I think we can agree that 2021 has brought fewer big AAA releases than previous years. Tentpole titles like Horizon: Forbidden West have been delayed as the effects of Covid continue to have an impact on development, and the newly released PS5 and Xbox Series X barely have an exclusive between them. But the relative lack of big titles has given indie games a chance to shine, and this month we’ve seen an absolute deluge of amazing games, one after the other. It’s hard to keep up with them all.
Before I talk about the indie gems, let’s mention September’s big AAA title. Deathloop has been released to rave reviews, with perfect scores from quite a few publications, and it seems like it may well be Arkane’s crowning achievement, a culmination of the studio’s immersive sun experience from Dishonored, Prey and Wolfenstein. Although the retro-futuristic decor is probably what excites me most – any game that features a conversation pit is one I want to spend time with.
Hopefully this critical acclaim will translate into some well-deserved commercial success for Arkane – Dishonored and Prey were phenomenal games, but Dishonored 2 in particular didn’t sell as well as it deserved to. I’m tempted to pick up Deathloop myself, although it would mean buying it on PC, seeing as you can’t get a PS5 for love not money at the moment. Whether my PC would actually be able to run the game is another question entirely, and one that I don’t have the first clue how to answer, technologically illiterate as I am. I guess just buy it and hope for the best?
One game that I’ve been looking forward to since it’s big reveal at E3 is TOEM: A Photo Adventure, which came out on Friday. I’ve written a review for an upcoming issue of Wireframe, but I can tell you right now that it’s brilliant and well worth a purchase. It’s only a few hours long, but it’s one of the most memorable games I’ve played this year, and it drips charm from start to finish. The précis? Take photos, help people, have fun exploring, make memories. Lovely.
Then there’s Eastward, a game I’ve had my eye on ever since I first came across it at EGX back in 2019. The pixel art is astonishingly detailed and beautiful, and the gameplay is highly reminiscent of top-down Zelda, although in this case you have a frying pan instead of a sword. But it also throws in a neat character switching mechanic, where you have to swap between playing as beefy John or magical girl child Sam to get through some tricky puzzles. The plot is also highly intriguing: it’s set in an underground village where the inhabitants are convinced the surface world is barren and inhospitable. Or is it? OR IS IT.
We received review code for Eastward on the day of release, so I’ll try to get a review up as soon as I can – although it’s fairly massive, so it’s likely to take a while to get through. Watch this space. Suffice to say, I love what I’ve played so far.
Next week sees the long-awaited release of Sable, and early reports seem to indicate that this phenomenal looking game lives up to expectations. I can’t believe it was three years ago that I interviewed the developers for Kotaku UK – the game has been in the works for so long that Kotaku UK doesn’t even exist any more. I’ve already been listening to the fantastic soundtrack by Japanese Breakfast on repeat in preparation for the big day of the game’s release. And it’s on Xbox Game Pass too, so you have no excuse not to play it.
What else? Well Skatebird, came out last week, which looks absolutely charming, and has received excellent reviews. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater but with cute birds is a fantastic pitch, and I’m already sold.
Then the week before last saw the release of The Artful Escape, a game from Annapurna Interactive that’s been in the works for years. The reviews seem to indicate that Annapurna’s instinct for signing excellent indie games seems to remain true. Thankfully The Artful Escape also seems to be fairly short, so there’s time to squeeze it in among all the other amazing new games this month – and both it and Skatebird are on Gamepass, too.
Then there’s Warioware: Get it Together, Tales of Arise, Life is Strange: True Colors, Lemnis Gate… the list of notable new titles for September seems to go on and on. No doubt I’ve missed some too, so let me know what you’ve been playing – or plan to play – in the comments.