In the Couch Co-op Podcast topic going live tomorrow we discussed crowdfunding. Spurred on by the recent disastrous development of Mighty No. 9, we muse on the damage done to the platform as a whole by the Comcept developed game and whether it may turn people away from crowdfunding as a whole.
We’re all believers in crowdfunding and the excellent experiences it can deliver, so I wanted to take this editorial to highlight some of the excellent Kickstarter-developed games that have been launched, in an attempt to remind everyone that crowdfunding has given us more good games than bad.
The Flame in the Flood
From the review:
“The Flame in the Flood is an excellent game that brings a variety of its own ideas to a survival genre that is becoming a tad overcrowded. Rather than anchoring you to one place and tasking you with building and upgrading a shelter, this game sends you on a perilous adventure downriver. The art style, music and general world building all combine to create a fantastic atmosphere, and the underlying gameplay is rock solid. It’ll take some time, and probably a death or two, before you truly get to grips with what you need to survive the trip – but it’s one that is well worth taking. “
From our review:
“Superhot is everything I’ve wanted it to be for the three years I’ve been following its development – more Superhot. The time-freezing gameplay mechanic is addictive, and the design around that mechanic allows it to shine. Without a doubt, it’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years. The game never seems to run out of awesome moments, and that’s because all of its awesome moments are completely player-driven. They’re awesome because you totally just did that. The story mode sticks around for the exact right length of time, and then you’re essentially given the keys to the whole thing. While its narrative lasts two hours, you’ll be returning to Superhot for a lot longer.”
Pillars of Eternity
Raising almost $4 million on Kickstarter in September of 2012, Pillars of Eternity was a hugely successful return to the cRPG genre for Obsidian Entertainment, and one of the earliest Kickstarter success stories in video games. With the massive amount of cash raised for the project came heightened expectations that the Fallout: New Vegas developers duly delivered on. Pillars of Eternity was released in 2015 to both critical and fan acclaim, with a sequel already in the works.
Hyper Light Drifter
From the review:
“Hyper Light Drifter is a whole lot of fun to play, although it’s probably too obtuse for its own good at times. While there are probably a lot of people who will praise the story, I’m not too proud to admit that I just didn’t get it. It doesn’t help that it’s presented in a series of images that almost feel like they’ve been randomly slapped together. But that doesn’t matter – what matters is that Hyper Light Drifter is a whole lot of fun to play. The combat is really well done, and truly engaging, and the world is ripe for exploration thanks to the huge amount of hidden goodies, excellent art direction and brilliant music. When a game is this fun to play, who needs a story?”
From the review:
“Undertale came out of nowhere to storm Steam and Metacritic, becoming the highest rated PC game on both, and having experienced the game it’s easy to see why. It handles “moral choices” better than any game that has come before it, subtly offering you the choice to kill or not to kill without any overt reward system tied to it. It’s merely a choice you must make for no other reason than because. Undertale also comes equipped with a story and cast of characters that are amazingly well realised, drawn in a charming retro NES art style with a stunning soundtrack. In short, Undertale is a fantastic game and an absolutely essential purchase for anyone. Period.”
While I haven’t played Elite: Dangerous for longer than 10 minutes on an Oculus Rift demo, my colleague and friend Tom won’t shut up about it every time he’s a guest on the podcast. Seriously. To be fair he’s not the only one – Elite: Dangerous has proven to be a massive success for Frontier Developments, with its huge sandbox gameplay proving to be a draw for players looking to pilot a ship through the galaxy.
Divinity: Original Sin
From our review:
“In the end Divinity: Original Sin is an excellent game, and a really entertaining callback to RPG’s of old. It brings some minor problems from old school games of the genre with it, but most of its mechanics are well updated while still keeping the spirit of games like Baldur’s Gate. It tells a great fantasy story with a twist over its 60+ hours of gameplay and, crucially, you’ll never be bored or feeling as though the game is getting repetitive. I have spent 2014 waiting and waiting for any kind of RPG release and with Divinity: Original Sin I feel like I finally got one, and an excellent one to boot.”
Shovel Knight truly is a special game. At first glance it looks like a nostalgic trip down memory lane, developed by Yacht Club Games to be nothing more than a throwback to the NES-era of 2D platforming. Dig into it however, and it quickly becomes apparent that Shovel Knight is one of the best developed games in recent times, with gameplay as close to perfect as your’re likely to get. With pinpoint precise controls, an excellent soundtrack, bags of innovation, tremendous level design, and a deeper combat system than you’d expect, Shovel Knight was a roaring success.
FTL: Faster Than Light
From our 2012 Game of the Year nomination:
“What makes this game great is that it’s essentially a board game. You have your ship layout, you have your crew and you have your controls for distributing power. The entire time you’re playing it feels like you’re on the proverbial knife edge. Do you answer the distress call in the next sector knowing it’s a trap? Do you expend precious fuel going to a nearby trader on the slim chance they have the weapon you need? Do you buy a cloaking device or upgrade your shields? People talk and argue a lot about stories in games, FTL tells one of the best kinds of video game stories. It tells your story. Probably the story of your horrible, horrible death. But still…”
Hand of Fate
From our review:
“Hand of Fate is quite simply a fantastic game. A unique mashup of genres that should never have been able to work together, Defiant Development deserves the highest praise for creating a game the likes of which has never quite been seen before, something which is no mean feat at a time when innovation is thin on the ground. Whether you’re a fan of card games, adventure games or action games you’ll find something to love here. Hand of Fate offers gameplay that is easy to learn, but a gameplay experience that is difficult to truly master, and near limitless replayability thanks to an impressively deep deck list. It’s very easy to lose hours at a time to Hand of Fate’s addictive combination of deck building and solid combat. Once the difficulty starts ramping up there are few games in recent memory that have felt as satisfying to defeat than Hand of Fate, and it’s that pursuit of satisfaction that will see you return to the table again and again.”
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
Giana Sisters is a dream of a platformer, which is both a pun based on the games title and an accurate description of the games quality. It’s a puzzle platformer that lets you flip between “Cute” and “Punk” at will, allowing players to change the character, art style and general mood of the game at the push of a button, with controls so precise and well designed they’re the envy of most other platformers.
From the review (by Tom Cusic):
“Darkest Dungeon does a lot of things incredibly well. The art, narration, combat and characters are all fantastic. There’s nothing so frustrating as knowing you’re going to lose a high level mercenary, and that will hit you so very hard. The base-building serves its purpose, if a little too much. Ultimately I felt that there was too much plate spinning – the game could have been more productively streamlined; it’s not often I say a game has too much content, but this is superfluous at times. That aside, Darkest Dungeon is a cracking game, an excellently executed concept. Fans of many different genres will find something to love here – the Lovecraftian-horror combined with the highly challenging play means you won’t get bored; sorry for going on about it but that Narrator is just amazing. Definitely a high point of Q1 2016.”
From the review:
“Sunless Sea barely puts a foot wrong. The award winning writing of Failbetter’s previous games is on full display here, with the game mixing Lovecraft and Pratchett to stunning effect. It’s very easy to get lost in the world of Fallen London, and Sunless Sea’s world easily gives you plenty of motivation for seeing just what’s over the next horizon. Gameplay is simple and easy to master, getting out of the way to allow the game to immerse you in its tremendous atmosphere. In truth Sunless Sea is the easiest recommendation I have made in a long time, it’s a fantastic game, and so far the best thing to come out of the early weeks of 2015.”
The Banner Saga
While this is a game I got into well after its initial release, thanks to the launch of its sequel earlier this year (a game I absolutely adored), The Banner Saga is one of the best storytelling game series’ around right now. It fuses a fantasy world with Viking-inspired mythology while grounding itself in the personal struggles of a select few characters as they attempt to survive the end of the world. Filled with endless intrigue and tons of characters that are easy to relate to and care for, The Banner Saga also comes with excellently crafted turn-based, tactical combat mechanics.
Octodad: The Dadliest Catch
From our review:
“…everyday chores that you are faced with in the games first half a hilarious crucible of destruction. Even such a thing as attempting to retrieve some milk to give Octodad’s young daughter a top up, which resulted in my destroying the kitchen table, spilling milk everywhere and almost KO’ing Octodad’s wife with said milk bottle. Had Dadliest Catch been an entire game of attempting the mundane with as little collateral damage as possible it would have been a wonderfully funny game.”
These are the ones we’ve played – there are so many more we haven’t experienced. We’re also waiting on some games that are shaping up to being pretty damn good; games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Yooka-Laylee, A Hat in Time, The Mandate, Indivisible and so many more.
At the end of the day, Kickstarter is always going to have a bad reputation thanks to things like Mighty No. 9. This isn’t a bad thing. We all need to be wary of developers that over promise, or are lowballing potential backers, or the many other reasons that Kickstarter campaigns devolve into disasters.
But how many of those games above simply wouldn’t exist without crowdfunding? Considering these are amongst some of the best games of recent years, that’s a scary thought.