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[Indie Games] Those wonderful little titles that slip through the cracks

MNC DoverMNC Dover Full-time Voice ActorKirkland, WARegistered User regular
edited March 2019 in Games and Technology
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Indie games. We all love them and they help bridge the gap of genres that AAA title releases might ignore. Some of them get attention, but others can get passed by under the crushing waves of weekly game releases.

So here we have a place to talk about some of the underappreciated gems that have fallen through the cracks. Let's try not to talk about games that have their own threads (Slay the Spire, Celeste, Wargroove, etc) and focus on getting the 411 out on games that, while maybe not perfect, deserve some attention.

Here's some stuff that came out this month:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5X2cPJVVQw

With any luck, we'll get enough discussion rolling on a game for it to get its own thread!

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    FremFrem Registered User regular
    BallisticNG has been around a while; first as freeware fan game, then in early access. It's a love letter to the PS1 Wipeout games and their tight, floaty physics. There are a few anti-gravity racing games around, but the handling on this one just feels right to me. Sliding through a bunch of tight turns at high speed is quite satisfying.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mLsyAWiAtk

    It's not perfect; the campaign difficulty is kind of all over the place. There's an (optional) time trial available early in the campaign that I still can't clear. Still fun, tho.

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    MNC DoverMNC Dover Full-time Voice Actor Kirkland, WARegistered User regular
    Nice! I never did get into F-Zero/Wipeout style racers, probably because they required skill and map knowledge where I often relied on a lucky Red Shell to pull out victory. :)

    I've been playing through The Messenger over the last week or two. Just got to...
    The 16-bit graphics switch
    and wondering if the difficulty is going to keep spiking. Hasn't been too bad so far, but I'm really not good at the attack-rejump mechanic.

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    Kai_SanKai_San Commonly known as Klineshrike! Registered User regular
    I am both impressed at how many characters' games I know in that image, and sad at how many I don't know.

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    Road BlockRoad Block Registered User regular
    Well here's the three indie games from 2018 that I'd really like a chance to discus.

    1. The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the island of Mysteries.
    I do enjoy Swery's 'inspired heavily by Twin Peaks' brand of weirdness but this was something special. Gameplay is a unique take on the puzzle platformer where you solve puzzles by losing limbs and regenerating. Sort of like a side scrolling Neverdead, except good. But the story is where it shines. It's an extremely heartfelt story with strong LGBT themes. It goes some very dark places and the opening trigger warning is not messing around. But it is ultimately one of the most uplifting stories I've experienced. This was my GOTY.

    2. The Hex
    If you like meta this is your game. Like it's predecessor Pony Island, The Hex is an incredibly bizarre deconstruction of game design. The story starts in a bar filled with video game characters. A platforming Weasel, a chef/fighter, a sorceress, a space marine and a wasteland survivor, the owner receives a call saying one of the patrons is planning a murder. From there you take control of each character as they experience flashbacks to their games, each with appropriate gameplay. And you slowly get more detail on the underlying mystery which goes far beyond the murder plot.

    3. Crosscode

    I only got to this one this year. But Crosscode is one of the most interesting RPGs in a long time. For one, combat is all real time, with a combination of range, melee and dashing which is really enjoyable. For another, the setting of the game is within an in universe MMO (Of course there is much more going on). The Hex and the Missing clock in at about 6 hours. I'm up to 60 in Crosscode just about to tackle the end game. So definitely a bit of a time sink.

    Actually I do have to say I think the game would benefit a bit from being trimmed down in places. Specifically the dungeons are perhaps 1/3rd too long in my opinion. And for reasons that are slightly bizarre to me. Out of 5 dungeons, 3 are done in succession (however there is atleast some new things to do before the 3rd so you can stagger them a little)

    The other interesting thing that people will either love or it will drive them crazy. All but basic/found equipment requires trading various drops on top of cash. And since trade goods can also be crafted, you often end up chaining trades to get everything you need for a new weapon. Fortunately the game is really good about informing you of where to find stuff. It's all listed in your records once you've cut down a few shrubs/monsters.

    The other thing I'll highlight is the Quests. Again I'll say there might be a few too many. But since this isn't actually an MMO they are actually really fun. I think the best experience for this game is to try and get as many quests done as possible as a lot of them lead into other quests that have really interesting stories.

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    WotanAnubisWotanAnubis Registered User regular
    edited March 2019
    I keep switching up The Messenger and The Missing in my head. It always takes me a second or two to figure out which game people are actually talking about.

    WotanAnubis on
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    BeefersBeefers Registered User regular
    edited March 2019
    Crosscode. I really liked this game, and I don't usually go for RPGs, the world is just full of color and theme, the combat snappy and the puzzles interesting. I actually prefer the dungeon sequences to the open world, so I would trim it down in other direction personally. By far my favorite Secret of Mana-ish game that I have played.

    Adapt or Perish. Lately I have been consumed by this game, a combination of RTS Sandbox/Survival. It is SP only with multiple leaderboards to chase if you want. Design & share your own faction/units. Endless procedural map and difficulty that adapts to your play/skill. In terms of pace and scale it is similar to Supreme Commander, you can pause and issue orders, or change the game speed on the fly, more macro then micro. Heck, it is the first steam game that has compelled me to write a guide.

    I think it is a fantastic little gem for people who like single player RTS, experimentation, or designing stuff, a strategists playground. Not sure on its mass appeal. It can be a bit hard to get started with, but for me has been completely worth that initial hurdle.

    https://store.steampowered.com/app/870730/Adapt_or_Perish/

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1HpIuE1QnA


    If anyone is interested in taking the leap, feel free to hit me up, I love discussing faction design and strategy.

    Beefers on
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    AxenAxen My avatar is Excalibur. Yes, the sword.Registered User regular
    *huff puff, huff puff*

    D-did someone say Crosscode?!

    It's real good.

    A Capellan's favorite sheath for any blade is your back.
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    WotanAnubisWotanAnubis Registered User regular
    Do digital version of real-life boardgames count as indie titles?

    Because let me tell you, I've been pretty addicted to Mystic Vale lately. It's the perfect, relaxing little card-building game to play when I got, say, fifteen minutes to spare.

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    MNC DoverMNC Dover Full-time Voice Actor Kirkland, WARegistered User regular
    Do digital version of real-life boardgames count as indie titles?

    Because let me tell you, I've been pretty addicted to Mystic Vale lately. It's the perfect, relaxing little card-building game to play when I got, say, fifteen minutes to spare.

    Sure, I don't see why not. I've put serious time into Ascension and Star Realms on iOS.

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    KupiKupi Registered User regular
    MNC Dover wrote: »
    Nice! I never did get into F-Zero/Wipeout style racers, probably because they required skill and map knowledge where I often relied on a lucky Red Shell to pull out victory. :)

    I've been playing through The Messenger over the last week or two. Just got to...
    The 16-bit graphics switch
    and wondering if the difficulty is going to keep spiking. Hasn't been too bad so far, but I'm really not good at the attack-rejump mechanic.

    The alternate versions of each level are pretty much universally harder than their base versions, but the worst the game has to offer is entirely optional. Which is to say, don't fret over the Power Seals; there is no reward until you have all 45 and the reward is underwhelming.

    My favorite musical instrument is the air-raid siren.
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    Medium DaveMedium Dave Registered User regular
    That Ape Out game that came out yesterday looks dope as hell. I'm waiting for the PS4 version but I'm gonna snatch that up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH6hCAK24Ok

    Hardcore ape jazz scientist murder!

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    MNC DoverMNC Dover Full-time Voice Actor Kirkland, WARegistered User regular
    Kupi wrote: »
    MNC Dover wrote: »
    Nice! I never did get into F-Zero/Wipeout style racers, probably because they required skill and map knowledge where I often relied on a lucky Red Shell to pull out victory. :)

    I've been playing through The Messenger over the last week or two. Just got to...
    The 16-bit graphics switch
    and wondering if the difficulty is going to keep spiking. Hasn't been too bad so far, but I'm really not good at the attack-rejump mechanic.

    The alternate versions of each level are pretty much universally harder than their base versions, but the worst the game has to offer is entirely optional. Which is to say, don't fret over the Power Seals; there is no reward until you have all 45 and the reward is underwhelming.

    That's good to hear. I've come across like 6 Seals and only got 3 of them. Those rooms were basically death traps so I noped out.

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    Marty81Marty81 Registered User regular
    Ape Out looks pretty cool. The few minutes of it I checked out yesterday reminded me of Hotline Miami.

    Anyway, for me indie games are not just filler to pass the time between AAA releases. I often enjoy them just as much if not more than your typical AAA fare. One of my favorite games of all time is Valdis Story: Abyssal City (There, I made a link to the Steam page for it so you can go buy it right now.) It's a metroidvania with RPG-style levels, skill trees, a combat system that reminds me of the Devil May Cry games, and four completely different playable characters. I have 200 hours in it and the only reason I don't have more is because I've done basically everything there is to do in the game.

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    MNC DoverMNC Dover Full-time Voice Actor Kirkland, WARegistered User regular
    Marty81 wrote: »
    Ape Out looks pretty cool. The few minutes of it I checked out yesterday reminded me of Hotline Miami.

    Anyway, for me indie games are not just filler to pass the time between AAA releases. I often enjoy them just as much if not more than your typical AAA fare. One of my favorite games of all time is Valdis Story: Abyssal City (There, I made a link to the Steam page for it so you can go buy it right now.) It's a metroidvania with RPG-style levels, skill trees, a combat system that reminds me of the Devil May Cry games, and four completely different playable characters. I have 200 hours in it and the only reason I don't have more is because I've done basically everything there is to do in the game.

    You're absolutely correct about Indie vs AAA games. I actually play way more Indie stuff these days over AAA games. I've edited the OP to reflect that feeling.

    Valdis looks interesting...now to invest in more time to play it alongside the rest of the backlog. >.<

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    Marty81Marty81 Registered User regular
    The one thing about Valdis Story is you really want a controller for it.

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    PolaritiePolaritie Sleepy Registered User regular
    Marty81 wrote: »
    The one thing about Valdis Story is you really want a controller for it.

    The one thing to note about it is that boss ranks make you stronger the better you did... or at least, they did last time I played.

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    Marty81Marty81 Registered User regular
    Polaritie wrote: »
    Marty81 wrote: »
    The one thing about Valdis Story is you really want a controller for it.

    The one thing to note about it is that boss ranks make you stronger the better you did... or at least, they did last time I played.

    This is true but you can still beat the game and all the optional content (there are several optional bosses including 3 optional endgame uber bosses) even if you get the worst rank on everything. And also if you didn't get a rank on a boss fight you're happy with it's not too hard to quit back to the main menu and hit continue to try again. That's what I did most of the time.

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    The Zombie PenguinThe Zombie Penguin Eternal Hungry Corpse Registered User regular
    Assault Android cactus is coming to switch, so how's probably a great time to mention it here- if you like twin suck shooters, or just enjoy a tough but fair game that's very excellently designed I really recommend it.

    It even has a daily dive mode to help scratch that how far can you go itch. Not to mention plenty of different characters (including one excellent drill Lance welding lady for when you just want to ram bosses into the walls)

    Ideas hate it when you anthropomorphize them
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    rahkeesh2000rahkeesh2000 Registered User regular
    Don't sleep on TJ&E back in the groove. Its actually a good bit *better* than the original game, which I couldn't really enjoy outside of co-cop, but this one is faster paced and there's just a ton more stuff going on that makes even single player leave a good early impression. Its also oozing all kinds of ridiculous style obviously.

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    MNC DoverMNC Dover Full-time Voice Actor Kirkland, WARegistered User regular
    Something that's bothering me about The Messenger is the attack-double jump mechanic. I'm over halfway through the game and I hate it anytime I'm forced to use the mechanic. Especially over death pits and spikes. Half the time I end up spamming jump/attack to get by the area. Probably the cause of over half my deaths.

    Need a voice actor? Hire me at bengrayVO.com
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    Dr. ChaosDr. Chaos Post nuclear nuisance Registered User regular
    edited March 2019
    Any fans of Stardew Valley or Rune Factory should check out Gleaner Heights. Its a farm RPG that fell under the radar despite being pretty interesting looking.

    In the middle of it right now and it feels like Its going for abit of a Harvest Moon meets Twin Peaks thing:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0HVZJ5yiY8



    Dr. Chaos on
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    DirtyDirty Registered User regular
    So would that free chapter of Deltarune be a good indicator of whether or not I would like Undertale?

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    Dr. ChaosDr. Chaos Post nuclear nuisance Registered User regular
    Dirty wrote: »
    So would that free chapter of Deltarune be a good indicator of whether or not I would like Undertale?
    I wouldn't touch Deltarune without playing Undertale first.

    Theres so much in that game that means more/has more emotional resonance if you played Undertale before hand.

    Pokemon GO: 7113 6338 6875/ FF14: Buckle Landrunner /Steam Profile
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    DirtyDirty Registered User regular
    Sub-question: Is this one of those indie games that substitutes emotional resonance in place of actual gameplay?

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    Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    Undertale definitely has actual gameplay and indeed a lot of it's jokes and emotional beats are tied to how they toy with the combat mechanics.

    Anyways, for Indy games of the week:

    https://youtu.be/peCgGt7N-84

    Intruder bills itself as 5v5 spys vs mercs from Splinter Cell but in reality is much more Spy V Spy. Everyone has too many gadgets, everyone has dumb physics interactions and something absurdly cool or stupid will happen everyround.

    I was standing at the edge of an overhang, using a spy cam to look fully under it and monitor the docks. I just hear the proximity voice of 'YEEET' as an intruder who'd snuck up on me pushed me clean off the edge and to my death.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfnLkATwrLA

    Objects in Space hit 1.0 this week. It's a slow, tense game that replaces the glitzy WW2 dogfighting of most space sims with the low key anxiety of submarine combat. If you're a fan of mellow pacing and a game that leaves you sorting around a shop's bargain bin of components for something to fix your engine with then you'll adore it.

    https://youtu.be/bUa7AJv1V_g

    Nite Team 4 is a game of two modes: Feeling like the coolest, most rad spy-fi hacker in the world and feeling like an idiot whose being staring at the screen for twenty minutes chasing that high. It's a puzzle hacking game about slamming through data and domains to work for the digital equivalent of team Rainbow.

    I am terrible at it and yet I still boot it up to spent fourty minutes brute forcing through the exceptionally well presented story mission content.

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    KupiKupi Registered User regular
    I wouldn't say that you really need to have played Undertale to "get" Deltarune. There are some things you'll miss, but they're genuinely independent plots (so far...) and I'd definitely say that how you feel about the style and tone of Deltarune would be a good yardstick to measure how much you'd enjoy Undertale.

    My favorite musical instrument is the air-raid siren.
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    DirtyDirty Registered User regular
    Would the free section of Deltarune be a good example of the actual gameplay though?

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    Kai_SanKai_San Commonly known as Klineshrike! Registered User regular
    Barely.

    Deltarune handles a lot of things that Undertale did to stand out differently. Deltarunes gameplay stands on it's own a lot more than Undertale IMO, because it is more similar to a normal jrpg. Undertale tries to be more unique, and lives more on that uniqueness to be entertaining. I wouldn't say Undertale has deep gameplay, but its above something like a visual novel or walking simulator. However, almost anyone who falls in love with Undertale does so because of the story and characters.

    Undertale takes like 6 hours max though. Likely much, much shorter. That and its easy to find cheap now means there i no reason to pass it up if you are remotely interested.

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    SurfpossumSurfpossum A nonentity trying to preserve the anonymity he so richly deserves.Registered User regular
    Oooh I remember longingly watching various videos of Objects in Space and wondering if I would actually enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the thought of it.

    I guess I'll toss a plug here for Desert Child; it's a pretty short game, and in many ways it feels like something that could have used a bunch more fleshing out. Like, pretty much everything in it is solid, but it feels like a demonstration of a concept than a "full" game.

    It is, however, very cool and I had a lot of fun with it.

    https://youtu.be/KYXKzWaxpBw

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    Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    Desert Child is great. It's actual racing gameplay is pretty bland but the game succeeds at what I'd argue it's main focus is fantastically: The act of exploring a foreign and new city and settling into a routine and mundanity in it.

    Also if you buy it on Steam pick up the soundtrack edition. If you like the tone/aesthetics of the game then the music will be entirely your jam too.

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    MNC DoverMNC Dover Full-time Voice Actor Kirkland, WARegistered User regular
    Playing the Messenger and I just beat...
    The Demon General. OMG did that suck. I must have died 20 times thanks to that stupid jump, rejump section of the fight.

    Like seriously, can there please be an option to enable an auto-jump upon slashing a double-jump target?

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    Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    edited March 2019
    Scanning by thread, half reading...
    Dr. Chaos wrote: »
    Harvest Moon meets Twin Peaks

    Screech of brakes, reversing beep.

    Do please tell me more.

    Jam Warrior on
    MhCw7nZ.gif
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    DonnictonDonnicton Registered User regular
    Glass Masquerade 2 came out Wednesday, with a 10% launch discount until this coming Wednesday. It's on the same vein as the first installment, a puzzle game where all of the art is in stained glass style.

    If you've played the first one, you already know what you're in for. It's a lot more of the same, but somehow even prettier.

    (size)
    ss_92a33d298bcbec159d8cc19d77660ace07b43b1d.1920x1080.jpg
    ss_fc21ba2f6f215d0ee930595be857c7838fe4bd5d.1920x1080.jpg

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    Dodge AspenDodge Aspen Registered User regular
    MNC Dover wrote: »
    Something that's bothering me about The Messenger is the attack-double jump mechanic. I'm over halfway through the game and I hate it anytime I'm forced to use the mechanic. Especially over death pits and spikes. Half the time I end up spamming jump/attack to get by the area. Probably the cause of over half my deaths.

    100% this! This has killed the game for me and made me quit a game I was really, really into. I’m at a point where almost every route I need to take features one of these tests, and kills all enjoyment and fuzzy feelings I had about this otherwise genius title.

    Xbox - Dodge Mega
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    MNC DoverMNC Dover Full-time Voice Actor Kirkland, WARegistered User regular
    MNC Dover wrote: »
    Something that's bothering me about The Messenger is the attack-double jump mechanic. I'm over halfway through the game and I hate it anytime I'm forced to use the mechanic. Especially over death pits and spikes. Half the time I end up spamming jump/attack to get by the area. Probably the cause of over half my deaths.

    100% this! This has killed the game for me and made me quit a game I was really, really into. I’m at a point where almost every route I need to take features one of these tests, and kills all enjoyment and fuzzy feelings I had about this otherwise genius title.

    Like, I can do the hops in a non-combat situation, but when enemies are around it gets too hectic and frustrating. I've managed to power through though, just hate that there isn't another option to use the ability. So many unused buttons is frustrating.

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    ZekZek Registered User regular
    These days I often enjoy indie games more than AAA games. A good indie game is tightly focused around a core gameplay loop and doesn't pad the length to overstay its welcome. In contrast, AAA games always feel the need to be full of mediocre content so they can inflate the number of hours to completion and justify the $60 price tag.

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    Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Jackie Registered User regular
    My Nite Team 4 session just ended with me scouring 4 different password databases for the password that would give me more information on the French Minister's key adviser on digital security.

    It's a very specific game but very neat in it's bullshit.

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    AxenAxen My avatar is Excalibur. Yes, the sword.Registered User regular
    Objects in Space is really fun.

    To my own delight it is far more Silent Hunter than it is Bridge Commander.

    A Capellan's favorite sheath for any blade is your back.
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    Kai_SanKai_San Commonly known as Klineshrike! Registered User regular
    Zek wrote: »
    These days I often enjoy indie games more than AAA games. A good indie game is tightly focused around a core gameplay loop and doesn't pad the length to overstay its welcome. In contrast, AAA games always feel the need to be full of mediocre content so they can inflate the number of hours to completion and justify the $60 price tag.

    My biggest issue with AAA games is that they focus way more on the presentation still pushing the envelope instead of like, caring about how it plays.

    When I finally got around to playing Nier Automata, it was like the first AAA game I had played in forever that did both. A lot of people complained about the graphics of it in an almost snobbish manner, but to me the visuals were pretty top notch and the gameplay never made me feel like I was doing busywork. It was my biggest fear going in, because I heard the main story was short but the side stuff added a lot to it.

    Otherwise though, I feel like I have to play Indie games to enjoy games now. I don't need a game to somehow be the next best visual escapade. I just want to be able to play it.

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    ZekZek Registered User regular
    Kai_San wrote: »
    Zek wrote: »
    These days I often enjoy indie games more than AAA games. A good indie game is tightly focused around a core gameplay loop and doesn't pad the length to overstay its welcome. In contrast, AAA games always feel the need to be full of mediocre content so they can inflate the number of hours to completion and justify the $60 price tag.

    My biggest issue with AAA games is that they focus way more on the presentation still pushing the envelope instead of like, caring about how it plays.

    When I finally got around to playing Nier Automata, it was like the first AAA game I had played in forever that did both. A lot of people complained about the graphics of it in an almost snobbish manner, but to me the visuals were pretty top notch and the gameplay never made me feel like I was doing busywork. It was my biggest fear going in, because I heard the main story was short but the side stuff added a lot to it.

    Otherwise though, I feel like I have to play Indie games to enjoy games now. I don't need a game to somehow be the next best visual escapade. I just want to be able to play it.

    I think it's fair to say that graphics and sound do matter for a game - I'm not concerned with cutting edge technology so much as nailing the aesthetic you're aiming for. Games that aim for photorealism have a high bar of quality to reach to meet player expectations. I do find myself somewhat put off by mediocre attempts at photorealism. That's why pixel art or stylized 3D graphics work well for indies, they make it much more feasible to achieve a level of quality that will satisfy players (i.e. it looks like an intentional choice and not poor execution).

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