. Pyre

A strange and yet very engaging creation from the developers of Bastion and Transistor, this sees you waging war through magical high-speed dodgeball. Part sports game, part visual novel and part RPG, Pyre has every victory and loss impact upon your path to enlightenment.

The game's various challenges and world building are worked about the ongoing games, and in typical Supergiant fashion, it does enough to hook you in without overexposing the setting. The various rules and tactics of the games can radically change over the time, with various player types and vastly different strengths among team members.

19. Omegaland

In what looks to be little else than a Super Mario knockoff at first glance, Omegaland instead opts to completely twist expectations. While it starts off with the usual tropes, gameplay types and even enemies you might expect, the sheer variety of hidden qualities, secrets and areas will keep you hooked.

Even without the surprising changes, the game is extremely fast paced and mechanically tight. The sheer variety of enemies, shifting challenges, level types and jumping challenges will keep you hooked until things get really interesting.

18. Battle Chasers: Nightwar

The Battle Chasers is classical in the best of senses while sticking to inventive RPG concepts. Utilising turn-based combat, it sees you traveling through a steampunk magitek world and trying to grab all the loot you can. Also, for those wondering, yes this is something of a sequel to the comic of the same name.

The game takes concepts from JRPGs along the lines of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy, while utilising western-influenced mechanics, such as randomly generated levels. Battle Chasers has learned from the mistakes of the past, however, with various anti-grinding features to keep things moving.

17. Tyranny - Bastard's Wound

The first of the two DLC expansions on this list, the Bastard's Wound works as a chance to extend that much more of the world and offer material for character interactions. You are tasked with judging and then exploring a settlement which has been founded beneath a magical ruin, with all the problems involved. The story, while brief, adds a number of major game changers to the larger world and it hints at something much greater to come.

The replay value of the DLC stems from a few key moments and the characters involved. Much like the larger Tyranny itself, it's a brief but highly detailed experience where you are encouraged to keep coming back and trying new things with new characters.

16. Operation Apex

As VR continues to evolve, some of the simplest ideas are those which are helping to push the boundaries the most. Operation Apex doesn't follow the usual horror route, but it instead opts to focus more upon the spectacle of exploration. You are in the middle of a deep sea dive, traveling just above the seabed with fish swarming about you. Your task? To find the largest Great White Shark ever seen.

Much of the game is spent hunting for clues and simply enjoying the beauty of the environment. You need to carefully pay attention to key details and certain fish in order to eventually find your quarry.

15. The Wild Eternal

Tackling some fairly heavy subject matter, The Wild Eternal sees you playing as someone trying to heal from past traumas and escape a constant cycle of resurrection. You wonder a mist filled valley as you try to pick out the correct items, points of interest and resolve a few puzzles.

This is one of the very few examples of walking simulators done right, as it hinges upon some ideas discussed in detail and are reflected in the world about you.

14. Rogue Trooper: Redux

A recent remake of an even more underrated classic, Rogue Trooper: Redux was a last generation game. A few ideas are certainly dated and you can tell the exact era it is from via the turret sequences. However, it's an extremely well made last generation game, with interesting mechanics and very challenging enemies.

Rogue himself is a talented soldier, a genetically enhanced artificial warrior trained to fight in a pollution-choked world. Each item of his arsenal has its own soul, retaining the memory chips of his fallen comrades, allowing them to be independently deployed for complex tactics.

13. Shadowhand

 A combination of CCG and RPG qualities sees you playing a highwayman in 18th Century England. The gimmick is that you can only take a few hits, so you need to use your cards to sneak about a foe, rob them of their worldly goods and hit them extremely hard when needed.

The use of cards in this game is less Magic: The Gathering than it is solitaire, with a more puzzle-like and directly combative structure than you might expect. The sheer variety of cards to allow you to rapidly reload or carry a wider assortment of weapons keeps things interesting for hours on end.

12. Styx: Shards Of Darkness

Another of the Orcs series of games, Styx: Shards Of Darkness is the game of a goblin assassin. Unlike the unending Ubisoft series of games set throughout history, this is an actual assassination game. You can take few hits, most direct fights will end badly and stealth is your greatest ally. Styx might be weak, but he's smart, fast on his feet and extremely agile, and the game can be seen as one gigantic puzzle over everything else.

The game balances humour with drama at every turn, and it often throws these moments in at unexpected points. This helps to balance the extreme tension of avoiding guards, with genuinely hilarious film references or bizarre gags.

11. Lost Technology

A game in the vein of the classic tactics games of the Gameboy Advance and SNES era, Lost Technology boasts an ensemble of over a hundred characters split among twelve factions. You govern an army, and try to lead them to global dominance over a massive world map, with Risk-esque routes and a surprisingly intuitive enemy AI.

The game offers massive replay value due to how differently each of the factions speak, react and interact to your presence depending upon who you are playing. This is extremely in line with Warriors games, but it offers a few more pointers those games will usually skim over. In addition to this, the battles are surprisingly tactical and benefit from a vast scale strategy engagement.

10. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Another of the bright, colourful fantasy adventure series, the Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles are a Harvest Moon-lite experience paired with the Legend of Zelda. While it relies upon a sense of internal wonder and a desire to explore, then uncover the dark secrets of the islands.

The surprisingly relaxed atmosphere and lack of the usual hindering survival mechanics makes it a welcome change from the likes of Minecraft or grindy experiences. While the main story is relatively brief, the big appeal stems from the other areas of the island to explore, alter and slowly thrive in your new home.

9. Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King

If you are going to even consider getting any game on this list, make sure it is this one.

Blossom Tales is effectively a SNES era Legend of Zelda mashed together with the Princess Bride. You play two roles in it: One as a grandfather explaining the story to his children and the other as the hero. Things have gone bad, a wizard has pushed to claim power for himself, and the king is unconscious. What follows is a Macguffin hunt to get the pieces to stop the wizard and reverse his spell.

What makes it stand out from the crowd is how it uses the narration to change events. The grandfather might pause to correct himself or quickly cover a plot hole, radically changing a scene as it's in progress. In others, it can be used to choose which enemy you fight and when. The choice itself dramatically altering the environment and populating it with a specific series of foes. It's cute, colourful, humourous, mechanically challenging, and barely anyone bothered to buy it due to Steam's terrible store page hiding it away.

8. Hollow Knight

A rare example of a game which genuinely warrants a comparison with Dark Souls, Hollow Knight is one of the largest and most unforgiving metroidvanias created to date. Grim, unrelenting and with no end of unpleasant surprises which can be thrown your way, it keeps you guessing just how to progress and what enemies can be thrown your way next.

The sad desolation of the levels is enhanced as much by the strange artistic style as the soundtrack, which works perfectly with boss battles and major fights. 

7. Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth

Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth is a very rare resurrection of an otherwise abandoned genre. A point and click adventure game set in 12th century England, it follows several people struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile world. Along with avoiding the old point and click sin of leaving you trying to tackle moon logic, your choices carry serious weight here. A decision made by one character will seriously influence others, and can come back to bite you later on down the line.

The game also works its themes of sacrifice in the name of dreams into its core mechanics, while the sheer variety of characters and large scale personalities presses upon you the size of this saga.

6. Archaica: The Path of Light

Another puzzle experience, Archaica: The Path of Light requires you to channel beams of light and utilise ancient puzzles to progress further into a series of decaying ruins. The game's environment constantly shifts in order to provide further challenges, as you manipulate items across a grid-based system.

The number of coloured laser paths, the variety of tools and surprisingly varied locations is enough to keep things interesting. There's also a surprisingly thoughtful story added to the game, which helps to give you greater incentive to keep going and pick out tibbits of lore.

5. Rakuen

A curious example of an extremely story-driven experience, Rakuen is another example of a game where you play through an ongoing tale. Told by a child stuck in a hospital bed, you travel through his personal world along with his mother. An ambitious concept and one which could easily have been used as a gimmick, Rakuen's creators instead uses it to constantly comment upon the various quests and the child's perilous situation in a surprising way.

The game avoids direct combat in favour of puzzles, but it still manages to work in various dungeons, sprawling environments and the sheer variety of challenges put in your path. Many dialogue based mysteries and questions link closely into the game's main themes and central plot, many of which tie into the final few minutes.

4. Sunless Skies

The only Early Access listing on here, Sunless Skies is the exception to the usual rule. Having proven themselves with Sunless Sea, Failbetter games have sought to build further upon their world and expand it out into the heavens. The core objectives and the mechanics are the same as its predecessor, and yet many strengths have been built upon. Trading between ports lacks much of the finicky or obtuse qualities disliked by some, and there is much more of an effective instant start. Flight and traversing the sky follows the same overall mechanics as on the sea, yet it's easier to maneuver in the air.

The active updates and constant development means that the already large world is constantly being expanded upon. The lore once more delves into the creepiness and surreal nature of the universe, but even old hands will find new ideas to expand upon subjects. A big one stems from how the stars are seemingly being hunted down and killed en mass.

3. Last Dream: World Unknown

Last Dream has long served as a personal measuring rod for RPGMaker successes. The original game's world was vast, with surprising side-quests, a vast amount of choice and more than sixty hours of content throughout it. World Unknown doubles the value of the game, changing the setting and pitting the heroes against an entirely new threat. While it is very much a sequel story to the main game, it retains many similar ideas and qualities. The protagonist once more sees the world's history through mysterious visions while seeking to halt a growing crisis, and the same Guilds appear once more. However, it nevertheless manages to keep you guessing as to where things will progress to, thanks to the fate of a major city and several big moral conundrums.

The world is filled with various oddities and life inspiring moments, from the histories of side characters to moments which slowly evolve over time. Also, there are a number of hidden dungeons with some very interesting histories to them.

2. Use Your Words

Jackbox Party Packs have proven to be a smash hit with a broad audience, which has naturally led to the rise of countless clones. Some are good, more than a few are bad, but Use Your Words is a rare example of one which tries to build upon the concepts developed by the first game. Rather than simply trying to trick others, it's a caption contest-esque experience where people vote upon the funniest suggestions.

The game is broken up into a variety of different mini-games hinging upon this subject, which ranges from altering subtitles in a running video to a still image.

1. The Sexy Brutale

Like many, you might have initially been put off by this one thanks to the choice of name. If you did, you missed out on one of the most creative concepts of the year. There is a masked ball taking place, a murderer is on the loose and there might be occult events in play. It is your task to gradually piece together events and pick out how things are taking place, and when. As you run through events over and over again, you slowly start to figure out the timing of certain actions of characters, and where certain disasters will occur.

The game is part adventure outing and part puzzle game. As you can travel back to alter events and push things down a new path, there is a trial and error quality to events, but you can never wholly predict just how things might pan out. Just when you think you might have something align together perfectly, a butterfly effect of sorts might change the outcome entirely.

0. Homeworld: Emergence

Yes, this is technically cheating, but damn it, this is something to be celebrated! You might recall a couple of years ago Homeworld saw something of a resurgence with both Deserts of Kharak and the Remastered versions of the first two games. For many this was fantastic, but unfortunately, it was lacking the best game of the series: Cataclysm. The reason? The source code had been lost and no one could get hold of the right bits to remake it. Well, clearly something changed, as the game was re-released this year under the name Emergence and it's as great as ever.

Serving as a stand-alone expansion to the original game, Emergence follows a minor Kushan power on board a mining vessel. Unfortunately, an operation goes horribly wrong, at which point a story of warfare and survival turns into a cosmic horror tale. So, the miners need to rebuild their ships into vessels of war and find out how to stop a nightmarish entity from wiping the galaxy clean of all life.