Latest Publications

Lisa the Painful RPG announced

LisaAfter a brief correspondence with developer Austin Jorgenson (a.k.a. Dingaling Games), I’m ready to write a bit more about Lisa the Painful RPG, the surreal jRPG I discovered while researching our last Back to Back.

The premise: Lisa is

set in a post apocalyptic wasteland where women are nowhere to be found. It’s a world full of drugs, violence and the decay of human intelligence… A game about sacrifice, survival, and perverts!

The list of planned features:

  • Visible character sacrifices that effect your stats (removing arms, eyes, scratches)
  • Recruiting new party members in towns and camps.
  • Giving up locations of towns and camps to gangs for profit, but they will pillage and destroy that town forever.
  • White knuckle shopping cart races.
  • Expending party members in Russian Roulette for huge profit, but perma death if they lose.
  • Countless hidden secrets in the world for you to explore.
  • A strong narrative about the unloved people in the world.

Having a hard time visualizing this? Not to worry! Here is a gameplay video showing what this looks like in practice:

Lisa is in development for Windows, with a planned release of late summer 2014.

In the meantime, there is a pre-alpha demo you can check out right here. Lisa is on Kickstarter; it has already met its funding goal, but you can still throw money at it for another 12 days if you so desire.


Back to Back: Thanksgiving Edition!

Hey guys! My parents have flown in from the far-away land of Nashville to come visit with moi, and so I am going to be taking a short break from updating the site in order to spend time with them. Have a happy Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you all again soon!

“But wait!” you say. “I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving / don’t like my family / want to learn about more indie RPGs during this period of time. What do I do?!” Well, don’t panic! It turns out that there are a ton of Kickstarters going on right now; this is the perfect opportunity to dig into some of those and learn more!

From our last edition of Back to Back, Confederate Express raised nearly four times its target funding goal; You Are Not the Hero raised nearly eight times its funding goal; and Project Swordsmith made it just over its goal. Of the projects that have finished since then, only Lords of Discord went down to ignominious defeat. Here are the games left looking for funding, including a few fresh faces:

  • After Reset — a post-apocalyptic wRPG modeled very closely on the original two Fallout games–arguably, just a little bit too much so. It cribs everything from the vault-dweller motif right down to the font. On the plus side, this game has raised $40,000; on the minus side, its funding goal is a ludicrously over-the-top $900,000. 13 days remain.
  • Approaching Infinity — I mentioned this one here; it’s a sci-fi roguelike with the sort of scope that calls to mind classic games like Starflight. What’s more, it’s only seeking a measly $5,000, and it has a playable alpha demo available to boot. This has 13 days to raise another $850.
  • Astral Terra — I described this as Morrowind meets Minecraft in our last Back to Back. It has made some progress since then, but not nearly enough for my liking–17 days remain to raise $43,000.
  • Astrobase Command — a sandbox sci-fi RPG with AI-generated stories and the ability to customize your own space station. This strikes me as a close cousin to FTL; it has $125,000 left to raise and 22 days to do it.
  • Bloom: Memories — I’ve covered Bloom a few times now; luckily, its second attempt at Kickstarter is going decidedly better than the first. Bloom has only $6,800 to go with 12 days left on the clock. Also, there’s a pre-alpha engine demo available now.
  • Deathfire: The Ruins of Nethermore — Guido Henkel’s baby has raised the significant sum of $122,000 and counting, but given the project’s astronomically high $390,000 funding goal, things are starting to look a bit dire. 9 days remain to fund this promising-looking first-person party-based RPG.
  • Dex — a side-scrolling cyberpunk aRPG (previously covered here), Dex is now fully funded with 14 days remaining. This pleases me.
  • Graywalkers: Purgatory — a strategy RPG with sort of a motley-heroes-versus-the-demons-of-hell motif. Unfortunately, it has 12 hours left to raise 58% of its $100,000 funding goal; but on the plus side, the developers have already emailed me with assurances that they are going to try running a second campaign in the coming months.
  • King Voxel — did you watch this video? No? Watch this video. And then, when you’re done watching the video, throw money at this game. It’s delightful! There’s 6 days left to turn things around for King Voxel to the tune of $18,600 or so.
  • Lisa the Painful RPG — I’m kind of excited, guys; I think this might be the first surrealist jRPG to show up on Kickstarter! It’s not quite as batshit as OFF or Middens, mind you, but it’s still certainly pretty odd. Perhaps on the level of Space Funeral. Watch this video if you don’t believe me. Lisa is $500 away from its $7,000 funding goal with 16 days remaining.
  • The Mandate — for a while there, I was seriously worried about the fate of this 3D sci-fi RPG. But it looks like I needn’t have fretted! The Mandate is now $31,000 past its funding goal with 4 days remaining.
  • The Memory of Eldurîmpreviously covered here, The Memory of Eldurîm is an Elder Scrolls-style RPG that aims to have better combat and co-op support. There is a pre-alpha demo available. The game has raised a healthy $25,000, but unfortunately its goal is a hulking $150,000 (roughly one-third of which seems to be for licensing the Crytek engine). There are 10 days left to make up the difference. Checks Out Paper Sorcerer

You may recall that Ultra Runaway Games released a new first-person dungeon delver earlier this month by the name of Paper Sorcerer; developer Jesse Gallagher has since sent me a copy of the game so that I can check it out. Behold!

So, first impressions…


New release: Showdown at Willow Creek

In the mood for something text-based? Showdown at Willow CreekChoice of Games has a new game for you to choose: Showdown at Willow Creek, a Western-themed choose-your-own-adventure style RPG hybrid written by Alana Joli Abbott.

The premise:

Saddle up and defend the town of Willow Creek from nefarious outlaws and city slickers! It all starts when a rancher’s daughter goes missing, and it ends at the showdown at Willow Creek, where greed, lust, science and Mother Nature will face off at high noon.

Gamble, seduce, brawl, or shoot your way through Willow Creek, where gunslingers make the laws, and everybody has secrets. Will you romance the gambler or the soiled dove (or both)? Will you side with the scientists bringing electricity to the Old West, or with a tribe of native American Utes? Will you unravel the conspiracy that threatens to tear the town apart, or will you light the fuse to blow it all sky high?

With stats such as Brawlin’, Gamblin’, Shootin’, Sweet Talkin’ and Investigatin’, I think this might just be the second properly Western-themed RPG I’ve seen (the first, of course, being The Real Texas, though that one’s really more of a Zelda-alike).

Anyway! Showdown at Willow Creek is available for $1.99 on the Apple app store, on Google Play, and on the Chrome web store. As per tradition, there’s a free demo to try out right here.

Approaching Infinity announced

Approaching InfinityBob Saunders writes in to tell me about Approaching Infinity, a new sci-fi roguelike he’s developing.

Now, before you roll your eyes and say, “Geez, we already have, like, four indie science fiction roguelikes,” this one’s a little different. Approaching Infinity is more traditional than FTL, featuring turn-based play and fog of war; and it has greater scope than Sword of the Stars: The Pit, Steam Marines or Steel Knights, with both outer space exploration via spaceship and exploration of planets and derelict ships on foot.

The premise:

Take command of your ship and crew as you explore space, planets, shipwrecks, and other unique environments. Find, buy, and sell commodities, items, and mysterious artifacts. Defend yourself against aggressive space pirates and hungry planetary denizens. Try not to die! Complete quests for profit, or to change the very power structure of the galaxy!

Saunders states that there are five different ways to win the game. But you can apparently play indefinitely without claiming victory, as “there is no level cap, no limit to how far you can go, or how powerful your equipment can get, etc.”

This gameplay trailer should hopefully give you the right idea:

Approaching Infinity is currently on Kickstarter, where it is Approaching its funding goal of Infinity $5,000. Development will continue if it doesn’t make it, but it’s only $1,600 from its goal with 18 days left on the clock, so I have a hard time imagining it falling short. Head on over if you want to help push it over the hump.

In the meantime, Approaching Infinity is currently playable in alpha form–click here to try it out. The game is tentatively planned for an April 2014 release on Windows, with a Mac release possible but not assured.

Old release: Aralon: Sword and Shadow

AralonA bit of digging around has revealed to me the existence of an open world wRPG for mobile devices by the name of Aralon: Sword and Shadow. Aralon was apparently released back in 2010 by strangely prolific creators Crescent Moon Games.

The premise:

Three hundred years ago, the great Emperor Thalos ruled a empire that stretched from the Eastern Sea to the frozen wastelands of the north. It was said that he drew on his magic to extend his lifespan, so that he ruled beyond the years of any normal man. Finally, when he sensed mortality drawing near, he sought to become immortal and challenge the gods themselves. He journeyed far into the frozen north, seeking the legendary Well of Life.

Drawing on the Well’s magic, he cast a spell so mighty that the world shuddered on its foundations. The face of the Earth shattered, and the seas rose and fell. Waves as tall as mountains reshaped the landscape. The world was shattered and re-made, and Thalos vanished into the mists of Legend.

In the three centuries since that dark day, pockets of survivors have struggled to rebuild. From the ashes of that dark time arose the Kingdom of Aralon, forged of a pact between the elves, trolls, and humans.

Now a shadow has fallen over the land, and all the promise of a peaceful Aralon hangs on the delicate thread of Fate. A hero must answer the call to restore the hope of the future, and re-discover the legacy of the past.

Aralon promises over 30 hours of play time, with 4 character classes, three races, mounts, factions, day/night cycles, a crafting system, lockpicking, and so on.

Here’s a trailer. So far, so normal, but…wait, what is that 43 seconds in? Is he riding a velociraptor?!

Aralon is available for $4.99 for Android over on Google Play and iOS over on iTunes.

The Memory of Eldurîm Announced

EldurimWord reaches me of a new open-world wRPG on the horizon; one by the name The Memory of Eldurîm.

Brian Cozzens of developer Liminal Games says that The Memory of Eldurîm is inspired by The Elder Scrolls series, Dark Souls, and Gothic.

The premise:

Everyone in this world has lost something, and they don’t even know they have, until the last of the free kingdoms is falling, and its lord, Tidan Taldaryn, has a dream. In this demo, play as Ryn Taldaryn, who has learned that the world hangs upon his ability to find the ancient tree within his father’s dream. Ryn knows that death is the road to the tree—to finding what none know they’ve lost—but he is determined to walk it.

The Memory of Eldurîm aims to have an open world; day and night cycles; skill-based character creation; skills that improve with use; item crafting; fast, unforgiving combat; and support for co-op play. Developer Brian Cozzens states: “There will be a central storyline, with many outcomes based on decisions with permanent consequences, but also plenty of side quests and factions.”

As far as the graphics are concerned, the developers boast that The Memory of Eldurîm is currently the only indie title ever to be offered a Crytek license for its engine. Here’s a video showing pre-alpha gameplay:

If you like what you see, you may wish to back the game on Kickstarter. Cozzens says that if the campaign fails, they will continue development and perhaps launch another campaign some months down the road. The developers have graciously made an early build of TMoE available for free download so you can get some hands-on experience with the game in its pre-alpha state.

The Memory of Eldurîm is currently planned for release in late 2014, exclusive to Windows.


New release: Epic Warrior: Sword of Light

Epic WarriorShayne Vandersloot writes in to tell me about a new jRPG for Android by the name of Epic Warrior: Sword of Light. Created by Perfect Reality Apps, Epic Warrior is essentially a Dragon Warrior clone.

The premise:

Epic Warrior: The Sword of Light is a tale of a young warrior that sets out to find the Sword of Light and vanquish the evil that has poisoned the land.

So, you know, your basic jRPG premise. Nothing too fancy there. The game reportedly features upwards of 40 types of monsters and the sort of old-school sensibility that requires you to canvass the townsfolk to get clues on where to go next in your journey.

Epic Warrior is free; you can nab it for Android over on Google Play. It has been submitted to Apple for approval, and will be up on iTunes for iOS devices soon as well. and for iOS over on iTunes. Checks Out King Voxel (Alpha)

Since its announcement in March of this year, it seems like King Voxel has been in nearly every Back to Back article I’ve written. Given the number of times I’ve mentioned the game, you would think that I had some notion of whether it is any good or not–but up until the past few days, I’d been flying blind.

No longer! Developer Phillip Meyer of Lecker Clecker was good enough to provide me with an alpha build of the game; this video is the result:

Overall, my first impressions are positive. It nails the things about the original Zelda that made it special, and adds in some new twists that improve the experience. The procedural world / dungeon generation algorithm could use some tweaking, but it’s already a great feature that gives the game loads of replayability.

The biggest flaw I saw in my time with King Voxel concerns the nature of the boss sequences. They aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they perhaps hew a bit too faithfully to the design of the original Zelda. The fact that the player can simply walk out of the room after initiating a boss fight means that the stakes never feel particularly high during these encounters. Having unique boss music would help give these exchanges some tension as well. (Locking the player into boss fights would mean extra design work to prevent unwinnable situations against certain bosses, but I still think it would be worth the trouble.)

In any event, these complaints are relatively minor. I had a great time playing King Voxel, and given that the game is in alpha, there remains plenty of time to address its weaknesses. What there isn’t plenty of time for, though, is funding the game; head on over here to contribute to the King Voxel Kickstarter and try the demo for yourself.

New release: Isle of Bxnes

Isle of BxnesHey guys! Remember Whalenought Studios‘ game Isle of Bxnes? (I mean, you should–I only posted about it just a few short months ago.)

In case you don’t: Isle of Bxnes is a Stone Age Diablo-alike with a highly stylized pixel art aesthetic and a brutish primeval setting.

The premise:

Survive the brutal trek east with your tribe in this bloody stone age action role playing game. Judge every encounter in these foreign lands and plan your attacks against beasts, cannibals and warring tribesman. Meanwhile, allocate resources to build a backup army of your offspring, knowing that just a few hits can leave you a lifeless pile of meat.

In practice, it would seem that this involves a lot of exploration, dodge-rolling, and beating the hell out of things with your club:

Here’s the feature list:

- Permadeath. Your tribe dies without you as their hunter.
- Reincarnation through your sons (who have randomly chosen skills, attack dmg and stamina)
- Level randomization each play session with a huge variety of enemies, non-hostiles and boss battles
- Unique tribes to choose from with a variety of skill paths to upgrade as you progress
- Tons of art and variety in inventory items and weaponry
- Choose how you want to allocate the limited resources you find while exploring islands
- No iap or pay-to-win. Ever.

Isle of Bxnes is out now on Google Play; you can grab it for $2.99. It is also currently under review by Apple, and should be out for iOS shortly. (If you’re super-impatient, I’ve spotted it up on the Czech Republic’s iTunes store for 2,69 €, which I think is works out to something like $3.62 in US dollars.)