Personality goes a long way when I play a game. A game needs an “it” factor, something special that separates it from other titles of the same ilk. Sometimes you don’t need an evolution in mechanics or a crazy new world which hasn’t been explored before, you just need an creative motif that engages the audience.

None of the games featured in this week’s Simply Steam separate themselves with new gameplay or massive leaps in graphic fidelity. They separate themselves with elements that support a singular theme. Whether it is the chills of horror, the brutality of blood sport, or the specificity of a simulator, these games are brimming with personality.

 

SOMA

In Their Own Words:

From the creators of Amnesia: The Dark Descent comes SOMA, a sci-fi horror game set below the waves of the Atlantic ocean. Struggle to survive a hostile world that will make you question your very existence.

 

In Our Words:

Frictional Games’ last title, a little horror gem by the name of Amnesia, changed the landscape of survival horror video games. Gone were the days of Japanese-influenced, third-person horror classics like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, as a new type of horror game emerged. Developers have been chasing Amnesia ever since with title like Outlast, Daylight, and P.T. Now Frictional Games has to rise to the bar they have set so high.

I got to play SOMA at this past E3 and became instantly enamoured with its mechanical, sci-fi surroundings. Wandering my way through the dark, metal world of the submarine setting was haunting, but strayed from the horror tropes these games have been mining for so long. The supernatural elements of the game intrigued me with their mystery.  It’s not only what I played that had me excited, it’s how much more I wanted to see that had me onboard with SOMA.

We might be asking or expecting a little too much from SOMA as it will instantly draw comparisons to Frictional Games breakout effort, but it’s the price one pays for success. Hopefully Frictional’s latest title will give us nightmares long after we’ve finished with this underwater adventure.

 

Blood Bowl II

In Their Own Words:

Blood Bowl 2 smashes Warhammer and American football together, in an explosive cocktail of turn-based strategy, humour and brutality, adapted from Games Workshop’s famous boardgame.

 

In Our Words:

I have been informed by the Indie Haven staff that I might have a small addiction to the game where fantasy creatures of the Warhammer Universe clash with the brutality and excitement of American football. I wrote about Blood Bowl in a feature earlier this summer, so I’ll simply stick to what is new in the sequel.

Blood Bowl II has seen a significant graphical upgrade since Chaos Edition, and the new game features a few tweaks to the UI to make it friendlier to newcomers. But the biggest change to Cyanide Studio’s second numerical Blood Bowl is its online league system, making it easier for players to start leagues with their friends and track stats, history, and trade players. Blood Bowl II is an ambitious effort as it tries to entice fans to skip any single player elements and become part of living, breathing online world.

 

 

Cities: Skylines — After Dark

In Their Own Words:

The city changes during the hours of the day and affects citizen schedules. Traffic is visibly slower at night and some zoned areas do not work with full efficiency. This expansion will put you in control of managing the different aspects of the day and night cycles.

 

In Our Words:

Remember the colossal disappointment that was Maxis’ brand new Sim City a couple years ago? It might be too much to say that Cities: Skylines makes good on the failed promises from Maxis’ city-building franchise, but the game has provided an energetic takes on a genre that was in desperate need of reinvigoration.

After Dark adds another, creative layer to the city building sim by introducing day and night cycles. With the new expansion, the flow of traffics and the citizen hotspots will change significantly after the sun goes down as people head to designated leisure areas, relaxing after a long day at work.

 

The Flame in the Flood

In Their Own Words:

A rogue-lite river journey through the backwaters of a forgotten post-societal America. Forage, craft, evade predators.

 

In Our Words:

I remember when I started doing Simply Steam, it felt like every week there was another survival MMO vying to the attention of a highly desired audience. The Flame in the Flood feels a little bit like that. Words like “craft”, “scrounge”, and “resources” definitely nibble at those ideas. But this game is very much a single player rogue-lite experience.

There’s also something very visceral about the Flame in the Flood and its unsettling, unforgiving world. It’s filled with personality, conveying the haunting atmosphere some many games of this kind attempt, but only a few get right. It’s unforgiving, its soundtrack inspires its lonely and remote aesthetic. The game taps that post-apocalyptic feel that should be tropey and bland, but feels fresh and exciting.