Indie RPG Retrospective 2019

Hello, friends! I remain hard at work, furiously crafting my next game (one which I’m hoping to have out next year)–but there’s been a request for another year-end round-up of indie RPGs, and that means I’m back here to write another post like this one!

Without further ado: another giant summary of indie RPG releases from this past year!

  • Age of Grit — a steampunk-wild-west themed RPG; you captain an airship, hire crew, and take on jobs from bounty hunting to smuggling throughout the anachronistic West. Features airship-to-airship combat. Available in Early Access on Steam.
  • Battle of the Boros — a unique-looking action RPG take on the Double Dragon formula. If it weren’t for some familiar UI elements, I doubt you’d even be able to tell that it was made in RPG Maker. Here’s a first impressions vid on it. You can snag it on Steam.
  • Bit Dungeon III – if there’s a single dominant theme with this year’s releases, “action RPG roguelite” seems to be it, with Bit Dungeon III leading the charge (at least, alphabetically-speaking). Features independent weapon skill and character leveling systems. Available on Steam.
  • Cube World — an open world, voxel-based aRPG with lots of exploration, four character classes to choose from, tameable pets, and crafting. The world, its lore, its quests and its dungeons are all procedurally generated, with the ability to travel to new lands with your character to progress to different sets of challenges. It’s been in development since 2011, and now it’s available on Steam.
  • Dark Wish — a decidedly post-apocalyptic setting frames this linear RPG. The combat system is turn-based and action-point-based, but allows free movement. Steam user reviews compare it to the original Fallout, which is a pretty solid recommendation in my book. Available on Steam.
  • Din’s Legacy — Steven Peeler, head of Soldak Entertainment and maestro of emergent systems-based action RPGs (think Diablo, but way more interesting) is back with another entry in the Din saga! This new entry keeps the proc gen worlds and AI-driven factions and events from prior titles, but adds in a character mutation system to evolve your abilities in strange ways. As with prior games from the series, it features co-op multiplayer. Available on Steam.
  • Disco Elysium — I haven’t personally played most of the games on this list (I’m busy, remember?), but Disco Elysium is an exception; so when I say that it’s a remarkable wRPG, you can take that as a personal recommendation. There’s little combat here, and what’s there is more Choose Your Own Adventure-y than systems-based. What this game is about, more than anything, is navigating beautifully constructed dialogue trees, role-playing a character, engaging with abstract ideas, and wending your way through a well-told, non-linear story. People are calling this game the true successor to Planescape Torment for a reason. Available on Steam.
  • Drawngeon – remember Paper Sorceror? This is another take on that concept, being a grid-based first-person dungeon delver with graphics meant to emulate ink and paper. Unlike PS, however, Drawngeon is neither party-based nor turn-based, instead utilizing a solo character and real-time gameplay. Available on Steam.
  • Dredgers — Dredgers is another action roguelite, and it seems like a fairly strong example. Featuring 30 races, more than 40 classes, 253 items, and a crafting system. It does not seem to have an endgame at the moment, however, offering only an “endless dungeon.” Available on Steam.
  • Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest — a deterministic fantasy turn-based tactics game from Ctrl Alt Ninja, the developers behind Legend of Grimrock. Critical reception was mixed, as I recall, but Steam users seem to like it. Available direct from the developers, on GOG, or on Steam.
  • Dungeon of Dragon Knight – a party-based first-person dungeon delver with real-time gameplay and 3D graphics reminiscent of Legend of Grimrock. Available on Steam.
  • Dungeons of Legend: Cast Within — a solo first-person dungeon delver with low-poly 3D graphics and real-time gameplay in the Dungeon Master vein. Available on Steam.
  • Emberlight — a roguelite dungeon crawler with combat that sports a decidedly jRPG look. You have the ability to absorb enemy abilities, but will transform into a corrupted form if you do so too much. The devs say each run lasts 30 to 60 minutes. Available on Steam.
  • End of Realms — an RPG “where the core mechanism of travel and interacting with the world is inspired by classic fantasy board games. The kind where you roll a die, go one of two ways and your character finds something interesting based on where he landed. A sword? A monster? A magical contraption? Maybe something else entirely.” So…Candy Land, the RPG? The user reviews make it sound more interesting than that, so perhaps give it a look on Steam.
  • Era of Miracles — an open-world action RPG with day-night cycles, non-linear quests, and NPCs that respond to your choices. Made in RPG Maker, and available on Steam.
  • Everpath — another action RPG roguelite, Everpath seeks to distinguish itself on the basis of its (admittedly quite lovely) pixel art. The game features numerous proc gen items and perma-stat-boosting consumables, 4 character classes, and a number of abilities you can specialize in. Available on Steam.
  • Interstellar Rogue — an sci-fi roguelike where you battle a race of genocidal robots throughout outer space. Features ship-to-ship combat in space, proc gen planets for away missions, leveling up, different ship types you can pilot, and proc gen weaponry to equip them with. Available on Steam.
  • The Last Sigil — an action RPG roguelite with 8 proc gen dungeons, 10 classes, stats distribution on level-up, pets, and systems for crafting and enchanting weapons. Available on Steam.
  • Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown — a party-based, turn-based first-person dungeon delver with pixel art graphics that remind me of certain entries in the Might and Magic series. Has lots of user reviews on Steam, nearly all of them positive; you can nab it there.
  • A Legionary’s Life — this game puts you in the shoes of a Roman legionnaire during the second Punic War. It has a ton of Steam reviews, which suggests that it has sold very well despite dated graphics and iffy localization. If you want to try your hand at figuring out why, you can nab it on Steam.
  • Lootcraft — a side-scrolling metroidvania with procedurally generated levels, monsters, and loot. Contains a crafting system and the ability to customize your appearance. Available on Steam.
  • Mutiny Island — an open world pirate-themed game with with “light survival and RPG mechanics.” Features ship-to-ship combat, crafting, dialogue that changes based on your stats, and a dry/wet season system. Available on Steam.
  • Noita — perhaps the most mechanically ambitious of the many action RPG roguelites on this list, Noita is a side-scroller with a magic system that plays into the game’s advanced physics simulation. From the description: ” Every pixel in the world is simulated. Burn, explode or melt anything.” That sounds about right, honestly. Currently in Early Access on Steam.
  • Operencia RPG — a turn-based, a party-based first-person dungeon delver with some very nice 3D graphics. This launch trailer should give you the idea. Available on the Epic Games Store and XBox One.
  • Phoenix Point – a modern reimagining of the XCOM-style squad tactics/strategy game from Julian Gollop, one of the creators of the original X-COM. Available on the Epic Games Store.
  • Phylindir — a 3D isometric hack-and-slash action RPG. Available on Steam for…99 cents? Huh. I’d say more, but distinguishing characteristics seem to be largely absent from its descriptions.
  • Plunder — didn’t get enough of pirate RPGs with Mutiny Island? Well, here’s a top-down action RPG where you play as a pirate roaming among multiple islands, visiting towns, delving into dungeons and engaging in ship-to-ship combat. Available on Steam.
  • Queen’s Wish: The Conqueror — the latest from Jeff Vogel and Spiderweb Software, Queen’s Wish is the start of a new wRPG series. Featuring open exploration, loads of side quests, turn-based fights, a party of what looks like up to 6 characters, and orthogonal 2D graphics that are…I mean, look, it’s a Spiderweb Software game. Available direct from the developer and on Steam.
  • Re:Legend — a 3D action RPG that revolves around taming and raising monsters as well as an assortment of Harvest Moon-y activities like farming and mining. Kickstarted in 2017, this subsequently acquired a publisher–but given its humble beginnings, I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and include it as an indie title here. Available in Early Access on Humble and on Steam.
  • Silk — a party-based, turn-based first-person dungeon delver that takes place not in a dungeon, but across the historical silk road. Play as one of four characters, each with their own endgame condition, and construct a party from thousands of possible advisors. Silk has a publisher, but it’s so interesting-looking and so clearly a low-budget labor of love in an underrepresented subgenre that I’m taking pity on it and including it here anyway. Available on Steam.
  • Starpoint Gemini 3 — a 3D sci-fi RPG spanning three “planetary systems,” with multiple quest lines and factions, a player skill system, modular ship upgrades, outer-space dogfighting, and away missions using a drone. Available in Early Access on GOG and on Steam.
  • Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones — the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of games banking off the public domain writings of H.P. Lovecraft, Stygian takes place on a ruined earth under the sway of cosmic horrors. Featuring 8 archetypes to choose from, turn-based hex combat, and a hand-drawn 2D aesthetic, Stygian is available on GOG and on Steam.
  • Vambrace: Cold Soul — this is basically Darkest Dungeon, but with a stunning anime-inflected watercolor gothic aesthetic and–if reviews are to be believed–shallower and more punishing mechanics. Available on Humble, on GOG, on Steam, on PS4, and on Switch.
  • Wargroove — self-published by developer Chucklefish, Wargroove is a straight-up fantasy strategy game without any real RPG mechanics (though it could perhaps be more aptly described as a fantasy-skinned Advance Wars). With cute pixel art, multiplayer, and a robust campaign creation suite. Available on Humble, on Steam, on PS4 and on Switch.
  • Wildermyth — an RPG in public alpha with papercraft graphics and procedurally generated characters. Wildermyth strikes me as being somewhat similar in execution (if not in concept) to Massive Chalice, with combat mechanics reminiscent of XCOM and characters who grow old and die off as you play–but instead of having your characters “survive” through offspring, some of them are simply reincarnated for future playthroughs. Available in Early Access on Steam.
  • YIIK: A Postmodern RPG — a surrealist jRPG from 5-person team Ackk Studios, it’s got kind of a Persona vibe and battles filled with mini-games. I’m counting this one despite the publisher support from Ysbryd Games because I happen to know this was made by a small team with authorial control. Available on GOG, on, on Steam and on Switch.

That’s about it for this year, folks! I had a much larger list, but a fair few of the games turned out to have publishers, and others were delayed to 2020. Until next time!

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