Having checked out scores of indies at PAX last week, I’m ready to share the absolute best of the best. And to do that, I’m stuffing the site with top 3 lists spotlighting the wildest, most thoughtful, and brightest games of the bunch. Each list doles out much-deserved accolades to a different category.
So, are you ready for some indie smoothies? Because I’m diving into the best games I saw at PAX that mix their genres up. Here are the chaotic combos that grabbed the gold:
As I walked up to play the competitive card-game-meets-city-builder, I spied a member of the development team excitedly typing away behind a laptop as players took their turns jumping into the game just feet away. She explained, when I introduced myself, she was making changes to the game in real time as feedback poured in from demo-goers. It’s the kind of hectic energy you only get on the convention floor.
So, I was ready to demolish any challengers in the game’s city-wide build-off and win the grand prize: The title of town mayor. The cards in my hand make up the structures I can build in a miniature arena. Some are residential buildings, others commercial enterprises, but all contribute in their own way to my overall revenue. The player with the most revenue at the end wins. My deck starts out relatively low-leveled — leading to an unfortunate early loss. But completing helpful side quests in the open world could earn me a better hand. For instance, delivering tacos for a grateful restauranter leads to a pop-up taco truck card. And how could I lose with a taco truck up my sleeve? Plus, I can put a hat on a duck for fun.
Dungeons of Hinterberg quickly soared to the top of my to-watch list when it was revealed earlier this summer. And I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to go hands-on with it at PAX West. Its unique blend of game ideas was bound to earn it a place on one of my top 3 lists, but the genre-bending category seemed most fitting.
Most of what I recently played took place in one of many combat zones — the game does have Dungeons right in the name. However, another important aspect of this title is sightseeing and relationship-building. After a hard day’s work getting through a monster-infested cave, players will wind down in the nearby town, eating treats and catching up with other adventurers. These bonds directly influence the character’s battle prowess, as fellow travelers offer things like increased stats once they like you enough.
Exploration and strategy meet head-on in this unbelievably endearing-looking title. And it’s a posterchild for why events like PAX West are so good for indies. I didn’t really have this game on my radar before walking up to its booth to check it out. However, I left with it stamped on my brain.
One of those games that can make hours feel like minutes, the basic goal is to explore as much of the overgrown map as possible before my lantern — represented by a countdown clock — burns out. I can add on more time by reaching spots of fire around the level, but I can’t simply traverse the impenetrable wilds. This is where the strategy comes in. I can build things like farms or walkways to help clear the area or reach locations out of my reach, and I get more structures to choose from every time I grab my light. The challenge is to get everything placed fast enough.