Revisiting ID@Xbox: Indies Galore!

Last year I wrote an article outlining some of the great indie titles that had been released (or were releasing in the future) on the Xbox One via ID@Xbox. You can find that article by clicking here, however, one year later there have been some massive surprises from the program which I never would have anticipated. One of these surprises was Xbox One Game Preview which allows developers to bring their games to the console sooner – for a reduced price – to gain feedback during development. This is similar to early access gaming which is immensely popular on PC.

Yet again, after E3 this year I find myself looking forward to far more independent games than AAA productions. In this article I will outline some of my favourite ID@Xbox titles that I have played on my Xbox One over this past year and some of the titles that you should definitely look forward to into 2016 and beyond.


 

Shovel Knight

Developer: Yacht Club Games

Also Available On: PlayStation 4, PC, Wii U, PC, 3DS, PS Vita, PlayStation 3

Release Date: Available Now

shovel knight

Shovel Knight has become one of the most prominent indie game success stories over the last couple of years. A humble throwback to the 2D platformers of yesteryear, Shovel Knight is great fun but also provides challenging gameplay at the same time. You control the eponymous Shovel Knight on his quest to defeat the Order of No Quarter using a variety of items as well as his signature shovel. There are many secrets to uncover and lots of treasure to find, couple this with a memorable 8-bit soundtrack and massive replay value through new game plus and it is easy to see why Shovel Knight scooped many game of the year awards.

The Xbox One version also features an encounter with Rare’s Battletoads (providing a very challenging and often frustrating boss fight) similar to the PlayStation 4 boss fight with Kratos from God of War.

Shovel Knight is a game that I can not recommend highly enough if you have not picked it up yet, and chances are it is available on your platform too!


 

Massive Chalice

Developer: Double Fine

Also Available On: PC

Release Date: Available Now

massive chalice

Massive Chalice was not on my radar at all when it was released. Even when it came out for free via Games with Gold I took a good few days before I set it to download. I immediately regretted not playing sooner after I figured out it was a strategy game from none other than Double Fine.

Massive Chalice could be compared to XCOM: Enemy Unknown in terms of the way the battle system works. You take command of a variety of heroes with differing stats in a centuries long war against the mysterious Cadence. You have a determined amount of spaces to move per turn, a variety of equipment and permadeath is in effect.

Whilst the gameplay appealed to me due to its similarities to XCOM, I found the greatest time sink was the management of your keeps, keeping an eye on your heroes due to permadeath from aging (as well as battle) over the 300 year timeline of the game and choosing which bloodlines to marry together in order to pass down good traits from one generation to the next.

Each hero has unique traits such as; fertility (ability to have children), heart disease (decreased lifespan), nimble (increased dexterity) or hawk eye (increased sight range) as well as many more. These can hinder you or help you and sometimes they can be completely out of your control adding a layer of unpredictability.

Massive Chalice is a game that I lost a lot of time with due to the depth and breadth of the experience. There are so many factors to consider and one wrong move or not paying attention can set you back a lot. If you love strategy games then you should definitely pick this up.


 

The Escapists

Developer: Mouldy Toof Studios

Also Available On: PlayStation 4, PC

Release Date: Available Now

escape 1

I wrote a review of The Escapists earlier this year, which you can find by clicking here. As I said in my review, The Escapists is light-hearted and charming game played from a top down perspective. Your objective is to escape a variety of prisons which you will find yourself in for committing one crime or another.

Like Massive Chalice, it is all about management. You need to follow a daily routine to avoid rousing suspicion, scout out areas of weakness, acquire items which may or may not be contraband to aid you while also making time to plot your escape and put it into action.

It provides a great deal of challenge and tests your patience to the max. One small misstep can cost you hours of work.

On the horizon there is also a licensed spin-off of the game titled The Escapists: The Walking Dead where players will assume the role of Rick Grimes as he attempts to escape the zombie apocalypse. An interesting idea, to be sure, and one that I am definitely looking forward to.


 

Goat Simulator

Developer: Coffee Stain Studios

Also Available On: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3

Release Date: Available Now (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC) August 2015 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3)

goat simulator

Some people love Goat Simulator and some people hate it, but it is undeniably a lot of fun. It is the perfect game to play when you do not want to take things seriously for a while. You control a goat in a variety of levels where the main objective is, to be blunt, mess around in creative ways. Lick people, lick cars, jump on trampolines, engage in a battle royale with other goats, perform demonic rituals, ride a rollercoaster or any other number of wacky things you would not expect a goat to do.

Goat Simulator is particularly fun when played in local splitscreen co-op with up to three other people. Slap a few modifiers on and you have got the potential to make an already crazy game even crazier. The number of “what if” scenarios that arose when I played co-op was staggering and resulted in some hilarious outcomes such as four goats in giraffe skins licking wind turbines and flying off into the sunset.

There is even more Goat Simulator on the horizon too with the Goat Simulator: Mmore Goatz Edition on the way where you will be able to engage in an MMO war between goats and sheep and also fend off the zombie apocalypse. I wish I could tell you I was making this up.


 

SMITE

Developer: Hi-Rez Studios

Also Available On: PC

Release Date: Available Now (Open Beta)

Smite art

The MOBA genre has never really been prominent on consoles, catering more to a PC audience. However, Hi-Rez Studios has seen fit to release its highly successful MOBA, SMITE, onto the Xbox One. The game has been constantly evolving since its alpha launch all the way back in March – which I was fortunate enough to participate in – and from the get go it had me hooked.

You play as one of over sixty gods from the Mayan, Greek, Norse, Roman, Egyptian, Hindu and Chinese pantheons (with more gods being added on a consistent basis) across some familiar MOBA modes such as conquest. The twist with SMITE is that it’s played entirely from a third person perspective, making it feel more like a third person action game which has allowed it to transition to being played with a controller effortlessly.

The game already has a highly vocal and active player base on the Xbox One – myself included – to go hand in hand with the already thriving PC player base. It is a massive amount of fun to play with friends and is as close as I ever think I will get to trying to play a game competitively.

Even as I type this Hi-Rez is preparing another new patch adding a more options and yet another new god to the mix, bringing it nearly on par with the PC release. The staggering thing is that SMITE is still in open beta on Xbox One, but feels like an almost finished game. It is also free to play which means you are able to download it right now and start playing, which I highly implore you to do.


 

Elite: Dangerous

Developer: Frontier Developments

Also Available On: PC

Release Date: Available Now (Xbox One Game Preview)

elite

There’s been a lot of fuss about space recently with the New Horizons probe giving us our first detailed look at Pluto. Elite: Dangerous attempts to cater to that inner space explorer within us all. You start the game with a basic ship and a small amount of money and it is entirely up to you what you want to do and where you want to go. You can explore uncharted territory and sell cartographic data, become a trader of goods, dabble in smuggling or even take up bounty hunting. There is a lot of freedom, even if the learning curve of the game can be a bit steep at times.

Elite: Dangerous is currently in game preview/early access on the Xbox One at the moment and as such is a bit rough around the edges with a few key features missing. But if you’d love a game where you can just chill out for a while, take in the majesty of your surroundings and live out your childhood fantasies then Elite: Dangerous may just be the game for you. Pick up the free trial and see what you think!


 

The Long Dark

Developer: Hinterland

Also Available On: PC

Release Date: Available Now (Early Access/Xbox One Game Preview)

the long dark

The Long Dark is an exploration focused survival game set in the harsh wilderness of Canada after a cataclysmic event. No food, no water, no technology to keep you safe. You are forced to use your wits to survive. Mother Nature is your greatest enemy in The Long Dark, throwing wild animals, harsh environments and anything else she can muster up at you.

It is harsh and unforgiving and the slightest mistake can result in your death. Running out of food and water is one of the greatest concerns in The Long Dark, you need to constantly be on the move looking for consumables inside huts and other buildings as well as derailed train cars and corpses frozen in the wilderness. Wolves are another danger which you almost certainly want to avoid at all costs.

The Long Dark is also releasing a story mode later this year, touching on the morals of what it means to be a survivor. Who lives and dies? Who is friend and foe? Are the decisions you are making the right ones? It seems like it could be as complex as some of Telltale Games recent offerings. The story mode also introduces a cast of familiar voice actors such as Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale (Commander Shepard from Mass Effect), David Hayter (Solid Snake from Metal Gear) and Elias Toufexis (Adam Jensen from Deus Ex).

The game is already available through Xbox One game preview and is certainly one to keep an eye on into the future!


 

DayZ

Developer: Bohemia Interactive

Also Available On: PC, PlayStation 4

Release Date: Available Now (PC) TBA (Xbox One, PlayStation 4)

dayz_game

I have been waiting for DayZ on console for years now. Some said it would not be possible, that it would never release on either the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4. Yet here we are with solid confirmation from gamescom and E3 that the game will, indeed, be gracing our TV screens soon.

Starting out as a mod for ArmA II, DayZ gained a cult following in a very short time. Its popularity grew and grew until it eventually became a standalone product on Steam via early access.

The premise of DayZ is simple. Survive. You are placed in an open world with nothing. There are zombies lurking about and there are other players playing with you who can pose an even greater threat than the undead. It is a great game to showcase how human instinct and morals come into play when interacting with other -real life – people. DayZ has no story, you make your own as you play.

You could become a saviour to humanity by protecting newer players from player bandits and zombies or by giving players much needed medicine or blood bags. On the other hand you could kill everything in sight, loot other players, lurk in bushes and set up ambushes on roads. As the description of the game puts it: “This is DayZ, this is your story.”. I simply cannot wait to play it on console.


 

Beyond Eyes

Developer: Tiger and Squid

Also Available On: PC

Release Date: Summer 2015

beyond eyes

Beyond Eyes was one of the games that stood out the most to me at E3 2015, mainly due to the concept, uniqueness and charming art style. You play as a ten year old girl named Rae who has lost her eyesight and suffers from anxiety. Rae has to leave the familiar surroundings of her home and rely on other senses to navigate the world around her in order to find her lost cat.

The world is completely white, but sounds and smells will highlight objects in the world to interact with. When it is raining, your perception may be limited due to the fact that noises and smells are less prominent. Touch also plays an important factor as you interact with objects which Rae may not be familiar with.

Beyond Eyes also uses a gorgeous water colour art style the likes of which I do not think I have seen in a game before and looks set to toy with your emotions as you attempt to help a frightened little girl face her anxiety in an unfamiliar surrounding.


 

Cuphead

Developer: Studio MDHR

Also Available On: PC

Release Date: TBA 2016

cuphead

Cuphead made my list last year and I was initially hesitant to mention it here again, however after seeing more of the game at E3 2015 I couldn’t not put it on this list too. For what it is worth, the game looks absolutely amazing.

The game is focused on two heroes, Cuphead and Mugman, who lost a bet to the devil and now have to do his bidding for him. It is a traditional run and gun side scroller with a large focus on boss battles – many of whom fill the screen almost entirely – using multiple weapons and abilities. The action is non-stop and you can even play local co-op with a buddy filling the shoes of Mugman!

Similar to Beyond Eyes, Cuphead also sports a unique aesthetic which makes it look like a 1930’s cartoon and just like a 1930’s cartoon, Cuphead appears to be going down the wacky and chaotic route which should make for a lot of fun. Quite frankly, I can not wait for it to release.


 

Ashen

Developer: Aurora 44

Also Available On: PC

Release Date: TBA

ashen

Ashen is a third person RPG about a lone wanderer – the player – in search of a place called home whilst forging relationships with others along the way. It is a game about trust, do you choose to guide particular people in the world with differing skill sets back to your camp where you may stand a chance together? Or do you deal with them in another way?

Ashen also has multiplayer, where you will deal with other players with their own agendas out in the world. Again, do you trust them or do you resort to disposing of them?

Set in the shadow of a mountains with no sunlight and vast plains covered in ash, the game features an array of giant creatures and maddened inhabitants who can pose a massive danger to you. You will have to choose your fights carefully as every encounter has the chance to end in disaster if you do not exercise patience and cunning. Your best bet may even be to run away.

Ashen looks like a game that you could get lost in for hours just by exploring, and for that reason alone I can not wait to try it out.


 

Pit People

Developer: The Behemoth

Also Available On: PC

Release Date: TBA

pit people

Coming from The Behemoth – the minds behind Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theater – comes Pit People. Pit People is a turn based strategy game with all of the trademark tongue in cheek humour and bizarre story which The Behemoth is known for.

Set in an apocalyptic wasteland after a bear crashes into the planet and rains down green blood, you will control a cast of tragic – yet unique – heroes on an adventure whilst being dogged by the narrator at every corner as he attempts to orchestrate your failure.

Whilst there is still more yet to see, I have high hopes that Pit People will be every bit as successful as The Behemoth’s previous games, even if it is still quite a while off.


 

Ark: Survival Evolved

Developer: Studio Wildcard/Instinct Games

Also Available On: PC, PlayStation 4

Release Date: Available Now (PC, Early Access) TBA 2016 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4)

ark

Dinosaurs. I should not really need to say very much more when it comes to Ark: Survival Evolved. You are placed on an island with other players and must attempt to survive the dangers of each other and massive prehistoric creatures such as dinosaurs, sabre-tooth tigers, megalodons and… giant scorpions.

You can form tribes with other players and hunt, craft and tame the various creatures of the land in order to survive.

Whilst the game is already available on PC in early access we can expect to see the console releases sometime in 2016 with all of the feedback from the PC version being implemented into the final release.

Dinosaurs. Who doesn’t love em’?


These are just a handful of games from ID@Xbox to get excited about over the next year. We still have games such as Habitat, Space Engineers, Tacoma, Plague Inc. Evolved, BelowCastle Crashers Remastered, Superhot and many, many more to look forward to as well.

No doubt Microsoft will have even more games to reveal from ID@Xbox next month at gamescom in Germany.

There is a lot to get excited over, not just for Xbox One owners, but for players on every platform.

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