PAX East has become the optimal place to find a huge gathering of smaller independent makers of videogames, with areas like the Indie Mega Booth and PAX Rising. Many hidden gems scattered through the show floor really stand out from the crowd. I try to check out as many of the smaller titles as possible to see what’s coming from these talented developers in the coming months.
As a huge Wipeout fan from the early PS1 days I was very curious to check out Antigraviator from indie studio Cybernetic Walrus at PAX East. When I had a chance to see the game and play it I was very impressed with what the team has done with the Unity engine.
The game is visually striking, with bright vibrant colors and detailed tracks. But what was truly impressive was the raw speed, even during four-player split screen matches. The action is blazing fast and the mechanics, while incredibly similar to Wipeout‘s, have some neat tweaks that set Antigraviator apart.
One of the big differences is the trap system. There are traps scattered across the tracks, and as your Grav (what they call a ship) collects yellow tokens you unlock the ability to either trigger the trap or use it as a boost. The traps are sometimes stationary, other times they aim at enemies behind or in front of you. This adds a layer of strategy that took some getting used to but was very interesting to attempt.
Gravs are customizable, but deciding on one upgrade may mean compromising on another. You can strategically tailor-make Gravs to gain the upper hand in races. In addition to the customization options, unlockable skins will be available free of charge, according to the developer. So far the economy has not been locked down, but the developer will not make this a pay-to-win game. Every change have a compromise attached that levels the playing field.
Antigraviator has been incredibly well received, winning many Unity awards for its design and tech usage. The game will be available later this year and is already available for pre-order on Steam, Xbox One and PS4.
Another interesting title I checked out was a very cute game called Insane Robots from Playniac, a UK-based developer. It’s a card-based action game, specifically described by the developer as card battling hacked to be more friendly and inclusive. According to Playniac the most frustrating aspects of card battle games are deck building and constant expensive card expansions. Insane Robots dispenses with these elements. As a result it’s streamlined but still complex enough to be interesting.
At the core of the game is the fixed 22-token deck, which is slowly revealed as a single-player campaign progresses (or all at once in multiplayer). The tokens range from attacks and defense to special actions like powerups and swap abilities. On top of these card variances, as you progress and level up your robots, augments can be found or bought and equipped to change how you interact with the map and enemies.
Each level is composed of one or more arenas, during battles with other robots through each arena there is a roguelike aspect to the design. If you fail and die in an arena, your progress from the start of that arena resets. All items and augments you had up to that point are still there, but any new items and money are lost and have to be recovered. As the arenas are all procedurally generated, care should be taken as the same items may not appear again.
Insane Robots has a great deal of personality, and each unlockable robot has its own design and personality. Some may be obsessed with cooking, others may be fanatic music fans. All of these traits come out in the story and battle modes as the robots communicate and interact. What I saw of this game was incredibly interesting as well as just plain fun. Insane Robots will be released later this year on PC, Xbox One and PS4.