The World is a big place. A big place, with lots to do and see. Video games are a big industry. A big industry with lots to play and… watch on YouTube/Twitch?
Combine these two facts and it becomes clear that you can’t play everything, or read about every game. Especially in a year like 2015. A year in which we saw amazing releases like The Witcher 3 and Undertale. And then Steam opened the flood gates and made everything even worse.
So in honor of those underappreciated games, let’s hand out awards to 5 games that went under everyone’s radar:
“Simplicity is the glory of expression” – Walt Whitman
Kingdom reduced to its core is a basic 2D sidescrolling pixel art city management/survival game. You start a town, recruit people, build structures, and defend against nightly hordes of monsters. Sounds fun. Sounds simple. Well, it is fun and it is simple, but it’s also so much more than the concept alone could hint at.
Your journey won’t take you more than two steps before you will find yourself enthralled by a mysterious aura, chaining you to your monitor for hours. The music does a perfect job enhancing your emotional bond with both the world and its secrets. The pixel art is up there with the best. And while there isn’t any traditional storytelling, the emergent one works great in a seemingly never-ending story of rise and fall.
If I would make a list about the biggest surprises of the year, this one would be a guaranteed entry. Think Freelancer meets the ship battles from Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. There really isn’t much more to say about it. Oh, and a soundtrack that could be lifted from Firefly.
Like most games on this list, it’s probably a victim of its release date. October was super busy for indies and with the recent influx of mediocre space games, nobody really seemed to care. A shame, since this is probably the best game in the “shoot lots of things in space” genre since Darkstar One.
The fringe genre of political simulations might not shine with a huge catalog of contemporary releases, but at least there is a certain quality standard. Be it Democracy 3, Crusader Kings 2 or Tropico, if you can find enjoyment in manipulating the masses, you’re usually in for a good time. Usually.
August 2015 saw the release of Sim Junta, a game were you take control of a small Caribbean nation. If you are me, the promise of a new game that is all about balancing budgets, negotiating with world powers and executing traitors to the nation sounds like best thing ever. Sadly Sim Junta didn’t deliver and so it was back to Civilization. But then came October, and with it Rogue State. With the previous heartbreak and an already busy month I would have almost passed it up, but in the end my lust for building hospitals and killing political enemies prevailed, and thank (who/whatever you fancy) it did.
Now I only played around 3 hours of it so far (enough for 2 failed attempts), so take my recommendation with a grain of salt, but so far I can strongly recommend it. After a violent uprising you’re in charge of a fictional Middle Eastern nation, dealing with a destroyed infrastructure, feuding political movements and enemies from both within and outside your borders. Staying in power is a challenge that will soon test the adaptability and flexibility of your moral codex, because a secular workers’ state is great and all, but maybe it shouldn’t be your highest priority when you have a fundamentalist population and a warmongering cock gathering troops by your border. Yes, a cock. No, not a penis. A rooster. Isn’t any less silly though.
Big Pharma looks like a full blown economic sim at first glance, but is actually in equal parts a puzzle game . On one hand you have to deal with researching new ingredients, hiring employees and more, on the other hand you need to build production lines that are as effective as possible and figure out the perfect composition of your medication.
Strange mix that’s strangely addictive. Get it? Addictive? Drugs? Not funny? Oh, and what do you know about humor?! Pah! I don’t have to deal with this. Go read up on it yourself.
Ok, you were right. Not funny at all.
Renowned Explorers: International Society
Now this one is a real shame. If our personal experience is any indication, pretty much everything that could have gone wrong with the game, has gone wrong. We did “actually” record an interview/gameplay session with the developer Abbey Games before release, but when we asked for the video file, well, let’s just say: things happen, nobody is to blame… I could have asked again if we are actually ACTUALLY recording…
Then they gave us a review copy, and the guy responsible for doing it had a personal crisis. So yeah… no surprise it didn’t sell well at first without the immense sales boost someone would expect from being featured on Twinstiq. Thankfully the game gained some of the lost recognition back since then, but with the packed holiday season I highly doubt that converted into many sales.
If we’d go back to the “x meets x” formula, it would probably be X-Com meets David Cage. A turn and squad based tactical strategy game that uses “emotions” as a basis for its primary mechanics. Renowned Explorers also deeply integrates randomization, from story to landscape, so get ready to discover and explore new shit for quite some time. Perfect for shortening the XCOM 2 wait, or as a replacement in case that one turns out to suck.
Cutting this list down to 5 titles was actually quite hard. So many other hidden gems in 2015, it’s crazy. Know any other games which deserve some recognition? Share them in the comments.