Game Informer — March 22, 2018

Phantom Doctrine and Black Future '88 appear on The Best Indie Games Of GDC 2018 list

The Best Indie Games Of GDC 2018

Game Developers Conference features an annual convergence of some of the best minds in the video game industry, and many of them have games to show. GDC typically features a huge slate of independent games, and this year is no different. From the large GDC Play area and The Mix reception to special curated showcases hosted by Nintendo and Microsoft, there is no shortage of independent developers with exciting titles to show off.

Check out the coolest and most interesting indie games the Game Informer crew in attendance at GDC 2018 played during the conference.

Black Future '88 Platform: PC Developer: SUPERSCARYSNAKES Release: 2018

One of the benefits of placing retro-style games on modern controllers is that they can leverage not only things like dual-analog sticks, but the years of experience modern players have with them for faster action. That seems to be the ethos behind Black Future, a sidescrolling dual-analog shooter that moves like Strider and looks like Blade Runner. The game is broken up into different vertical rooms with multiple exits and multiple enemies to be defeated before the room can be exited. You're constantly told the route to the boss, but players are free to run around and find new guns before getting to the end of the level, making the game more similar to rogue-lites Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon than any kind of Metroidvania. Climb a tower, kill some bosses, shoot some guns, it's simple enough, but definitely appeals to fans of twitchy sidescrollers like Mega Man Zero. –Imran Khan

Phantom Doctrine Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Developer: CreativeForge Games Release: 2018

Fans of XCOM will definitely want to check out Phantom Doctrine from CreativeForge games. A tactical, turn-based strategy game has terrific production values and an ambitious design. The game centers on running a spy agency during the Cold War. You can send your agents on missions across the globe, with certain skillsets giving them a better chance at success. As your agents get more experience under their belts, you can train them to be better at various tasks. If you capture a rival spy, you can perform MK Ultra tasks on them like interrogation, brainwashing, or installing trigger words to use on them down the road to make them flip their loyalty to you when the time is right. The downside to these abilities is that anything you can do, your enemies can do as well. Hire someone without properly vetting them? You could invite a mole into your agency. Send an agent on a mission and they're acting suspicious upon return? They may have been secretly brainwashed during their trip. In addition, if your enemies spot one of your agents, they are no longer able to go on covert operations until you assign them a new identity.

Once you're in the tactical battles, things play out much like they do in the recent XCOM games; you move your agents around the enemies and if things escalate, you can take out your enemies with your arsenal of firearms. However, some key differences exist in Phantom Doctrine. First, you can often complete these turn-based missions 100 percent in stealth. In the mission I experienced, my agents entered into the field in civilian clothes and didn't draw the attention of the guards until I opened fire on one of them. After that, firefights play out similar to XCOM, but without the RNG factor. Rather than seeing a percentage, you see a minimum and maximum amount of damage. Several factors (like your agent's awareness, your target's awareness, how obstructed the shot is, distance, weapon you're using, etc) go into how effective each attack is, but you should have an idea of how effective your attack is going to be prior to setting things into action. You can also call agents from outside of the field to help you out with things like snipers or grenades. Again, however, anything you can do, your opponent can also do. In my case, my enemies had a more powerful attack: an airstrike.

With so many unpredictable factors at play, as well as a deep agency management mechanic, I can't wait to play the full version and see just how deep the well goes with Phantom Doctrine. –Brian Shea

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