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:
The Artemis Project
July is known for many things. It marks the halfway point of the calendar year. It represents a time for vacations, excursions, and all manner of different recreational activities. It’s reflected upon as a period of time when nature is in full bloom, the peak point of the annual lifecycle of ecosystems large and small.
It also means it’s summertime for most of us. Which means heat. Scorching, relentless, unrelenting heat.
While many rejoice at the idea of the summer months and its unrelenting beams of bright rays and ultraviolet radiation raining down upon the landscape for several months as a welcome change from the colder and more temperate seasons that precede it, that adoration is not always long lived.
At first the sun’s energy is a nice respite. It’s different, new, and decidedly warmer than before. Yet after a few weeks the novelty wears off and the creeping reality sets in that summer is here to stay for a while – with all of its sizzling, blistering, boiling, unrelenting heat pouring down across the landscape for days on end. What starts off as sanguine excitement eventually melts into a pool of sticky trepidation as your focus switches from celebrating the dog days of summer to enduring them, and your efforts are spent doing whatever it takes to cool off.
It is in that spirit that we bring up The Artemis Project by Grand Gamers Guild. Because in this setting you’ll have many environmental concerns to worry about, but a sunburn is definitely not one of them.
In this dice placement and engine building game, 1-5 players have signed up for an expedition to Europa, the frozen moon of Jupiter with a balmy average temperature of around -300 degrees Fahrenheit. And while it certainly has its share of radiation, it’s less the sunburn-y kind and more the lethal exposure in a matter of hours kind.
So be sure to bundle up out there.
Reflecting a new twist on some existing dice mechanics and immersing itself heavily into its dice-driven theme, the game takes place over the span of six rounds. After the moon was made habitable over many years by terraforming means, the true mission beings. Your task, as part of the advanced colonizing team, is to effectively harvest resources, erect buildings, train (and keep alive) several types of colonists, and pool your efforts to undertake expeditions into this strange and alien landscape. Particularly the ocean world beneath the ice.
What makes The Artemis Project particularly appealing is how much it embraces the tension of wanting to be the faction with the most successful undertakings but due to the natural hazards of, well, being on a Jupiter moon, purely going it alone on every measure is not easy. This is reflected by the game’s ‘exposure’ system of dice placement, where merely placing your rolled dice doesn’t guarantee your success. At most locations, dice are resolved in ascending order, which means that higher valued dice may afford you more resources or allow you to train more workers…but only if there’s anything or anyone left.
By contrast, larger dice are essential to claiming ownership of new building modules to increase the efficiency of your dice and workers. Beyond being merely a dice allocation game, these modules can drastically shift your tactics and strategies on what to focus on throughout the course of the game. With many of the buildings chaining off one another to create some excellent synergy boosts, attaining and utilizing them to your best ability adds a whole other avenue of the game to focus on.
And then there are expeditions, which reward anyone who participate with endgame VP and potential bonuses, forcing players to either grudgingly cooperate on this frozen but enticing wasteland or risk losing out on lucrative payouts to their opposition.
In all, The Artemis Project is a cool and thematic jaunt to another world with numerous choices to make, excellent visuals, and plenty to focus on, all adding up to an enjoyable twist on your typical dice placement. All without adding heavily to its play time or relative complexity.
And for surviving July, working on a big chunk of ice-covered ocean sounds like the perfect way to cool off for a while.
Do you have a game that we should spotlight? Let us know at: email@example.com!
Previous Indie Game Spotlights:
June 2019: The Valley of Alchemists | Review | Developer’s Site
April 2019: Mountaineers | Review | Developer’s Site
January 2019: Good Dog, Bad Zombie | Review | Q&A | Developer’s Site