E3 has been digital this year because of the pandemic and before it became E503 with a crashing website on Saturday, ChasingXP were there with media access. Dodging the predictable dripping mouths watching Battlefield and Elden Ring reveals we have kept our eyes on the Indie scene with a plethora of games being revealed through the Day of the Devs, the fantastic tongue-in-cheek Devolver show and the Guerrilla Collective’s presentation. In all, the games presented topped a hundred.
Sifting through all of this, I’m bringing you my top 5 indie games featured at E3, most of which are due out in the next six months.
Watch this review on YouTube
Moo Lander – The Sixth Hammer
A beautiful, looking but mad game based around cows and the pursuit of milk to save your planet. I know…but trust me this is ace. Working like a platformer, it looks very much like GRIS, but unlike that Moo Lander opts for some wondrous humour and then starts throwing in RPG upgrade trees, speech choices and shooter elements.
None of this is overwhelming and all of it delivers a mightily impressive game from the Bulgarian development team who are richly deserving of their showcase spot at E3 this year. I’m led to believe that all the talk of Herd Immunity this pandemic is actually a reference to God Mode in Moo Lander and if that doesn’t help you walk on the sand then you lactose.
Moo Lander is vastly better than my jokes and is out in Spring 2022, but a playable demo is available over on Steam and I strongly urge you Moove over there and check it out.
Second on my list…
Sable – Shedworks
From Shedworks, a two man development team founded in a shed in North London. You play Sable, a young nomad girl. Guiding her from a third person perspective. This 3D puzzle/platformer has been on my radar and wish-listed by me for some time. Showcased as part of the Guerrilla Collective, it is a gorgeous looking game that makes you feel like the Mandalorian on your own land-speeder. Explore the remnants of ancient civilisations, glide, hover, leap your way to the treasures and answers and forge your path through a rite of passage in this strange, beautiful world. Sable promises to be a wonderous adventure when it is released later this year.
Third on my list of highlights is…
Severed Steel – Greylock Studios
A supercool looking FPS, heavy on bullet time, stunts and neon, making it feel like the violent child of Superhot and Far Cry: Blood Dragon. The development team of Greylock studio describe the game as stylised gun violence and bloodshed. It oozes pace and action against a glossy cyberpunk, Matrix-like backdrop. It does not yet have an official release date, but given it was included in this years’ Guerrilla Collective during E3 you can expect to somersault onto your monitor and double tap you in the eyeballs sometime in the next year.
Fourth up is…
GRIME – Cloverlite
A Metroidvania, Souls-like platformer from Clover Bite, due to be released from the ever reliable Akupara Games. You are the product of some form of vacuum collapse in a side-scrolling adventure where you explore your surroundings, meet interesting creatures and destroy them, absorbing their powers to grow with each victory. Surreal, beautiful and with options to vary your playstyle through skill-tree choices – Grime drops later this year and promises to be an action/RPG combat fest. So eyes peeled for this dark fantasy.
Last up on my list is the wonderful…
Last Stop – Variable State
Set in London this is a third person adventure where you play as three different characters all set on a super-natural collision course. Developed by Variable State, who won a BAFTA for the FBI adventure – Virginia in 2016. An unexpected body swap, a game of amateur detective that goes wrong and an ex-spy trying to save her family from the threats of a blackmailer. Last Stop promises to be a rich story of adventure and intrigue. Find out what connects these characters in July, when you can board this ride of discovery.
Be sure to check out Jeff Nabor’s top five from E3, they are completely different to mine, but just as awesome looking.
Today is an historic day for Chasing XP. We began our multi-platform indie game & game development magazine back in February 2021, and have been tremendously fortunate in working with amazing indie developers and publishers through our podcast, YouTube channel and magazine blog. The incredible talent we’ve shared has elevated our profile to a point we thought would take us years – not just a few months. We’re very proud. Very proud, indeed.
However, being approved to officially cover E3 2021 has just tipped the scales as being our proudest moment. This year’s E3 is incredibly important for indie development and the independent gaming industry as a whole. The IGDA (International Game Distribution Association) has partnered with the ESA this year to give a global, resonating voice and an extremely accessible platform for indies. Developers and publishers are being recognized for their contribution to the gaming industry by the ESA and IGDA, but – more importantly – are being offered a stage on which they can finally feel part of the conversation, rather than on the fringe.
Renee Gittins, appointed Executive Director of the IGDA in 2019, has been flying the flag for indies, making it known that – as an organization – the IGDA is very excited to see the new shape of the industry following this year’s E3.
“The IGDA is thrilled to partner with the ESA to uplift Indies during this year’s E3 and beyond. Indies provide heartfelt stories and groundbreaking creativity that lead progress of our industry. It is an honor to help Indies onto this grand stage for the first time so they can share their efforts and inspiration worldwide.”
Renee Gittins, Executive Director of the IGDA
The IGDA has mentioned that “special packages and opportunities” will be made available to indies, and with this year’s E3 being all-digital, it would seem that accessibility is the primary focus.
The President and CEO of the ESA, Stanley Pierre-Louis has said that indie developers are “a critical part of the video game industry” and also went on to say that the ESA has been “thrilled to expand our offerings to create opportunities to showcase their work worldwide.”
“We are reimagining E3 in a variety of ways,” Pierre-Louis said, “and part of that is engaging with indie developers by offering opportunities to help highlight them and their work on a global stage.”
This partnership effectively means that indie game developers are able to show their games off at E3 2021; one of the most impactful events in gaming. The exposure is not free, however. Indie developers must pay an entrance fee if they want to be part of E3 2021. What’s more, they will also need to be IGDA members. The jury is out on how effective this will be for indies, but for some, it may just prove to be their defining moment.
To the AAA gamer, E3 is a place they will visit with eager abandon, open wallets and a grin on their face that will last through to the Steam Summer Sale. This hardcore gaming audience is the exact demographic the indie developer seeks, so this IGDA partnership could have devs champing at the bit to sign up, one would think.
Chasing XP E3 Indie Coverage
We will be providing our coverage from the June 12th Guerrilla CollectivePart 2 and Wholesome Direct streams, but will also be mixing it up with editorial and interviews from June 8th – July 22nd.
You have 5⃣ sleeps until the 2nd day of Guerrilla Collective 2 happens.
We’re already arranging interviews with some of the incredible developers who are attending E3, and stopping by virtual booths from teams such as the minority and veteran-owned indie game development studio Burgos Games. Neka Ghost, Jump! is their first title, which we’ll be keeping an eye on. Freedom Games have a virtual booth at E3, so we’ll be checking out the roguelike, Dreamscaper and the utterly mental twin-stick shooter, Godstrike.
Some of the games featured in the first part of the Guerrilla Collective’s stream caught our eye in a big way. There’s far too many to mention, but here’s a few of our shortlisted games of interest: –
Industria INDUSTRIA is a first-person shooter that takes you from East Berlin into a parallel reality, shortly before the end of the Cold War. On the search for a missing work colleague, you decypher a dark past in a mysterious parallel dimension.
Rubi: The Wayward Mira Rubi: The Wayward Mira is a 2D action-adventure platformer game teeming with lush pixels, featuring ability-based progression mechanics (AKA – Metroidvania) paired with RPG elements in a sci-fi / fantasy setting, where science and magic come together. In addition to a solid core experience, Rubi features non linear gameplay, along with multiple playstyles and endings.
The Eternal Cylinder The Eternal Cylinder is an ambitious take on survival adventure games where players will need to explore a strange new world like they have never seen before. The game will be available for Xbox One, PS4 and Windows PC via the Epic Games store when it launches later this year.
Source of Madness Source of Madness is a side-scrolling dark action roguelite set in a twisted Lovecraftian inspired world powered by procedural generation and AI machine learning. Take on the role of a new Acolyte as they embark on a nightmarish odyssey.
Chernobylite Chernobylite is an RPG survival horror mixing free exploration of disturbing locations with challenging combat, unique crafting, and non-linear science-fiction story. Build your team, survive and reveal the twisted secrets of Chernobyl in the 3D-scanned recreation of the Exclusion Zone.
Trifox Trifox is a colourful and cartoonish action-adventure featuring a phenomenal fox with a multitude of talents! Choose from a trio of classes – Warrior, Mage, Engineer – or mix-and-match abilities to create a tailor-made hero! Inspired by the golden age of 3D platformers.
Tinkertown Gather your friends and come to Tinkertown – A refreshing new Multiplayer Sandbox Experience! Explore magical places filled with loot, danger, and creativity.
The Lightbringer The Lightbringer is a poetic adventure/puzzle platformer with light combat elements, set in a beautiful world claimed by a vile corruption. Guided by your sister’s spirit, you must prevail where she could not. Cleanse the corruption, become The Lightbringer. Coming soon to Nintendo Switch.
Retrograde Arena Weapons are your ultimate tools, not just for blasting enemies, but for propelling your customizable Drone around the maps at great speed! Mastering Retrograde Arena’s recoil propulsion and the impact of the various weapons is essential for victory in the neon soaked world of Retrograde Arena.
Zodiac Legion Zodiac Legion is a turn-based tactical RPG featuring lethal combat, squad management and strategic elements. Lead your heroes through daring raids and forgotten ruins, defend your land in a time of conquest and betrayal, and master the secrets of volatile ancient magic to restore a realm beset by the armies of undying fiendish sorcerers.
Aeon Drive Rush through the cyberpunk landscapes of Neo Barcelona in Aeon Drive, an action-platformer with a speedrunning twist! Whether solo or in up to 4 player co-op, sprint and dash through many areas of the neon-infused city – and use your time and space-bending abilities to get ahead.
Beasts of Maravilla Island Embark on your adventure as an aspiring wildlife photographer in the hidden, magical jungles of Maravilla Island. Explore this mysterious island and solve puzzles to discover extraordinary creatures, interact with them in their natural habitat, and photograph the enchanting, unique behaviors you reveal!
Onsen Master Onsen Master is a hot spring customer management game where players must create ingredients to match the various customer ailments, across the fantasy island of Izajima!
All-Digital E3 2021
The experience will certainly be different for all those who attend E3 this year. Though, after the thrills & spills we all had in 2020, surely everyone is used to hearing that things are going to be “different” when it comes to any event.
E3 being completely digital, however, is not such a big leap. It would be difficult to find a development company that does not have their online presence dialed-in. Streaming events live and offering video on-demand for games is going to be an extremely fluid affair for the public, with the main broadcast of the events viewable via the E3 channels on all major platforms: Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
The ESA announced that the E3 2021 online portal and app is designed to be a key hub for the duration of the show, with virtual “booths,” hosted events, video conferencing, profile and avatar creation, online forums and more.
E3 Portal & App Teething Problems
The online portal and app have been created and developed by three powerhouses in their fields of expertise – Game Cloud Network, HCL Technologies Ltd and Revyrie Inc. Notably, Game Cloud Network is recognized as a pioneer in developing game-based brand engagement, after showcasing its “Tap & Field” game in 2019. “Tap & Field” uses the backbone of Microsoft’s Azure PlayFab services to allow players to race one other in near-real time, made possible by the sheer speed of 5G-connected devices.
One would expect the E3 app to perform incredibly well under pressure, then? The portal on the other hand has received mixed reviews. It would be fair to say that some of the media organizations were less than impressed at the portal outages they experienced, and one Matt Brown has been live-tweeting his experience. Matt was very much unimpressed with everything from the gamified experience through to the avatar creator.
What’s most concerning is that the ESA, despite grossly mishandling data in 2019, has enlisted a team seemingly unqualified to put together anything *resembling* a passable online experience. If this is what’s on the surface, what’s happening behind the scenes?
With a monstrous 300+ indie titles on show at E3 2021, we’re not going to be short of games to follow, however. We are going to be showcasing games, developers, creators and publishers in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.