Graveless is an ARPG nightmare and 4 more indie games to watch
Welcome back to another week of indie gaming goodness to keep you on the radar. While there are several promising titles to hit before we put a bow on 2022, we’ve cast the net further this time and brought in everything from a cozy puzzle set for the start of next year to a mind-blowing travel game with no set release date. Let’s take a quick look at the indie games Graveless, Customize, Unformulation, We kill monstersand Forest Cathedral.
PC – TBA
It’s hard to look past a game with such compelling character and monster design Graveless. This dark fantasy ARPGen is the new IP from Digital Happiness, an Indonesian studio that has spent the last 10 years building Dread Universe. That franchise started with Fatal Frame-as DreadOutbefore branching out into comics, a movie, and more games, including the upcoming asymmetric multiplayer game, DreadHaunt.
As a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, Graveless is a significant shift away from the team’s safe zone. Speaking about the process of embarking on this new journey, game producer Rachmad Imron said: “Making new IP for us as a bootstrapped company is quite challenging and nerve-wracking because, well, our budget and resources are very limited. In Digital Happiness we make many prototypes of new IPs, one of them is Graveless… So Graveless will be our weekend project while the whole team develops DreadHaunt.”
Graveless also catches the eye thanks to what appear to be deep RPG elements, with magic, melee, gunplay and acrobatic traversal well represented in the debut trailer. According to Imron, about a year has passed since the footage was taken. The project has since been moved to Unreal Engine 5, but the team wanted to get word already to gauge interest, as well as “get in touch with players as soon as possible, gather input, critics and responses.” Hopefully, getting feedback early proves to be a gateway to securing Graveless can stand among the titans of the ARPG genre.
PC – TBA
Customize can only be the closest thing to one Trace competitor we have ever seen. But far from trying to emulate Maxis’ eternally exciting game, Customize deftly cuts out the “Creature” component and builds it into an entire game that relies heavily on procedural generation. Your challenge i Customize is survival. Nothing more, nothing less.
But if you think you know what survival means in the context of video games, think again. Solo developer Paul Hervé has drawn inspiration from the biological meaning of the word to build a game that puts evolution at the forefront of gameplay. That means you’ll spend your time bolting together a Frankensteinian creature from a variety of different parts that will enable it to survive in often hostile environments. Shells, sails, fangs, mandibles, spider legs, flippers: the only limit to the monstrosities you can create is your pool of evolution points (and the body parts you’ve unlocked up to that point).
The premise does Customize sounds like a god game – and it is, but it’s also an adventure. Once you have a creature that can fend for itself, you take direct control and venture out into the wide world to battle other creatures, find your own species, grow up and propagate your species. In the meantime, keep in mind the environmental challenges to ensure you don’t slide to the bottom of the food chain or wither away in the shallow end of the gene pool. If you’re the type of gamer who likes to make your own fun, Customize should be right up your alley with a robust potential for emerging play.
PC – February 2023
When I think of heartwarming games, Forgotten Fields by Frostwood Interactive tops my list. The studio’s next game, Unformulation, is set to continue in the same spirit. You will play as Tom, a man with a tendency towards pessimism, through three days that prove to be decisive in changing Tom’s perspective through chance.
The vibes are extremely cozy, and it’s something solo developer Armaan Sandhu actively tries to cultivate in his creations. “My aim with Frostwood has always been to create cinematic works that hopefully move, affect and affect people emotionally,” he said. “I love putting the dark and light elements of life together as it makes the good moments shine even brighter and have more impact when they happen. At the same time, moments of melancholy and darkness have their own charm when they appear in stories and enable catharsis by addressing dark and repressed emotions.”
While Forgotten Fields and Rain wet before there were strict narrative adventures, Unformulation sees Sandhu stretch his talents by adding word puzzles. These puzzles help us understand how Tom sees the world, which Sandhu says formed the basis of the entire game: “I knew I wanted to make something that shows how word our inner monologue use can have an impact on how we see our daily lives, and how changing those words can in turn create a tangible, noticeable difference in how we see our life and the world around us. While mechanic-driven games aren’t really my forte (and are something I found quite challenging to design!), there was no other direction I could take this game.”
We kill monsters
PC – TBA
That title is a stark reminder of the value of simplicity. The goal of the game is clear. It says on the box: We kill monsters. It nevertheless raises the question of how. In games, we kill our demons in dozens of ways, from jumping on their heads to slashing, stabbing, drowning, transforming, and shooting. We kill monsters has a distinctly medieval style to combat, with large swords, arrows and throwables seeming to be the order of the day.
But the game looks like it’s going to be a lot more interesting than just killing things. It has often been quoted with reference to Shadow of the Colossus and Death Stranding, and it’s easy to see where these comparisons come from. Most of the recordings available so far (mostly via Twitter feed by lead developer Jacob Williams aka Glass Revolver) is quite relaxed, showing a character traversing a land of gorgeous natural environments and mysterious ruins throughout the journey which sees them descend into a huge pit.
Despite the haunting image and lonely atmosphere, We kill monsters is designed for co-op with up to four players, with a variety of mechanics to emphasize building relationships, including camping and playing music. We’ve had many video game journeys over the years, from Mystery to Travel to Death Stranding to The insideand if We kill monsters proves to be as ethereal and involving as it looks, there’s a good chance it could become another standout of the genre.
PC, Xbox Series X | S – Q1 2023
In 1962, a book changed the world. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was a landmark in investigative science that argued that widespread use of pesticides would have harmful long-term effects on the environment, ecosystems, and the effectiveness of the pesticides themselves. The book played a key role in the eventual ban of DDT in the United States and changed environmental activism worldwide.
Now, 60 years later, solo developer Brian Wilson has taken that story as inspiration Forest Cathedral. “I’m always looking to bring outside sources into my games,” Wilson said. “I first learned about Rachel and Silent Spring in college and thought it was only going to be one aspect of Forest Cathedralbut after researching, I realized there was so much there and it had to be its own game. Forest Cathedral is a reimagining of the events inspired by Silent spring, which allows me to tell my own sci-fi story. I get to shed light on some true events and scientific facts built into an immersive game that is true to my world.”
The game is split across two genres: a 3D walking sim and a 2D platformer, with the latter nested within the former. As you explore the island environment, you’ll come across computer terminals. “Players will essentially platform inside the terminals, but try to achieve something different each time – keeping the game fresh with all the different orientations, perspectives and locations the terminals are in,” explained Wilson. Forest Cathedral has the potential to be captivating, funny and educational all at the same time, and even if it misses one of those marks, it’s sure to be a fascinating mix of ideas.
Let us know what you think of the selection of indie games this time around and what you’re most interested in Graveless, Customize, Unformulation, We kill monstersand Forest Cathedral.