Pictured above: Candle
Most of the big AAA titles of the year are out now, but there is still a steady stream of indies looking for your attention. I can't promise that all of them are good, but they may be worth checking out as we enter the upcoming post-holiday drought.
Before I get to the more obscure games on the list, I want to remind everyone that Tyranny has been out for around a week now. This latest RPG by Obsidian harkens back to the old days of CRPGs, where choices were plentiful and had a real impact on the way you interact with the world. Tyranny is a fantasy tale of good and evil, except the evil overlord's armies have already conquered the world and you take on the role of one of his enforcers. Choose how you will interact with the populace and your fellow minions of darkness as discontent brews within the overlord's armies. Also on GOG.
Planet Explorers is an open world sci-fi sandbox that recently exited Early Access. While there is a story mode linking together all the crafting, building, exploration, and wanton slaughter of exotic alien wildlife, perhaps the biggest draw are the various sandbox modes where you can take full advantage of the game's voxel-based building and destruction. There's full multiplayer support as well, in both the co-op and competitive deathmatch variety.
AL-FINE is a fantasy shop management game along the lines of Recettear, though most of the reviews seem to indicate that it has its share of problems. Build a budding item shop in the bustling trade town of Notte Luce. Hire adventurers to raid dungeons for exotic items that you can sell in your shop, and use the profits to expand your store and overtake the competition.
Warfleet is the latest space combat game that focuses on building your own ships from scratch. Build your fleet and explore a procedurally generated galaxy populated by vessels designed by other players. The game is apparently a bit barebones right now and has a horribly unhelpful tutorial, so you may want to keep that in mind before taking the plunge.
Warm Lamp Games
Taking a page from the Papers, Please Academy of Morally Grey Gameplay Mechanics is Beholder, a stealthy investigation game where you play as the State-installed landlord of an apartment complex in a totalitarian nightmare. It's your job to spy on your tenants by any means necessary and report any contraband items or suspicious individuals to the authorities...Or will you? Much like in Papers, Please, you can choose to cling to your humanity and overlook illegal activity...or blackmail your renters to line your own pockets.
Sethian is a sci-fi puzzle game where you must unravel the mystery surrounding the fate of a lost alien civilization. To accomplish this, you'll need to decipher their language and figure out how to operate a Sethian computer discovered in an ancient ruins. There are in-game notes to help you keep track of what you learn, and multiple endings that encourage you to fully grasp the Sethian language.
Hailing from a small indie studio in Spain is Candle, a gorgeously hand-painted 2D adventure game inspired by South American culture. You play as Teku, a young novice on a dangerous quest to save his tribe's shaman from the rival Wakcha tribe. Aiding you on your journey is a candle, granting you the ability to drive away the darkness, hold your enemies at bay, and solve the game's many puzzles. You can also find Candle on GOG.
Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation
Oxide Games, Stardock Entertainment
Finally we come to Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, a new standalone expansion to Stardock's next-gen mass-scale sci-fi RTS. Fight your way across the galaxy as one of two factions in the campaign, or take the war online in both ranked and unranked modes. Much like its predecessor, the biggest draw of Escalation is the sheer scale of the maps and numbers of units you can control, all thanks to the 64-bit Nitrous engine designed to push your hardware to its limits. Make sure you keep that in mind before you buy, as both Ashes of Singularity games require a pretty serious PC if you want to take full advantage of the engine's features. Also on GOG.
Here's a few extra games that deserve a mention:
Cubotrox, a puzzle game where you use falling blocks to complete a pixel art image.
Don't Open The Doors!, an action RPG with hand-crafted claymation graphics.
Super Rad Raygun, a retro side-scroller that emulates original Gameboy aesthetics.
Resin, a 2D Metroidvania with a regressive leveling system where you get weaker as you "level up."
That's all for now. I'll be back later with more new indie releases.