The Release Valve
Welcome to the Release Valve, formerly the Greenlight Spotlight. I finally found a better, more creative name for the series at the suggestion of a friend. Since my last article, Valve has announced two new batches of Greenlit titles, totaling 69 games between them. A few highlights from the first batch include Eldritch, latest Kickstarter mega-success Hyper Light Drifter, the PC port of the critically acclaimed iOS platformer Nihilumbra, and Race the Sun, the procedural racing title that struggled to find an audience when it launched without Steam support. The second batch brings us the shmup classic Ikaruga, a space colony sim reminiscent of Prison Architect named RimWorld, Starship Corporation, Steam Marines, Wrack, and Universum, a bizarre title made by just one guy that mashes together RTS, MOBA, and FPS gameplay in a sci-fi setting. Even with this huge list of new Greenlit titles, I still managed to find seven promising games:
Colossal Kaiju Combat by Sunstone Games
This one looks pretty janky, even by the standards of many games I highlight in this series, but it still shows some promise if they can pull it off. Colossal Kaiju Combat isn’t so much a single game as it is a planned franchise spanning multiple PC games and even physical mediums like card games and miniatures. The first installment, called Kaijuland Battles, is a kaiju fighting game set to enter open beta next year. Their plan seems to be to release a competitive multiplayer fighting game for free on PC and OUYA to build interest, then make their money on the episodic single player series and the physical merchandise. They are even looking into acquiring the licenses to use kaiju and giant robots from existing franchises like Godzilla, Gamera, Ultraman, Voltron, and more. Pacific Rim reignited my old childhood love for kaiju films, so I hope they can create something better than the pretty awful official game based on that movie. There is also a Kickstarter campaign seeking $45,000.
Skyjacker by Digitilus
In Skyjacker, you take on the role of a ruthless space pirate as you hijack and loot your way across the galaxy. The game features AI wingmen or the ability to bring in friends with drop-in/drop-out co-op. An interesting feature of the destruction physics is the ability to shoot off individual parts, assuming you don’t have the accuracy of a TIE Fighter pilot, to loot after the battle. This allows players a huge amount of ship customization by welding on the parts they salvaged from wrecked enemy vessels after combat. The game’s ten different alien races each have drastically different specializations and philosophies to ship design, forcing players to adopt different strategies in combat and rewarding them with a variety of odd and unique parts to loot. Finally, the game will come with a mission editor and support for Oculus Rift. You can find a Kickstarter here.
Mark of the Old Ones by Hit the Sticks
Please note that almost all the gameplay footage of this title is from the concept prototype. In other words, no art assets have been added in yet. With that in mind, Mark of the Old Ones is a Lovecraft-inspired “upside down” physics-based platformer. You play as a character who had his leg severed in a plane crash. A strange parasite has attached itself to his back, giving him these tentacle-like appendages that allow him to grab onto the ceiling and other objects. This is where the “upside down” part of the platforming comes from, as you can see from the prototype debug footage. Sadly, the Kickstarter isn’t doing very well, and the chances of them reaching their goal is fairly slim. The developers have already stated that, should the Kickstarter fail, they will try again later once they have some basic art assets covering up the debug lines.
Spark Rising by Wicked Loot
If you took Minecraft and gave it a wave-based defense mode with a fleshed out combat system, you’d get something along the lines of Spark Rising. Spark Rising features both a single player campaign and extensive multiplayer modes, in addition to the Minecraft-like building components. As a Spark Bot, it’s your duty to guard rare resources on floating islands. To accomplish this, players construct massive fortresses with defensive turrets and guard bots, as well as get personally involved in the action with exosuits. The user generated construction aspect extends even to creating new enemies and creatures to fight against, both alone or online with other players. It has a lot of good ideas going for it, taking the Minecraft formula and merging it with more developed combat. Unfortunately, the Kickstarter has an uphill battle to fight; by the time this article goes live it will be over or nearly over, and they still have quite a bit of money that needs to be raised.
Lords of Discord by Herocraft
If it hasn’t become apparent yet from my articles and reviews, I love Heroes of Might and Magic and similar fantasy strategy games. A similar franchise I have fond memories of is Disciples by Strategy First. That is, until the rather abysmal Disciples III. Luckily, Herocraft is here with Lords of Discord, a fantasy strategy game that takes quite a bit of inspiration from the earlier Disciples games. Admittedly, the fact that Herocraft is known mostly for mobile games is a bit concerning, but their strategy games seem to have decent enough reviews. It promises two campaigns and multiplayer, with two different races to choose from with dozens of spells and around 30 units each. There seems to be some sort of terraforming ability that can be used to alter the landscape, though this isn’t really explained too well yet. Like most of the games in this article, you can find a Kickstarter for it here.
Dragons of Elanthia by Simutronics
Dragons of Elanthia is a free-to-play dragon combat game that is currently in beta. While there are only six dragons to play as so far, one of the big features (besides the fact that it’s a freaking dragon aerial combat game) is that you can customize your abilities by combining different riders with different dragons. The four slot skill bar is based on the two skills of the rider and the two skills of the dragon. Both rider and dragon also seem to have one passive, so switching combinations can add a lot more variety than at first glance. Game modes so far include multiplayer standards like deathmatch and team deathmatch, up to more objective-based modes like sieges. I can’t speak for the game’s business model quite yet, which is always a concern for free-to-play titles, but Dragons of Elanthia still looks like a game worth looking into.
The Mandate by Perihelion Interactive
The Mandate is utterly impossible to explain in a single paragraph. Trust me when I say that it looks to be one of the most ambitious games I’ve seen in some time. It both excites and terrifies me; if they can pull it off, it could be one of the greatest RPG experiences ever, but the sheer number of components in this game means that they could fail horrifically with just a few missteps. You play a disgraced captain given one last chance to redeem himself on a mission sent directly from the Empress of a galactic empire in a desperate state. It features management in the form of building a crew and a fleet, ship construction, space combat, XCOM-style tactical combat in the form of boarding operations, crew interaction and relationship building, diplomacy, trading, space exploration…and all wrapped up in a sci-fi universe filled with a rich backstory and lore inspired by Tsarist Russia. Just go check out the Greenlight and Kickstarter pages and watch all the videos.
One more thing I want to bring up is the game’s absurd character creation system. They aren’t joking when they talk about the setting having a very detailed and fleshed out backstory and this extends to the character creation. Most RPGs regulate player character backstory to some throwaway comments, but in The Mandate about 90% of character creation is detailing your character’s backstory and their fall from grace. You determine such details as the colony ship your ancestors are from, your home planet, your military career, your political sympathies and leanings, the events that ultimately lead to your court martial and imprisonment…and all these choices have a drastic impact on how people and the game’s factions interact with your character once you reach the actual game itself. I’ve never seen a game with a “blank slate” character place so much emphasis on their backstory.
Wow, that was way longer than I intended and still had to leave out quite a few games I wanted to mention. As usual, remember to vote for any of these games you find interesting so they can get on Steam. If you have some spare cash, consider donating to one of the Kickstarters I mentioned as well. Also, if you know of any games struggling on Greenlight that you would personally like to see on Steam, let me know about them in the comments section.