2017's looking for like a great year for games already. In January alone, we have Resident Evil 7, Yakuza 0, and Gravity Rush 2 - not to mention the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 to look out for in the later months. Still, independent developers have plenty to offer this year too, and - continuing on with a tradition that started last year - we're previewing ten of the most promising under-the-radar titles set for release on the PlayStation 4 in 2017.
Absolver is an online martial arts game with style. Combat looks fluid and tactical, with fights ranging from mano-a-mano action to three-on-three brawls, and players can customise their own martial arts styles and choose their own weapon of choice as they progress. With both PvP and PvE modes as well as a relationship system that sees rivalries and alliances develop, six-man team Sloclap is certainly punching above its weight.
A 3D exploration game in the vein of the excellent ABZÛ, Aer sees you playing as a girl who can transform into a bird and fly around floating, cel-shaded islands on her way to challenge the Gods of her world. From the small snippets of gameplay released so far, it looks like there'll be a puzzle element as well as a focus on exploring the beautiful polygonal environment created by developers Forgotten Key, which seems both tranquil and menacing at the same time.
Granted, Ready At Dawn is perhaps best known for the rather dull (but visually stunning) The Order: 1886, but Deformers looks like a big departure from the studio's alternate history title, considering The Order wasn't full of squishy ball-shaped animals bouncing each other off of cliffs. Up to eight of the aforementioned creatures - known as Forms in the game - can slam, shoot, and collide with each other in arena combat in a variety of modes, and while the cutesy art style may be off-putting for some, it's good to know that the developer is taking the plunge into pastures new.
Although it has a bit of a clunky name, Grand Values: Monaco looks anything but. A stealth heist game about three friends who need to steal $50 million in a week, the game looks very stylised and suave - with an especially killer soundtrack. The focus on non-lethal tactics could make the gameplay more interesting than the offerings of others in the genre, while the use of quick time events when pickpocketing the rich residents of Monaco should add some tension.
From some of the minds behind Tearaway, LittleBigPlanet, and Ratchet & Clank, Knights and Bikes perhaps looks even more Media Molecule than a Media Molecule game. A co-op action-adventure RPG inspired by SNES games like Earthbound and Secrets of Mana - as well as taking a bit of inspiration from The Goonies - Foam Sword's first outing is set on the fictional hand-drawn island of Penfurzy in the 1980s, in which two girls and their pet goose set out on an expedition (on bikes, if that wasn't obvious) to explore the medieval past of their home. It looks as charming as it does enthralling.
Old Time Hockey looks like incredible fun simply because it focuses on the crucial elements of hockey: stick fights, bad language, broken bones, and knocked-out teeth. Focusing on the minor leagues of the sport, its local multiplayer should be a hoot with friends as each player tries to instigate as many fights as possible. That said, it also looks like a good clean retro hockey simulator, and should be just as much fun to play without resorting to violence and swearing - though you'd be missing out on the best parts, of course.
Sure, its silhouette art style and 2D platforming will inevitably bring Limbo comparisons, but Orphan looks like so much more than that. Stealth mechanics take centre stage here, but there's also an element of combat thanks to the various weapons that you'll find lying around the in-game world. Set on the night after an alien invasion, the story follows a lone boy venturing through the Appalachian mountains, and has a real H.G Wells vibe to it thanks to the lens-flare-heavy style of the alien ships.
Pyre is developed by Supergiant Games. That's pretty much all you need to know to gauge if it's worth buying or not, but we'll rattle through some facts about the game anyway. It's a party-based RPG set in a mystical world in which you must complete the Rites; a set of ancient challenges that allow exiles to be absolved of their crimes. There's a vast cast of characters to meet and team up with, and a big map full of other exiles that you'll go into battle with. But yeah, it's developed by Supergiant.
The success of Yooka-Laylee on Kickstarter last year shows that there's a lot of love for retro 3D platformers, and Snake Pass looks to capitalise on that - but with an interesting twist. Playing as Noodle the Snake, you'll embark on a journey to the top of Haven Tor mountain along with your friend Honeydew the Hummingbird, using the game's "snake physics" to coil yourself around levers, climb trees, swing between them, and generally traverse the world in a slithery manner. It sounds simple, but sometimes the best games are.
We understand that the words "procedurally generated galaxy" may not instil confidence in many of you these days, but The Long Journey Home seems to have a lot more to it than that. With every new run, you'll find yourself in a different galaxy (and on a different starting planet) but with the same goal of reaching home. As you explore galaxies in your ship, you'll also meet traders, aliens, and thieves, all of whom you can talk to, make deals with, or fight, and you'll visit various planets and moons, all of which you can explore. The Long Journey Home is very ambitious, but judging by gameplay so far, developer Daedelic Entertainment has the skills and resources to match its vision.
Have any of these indie games captured your interest, or will AAA games reign supreme this year? Feel free to be an indie apologist in the comments section below.