The breathtaking indie games of E3 2017
Image: devolver digital
E3 showcased a ton of big video games made by big studios with budgets in the millions — like Super Mario Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed Origins — but those weren’t the only titles worthy of our attention. There were a handful of breathtaking indie games that deserve the spotlight, too.
This E3’s stock of indies had some undeniably charming, thought-provoking, and intensely action-packed selections spanning all sorts of genres. These are the ones that stood out as some of the best of E3 2017.
The Swords of Ditto
You are the hero in the adorable, procedurally generated land of Ditto. In a nod to The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, you wake up on the beach and dive right into your adventure in The Swords of Ditto, tackling dungeons, gaining new items, and battling enemies until you’re ready to take on the evil Mormo. If you die, though, you’re gone for good, and you’ll have to try again as a new hero.
The passage of time changes the landscape of Ditto each time you start anew, meaning you’ll never have the same adventure twice. But your actions in your last adventure will affect your next one in both positive and negative ways depending on how successful you were.
Beneath the colorful joy of The Swords of Ditto is an inventive item pool including a deadly record used like a frisbee, bombs with a various effects, a giant foot that stomps down on the world, and a golf club. Not only are these items good for beating back enemies, some are required to get into and through dungeons.
In Minit, you have one minute to make progress in the game. And then you die.
If you think that sounds stressful, you’re correct. As the omnipresent clock in the top left corner of the screen ticks down from 60 to zero over and over again, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. But after exploring and figuring out the timing to every movement, death doesn’t feel like such a huge deal and the path to progress becomes more clear.
If you pick up an item, like a key or a cup of coffee, you have that item (or whatever ability that item gives you) even after you die. In a typical minute, you’ll go fetch something necessary to progress past a certain point. Then you die. In the next minute, you’ll use that item to progress to a new area. As the game goes on, you’ll find checkpoints so you don’t always have to start from the same location.
Minit is simplistic but ambitious, and the small slice I was able to play was captivating. Every second matters when you only have 60 of them, and the world and its characters are incredibly endearing.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine focuses on stories. As you wander the United States, you hear from different people, and then share those stories and watch them evolve into folklore as they spread across the country.
Sharing different stories with different people will get them to open up and share more of their own. There are 16 characters in total, each written by a different writer to give them unique voices.
The country itself was painstakingly mapped out and brought to life by developer Johnnemann Nordhagen. As you spread folklore across the U.S., the sounds of each region of the country keep you moving — like the bluegrass twangs of the Appalachians or the moody blues of the Deep South. Between the music, the pace, and the stories, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine taps into the roots of America and its folklore in a natural and compelling way.
Martial arts take centerstage in Absolver, an over-the-shoulder combat brawler with both PvP and PvE elements.
After choosing a fighting style, combatants travel through an interconnected world fighting AI enemies and each other in hand-to-hand combat. You start with a specific set of moves (all customizable) and learn more punches, kicks, and techniques as they are used against you. There are tons of moves that you can use and string together along with four different stances, making the combat incredibly complex and each fight a unique battle.
Absolver’s combat is super fluid and natural — each hit, block, and whiff has a lot of weight to it. Fights are tense and the hand-to-hand combat makes them feel personal, especially when swords are drawn.
To start your adventure in Songbringer, you have to put in a one to six-letter seed that sends you into one of millions of procedurally generated worlds for beautifully pixelated action-adventuring.
Inspired by The Legend of Zelda, Songbringer takes dungeoneering and item collecting a step further by making the adventure different every time you play it. There are nanoswords, flying top hats, bombs, and ingestible cacti that give you temporary superpowers. New items grant access to new dungeons and areas of the map, which in turn offer their own interesting enemies, boss fights, and other world-opening items. Combining items creates devastating combos — all of a sudden you could turn a regular boomerang-like hat into a flaming hat to set enemies and bushes on fire.
If you liked a particular world seed, you can share it with other people who can play through the exact same world. Even if Songbringer only was one world, the art, music, and combat are strong enough to stick with it past the credits.
Disco Bear is a ridiculous, hilarious game about a polar bear who dances, a tragedy he suffers, and the redemption he discovers by embracing his passion: dancing.
The entire 10-minute game is available online for free and is made entirely out of royalty-free images, sound clips, and songs.
It’s charming, it’s confusing, it’s bizarre, it’s endearing, and it’s really funny.
Bonus: The Artful Escape
Within the madness of E3, something always seems to get missed. I regretfully was unable to play The Artful Escape but praises from other E3 attendees grants this one a place on our list.
Mashable’s own Patrick Aloia played the game at E3 and spoke highly about The Artful Escape’s art design and concept. The beautiful visuals seen in the trailer above fit well with the game’s simple platforming mechanics and story: the journey of a son of a famous artist who goes on an artistic vision quest of sorts.