2014 has barely begun and it already looks like it will be a banner year for the single-player, or small group, role playing game. This level of RPG game development has been largely missing for the past decade but thanks in large part to crowd-sourced funding, both "big house" and independently developed RPGs are back in vogue. In The List today, we take a look at six independent RPGs that are set to debut this year.
The only real requirement for inclusion on The List is that the game is fully funded and will be released in 2014. While most of the included games have rather nebulous release dates, they are more likely than not set to arrive by the end of this year.
So, without further ado: The List of Indie RPGs for 2014 presented in no particular order:
It's hard to believe that a quarter of a century has passed since 1988's Wasteland hit the gaming scene. EA, Interplay and video gaming were in their infancy back then yet in a strangely progressive way, Wasteland was one of the first multiplatform titles when it was released for PC-DOS, Apple II and Commodore 64.
Fast forward twenty five years later, and inXile Entertainment is bringing the post-apocalyptic world of Wasteland back in Wasteland 2. Funded on KickStarter nearly two years ago, Wasteland 2 is set to be released later in 2014, though the official release date has yet to be announced. Interested players can get in on beta testing by prepurchasing the game on Steam for $59.99.
Wasteland 2 has been a long time coming. Brian Fargo, founder of inXile Entertainment, left Interplay in 2003, yet it took until 2012 to bring his dream of creating Wasteland 2 to fruition thanks in large part to the crowd-sourcing model best embodied by KickStarter. But what has fans of the original title so excited is that, not only will they get to revisit a beloved title, but that many of the original development team is on hand today to create Wasteland 2. For old-school RPG players, it simply doesn't get much better than that.
Status: TBA- Likely 2014
The Banner Saga is this year's first live entry in the indie RPG market. Developer Stoic is a small team of game designers who spent over five years together at Bioware while working on Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Stoic released The Banner Saga on January 17th and the dev team describes it as a "mature, story-driven, turn-based strategy game" where literally every decision made by a player influences how the game plays out. Not only will decisions have a huge impact on the player character and his or her party, but whether or not the entire civilization survives hangs on those same decisions
Oh, and there are Vikings.
The Banner Saga was a huge KickStarter success that funded in 2012. While not sporting some of the nowadays expected 3D uber graphics, TBS brings a beautiful hand-drawn style to the table. Developers have also created some of the most detailed and intricate story arcs with dialog options of epic proportion. There is no question that The Banner Saga is evocative of the "glory days" of the single player RPG.
Grim Dawn's roots in the action-RPG genre stretch back to one of the last decade's better RPGs, Titan Quest. Sadly, Iron Lore Entertainment could not secure funding for a project in 2008 and closed its doors. Yet every closed door opens a window, it's said, and former Iron Lore Lead Designer Arthur Bruno founded Crate Entertainment that immediately went to work on another action-RPG, Grim Dawn.
Interestingly, Grim Dawn is being developed on an improved version of the Titan Quest game engine and utilizes the same, albeit improved, toolset with which Titan Quest was developed using. In the spirit of Diablo and Titan Quest, there is a robust system of character progression, in fact spread over 200 levels.
Now available in its alpha phase on Steam, pre-purchasers can gain access to the first act. Grim Dawn features a trio of factions bent on mastery of Cairn, the game's universe. Humans are the prey, seeking to save themselves from one faction that wants to use corpses as resources, the other on destroying humanity to prevent that from happening.
Status: TBA- Likely 2014
Frontier Developments successfully funded Elite Dangerous via KickStarter in January of 2013. The game gives fans of the sci-fi RPG genre something look forward to with its planetary exploration and three factions with which to deal. Like Wasteland, Elite Dangerous is a spiritual successor to 1984's Elite, first published for Acorn computers. That's right, Acorn.
Elite Dangerous centers around the premise of "keep your friends close, your enemies closer", the game offers players tons of different ways to interact with the game including player classes such as the trader, pirate, bounty hunter, leader, team player, opportunistic assassin, grand schemer, and more. Classes are not "set in stone" and are more a function of player skill and style than anything else.
The game was successfully funded via KickStarter in January of 2013 and the first alpha version of Elite Dangerous was released in late 2013. The development team continues to work with players to refind features and game play in preparation for a March 2014 release date.
Status: Likely first half 2014
Based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, the original version of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was released in late May 2013. Developed by Neocore Games, Van Helsing set itself firmly on the action RPG track and has quietly gained in popularity over the last nine months or so.
In late 2013, Neocore announced that a second Van Helsing game was in development. Up to very recently, little was known about VH2 but in the last week or so, Neocore has come out with a list of features, information about the Chimera and more. As the likely release date of "Spring 2014" nears, it is likely that much more will be released.
What is known is that VH2 will be a true sequel to the original and will, according to the dev team, keep the best of the first, improves on things here and there as well as see the inclusion of many new features.
Status: Spring 2014
Transistor is the second in the sci-fi branch of the RPG genre, this time taking place in a futuristic environment where the main protagonist, "Red", finds herself in the possession of an incredible, yet mysterious, sword named Transistor. The game features an almost "comic book" look to it, something sure to appeal to fans of comics, old-school console games, anime and more.
What makes Transistor of interest to players is its combination of both real time strategy elements with role playing elements. During combat, Red's action bar fills, players can move to a more strategic mode that allows planning of several moves in advance.
Transistor is another game that is set to be released across multiple platforms including PC and PlayStation 4, with other versions likely to be released at a later date. Coming from the minds who brought us the gorgeous and fantastic Bastion, it's bound to be exciting.
Status: TBA - Likely 2014
So there you have it: Some of the year's most exciting role playing games, indie or not. Do you have plans to play any of these? Are there any we missed that will be released this year? Let us know in the comments!
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom.