At PAX Australia in Melbourne earlier this month, an entire wing of the Melbourne Convention Centre Main Hall was set aside for PAX Rising, a huge swathe of booths specifically for local indie developers to strut their stuff and show off what these teams have on offer. From one-person outfits and student games to part-time teams or even full-blown publishing groups, Australian development is clearly in full force, and with huge hits like Untitled Goose Game and Hollow Knight making massive waves throughout the industry, what games will be next to join these games in worldwide praise?
I take a look at five of my favorites that I got to see at this year’s big event.
5. This Starry Void (Chironex Studios)
This Starry Void is a gorgeously stylized sci-fi, grid-based role-playing game where the player takes control of a service bot sent onto a mysterious ship in deep space to find answers regarding its missing human crew. In the process, mysteries abound and the player is drawn into an exciting science fiction tale that takes cues from classics of the genre, including 2001: A Space Odyssey among others.
The game is heavily inspired by dungeon crawlers of the past, with loot to be found throughout your journeying, but instead of your typical fantasy-esque dungeons, you’re exploring derelict space ships instead. With 3D, cel-shaded style graphics, a host of upgrades for your robot to equip to fit your chosen playstyle, and creepy enemies to fight in the real-time combat, This Starry Void looks set to be an atmospheric and very well designed title from a tiny team of two developers from Melbourne.
The game isn’t set to release for about another year but will be releasing on PC, Mac, and Linux when it does, with other platforms hopefully down the line. Keep an eye out for what they have to show on Twitter @ChironexStudios.
4. Ailuri (Vivink Studios)
A 2D action platformer taking heavy inspiration from Ori and the Blind Forest, Ailuri is a tale of an incredibly cute red panda trying to survive against the destruction of her wild homeland and invasion of mechanical creatures. It’s a game that makes a statement about the nature of the world we currently live in, where endangered species are being wiped out for the advancement of humanity, and does so with gorgeous art and design.
Gameplay features melee-based combat alongside platforming traversal which also clearly takes inspiration from Ori, but the story is a way to inform the player of the real-world issues that are plaguing the endangered species you meet along your journey.
Ailuri is set to release in 2020 on Steam, so go and check out the game’s website www.vivinkstudios.com to see when any new information comes out, personally I’d love to see Ailuri release on Switch, as it’s the perfect game to take on the go for some wholesome and gorgeous platforming fun.
3. Obey Me (Blowfish Studios & Error 404 Game Studios)
Blowfish Studios are something of an outlier in the Australian independent gaming space, as not only do they work as an in-house development team on their own titles, but they are also supporting other developers with publishing and porting games onto multiple systems, and assisting teams from all around the globe in their development.
I got hands-on with Obey Me, developed by Argentinian studio Error 404 Game Studios, and published by the Australian Blowfish, an isometric hack & slash title with stellar graphics and a really fun combat system. You control the protagonist Vanessa in this (and I quote Blowfish’s website for this.) ‘holy-punk brawler’ in tandem with her hell-hound companion Monty in a fight against angels and demons. Creative weaponry — like a huge hammer that spawned minions to fight by your side — and some fun abilities and super slick combat made this game a blast to play.
I’m very excited to see Obey Me come to fruition, as its level of graphical fidelity, what appears to be deep lore, and a fun combat system really stands out against quite a lot of other indie titles. With Blowfish making moves like having their title Projection: First Light on Apple Arcade, it seems this developer/publisher will be one to keep an eye on for many years to come. Obey Me will be coming to all platforms soon, so follow @BlowfishStudios to stay up to date with their whole roster of titles.
2. Elden: Path of the Forgotten (OneRat Games)
Elden: Path of the Forgotten really blew me away. This pixel-art, sort-of-souls like title, is absolutely gorgeous, with an art style that totally threw me back into the 90s and reminded me of the design of the legendary Another World. Just the way the characters moved, as well as the use of light and shadow, really gave me vibes of some of the prettiest pixel games of my childhood. This one-man title looks set to not only be a gorgeous throwback but also has a great and mysterious narrative behind it that is played out entirely through gameplay and has super fun yet tough combat.
After a short introductory cutscene, the player is thrust out into the world, to fight against monsters and dangerous creatures, and you quickly have to learn how to function on your own without any assistance from the world or the game itself. The game’s creator, Dylan, tells me that it is somewhat inspired by his moving out of home at a young age and being forced to learn valuable lessons without any assistance and even the game’s mysterious language (which is unrecognizable and alien) prevent any hand-holding through its hard-as-nails adventuring.
There looks to be a wide selection of biomes with an even wider assortment of enemies and bosses, and with about a 4 hour run time, this game looks to be a lot of fun, but also a real journey of player discovery as you venture through its mysterious world. I’m incredibly excited for its release, which will be on all platforms sometime in 2020. Definitely keep an eye out for this one, and follow the game on Twitter @EldenTheGame.
1. Primordials Fireborn
The most graphically impressive and ambitious game that we saw on the show floor at PAX Rising by far, Primordials Fireborn is a 3D action-adventure title that tells the story of an anthropomorphic phoenix named Ash who struggles to remember his past.
As a phoenix, you’re imbued with powerful fire-based abilities for combat, and the game features not only impressive combat mechanics (with more to come in the final game, I’m told by one of the game’s leads, Tyson.) but also an awesome and ambitious traversal system. The movement and climbing mechanics gave me instant vibes of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (absolutely huge praise which I believe is well deserved) and visually the game is a massive statement from a team of part-time developers from Melbourne.
As an action-adventure game, you’ll be exploring this beautifully crafted and detailed world of Eirdal to try and find the answers to you seek, come to terms with which you are and defeat foes, including huge bosses, along the way.
Developers ToyBox Games have only been together since 2016, but look like they have quite a statement on their hands for release in the future, and the level of polish and quality of their game is reflected even in their trailer, website and their own description of their game. They are truly not messing around when they say they want to make the most badass games around.
No release date is set as of yet for Fireborn, but make sure you follow the team on Twitter @tbxgames or head to the game’s website https://www.toyboxgamesstudios.com/fireborn/ to sign up to their mailing list for future updates.
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