On Friday, Microsoft’s Independent and Digital games division of Xbox, known as ID@Xbox, held its first Indie Game Showcase in cooperation with Twitch Gaming. Over the course of a jam-packed, three-hour livestream, viewers were treated to gameplay snippets and trailers for over 60 games coming to the Xbox platform from independent developers in addition to in-depth interviews with special guests conducted by community-favorite Twitch Streamers.
In a move uncharacteristic of its past Game Showcases, Microsoft eased up considerably on the Xbox Game Pass gas pedal this time around, relegating practically all mention of it until the very end of the program. Possibly feeling itself from the continued and growing success of its “Netflix of Games” subscription service as well as the increased depth and breadth of its game lineup following the company’s recent acquisition of ZeniMax Media/Bethesda and its IPs, the software giant appeared to be content with letting the quality and quantity of the ID@Xbox lineup to speak for itself. Also unlike with previous Xbox Game Showcases, there was certainly no lack of content or variety!
Here are just a few of the many indie titles that were featured during the broadcast:
Exomecha (TwistedRed, Nail AKINCI), 2021
This gorgeously frantic, free-to-play online competitive shooter featuring armored exoskeletons and giant sword-wielding mechs has evolved to become even more over-the-top than ever before. Commandeer flying gunships, drive destructive, futuristic tanks or even surf on a missile into battle.
The Ascent (Curve Digital, Neon Giant), 2021
A now more than familiar face at Xbox Games Showcase events over the past year, this isometric action RPG is designed for both solo play as well as up to four players in co-op, and is poised to “out-cybyerpunk” Cyberpunk 2077 with its deep character customization options. Fight, loot and ascend as you upgrade your weapons, skills and abilities.
Omno (Studio Inkyfox), 2021
This cel-shaded, atmospheric action-adventure game is being developed by one individual and features a spunky protagonist that wields a magic staff to traverse areas, solve environmental puzzles and ride atop giant beasts. And in keeping with the event’s surfing motif, yes, the hero can even ride the staff downhill.
The Wild at Heart (Humble Bundle, Moonlight Kids) – May 20, 2021
This lushly-detailed 2D RPG channels equal parts Don’t Starve and Broken Age and follows the misadventures of two childhood friends that must explore the Deep Woods and encounter magical creatures and mysterious guardians.
Moonglow Bay (Coatsink Software, Bunnyhug) (Console) – 2021
Moonglow Bay is a heartwarming “fishing RPG” set in 1980’s Eastern Canada with gameplay that evokes the casual, chill vibes of community building with Animal Crossing as well as the cooking mechanics of Breath of the Wild. As a rookie angler who has recently suffered the loss of their partner and faced with the closure of their business amid the dying economy of the quaint fishing town they called their home, players must gradually venture further out into unknown (and dangerous) waters to discover, catch and document more exotic species of fish, cook meals that can be sold for a profit at the local market, and uncover the secrets behind Moonglow Bay’s many myths and old wives’ tales. With a charming and colourful voxel art style and over 100 fish to reel in, this game is easily one of the most compelling indie titles in Xbox’s 2021 lineup.
Cooking is at the heart of Soup Pot’s gameplay, but don’t be intimidated; this game doesn’t do precise measurements or expect you to follow complicated recipes. This is about “home cooking”, where you’ll be measuring how much salt or flour to add by the number of “pinches”, judging how much water you need by eye and guessing how long you should bake your bread by common sense and instinct. Just don’t forget to turn off the oven when you’re done unless you want to start a fire!
Nobody Saves the World (Drinkbox Studios) (PC and Console) – 2021
This deceivingly hilarious yet deep action RPG is brought to us from Drinkbox Studios, the Toronto-based team behind Guacamelee, and literally starts you off as a hollow-eyed, baby creature called “Nobody” who happens across the magic wand of Nostramagus the Wizard. Coincidentally, Nostramagus has recently disappeared without a trace), but The Calamity (the world-ending crisis that he was charged with stopping) isn’t taking a vacation. It’s up to you, the player, to fight against the monstrous hordes, evolve your form and become powerful enough to “save the world”.
Among Us (Innersloth) (PC and Console) – 2021
Having enjoyed recent success and recognition as a 2020 Game Awards recipient and a resurge in popularity following the game’s release on Nintendo Switch, Among Us is finally bringing its unique party game flavor of suspicion, mistrust and betrayal to Xbox, along with a brand-new Airship level in which you and your friends can hunt down (and in turn be hunted by) The Impostor.
Death’s Door (Devolver Digital, Acid Nerve) (Console) – 2021
In the isometric action-RPG Death’s Door, you are an unassuming yet lethal sword-wielding member of a murder of crows (yes, a group of crows is actually called a “murder”) who’s job is to reap the souls of the dead, operating out of the hub world called The Hall of Doors. Problem is, your most recent assignment has tasked you with cleaning up a dimension where nothing has died for centuries, resulting in incredibly powerful creatures that aren’t quite ready to cross the river. Players can expect fast, responsive and challenging combat, from the lowest of minions to intimidating, screen-filling bosses, all depicted with fluid animation and a dazzling, fantastical art style.
Twelve Minutes (Annapurna Interactive, Luis Antonio) (PC and Console) – 2021
One would think that nothing more needs to be said about this upcoming indie darling other than the actual date when we can finally expect to play it, but the game’s director Luis Antonio was at least able to confirm that his highly anticipated time-loop suspense thriller will indeed ship in 2021 (fingers crossed). In the livestream interview that bookended the latest trailer, Antonio also let it slip that while game’s time loop is 12 only minutes in real time, players can expect to experience close to 18 hours of gameplay before they reach something approaching a satisfying conclusion!
Astria Ascending (Dear Villagers, Artisan Studio) (PC and Console) – 2021
With the current selection of original Japanese-developed RPGs on the Xbox Platform gradually getting better but still considerably lacking when compared to that of competing platforms such as PlayStation and Nintendo, the reveal of this brand new indie JRPG for Xbox and PC can only be regarded as a huge win. Writer Kazushige Nojima of Final Fantasy VII, FFX, FF X-2 and Kingdom Hearts fame as well as FF XII composer Hitoshi Sakimoto are both on board as creators, and the approach being taken towards the game is that of animating “a masterpiece of art,” according to Sakimoto in their joint video interview shown near the end of the livecast.
As previously mentioned, Xbox Game Pass chatter was tastefully saved for the end of the event, where it was announced that 20 of the 60 featured ID@Xbox Games would be launching Day One with Xbox Game Pass. If the aim of the event was for Microsoft to plant a flag in the ground and proclaim “Indie games live here,” they more or less succeeded, at least in this writers’ humble opinion. Below is the full list of ID@Xbox games that Friday’s livestream shone a light on, including those that will be included in Xbox Game Pass at launch:
Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield (Headup Games)
Airport for Aliens Run By Dogs (Strange Scaffold)
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (Plug In Digital, ustwo games)
Alchemic Cutie (PM Studios, Viridian Software, Vakio)
Among Us (Innersloth)
Art of Rally (Funselektor), XBOX GAME PASS
Astria Ascending (Dear Villagers, Artisan Studio), XBOX GAME PASS
Atrio: The Dark Wild (Isto)
Backbone (Raw Fury, EggNut), XBOX GAME PASS
Blaster Master Zero (IntiCreates)
Boyfriend Dungeon (Kitfox Games), XBOX GAME PASS
Chivalry 2 (Koch Media, Tripwire Interactive, Torn Banner Studios)
Cloud Gardens (Noio Games)
Craftopia (Pocketpair ), XBOX GAME PASS
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance (Wizards of the Coast, Tuque Games, ForwardXP)
Dead Static Drive (Team Fanclub), XBOX GAME PASS
Death’s Door (Devolver Digital, Acid Nerve)
Demon Turf (Fabraz)
Echo Generation (Cococucumber)
Edge of Eternity (Dear Villagers, Midgar Studio), XBOX GAME PASS
Enlisted (Gaijin Distribution, Darkflow Software)
Exo One (Future Friends Games, Exbleative)
Exomecha (TwistedRed, Nail AKINCI)
Griftlands (Klei Entertainment, Skymap Games)
Hello Neighbor 2 (tinyBuild), XBOX GAME PASS
Iron Corbo: Kung Fu Janitor (2DOS Games )
Knight Squad 2 (Chainsawesome Games)
Lake (Whitethorn, Gamious)
Last Oasis (Snail Games, Donkey Crew)
Lawn Mowing Sim (Curve Digital)
Library of Ruina (Project Moon), XBOX GAME PASS
Little Witch in the Woods (SKT, Sunny Side Up), XBOX GAME PASS
Loot River (straka.studio)
Lost Eidolons (Ocean Drive Studio)
Mad Streets (Craftshop Arts)
Moonglow Bay (Coatsink Software, Bunnyhug), XBOX GAME PASS
Narita Boy (Team17, Studio Koba), XBOX GAME PASS
Nobody Saves the World (Drinkbox Studios), XBOX GAME PASS
Omno (Studio Inkyfox), XBOX GAME PASS
Onsen Master (Whitethorn, WakingOni)
Princess Farmer (Whitethorn, Samobee Games)
Rust (Double11, Facepunch Studios)
Recompile (Dear Villagers, Phigames), XBOX GAME PASS
Sable (Raw Fury, Shedworks), XBOX GAME PASS
Second Extinction (Systemic Reaction)
She Dreams Elsewhere (Studio Zevere), XBOX GAME PASS
Song of Iron (Escape)
Soup Pot (Chikon Club, Chryse)
Spaceline Crew (Coffeenauts)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 (GSC Gameworld), XBOX GAME PASS
Super Space Club (GrahamOfLegend)
The Ascent (Curve Digital, Neon Giant), XBOX GAME PASS
The Big Con (Skybound Games, Mighty Yell Studios)
The Forest Cathedral (Whitethorn, Wakefield Interactive)
The Last Stop (Annapurna Interactive, Variable State)
The Riftbreaker (Exor Studios)
The Wild at Heart (Humble Bundle, Moonlight Kids),
Twelve Minutes (Annapurna Interactive, Luis Antonio)
Voidtrain (HypeTrain Digital, Nearga)
Undungeon (tinyBuild Games, Laughing Machines), XBOX GAME PASS
Way to the Woods (One Pixel Dog), XBOX GAME PASS
We are the Caretakers (Heart Shaped Games)