What’s the New Year got in store for us?
If your New Year’s resolution involves playing more indie games, then you’re in luck: 2019 is shaping up to be an amazing year for independents. From the alien lands of Sable to the submerged depths of Sea of Solitude, the heart-warming pals of Ooblets to the terrifying creatures of Inmost, there’s plenty to get your teeth into in the New Year. With that in mind, we’ve picked out the indie games we’re most looking forward to playing in 2019.
A coming-of-age exploration across a distinct alien landscape, Sable is the product of two developers working out of a small shed in North London. Shedworks are planning on releasing their experience early in 2019, meaning players can jump on their hoverbikes and discover the secrets held within these desert cliffs shortly. With emphasis on exploration rather than direct combat, Sable focusses the player on ideas of solitude and self-reflection as the protagonist journeys across the otherworldy planet in search of ancient secrets.
This search will lead players from timeworn monuments to contemporary desert dwellers as they attempt to unravel the story of the land’s past and understand their own future. Sable’s distinctive art style combines the line and form of Saga, the colouring of Journey and an undeniable splattering of Studio Ghibli. It’s a unique visual cacophony sure to keep you invested as you scour the lands. The badlands beckon, and with Sable landing on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 soon, it’s a call proving difficult to ignore.
Mossmouth Studios’ Spelunky is a platformer beloved by most of the indie community, so when a sequel was revealed with a teaser trailer ahead of Paris Games Week in 2017, the fanbase went nuts. Now, we can’t wait to see what it has in store for us. The protagonist from the original game ended up leaving to find love and even have a child, the heroine of Spelunky 2: Ana.
Spelunky 2 will find Ana making her way through a series of randomly-generated caves, tombs, planets, and a selection of other locations. This iteration will also include online multiplayer, with fun characters like the sloth Roffy D. Sloth, pirate Margaret Tunnel and Colin Northward, as everyone joins together to search for treasure. Spelunky 2 is making its way to PlayStation 4 and will be available in 2019, though it doesn’t have an exact release date just yet.
Delayed back in October, The Occupation will now be arriving early February. The political thriller is the next game by White Paper Games, the devs behind Ether One. Players take on the role of an investigative journalist in Manchester during the 1980s. After a controversial act is passed by parliament you become privy to some insider information that might just change the world as you know it. Uniquely, The Occupation’s events unfold in real time, with an advanced AI system bringing the building’s NPCs to life.
A dynamic storyline will also feature, with multiple outcomes depending on your actions. One of the things piquing our interest is the freedom to play and explore the world as you see fit, gathering evidence in a setting inspired by British architecture and history. It doesn’t seem to be afraid of tackling dark themes, either. This is very much a politically driven story that won’t shy away from highlighting the human cost for the shades of grey that people in power typically operate in.
Advance Wars-flavoured turn-based tactics is an underserved subgenre right now, but WarGroove looks to advance on that opening to its fullest advantage. We played the game at this year’s EGX and came away impressed. It has everything which cemented Advance Wars as a classic: engaging single-player and multiplayer modes, deceptively simple strategy and cutesy pixel art.
There are four factions in WarGroove, from the macabre Felheim Legion with zombies in their ranks, to the botanical battlers of the Floran Tribe. Each has not only a distinct personality but three unique Commanders to choose from and an army with varying strengths and weaknesses. Every clash is influenced by a rock-paper-scissors framework, but situation-dependent criticals and the impact of weather and terrain flesh out the strategy with some real depth.
With a meaty campaign and multiplayer map editor, WarGroove could likely entertain for tens – or even hundreds – of hours. Keep your scouts on the lookout for a March offensive.
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
Double Damage Games’ Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is the sequel to the fantastic Rebel Galaxy, with a heaping helping of games like Wing Commander: Privateer and a dash of what Star Citizen ultimately looks to provide. Players explore the outer reaches of space with their own customizable ship as they take on the role of Juno Markev, the protagonist’s aunt from the original Rebel Galaxy. A prequel to the previous title, you’ll learn all about Markev as a character in this installment.
There’s plenty to explore and discover as you head out into space to tackle explosive dogfights, recover cargo, experience run-ins with other outlaws, and even get caught up playing mini-games and trading when you get back to your station. Much like a vision of a cyberpunk future or an episode of Cowboy Bebop, it brings the feel of the Wild West to space with a decidedly ‘outlaw’ aesthetic. You can collect bounties on targets, complete story-based missions or just explore to collect credits. It’s your adventure to shape how you’d like, and it looks like it’s bursting with plenty to do. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is headed to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC sometime in Q1 2019.
Sea of Solitude
Announced as one of EA’s ‘Originals’ as part of its ongoing independent strategy, Sea of Solitude looks set to make a splash at its early 2019 release. The intimate adventure of underwater exploration and self-reflection sees protagonist Kay unravel the mysteries of a submerged city in efforts to understand her own monstrous state of mind.
Developed by Jo-Mei Games, Sea of Solitude posits the player-character themselves as the creature of the deep we’ve come to accept as the enemy. When Kay becomes a monster herself through a suffocating concoction of depression and loneliness, it’s up to the player’s puzzle platformer skills to bring her back to the surface.
The game itself has been in development for the last four years, with creative director Cornelia Geppert describing it as “by far the most artistic and personal project I’ve ever created” in conversation with EA.