While E3 is home to many of the year’s biggest, flashiest titles, it’s also a place where some of the most unique, exciting indies live if you know where to look. If you didn’t get to go to E3 and catch all the indies yourself, fear not — I gotchu, boo. Here’s a look at the 5 most exciting indie games I played at E3 2019:
If you’re anything like me, then each morning you’ve awoken from slumber just before dawn and sighed deeply knowing that there was something missing from your life. You also have a pretty good idea that this vacuum in your life could be filled if only a game existed wherein you could date cute boys that transform into weapons, and level up those weapons by growing closer to these handsome lads. Well, that hole in your chest cavity will soon be filled when Boyfriend Dungeon becomes available later this year.
Seriously, though — dating sims aren’t exactly my thing, but there’s something endlessly charming about Boyfriend Dungeon’s formula of chatting with its cast of flirtatious characters, improving your bonds with those people, and then turning that social progress into combat prowess upon entering a dungeon and facing hordes of enemies. The transformations from weapons into dateable humans are hilarious and memorable as hell, and look like something straight out of Sailor Moon. Learning each eligible bachelor’s personality, what they’re like on the battlefield, and figuring out who you want to ship yourself with is a gameplay loop that’s hard not to love.
Each dungeon in the demo takes the form of a date that you decide to go on with one of the available cute boys, which go horribly wrong (or right, if you’re into that) when you encounter a wide variety of monsters that need slaying. During these segments, the perspective shifts to a retro, isometric view where you need to slice and loot your way through each level. Along the way, you’ll stop to chat with your boyfriend and any other characters you encounter, and have opportunities to improve your relationship and gain increased combat effectiveness via romantic chemistry.
Honestly, I’m stoked for this game, despite being a straight man with no special affinity for dating sims. It’s stylish, original, amusing, and I can’t wait to see more of it.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince
Since the first Trine game in 2009, the series has set the standard for excellent side-scrolling puzzle games, and developer Frozenbyte looks poised to continue that tradition with Trine 4, which debuts later this year. Starring the three familiar protagonists from previous games, the fourth game in the franchise explores each character’s personal nightmares, which longtime fans might be able to guess by this point. And, of course, the franchise’s signature comedic voice returns in full form.
The people at Frozenbyte were kind enough to let me play through part of the game. You can see the segment I played through, with developer commentary, here:
Trine 4 launches later this year across all major platforms.
No matter how beautiful, complex, and ambitious video games get, adventure games always hold a soft spot in my heart. There’s something about the simplicity and weirdness of those games that pulls me in, and compels me to prove that I’m smart enough to figure out the genre’s often unorthodox solutions to each puzzle. But developer Polygon Treehouse, founded by two former art directors at Guerrilla Cambridge, aims to modernize the beloved genre with Röki, an upcoming adventure game featuring hand-drawn art and set in a frostbitten world with a dark secret and mysterious forces at play.
In my demo with Röki, I set to the task of exploring a wooded part of the world, and aiding an injured troll. All the usual elements were accounted for: Encountering puzzles I needed items to solve, finding items in the world and combining them in unexpected ways to overcome obstacles, and a world absolutely packed with personality and life. But what was missing were the confusing interfaces and point-and-click control schemes that have never really translated well on consoles. Röki aims to maintain the things people love about adventure games, while making them accessible to those who might not be familiar with the genre’s rough edges, and so far I absolutely love it.
Don’t be fooled by the game’s bright colors and cartoony art style, though — there is something very dark afoot in Röki. In the short demo, which seemed designed to give as little of the story away as possible, I saw a few creepy things that seem to allude to something very wrong going on in the setting. It’s a mystery I’m excited to unravel, and it all seems centered around a monstrous bunny-like creature with a very creepy smile.
Röki is expected to come out in late 2019. This is one to watch, people.
If the name didn’t give it away already, Eldest Souls is an indie game inspired by Dark Souls, and games like it. Made by a handful of recently graduated college students who formed the studio Fall Flag, Eldest Souls is a pixelated, isometric action-adventure game that pits you against countless enemies and bosses in a quest to kill a God. If you’ve played games like Hyper Light Drifter, then you’ll feel right at home here.
In my demo, I hacked my way through a ruined area until I came across a giant sword-wielding werewolf with a very inconsiderate attitude. As we fought, I built up a rage meter (both in and out of the game), and unleashed it on his flea-bitten ass, until finally he was slain. The fight was clearly very early on in the game, as it also served as a tutorial of sorts, but even so the developers were surprised to see me emerge victorious on my first try — admittedly, it was by a hair. They promised me that in the full version of the game, I would die quite a lot, and I don’t doubt it.
I love challenging soulslike games, and so far the trend of games inspired by From Software’s most beloved franchise hasn’t grown old for me — at least when done properly. If you’re anything like me, and can’t get enough punishing boss battles and creepy ambience, then you’ll want to keep a close eye on Eldest Souls.
Here’s a trailer that shows off some of the monstrosities you’ll likely have to put down when the game debuts later this year:
Killer Queen Black
A couple years ago, I was introduced to Killer Queen when a close friend of mine suddenly found herself pulled into the 5v5 bee-themed competitive game, and the tightly-knit community surrounding it. Since then, this friend has become something of a professional gamer, who spends a lot of her time traveling the country and competing in various tournaments and often emerges victorious. In all the time I’ve watched, heard about, and played Killer Queen, I’ve found the game and the community that’s formed around it to be the most hardcore, passionate, and eccentric gamers I’ve ever met. So it wasn’t any surprise to me when I learned that a lot of the KQ player community didn’t seem particularly thrilled when BumbleBear Games and Liquid Bit announced a home version of the game called Killer Queen Black.
The Killer Queen arcade cabinet has become beloved by a very hardcore community, who may not like the idea of a more casual experience. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe Killer Queen Black is for people like me, who would rather not spend most of their time in a crowded bar to play a game, or simply don’t have the time to commit to something that intense. Even if Killer Queen Black never takes off among the cabinet crowd, it’s sure to give a huge boost in interest to the franchise in general, by casting a wider net with its audience and serving as a great entry point — and to me, that’s a win.
So what is Killer Queen Black like? Well, for one the aesthetic has shifted from an early era arcade cabinet aesthetic to something grungier that you might expect from a game like Contra. The number of players has been reduced from 10 to 8, to allow for easier couch co-op — I don’t think there are any platforms that support 10 players on one screen, but the Xbox can support up to 8. Online multiplayer has also been added, so that you can find games without having 7 friends come over. They’ve also added more weapons and movesets for soldiers to use, including a gun, which ruined my day in the demo.
I was lucky enough to be able to capture a few matches of Killer Queen Black. Check it out!
Killer Queen Black will come to all major platforms in Q3 of 2019.
This has been a roundup of the most awesome indie games I got my hands on at E3 2019. For news and reviews of all these titles, as they become available, check back at Gaming Trend.