Welcome back to the fortnightly indie game review that is Indie Insights. We’re well into 2024 now, and what have we learned? Well, we learned that many companies, games industry or otherwise, think waiting until two weeks after Christmas to do mass layoffs or studio shutdowns makes them less of a villain. Regarding the games industry and media, the constant stream of layoffs only fosters fear and uncertainty for those who survived the most recent round of cuts. Ultimately, culling the workforce only stifles creativity, ideas, and diversity.
Sorry to be such a downer so early in the year. Thinking about this dominates a large part of my life and the lives of many of my friends and favorite artists. I love games, I love art, and I love people doing what they love. It’s hard to watch large swathes of people cut down in favor of money-saving or AI implementation. It’s a big part of why I started this column: to showcase smaller dev teams and unique ideas. I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but I believe in looking in new places, spotlighting creativity, and yelling about the weird little things that aren’t made with millions of dollars, often at the expense of people.
Reigns: Three Kingdoms – Steam
Last issue, I talked about the previous two games in the Reigns series in anticipation of the release of Three Kingdoms. Less than a week later, it was out, and I immediately grabbed it to dive in. The principles of the game are the same as the previous installments. You are a ruler, and you must meet the needs of your people while keeping things in balance. Three Kingdoms differs in some new features, story context, and location.
You are a tester for a mysterious company in this new iteration of the Reigns format. Your job is to travel back in time through a simulation to help inform the game. You are transported back to ancient China in the final years of the Han Dynasty. The goal is to conquer thirteen regions, but as with the previous games, there are many objectives, events, and characters to encounter. While the point is to live, die, repeat, and encounter more and more scenarios, there is also the deeper question of what is happening in the real world. You shouldn’t be able to remember previous trips, but you can; why are you able to? Who is the mysterious Mr. Mirage? Will you ever create the right encounters and events to discover?
Another new feature is combat. In combat, you will draft cards and have the opportunity to redraft three times before you begin battle. To win, you must incapacitate the enemy and destroy their supplies. The cards are in a circle, protecting the supplies in the middle. To attack, you must rotate your cards, and once an enemy card is incapacitated, it leaves a gap that you can attack the supplies through. Some cards have active and passive abilities, but you can only have a total of nine in your battle deck. I can’t lie; I do not like the way combat is implemented. It is clunky and difficult to navigate on PC, but it may be better on Nintendo Switch. All in all, Three Kingdoms continues the fun storytelling of the first two, and its worst features aren’t enough to stop me from playing it.
Reigns: Three Kingdoms is out now on PC and Nintendo Switch.
You Will Die Here Tonight – Steam
A strange mansion filled with locked doors and puzzles. A special forces team separated. A new biological threat that is turning people into zombies. No, it isn’t the original Resident Evil. It’s You Will Die Here Tonight from Spiral Bound Interactive LLC. Wearing its influences prominently on its sleeve, this love letter to survival horror embraces and emulates its inspiration with great aplomb.
You are part of the ARIES Division on a mission to Breckenridge Hall to apprehend a fugitive who has killed his family and stolen a biological sample from the pharmaceutical company he works for. Yes, it’s a familiar premise, to be sure. Where You Will Die Tonight differs from its inspiration in that you are supposed to die. It’s the only way forward. There are six members of the team, and you will play as each one individually, or you will die. Any key items, materials, or clues you find will be passed on to the next team member. Can they continue unlocking the zombie-filled manor’s secrets where their teammate failed?
The atmosphere is spot on, and it truly feels and looks like a 90s survival horror game. It is also filled with satire and some trope mocking while also being genuinely quite scary at times. It swings from top-down exploration to arcade-style combat, which I enjoyed because, generally, I am terrible at anything involving shooting, but I found this easy. You Will Die Here Tonight is an excellent piece of nostalgia and will delight genre fans and newcomers to no end. Well, many ends, but you know what I mean.
You Will Die Here Tonight is available now on Steam.
Rungore – Steam Demo
Do you like running? Do you like gore? If yes, you should consider Rungore from excellently named developers Your Mom’s HP and RavenJM. This fast and furious deck-building dungeon crawler doesn’t let up for a second. It goes at such a breakneck speed that your character auto-runs. All you have to do is select which cards you will take and what you will use in battle. Combat automatically starts when you encounter an enemy, and you also automatically perform melee attacks. You don’t even need to use the cards you have acquired, which is good because they are discarded after use, and you may need to save them for boss battles at the end of levels.
The more progress you make, the more cards you unlock, along with artifacts that give you bonuses and new main characters to play as. Sorry, main guys to play as. All the characters are different types of guys. You start with Knight Guy and find new and exciting allies like Bow Guy and Gun Guy as you go. The art style is like Super Ghosts and Goblins meets Shovel Knight, and it’s full of a constant kinetic momentum.
Rungore is in early access on Steam with a free demo available.
- Post-apocalyptic action adventure The Cub comes to PC, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch on January 19.
- Cute creature murder machine Palworld comes to PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on January 19.
- Papers Please but cute Lil’ Guardsman comes to Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch on January 23.
- Cyberpunk-styled action platformer Anomaly Agent comes to Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on January 24 and PC, and Nintendo Switch on January 25.