We love indie games, and that’s why we’re here: This column is a celebration of all those projects made by teams or even one single person that, on their own, went and did whatever they wanted. We tell you on a monthly format our newest discoveries regarding any games outside the AAA landscape, shading light into the indie games we love, gush about them, and maybe even help you find a new favorite game!
Vampire Survivors | $2.99 on Steam
Vampire Survivors might not be the greatest game of all time, but it sure belongs in the conversation for greatest bang for your buck video game of all time. It has a sizeable amount of unlockables with a simple but incredibly satisfying gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for more and more and more, and it’s only 3 bucks! The price is absolutely insane. But as for the game itself, it finds itself occupying an area in between ARPGs like Diablo and Torchlight and the Bullet Hell subgenre like Enter the Gungeon and Nuclear Throne.
The only controls in the game are moving your character around, but using your starting weapon and passive ability, you take down some monsters, level up, and unlock more weapons. These weapons change how you move your character. For example, the whip only hits horizontally in front of you until you level it up, which now causes it to hit horizontally in front and behind you. The knives shoot out in whatever direction you are moving or last moved if you’re standing still. Once you inevitably die in-game, you then unlock more things on a permanent basis, a la a roguelike game.
There are plenty of characters, permanent upgrades, different maps, and different weapons to unlock based on how you progressed in the last game you finished. It sounds incredibly basic because it is, which just furthers the insanity that is this game. It’s a 3 dollar game where all you do is move your character, and yet, it’s so much fun. It’s perfect to mess around with on the side of something else, almost like an idle game, and it’s also perfect if you have a few minutes to spare in-between errands or whatever it might be that you’re doing. Seriously, this game is such an incredible steal it just boggles my mind every time I think about it.
A Plague Tale: Innocence | $39.99 on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and Nintendo Switch.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a very special game. I stumbled upon it a few months after its release and played it thanks to its setting, as I am a sucker for french settings in video games (No coincidence Assassin’s Creed Unity might be my favorite open-world) and completely fell in love with it.
You play as 15-year-old Amicia de Rune, daughter of a feudal lord in 1348 France, while the Black Plague and the French Inquisition ravage the land. When tragedy, in the form of religious persecution, reaches your door and destroys the life you knew, you manage to barely escape alongside your 5-year-old brother, Hugo, who has been ill since birth, and thus, start a journey of horror, survival, and family.
The premise is already very unique in the gaming landscape. It’s a story about two siblings who hardly know each other, as Hugo was recluded from everyone except his parents and doctor, and how they form a bond out of all this shared trauma, and especially how you are forced to grow up to protect the both of you.
As a fan of narrative-focused games, this is all perfect for me. It’s not only interesting in concept but executed perfectly. One of the highest compliments I can make to the game is that Hugo, who remains an NPC for almost all of the game, never feels annoying, a flaw that most games with prominent NPC companions commit. Instead, your feelings for him brilliantly and purposefully grow alongside those from Amicia, as she starts estranged and sometimes hot-tempered against her little brother, but develops into a more understanding and responsible person, while Hugo too grows to respect her and follow her orders.
But with so much talk about the narrative, you’d think the gameplay is relegated to a second stage. And you would be deeply wrong. Throughout all the hours you will spend with the game, it never stops cleverly presenting new mechanics to help you on your travel. There are deadly rats you will have to fight off with light, and Inquisitors, who you can almost always sneak by from or kill if you are fast, precise, and smart enough. Both of these also function together sometimes, like when the game allows you to trick the rats into eating the Inquisitors. And overall, these mechanics also function to solve puzzles put on your way.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say the art direction was my main focus at all times here. A Plague Tale: Innocence is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen. The story begins in a peaceful and beautiful castle and forest, which suddenly works as a contrast to the rest of the game, where you will find yourself running around desolated towns, fields covered in corpses, and rat-infested ruins. In one terrifyingly memorable sequence, you literally crawl in a sea of gutted bodies. Every frame of this game could be printed and hung on a wall. This is a game that remains beautiful even at its most horrible without ever taking away from the emotion of the moment, which is an admirable feat.
If you haven’t tried A Plague Tale: Innocence yet, there is no better time to do it than now, as its sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem, gets close to its release. It’s hard to imagine someone not enjoying this game as it has various features that appeal to a big spectrum of people who look for different things in games while never neglecting any of these. The result is an entertaining, unique, touching, and beautiful game that I can’t recommend enough.