OCC E3 2013 AwardsClayMeow - July 2, 2013
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Best Indie Game
Winner: Transistor (PC, PS4)
Supergiant Games splashed onto the scene in a big way with Bastion, and Transistor looks to continue that success. Like Bastion, Transistor has a narrator and it seems like an action-RPG, but take another look and that isn't quite true. The narrator is your talking sword, the Transistor, and the game is more turn-based strategy than anything else. Your character, Red, has come into possession of Transistor, and a group/entity known as The Process wants both it and her. Red has an action bar that, once full, allows her to enter a planning mode where she can map out her movements and actions, and then execute them all with immense speed. When the action bar is depleted you have to dodge attacks and the enemies until the bar is full again. I imagine there'll be a lot more to Transistor once Supergiant is ready to talk about it, but it's already sounding like a runaway hit.
Runner-Up: Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty! (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO, Wii U, Vita)
There's plenty to like about Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty, and it's why it won the platforming category for me. A ground up recreation of Abe's Oddysee on the Unity Engine means new gameplay elements, like a screen that shifts forward the faster Abe moves. It allows for players to see further ahead of them, since there's no more screen flipping, and to sneak past enemies like a Slig. Many of the levels and puzzles are kept intact, just with any modifications needed to better translate to a 3D engine. And since it's coming out on a variety of platforms, there's really no reason to miss Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty.
Winner: The Witness (PC, PS4, iOS)
While The Witness may have only been a runner-up for Best Adventure Game, when it comes to indie games, it narrowly beats out Stick It to The Man! as the one I'm looking forward to the most. The Witness epitomizes an indie game – a unique game that stands out from the norm and takes a bit of a risk. AAA titles are great, but developers don't usually take many risks because it's too expensive to fail. Indie developers don't have that problem and as a result, we get some pretty zany, unconventional games. The Witness marries two niche genres – adventure and puzzle – into one experience. But while taking niche genres and making something new out of them is risky, I also think it's the perfect time to do so. Adventure games have seen a renaissance of late, thanks largely to Telltale Games' critical and commercial success, especially with its most recent adventure series, The Walking Dead. Puzzle games have been injected with new life thanks to social networks, smartphones, and tablets. The Witness is set to be the best of both worlds.
The Witness is a non-linear, puzzle adventure game. You wake up on an uninhabited island with no instructions and quickly discover its riddled with various maze-like puzzles. Puzzles can be tackled in pretty much any order, so if you get stuck on one, you can head on over to a new area – and maybe that new puzzle actually winds up being easier, but introduces you to a mechanic that helps you solve the previous one you were stuck on. The island is open-world, but very concise, with a puzzle never too far away. Despite the game's density, it does feature various locations, like a golden brown forest or a fortress. Though the game isn't quite complete, Blow estimates gameplay at around 25 hours, which is pretty high for a single-player game. While he signed a timed-exclusivity deal with Sony to put it on the PlayStation 4, the deal does not affect the planned PC and iOS versions, so hopefully all three are available in early 2014 when the game is expected to be ready.
Runners-Up: Stick It to The Man! (PS3, Vita), Transistor (PC, PS4)
Choosing between The Witness and Stick It to The Man!, my two adventure game runners-up, was no easy task. Though I ultimately went with The Witness, that should in no way take away from Stick It to The Man!'s potential. As I said above, indie developers often get to create crazy games that AAA developers don't, and Stick It to The Man! is just that. It's a dose of Paper Mario Sticker Star mixed with classic Lucas Arts adventure game humor and outlandish characters. In fact, it's a game more about characters than anything else, featuring over 100 characters to interact with. The head of Zoink! also clearly wishes he had a giant spaghetti arm coming out of his head, as the studio's previous game, Swing King, also featured one. I've never been to Sweden though, so maybe that's just the norm there? Like I said, indie developers be crazy.
Transistor is nothing like The Witness and Stick It to The Man!, but it does merge two genres into one – action-RPG and turn-based strategy. On the surface, it seems like developer Supergiant Games' previous game, Bastion, an action-RPG lauded for its artful narration as you played. This time around, the narration comes from a mysterious talking sword, the titular Transistor. But when you dig deeper, a turn-based strategy game emerges – protagonist Red can pause time and plan out her movement and attacks. It's reminiscent of Dragon Age: Origin's combat system, where you could battle it out in real-time, but are able pause at any time to carefully map out your next attacks. Oh, and did I forget to mention that enemies respawn if you don't collect their souls? While the gameplay demo shown at E3 was the very beginning of the game, I expect these unique combat dynamics to cause some rather intense battles later in the game.