That Indie Column -- Sanctum, Natural Selection 2, The Ship, Intrusion 2, AirMech


Posted August 10, 2012 - By Rob Manuel

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That Indie Column -- Sanctum, Natural Selection 2, The Ship, Intrusion 2, Airmech

Getting people into indie games can be a complicated thing. Describing most games will often leave you sounding like Gary Busey on a caffeine kick in the middle of an earthquake.

With so many games often borrowing from so many genres, you often find yourself rambling on about one aspect of the game while completely forgetting another. Triple-A titles just seem to have it easy, often painting in broad strokes or having a marketing team that can walk you through the basics. And then it hit me. Why not explain games with games?

Names like Call of Duty or Gears of War instantly conjure up images of the game, but mention Natural Selection 2, and you’ll often wind up with blank stares. For this little experiment, I picked five big indie titles along with five games that use similar mechanics.

If you like one, I’m sure you’ll love an indie game.


If You Like: Gears of War Horde Mode

You’ll Love: Sanctum

Sure, Sanctum doesn’t have chainsaws on guns, but when you have hundreds of bodies hitting the floor, you won’t have time to care. Tower Defense mixed with a heavy dose of shooter action, Sanctum puts you in the middle of the stampeding horde and a couple of feet above it as you run from tower to tower blasting demons and letting your sentry guns play cleanup. Before each wave, you use the blood money from the previous round to set up new turrets, upgrade the ones you already have on hand, or give your collection of guns a shiny new upgrade with more firepower and secondary fire.

While you still have to place towers in certain sections, the sheer scope of the field makes it easy to come up with dozens of different tactics and strategies to clear out the scum coming your way. From little runners to heavy brutes, you’ll need to be flexible with your tactics and handy with a gun if you want to make it out alive. Better yet, bring along three other friends to give your trigger finger a rest. Sometimes the most heated battles come from arguing over the best place to put down a turret.

Natural Selection 2 Impressions: Marine Meets Aliens

If You Like: Aliens: Colonial Marines Multiplayer

You’ll Love: Natural Selection 2

Who doesn’t want to play as an alien? I can show you a hundred games where you and your goon squad go in running, packed to the teeth with every armament imaginable. Or you can be sneaky, stealthy, and wait for that perfect moment to strike down that lone grunt that’s running around with dreams of being Rambo. Take out the power source and plunge each room into darkness as your alien slime creeps along the walls. You might start our small and soft, but evolution can quickly turn you into a powerhouse, dashing into anything that gets in your way.

One of the bigger advantages of Natural Selection 2 over its triple-A counterpart (besides the beta being available now) is the fact that there’s an overseer on each side commanding and making adjustments to the game as needed. Think of it as mixing a little RTS in your FPS. Someone with an eye on the battlefield gets to call the shots, lead the way, or in the case of the aliens, determine how you’ll evolve.

The Ship

If You Like: Assassin’s Creed 3 Multiplayer

You’ll Love: The Ship

Period costumes. Sneaking around. Keeping an eye on everyone you meet in case there are any sudden moves. Before there were hidden blades, The Ship threw you on a maiden voyage filled with fire axes, guns, and the occasional clothing change. You start out with little more than a weapon and a target. Find your victim before your killer finds you and you’ll win money. Certain weapons give you a little extra green for smearing the red, so keep your eye out for them or for anyone else looking to grab that kitchen cleaver. The multilevel ship provides plenty of areas for you to hide or lie in wait for your victim. And you’ll also find the occasional bathroom – because you’ll need to pee.

Yes, not only will you worry about that guy behind you, but you’ll also need to watch out for your hunger level, tiredness, and when you might need to duck into the little killer’s room. Fail at keeping your hands clean and you just might find yourself freezing up when you really want to be firing that killer shot. To add another layer to all of this, there’s no killing or even pulling out a weapon in front of the ship’s crew or security cameras. (Yes, this must be one of those modern Victorian ships.) Even pulling out a syringe at the wrong moment could put you in prison for a couple of minutes. This eats away at precious killing time, but keeps you safe in case you need a breather.

Intrusion 2

If You Like: Metal Slug or Contra

You’ll Love: Intrusion 2

It all starts with you parachuting into enemy territory. Kill a couple of guys, blow up a bridge, and then it’s off to the mech battles as you face off against massive screen-clearing bosses tossing what amounts to half the rockets in Russia at one guy. The gameplay mechanics here follow your typical run-and-gun style shooters that both Metal Slug and Contra made famous. There’s only one real addition here – physics.

When you shoot a guy with a missile, that body flies. Why waste the ammo? Throw a crate at him instead to see his body collapse under the weight. Such a small detail adds so much to both the gameplay and presentation of the game. Suddenly, the player can move and manipulate objects in the environment, often using them as a makeshift weapon. Once you gain the ability to grab objects, rockets flying through the air become another item for you to snatch from the air and throw back at your enemy. And like the classic side-scrollers of the past, you’ll see your own share of deaths before making to the end of this journey.


If You Liked: DOTA

You’ll Love: AirMech

Comparing AirMech to a MOBA game really doesn’t cover all the bases when it comes to this PVP/RTS hybrid. Instead of spawning creeps, you have to buy everything from turrets to take down attackers to your own little minions to take over bases. Then there’s the fact that you can fly things to where you want to go like a little military taxi service. Fly them to a safe spot for your tanks to roll in undetected or just throw them into the middle of battle. And when your trigger finger gets a little itchy, transform into a mech and start blasting away.

You’ll find life nasty, brutish, and short if you don’t setup your army and protected your bases. Things get crazy when you throw in up to eight people with their own specialized airmech to carry more troops or lay down the firepower when it’s really needed. It might not have the same appeal has bringing in your own champion to the arena, but you bring something far more decisive and deadly to the battle, a good strategy.

That Indie Column -- Sanctum, Natural Selection 2, The Ship, Intrusion 2, AirMech


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