For this year, I’ve decided to create a new column, to complement the KAEOI. It’ll be called FIRST TURN. While KAEOI is mainly focused on promising RPGs & Strategy games still in development, FIRST TURN will be specifically devoted to those indie games that are already available in early access.
I think this would be a great opportunity to bring some attention to the often hard-to-find indie RPGs & Strategy Games. Of course, I’ll do my best to filter out “dead projects“, so that you’ll only see those turn-based titles that are being actively worked on. Moreover, I’ll also link to their last devlog. By the way, every article in this column will be accompanied by a video from our YouTube channel! As always, I’d really appreciate your advice and opinions, to guide me in further improving this new section.
Now, to inaugurate the FIRST TURN column, here are the 10 Early Access Indie RPGs & Strategy Games that won’t let you down.
Stellar Tactics by Maverick Games has been in Early Access for a few years now, and is shaping up to be one of the deepest space RPGs around. Its living, open galaxy contains tens of thousands of star systems to explore that will grow and change dynamically over the course of the game.
The player will recruit, equip, and command a team of mercenaries across this massive setting, engaging in both ground-based and ship-to-ship combat. If you liked the Space Rangers games of the early 2000s, don’t miss out on Stellar Tactics. Updates are still ongoing regularly, but the game is in great shape overall – check out its Steam page and see for yourself!
- Improved Ui
- Various bug fixes
- New steps into the localization (Dev is looking for translators for the French, Spanish, German and Russian)
- and much more…
Grid Sage Games has created something wonderfully unique with Cogmind. It’s a Roguelike in the truest sense of the word, in that its appearance is a lot like Rogue. Behind the ASCII-style graphics is deep, challenging gameplay in procedurally-generated environments.
The player character is a combat robot able to disassemble and repurpose just about everything it can get its hands on; everything in the game is destructible and success hinges on swapping out your robot’s parts on the fly from the scrap. The developer states on Cogmind‘s Steam page that the game is essentially complete, but they want to continue adding more features before they give it a full release.
- Check out their last 8 years in development devlog for a complete recap
Ah, the age-old question of mecha games – is it more fun to command squads of giant killer robots from a top-down perspective, or hop into the pilot’s seat and blow stuff up yourself? DUAL GEAR lets you do both, solving that conundrum neatly. This early-access title from Orbital Speed Studio presents players with a tactical map on which to deploy their mechs.
When enemy forces are encountered, you’ll take control of one of your machines within operational range and engage them in real-time combat. Tactical positioning is critical since only mechs who are close enough to the encounter area can join these skirmishes. Like any good mecha game, DUAL GEAR offers plenty of customization options for your units so you can craft exactly the squad you want. A free demo is available, so give it a try!
- A major update postponed to late January 2022 will contain;
- Improvements to AI and Pathfinding
- New Mechs
- New missions
- and more…
Mech Armada takes a more traditional approach, presenting a highly customizable grid-based tactical game. Each mech on the player’s team has thousands of possible builds, and part selection really matters due to the game’s permadeath mechanics.
Everything about each run, from maps, to enemies and loot, is procedurally generated, so there is no way to know what to expect. Mech Armada is shaping up nicely since it entered early access in August; if enormous robots fighting even bigger monsters sounds like fun, check it out here.
- Early year update will contain:
- World map – so you can choose your own path
- New environments
- Story progression beyond the current final boss fight
- Full controller support
- New parts and monsters
- And many other surprises…
As you might expect from the name, each run in TRPG roguelike Terra Randoma takes place on a completely new map, ensuring endless possible adventures. The game’s focus on emergent narrative lets the player tell their own story, although there is an optional main quest if you want some structure in your campaign.
The toylike design of the characters is sure to appeal to tabletop enthusiasts, and the game can be as casual or as challenging as you like. If you’d like to learn more, read our full overview or give the game a shot yourself.
- A recap of all the impressive work done till now;
- Plenty of new items, including potions and equipment
- New classes
- New events
- and more…
Spire of Sorcery
Spire of Sorcery offers a fresh take on RPG combat, encouraging the player to think like an alchemist. Rather than hit points, the effects of each action are tracked with tokens; filling up a character’s stat tracks with tokens of a given type will have positive or negative consequences.
A character who suffers too many negative effects at once will see their performance degrade sharply and eventually die. Players are sure to find plenty of new and exciting ways for their party to kick the bucket as they explore a world full of dangerous and frightening monsters. Try it out if you’re an RPG fan hungry for something different.
- Plans for the late January update
- Adding chapter 2 to the single-player campaign
- Improves on the Spell system
- and more…
Developer Vallyne has assembled quite the team for their gridless tactical RPG Shores Unknown; with industry vets from Japan, Russia, Spain, and the UK. They even hired writers Oli Chance and Morgan Rushton, whose combined credits include Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Ni No Kuni. This heavily-stylized title offers a plan-and-execute battle system, where players issue orders all at once before the party attempts to carry them out.
Character progression is organic, with skills and even classes being unlocked based on heroes’ actions during combat and the equipment they carry. Shores Unknown is coming out on the first anniversary of its early-access release, and it’s definitely a game to keep an eye on.
- New mercenary contracts
- Item comparison functionality
- The Alchemy Laboratory unlock in the Hideout is now available (requires completing Carrines Bay main quest)
- Animal familiars are now available to help you in battle
- and more…
World of Horror
Japanese horror is as beloved as it is disturbing, and World of Horror is one of the finest homages around to the unsettling subgenre. Players delve into the mysteries of a seaside town, uncovering things better left unknown. The game’s 1-bit art style feels – in all the best ways – like it was pulled straight from an Apple II computer. Encounters range from subtly unnerving to outright horrifying, amplified by a soundtrack that lends the game an ominous atmosphere as only a retro soundboard can.
World of Horror was originally scheduled to leave early access in 2020, but real-world chaos intervened and caused significant delays. We’ve got our fingers crossed that the finishing touches will be made in 2022 – this is a game that truly deserves to be completed and played. It’s entirely playable in its current state, so check it out… maybe with the lights on. Just in case.
- This content update focuses on the unfortunate people of SHIOKAWA and the city’s dark secrets
- The newly reworked CITY PLANNING feature will allow players to customize their game and select new additional actions
- Two new characters: a truly cursed WITCH and the EX-CULTIST on the run join the character roster, bringing it to eleven playable heroes, each with unique perks and abilities
- and more…
Terminus drops the player into the middle of a claustrophobic, zombie-infested building and challenges them to escape. Everything from scavenging to fighting to just moving around takes turns, and with each turn your character’s condition worsens. Even scarier, a single bite from a zombie is all it takes to seal your fate.
If you’re a fan of the classic Resident Evil games and preferred the puzzles over the combat, playing Terminus should be a no-brainer (pun intended).
- Bug fixes
- Added a new place Tunnel
- Added a new action – Sleep. It replaces Rest
- Added new items: Small Meat, Makeshift Knife, Electronic Parts, Metal Sheet, Glass Shard, Dead Animal
- and more…
The Last Spell
Ishtar Games is on to something with their dark fantasy city builder / horde defense game The Last Spell. It plays like a turn-based They Are Billions, requiring the player to fight off massive waves of monsters every night, then rebuild and prepare during the day. The sprite-based art style gives the game a Gothic Final Fantasy Tactics vibe, albeit with many more units on-screen at once. There are plenty of ways to fight off each night’s assault, from mighty heroes to devastating siege weapons.
The Last Spell is designed to be challenging, so expect to see the game over screen often. Even if you’re not looking for a hard game right now, at least swing by the Steam page to sample The Last Spell‘s symphonic-metal banger of a soundtrack.
- New enemies
- New elite enemies
- Wound system revamp
- and more…
Let me know what you think about these 10 Indie Early Access RPGs & Strategy Games in the comments below. Let me know if there’s a game that deserves to be here in the next articles and please don’t forget to check out the video version of this article on the YT channel.