By Josh Speer / September 12th, 2019
I always tout myself as a fan of indies, which is why every year I attend the SIX AKA Seattle Indies Expo. Not only are they chock full of indies every year, but these are indies from my neighborhood, the PNW. So I’m even more motivated than normal to see what my fellow coffee critics and raincoat fashionistas have to share. This year the SIX had 25 different games, and I had a whole list full that I wanted to demo. Fortunately or unfortunately, it was more packed than I expected, so I was only able to push through crowds to play a handful. Thankfully, the handful I got to play were all very interesting in their own unique ways. Let’s start alphabetically with a descent into madness.
SIX Game #1 – From Beyond: Prologue
Developer – SuckerFree Games
I should point out right here that the type of games which From Beyond: Prologue are based on are ones I largely have little experience with. Games like Deja Vu, Shadowgate and Uninvited. But I have played more and more VNs and mystery / horror games of late, so I figured I’d trust my gut and take a chance. Which turns out to have been a good choice, since I was really captivated by From Beyond: Prologue. The game takes place in 1910. You play a professor on a expedition in the mountains of Europe, and things quickly go wrong. You are separated from your supplies, wild animals are hunting you, and you have a pounding headache that occasionally sounds like voices talking to you.
As the demo progressed, things only got stranger and stranger. There was evidence of foul play everywhere, as well as mysterious ruins that somehow beckoned to me. Then I was almost deafened by a shrill screech I thought was the fire alarm in the building I was in, but turns out it was the friendly voice in my character’s head communicating. I got wonderful Alan Moore and H.P. Lovecraft vibes while playing From Beyond: Prologue. I even managed to live for a while before circumstances caught up to my character. It’s a really immersive and plot rich experience, and those are often the games I strive to play. If that all sounds interesting, the best news is that From Beyond: Prologue wasn’t just playable at Seattle Indies Expo, it’s also available to buy right now. Just be ready for a challenging and spine tingling adventure!
SIX Game #2 – Wildfire
Developer – Ryan Kubik
Much as I enjoy the occasional puzzle game, I’m far from amazing at them. Which is probably why I failed so often playing Wildfire. The premise is that you need to protect people’s homes from, you guessed it, wildfires, which you do by switching adjacent tiles until you are safe. This is much harder than it sounds, especially since fires will jump to adjacent tiles quickly, and often you can only make certain moves without burning everything to ash.
Wildfire is pretty much a hardcore, minimalist puzzle game. I was pretty wretched at it, but I did enjoy when I was smart enough to find occasional bouts of success. If you like puzzles and love challenge, then I’d check Wildfire out. If that sounds too tricky though, you might just let Smokey put these fires out.
SIX Game #3 – The Wind and Wilting Blossom
Developer – Picklefeet
I’m gonna be completely transparent here, and say that The Wind and Wilting Blossom was one of the games I most anticipated playing at Seattle Indies Expo. I do my research, and the art style and genre both spoke to me. The art style is done as a tribute to Japanese woodblock prints, and it’s quite striking. As for the combat, it takes inspiration from games like FTL, so this is a roguelike with permadeath and meaningful decision making. In a weird way, this almost reminded me of playing The Oregon Trail back in my youth. You never knew what decision was the right one, but you knew someone was getting sick or eaten eventually.
I thought the combat in The Wind and Wilting Blossom was easy to understand, but also quite challenging. You maneuver about a hex shaped grid and can move and attack in the same turn. Most foes were simple but ruthless, and I eventually lost to a couple of large Oni thugs. If the gashadokuro don’t get you, the Oni will! As for making decisions and progressing outside of combat, your choices would often result in getting new items or being punished for your acts of cruelty. I even found a few new recruits that way, which was nice.
While the demo I played was relatively simple, I enjoyed what I saw so far of The Wind and Wilting Blossom. If you are also fascinated by this game, you can help it out on Kickstarter right now. It’s aiming for Steam currently, but I’m sure it could also come to consoles with enough support. Plus, if you want to try it yourself, there’s a free alpha demo on the Kickstarter page.
SIX Game #4 – Wintermoor Tactics Club
Developer – EVC
Quick fun fact – I had the chance to play Wintermoor Tactics Club at Seattle Indie Expo last year, and opted not to for a stupid reason – because the game features snowball fights. When I heard the premise is that the game plays like the snowball fight from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, I thought that sounded silly. I should have payed more attention, since while snowball fights are a feature in the game, they’re far from the only one.
Wintermoor Tactics Club is a story about a school where the fate of the universe was decided in a most unconventional way. You’re at a school when students start disappearing, and it’s up to the remaining school clubs to find the truth and put a stop to things. The demo had me playing a group of children that regularly played D&D style games, and I got to play a battle where all my club members were thrown into a tactical RPG setting against goblins and the sort. I quickly understood the combat, and found it satisfying. But of more interest was the plot, and the undertone of sinister mystery at an otherwise upstanding and normal school environment.
Coupled with great art, sound and writing, Wintermoor Tactics Club has the potential to be a great game. It’s slated to release later in 2019 on PC, though I’d love it on consoles as well. Can you survive your time at Wintermoor Academy, or will your exploits be erased? Only you can decide by trying the game yourself!
As always, I had a really fun time trying these diverse titles at Seattle Indies Expo. Sure I wish I had been able to play some more, but that would have involved moving people, and that’s far from the best option in such a laid back and cool environment. Thanks to everybody I met with, and be sure to check all 4 of these indie titles out.
From Beyond: PrologueoprainfallPAX WestSeattle Indies ExpoSIXThe Wind and Wilting BlossomWintermoor Tactics Club