What happens when you live on the East Coast and have a lot of game developers in one place? Why, you have a conference of course. Maybe one about games even? The East Coast Games Conference takes place smack in the middle of April, and it features several developers talking about the games they're working on. It also has those same developers showing off projects big and small. I got a chance to attend this year, and found 9 games that I thought were worth highlighting from the show. From RTS to tower defense, hack and slash to sushi management, there's a varied chunk of games to enjoy. So sit down, strap in, and then unstrap. You're just reading an article, it's not that intense.
Conan UnconqueredMay as well start with the biggest. Conan Unconquered is an upcoming RTS developed by Petroglyph and published by Funcom. If you can't tell, it uses the Conan IP by having you play as the glorious barbarian and raise an army.
However, this isn't like a typical RTS where you go raid an enemy base. Instead your goal is to raise an army to defend your fort, needing to survive against waves of oncoming foes. Much like a tower defense game, you're warned about oncoming hoards of enemies in advance and are given time to prepare for their attacks. As the game advances enemies will become stronger, but you'll be able to train better units and upgrade them to match the hoard. Conan himself participates in battle as well, and zooming all the way in to watch him cut down swarms of enemies was totally worth it.
While the game does go for a more unique wave-survival deal, there is some classic RTS at its roots. I had to build structures to provide various resources to my army, letting me get population, iron, wood, food, and more so I could keep them supplied and growing. I also needed to place battle flags out to keep expanding control of my territory and build further away from my fort. By the end of the demo I had a sprawling base that wouldn't feel that out of place in a traditional RTS game, and I had some fun watching it build up, making walls and towers around it, and finding new places I could put defenses.
Conan Unconquered is being developed by Petroglyph and published by Funcom. It is coming out on PC on May 30th. You can read our interview with the publisher here.
Sons of RaWhile Conan Unconquered may be an RTS designed like a tower defense, Sons of Ra just is a tower defense. More specifically, it's a multiplayer competitive tower defense game.
You'll take the role of one of Egypt's gods. The demo had a choice between Isis, Montu, and Anubis, with the developers at Pharaoh Hound Games informing me there'll probably be four or five gods for the final release. Each god has four special abilities that they can call upon during the game. As you play you earn both gold, to summon towers and troops, and faith, which you can spend on those special abilities. I played as Anubis in my demo and I had skills that let my troops run faster and summon a special priest unit that, whenever someone near him dies, lets him turn them into mummies for my side.
Fast paced and easy to learn, I had a good time playing Sons of Ra. Before I was even a couple of minutes into the game, I already felt like I had a good understanding of the mechanics, of the abilities, and how I could play the game. I was sending out swarms of spear units and building arrow towers with the best of them before very long. It was interesting how I was able to use my abilities to assist my troops, and I got the feeling that each god could have some unique strategies available to them. If nothing else, I also appreciate any game that offers local competitive play, as it feels like I don't see enough of that lately.
Sons of Ra is being developed by Pharaoh Hound Games. It will be available on PC and Xbox One in the summer. You can try the demo here, and read our interview with the developers here.
Mariachi UndeadDo you have a Guitar Hero controller in your closet sitting unused? Then I have a game for you. Mariachi Undead let me pick it up one more time to rock out.
Yet it's not just a rhythm game, which is the most interesting part. Mariachi Undead is actually a 2D side-scrolling shooter. You move right and left, using a controller to do so. The character I got to play as could slide into cover more effectively than a streamer slides into the wrong Twitter DMs. Using a revolver, enemies are gunned down left and right while I avoided their gunfire. But I'm here to rock out, and by picking up the Guitar Hero controller and strumming, I could start a rhythm mini-game that, if completed, kills all nearby enemies. Of course, having to readjust to a guitar controller is another story entirely, and that took me a while.
Once I reached the end of the level, I once again picked up my guitar, for it was time to have a rock-off against a giant enemy. Playing closer to a traditional rhythm game, I dealt damage every time I hit a note, while taking it for missing notes. With the boss exploded, the undead mariachi man brought one final act: hopping on a futuristic speeder for some SHMUP action. Here I could press the guitar buttons to move lanes and strum the guitar to shoot. It was fast-paced and fun, and I was dodging rocks and shooting down other speeders with the best of them before long. With a kickass soundtrack and fun gameplay, Mariachi Undead is worth keeping an eye on for people looking to get one more jam session in.
Mariachi Undead is being developed by Upside Down Bird. It currently does not have a release date or platform.
Rolling HillsOkay, it's time to calm down a bit. After all those violent games, I needed to relax. In came Rolling Hills, an Animal Crossing styled life sim mixed up with a sushi restaurant management game.
The premise is more than enough to get me excited. Thankfully it lived up to my expectations. Once you open your sushi restaurant for the day, customers come in and put in requests. You'll then head over to the prep station and pick out the ingredients that they specify. You then get to actually making the sushi, which almost feels like a JRPG. You have effort that you can spend on either finishing the sushi, or raising its quality, but if you run out of effort before the sushi is done, then you fail. Thankfully you also have items that let you do things such as raise the quality of the sushi or give you back some effort.
Sure you can just bumrush making the sushi and get it out every time, but that doesn't make quality sushi. Rolling Hills becomes a balancing act, trying to have the highest quality sushi while still being able to make it. Even if you fail, that's okay. The game is so overwhelmingly cute that I had no problem wasting time in its world. From goofy puns made by trash bins and refrigerators to adorable character designs, this may be the next chill game to wind down with.
Rolling Hills is being developed by Catch & Release. It's set to be released sometime in 2020 for "as many [platforms] as possible without overwhelming our tiny team."
Iron WolfWe haven't seen a game like Metal Gear in a while. I don't mean Metal Gear Solid, but the original top down pixel games.
Sticking to that theme, you play as Iron Wolf, a name that already reminds me quite a bit of Solid Snake. Your goal is to infiltrate a fort, fight past the robotic guards, and take down their mysterious leader. Simple, but it does more than good enough of a job feeling exactly like those classics. While Metal Gear was more of a stealth game, Iron Wolf hands you an assault rifle and has you gunning down the bots.
I was actually surprised by how good it felt to return to the isometric big pixel days. Combat felt like that perfect mix of careful positioning so I could squeeze off a few shots and then quickly run away before I got hit myself. It was certainly a little weird getting back into that style, but Iron Wolf was quite wonderful when it came to making me feel nostalgic. If nothing else, I'm all in on seeing characters with goofy names fight each other.
Iron Wolf is being developed by Royal Den Studios. It currently does not have a release date or platform.
Fallen AngelI'm really not great at top-down action games. I enjoy playing them, but I tend to die easily. Despite this, when I saw Fallen Angel, I figured it was worth checking out. I was right about that.
You play as Lucifer, who's mostly known for being, well ... a fallen angel. You'll fight against angels in heaven, using a shadow-like sword on them. While the game may be top-down 2D, you'll be fighting enemies by knocking them into the air and performing combos much as you'd expect from something such as Devil May Cry. Smart use of dodges and uppercuts were the key to victory, as it was surprisingly easy to get killed by the angels.
What really ties the game together is an impressive art style. The pixel art is animated well and looks fantastic in motion. It manages to convey the different layers a lot better than expected, and I was able to easily figure out when I needed to jump into the air to take down an angel. Better yet, it felt satisfying. Smashing a smug winged asshole back into the ground is a treat and was accompanied by some great feedback. While I may not have actually been able to finish the demo—it was rather difficult—it's the kind of game that I could see myself going back to and actually getting better so I could finish it. Fallen Angel is just fun.
Fallen Angel is being developed by Matrioshka Games. It will be releasing in 2020 for currently unknown platforms. You can play the demo here.
It Stares BackI'm a total sucker for specific visual and audio style. When I caught a glimpse of It Stares Back at ECGC, I knew it was the exact style I needed more of in my life.
At its absolute basics It Stares Back is an RTS, but that doesn't really tell the full story. The map is covered in a dense fog of war, and in an interesting twist, only buildings and the hero unit can see through it. This means you have to constantly expand your base, grabbing runes and protecting a hero unit just so you can see. Forts will automatically mine rocks and dye for you to build units, and in turn, units train instantly and give back their resources if they die. You can keep a large army stocked up and ready to go rather simply, and a good chunk of the game is moving these units around. Considering you have to sacrifice units to capture points on the map, you'll come to appreciate this feature.
However, what really made me love my time with the game is the aesthetics. It Stares Back features some of the best visual and audio direction I've seen for a game in a long time. From the opening cutscene, which features one of the most horrific cases of body possession I've witnessed in a game, to the cutscenes that feature characters that have deep booming voices, it's simply brilliant. It's clear an insane amount of work has been put into this, and it's very clearly paying off.
It Stares Back is being developed by Light Arc Studio. It currently does not have a release date. You can play the demo by joining the Discord here.
Crystal CommandWhile most of the games at ECGC were still in development, Crystal Command is already finished. In fact, you can play it right now for free.
A 2v2 competitive multiplayer game, Crystal Command combines third-person action with MOBA and RTS elements. You play as a rock golem who can buy abilities such as throwing boulders and charging forward. However, on your own, you can't really do much against the enemy base. You need help and can get some by capturing points on the map that start giving you resources. Once you have resources, you can place down structures that will begin to spawn troops to assist you in combat.
Your goal is to destroy the turrets guarding the other team's base, invade it, and take out the base itself, not much unlike a MOBA. However, with a third person perspective and more options related to minions, Crystal Command puts its own unique spin on the genre. I had a good time trying strategies like flooding our side with the weakest minions in the game, giving us a non-stop stream of units, then backing them up by sneaking a few tank spawners into the back of the enemy base. Multiplayer fans should get a kick out of this one.
Crystal Command was developed by students from Shawnee State University. It can be downloaded here and will be made available on Steam for free in June.
Curse ChasersWhile most of the games I played at ECGC were made for consoles or PC, I wanted to try something for the mobile side. In came Curse Chasers, a competitive multiplayer strategy game giving me what I wanted.
The game sees a team of dwarves fighting against a team of orcs. There are two ways to win the match. You can either grab a flag in the middle and bring it to the other side of the map, or kill five of the enemy team’s units. Each round you’ll select which actions you want and program your team to make them in a specific order. For example, I could have one of my dwarves throw a bomb, ask another to move forward, and have the third wait until the first dwarf throws a second bomb before moving forward. Once you’ve programmed your team, both team’s actions play out at the same time.
Since Curse Chasers is an asynchronous multiplayer game, you can easily shoot your moves over to your friends and then move on and do something else for the rest of the day. You don’t have to watch and wait for your friend to program their moves. Similarly, you can play multiple games at the same time with multiple friends. Programming actions was always fun, and it was satisfying watching my moves play out and my grand strategies be realized. Or, more likely, I’d watch as an orc pushed my dwarf into the bomb another one of my dwarves was throwing, and I’d remember I don’t have grand strategies and actually this was a bad idea.
Curse Chasers is being developed for mobile devices, and currently does not have a release date.
So, that's nine awesome games I got a chance to try out at ECGC, and I'm looking forward to the release date of each and every one.
See anything cool in this set? Going to keep an eye on them? Let us know in the comments below.