PAX East 2017: Indie Highlights

Some of the coolest indie games on display at the PAX East.

4 months ago by Morgan Shaver

I circled around the Expo Hall at PAX East 2017 on an endless loop. During each pass, I discovered several new indie games that pulled me in and refused to let go. I tried my hardest to stop by each booth and learn as much as I could about the various indies on display. However, this wasn’t the easiest task, as many con-goers were just as eager as I was to experience these exceptional indie titles!

Below, I’ve compiled a small list of indie highlights from PAX East 2017.

Absolver

Decorating the faux walls of the Absolver booth at PAX East were masks representative of the ones worn by characters in the game. I thought this was a nice touch, as it really helped set Absolver’s tone prior to my experiences in the demo. After meeting up with one of the developers, I perched myself on a chair and proceeded to learn more about this fascinating fighting game.

First, the martial arts combat in Absolver is extremely polished. Couple this with the game’s minimalistic art style, and you have a combo that makes it effortless to immerse yourself in the realm of Absolver.

The procedurally generated environment and vast online multiplayer give players a different experience each and every time they load into the game. Once settled in, Absolver's fighting style is made to fit your individual play style, and can be customized even further as you go along. Furthermore, improving upon this style is easy, as you can get other players to mentor you (wax on, wax off).

I quickly learned that mentoring would be something I'll be needing, as I'm pretty bad at fighting games (as was emphasized by the boy behind me who demolished me in 1v1). I really enjoyed my time with Absolver, and appreciate the 2+ years of work the developers put into the game. Their efforts truly shine through in the Absolver's finely tuned mechanics. Learn more about Absolver on the game’s official website.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

It wasn’t tough to fall in love with Battle Chasers: Nightwar, as it feels like a mesh between traditional JRPG games and one of my favorite free-to-play strategy games, Path of Exile. There are several dungeons to explore, all with different difficulty levels, and wide variety of characters to choose from. While you explore, you’ll find yourself eager to unravel the mysteries surrounding Crescent Isle.

One thing I really loved was the game's animation style, which feels at home alongside traditional Japanese anime. For example, check out the Garrison animation below, which reminded me a lot of the sword-wielding badass Guts in Berserk.

Battle Chasers is the perfect example of a turn-based strategy game full of polish and finesse. Even if you’re someone who’s on the fence about strategy RPGs, the game’s art style is more than enough to draw you in and convince you to give it a try. Learn more about Battlechasers on the game’s official website.

Oh… Sir! The Insult Simulator

I’ve played Oh...Sir! in the past and really enjoyed the game’s concept and style. However, after a new Hollywood-themed patch was released, I knew I had to jump back in and earn myself a few Golden Parrot awards for posterity. Paying a little visit to the Gambitious section at PAX, I was able to meet up with Vile Monarch’s two unforgettable developers, Kacper and Grzegorz.

I enjoyed hanging out with them and talking not only about the game, but about all of the Polish developers floating around PAX East this year as well. Taking a seat and trying my hand at the new Hollywood addition of the game, I was overjoyed by the various pop culture references before me.

Having the ability to play as Harry Potter mixed with Dirty Harry versus a cranky Gandalf with a subtle Walter White poster in the background? It’s no wonder why this insult game is so addicting. Just hearing what these characters have to say to each other, even before you string insults together, is a blast.

If you haven’t played Oh... Sir! yet, you definitely have to as you’ll be instantly hooked by the quirky Mad Libs humor and Monty Python style. Learn more about Oh…Sir! The Insult Simulator on the game’s official website.

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Yonder is the perfect blend of RPGs like Zelda and farming sims like Stardew Valley. Rather than fighting hordes of enemies, your character is tasked with finding Sprites hidden through the island of Gemea in an effort to clean up the murk and save the environment.

While doing this, you’ll also be able to tend to your own farm, utilize the resources of the land, cook, craft, and meet some rather interesting characters.

One of my favorite characters was a farmer who taught me how to use a scythe. In doing so, I was awarded a scythe of my own, and he was able to have someone else chop his grass for him. I found that I actually didn’t hate the NPC quests, which is the case for me in many other RPG-style games.

Plus, the art and adept cell-shaded style in Yonder is truly a sight to behold. Honestly, I could see this game doing exceptionally well on the Nintendo Switch. All in all, I enjoyed the laid-back experience in Yonder, and cannot wait to play the game when it releases later this year. Learn more about Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on the game’s official website.

Kismet

“Oh, what is that game?!” I said aloud, forcing my way through foot traffic like Frogger to get a closer look. As I reached the booth, I learned that Kismet is an indie VR game featuring a mystical fortune teller. Rather than shooting things or solving puzzles, Kismet aims to offer a more unique VR experience.

Each day, you can load into Kismet and get your fortune told. The game is heavily inspired by the tantalizing realm of tarot and astrology, and uses both to play heavily into the natural order of human curiosity. What will Kismet see in my cards? Also, who exactly is Kismet?

At times, it’s hard to pay attention to the cards dealt as dazzling sights fly all around you. One of Kismet’s greatest strengths, aside from its core premise, is its aesthetic. Kismet is hands-down one of the most beautiful VR games I’ve ever explored.

If you’re looking to try something a little different, Kismet is a game that takes an incredible idea and brings it life seamlessly. Learn more about Kismet on the game’s official website.

Songbringer

Songbringer really took me back to the days of early Legend of Zelda titles. Taking on the role of accidental hero, Roq Epimetheos, you’re able to travel the galaxy aboard his trusty ship, the Songbringer. In a way, the game also reminds me of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as the main character and his trusty sidekick Jib feature a nice layer of humor.

I mean, who doesn’t want to knock out enemies with Roq's top hat? There are a wide variety of secrets to be found in the world of Songbringer, including diamonds hidden in bushes. While playing the demo, I found myself repeatedly whacking every bush I came across. Which, for me, is something I’ve always loved in RPG games (similar to breaking pots in Zelda).

The game’s procedural generation and non-linear gameplay enable you to play for hours on end. Honestly, it’s games like Songbringer that remind me why indies are so impressive. After all, Songbringer was created by one person (Nathaniel Weiss); something you’d never know based on the game’s level of polish. Learn more about Songbringer on the game’s official website.

Super Rude Bear Resurrection

“Hey, want to try it out?” That was all I needed to sit down next to the developer, grab a controller, and hop into the punishing realm of Super Rude Bear Resurrection. This platformer isn’t as unforgiving as RunGunJumpGun, but it delivers the same core premise. If you die, you instantly restart and try again. This gives you the chance to learn from your mistakes.

However, your dead body remains, even after you respawn. Meaning that yes, you can use each of the bear corpses to make your way forward through the game. In one event, I settled for cheating by lining the bottom of a spiked pit area with bears. As a result, I was able to scamper across in one piece.

I heard the developer give a little chuckle, as on the other side, another player was doing something similar on a harder level. I really liked the fact this was an option given to you; you can either take the game seriously, or die over and over again to make it a little easier for yourself.

No matter which way you choose to play, Super Rude Bear Resurrection is a game you'll have a hard time putting down. Learn more about Super Rude Bear Resurrection on the game’s official website.

The American Dream

A VR game that makes me laugh? What sorcery is this? The American Dream is the perfect combination of my favorite style of humor and solid VR mechanics. Opening the game, you start out as a baby who’s given two handguns. Oh yeah, it’s that kind of game.

Your guide is a robotic golden retriever with a retro radio announcer voice who teaches you the ins and outs of shooting bagels. While the game is silly on the surface, I also found myself enjoying the nuanced story element and atmosphere. You’re not just shooting at random objects, you’re immersing yourself in a strange alternate reality. One that hits a little too close to home at times.

The American Dream is one game that really makes me want to pick up an Oculus Rift. Learn more about The American Dream on the game’s official website.

Snake Pass

Last, but certainly not least, we have Snake Pass. There’s a resurgence of retro platformers, especially in the realm of indie gaming. However, where others look to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, games like Snake Pass aim to create something new. In Snake Pass, you control Noodle the Snake as he journeys through various different levels with his hummingbird pal, Doodle.

In each level, there are a variety of items to collect, and dozens of different ways to collect them. The snake’s movement feels very accurate and precise. You can slither him side to side, wind him around poles, tighten your snake muscles to avoid plunging to your death, and even ask Doodle for a little extra help.

While Doodle is more of a companion rather than a playable character, this cute (yet somehow very serious) hummingbird can pick up your tail. At first, this doesn’t sound like it’d be much help, but I found several ways to use this mechanic to help me get around some of the higher platforms.

I found Snake Pass to be a pleasant, relaxing platformer. One where the puzzle solving is subtle rather than overtly in your face. Better yet, the game is releasing on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch all at the same time on March 28th. If you're planning to pick Snake Pass up the day of release, be sure to check back, as we'll be uploading guides to help you slither along! Learn more about Snake Pass on the game’s official website.

These are only a few examples of games I enjoyed at PAX East 2017. Be sure to check back in, as we’ll be covering even more PAX East indies over the next few weeks. Which indie game was your favorite at PAX? Let us know in the comments below!