Each month, the Indie Spotlight highlights a new game that exemplifies the creativity, cleverness, and beauty of today’s independent games market.
This month’s Indie Spotlight is:
Board games, by their very nature, are social affairs. They allow people to gather together over a shared exercise, providing a reliable and approachable vehicle for socializing and low-cost entertainment. Whether that game has you pitching wacky business ideas, journeying into deep space, building skyscrapers in a new city, or any number of an infinite number of other possibilities, board games are often a catalyst – an excuse even – for allowing you to congregate and spend time with the company you want.
That doesn’t mean the game itself is irrelevant to such endeavors. A group’s level of enjoyment can very much live or die by the genre, style, and theme of the game before them. If paired correctly between the group and the players, then it can make for an amazing time. If the game and audience aren’t on the same page, however, the experience can quickly go from upbeat to dull, or even uncomfortable. And no one wants that.
Of course, all of this is predicated on the assumption that a game is played with more than one person. And as the market over the last few years has illustrated, that doesn’t always have to be the case.
Solo gaming has seen a monumental rise in popularity, providing many of the same positive experiences as a normal game event…just in a more solitary fashion. When done right, solo gaming can be just as brain-burning, just as immersive, and just as rewarding as the traditional model. Going it alone against the game also has a uniquely distinct advantage: it presents an opportunity for getting in your gaming fix when you are unable (or don’t want to) to round up people to hang out with. So it makes sense why there’s been such a major uptick in interest.
Which brings us rather fittingly to Unbroken by Altema Games and Golden Bell Games, the latest and most indicative example of the hobby’s desire for more gaming sans other people options. It’s even more fitting when accounting for the fact that its entire theme is about being left alone.
Though in this case, you’re not left alone intentionally.
In this open-ended solo game of survival and revenge, you start off as the lone survivor of a dungeon-crawling adventuring party. Your latest escapades have gone to hell by a monstrous ambush and you’ve barely made it out of the situation alive. The rest of your cadre weren’t so lucky. As the game begins, you find yourself alone, wounded, and trapped in hostile territory.
But you are still alive, and if you can muster up enough anger and perseverance, that fact will hopefully be your attackers’ undoing.
Over the span of 20-30 minutes, you must navigate your way through unfriendly terrain, gather and manage what limited resources you can – including time itself – and regain enough strength to strike down your enemies on your way back to safety. Unbroken presents this through a series of card encounters, where you must make careful choices on what you’d like to do.
What makes the game particularly appealing is that despite precarious situation you find yourself in, there is no roadmap. The decisions you make are up to you, creating a semi open-ended experience each time you play. Even with its short play time, this oh-so-uplifting tale of grit, determination, and payback generates its own narrative as you progress through the game, all dictated by the choices you make and the setbacks you’ll face.
And you will face setbacks. Oh yes.
In Unbroken, Survival is not a guarantee, and poor decisions can be as costly as your group’s collective critical fail that started this whole mess. Yet through its quick, immersive, and challenging nature, the game posses an addicting quality that fuels your desire to jump back in and face new challenges all over again.
If you think you have the mettle to claw your way back to civilization while attempting to rain down ruination on the monsters who wronged you, then get ready to be tested. And don’t worry about the solitude. After all, it’s easy to forget you’re alone when the walls are closing in.
Do you have a game that we should spotlight? Let us know at: email@example.com!
Previous Indie Game Spotlights:
April 2019: Mountaineers | Review | Developer’s Site
January 2019: Good Dog, Bad Zombie | Review | Q&A | Developer’s Site