The Best of IndieCade at E3 2019

E3 2019 has come and gone, and there are plenty of titles to be super stoked about. From big names like Borderlands 3, Doom: Eternal, and Luigi's Mansion 3 to unique projects like Fall Guys and Heave Ho, there's a lot to look forward to in the foreseeable future. This is especially true when you factor in all of the hearty indie content on the horizon. Just like in previous years, IndieCade is something of a hub for awesome-looking titles that are right around the corner.

Here are the best of IndieCade's offerings at E3 2019.

NeoCab (Chance Agency)

NeoCab from Chance Agency is a completely narrative-driven experience that puts you in the role of one of the last human drivers in a dystopian future where automated car services have all but taken over. As Lina, you meet and interact with different people from all walks of life, each of which has his or her own unique story to tell. And they'll be glad to share their stories with you, so long as you're not a rude driver.

This isn't just a human interaction sim, though. Early in the game, Lina's best friend Savy, with whom she's just finished reconnecting after having an emotional falling out, goes missing. You must then go on a citywide search across Los Ojos in an attempt to piece together the story and figure out exactly what happened to Savy, all the while getting intel from your customers.

I spent close to 40 minutes with NeoCab, and what stood out to me the most was just how real the dialogue felt. Every NPC I picked up had a unique personality — some were more likable than others, but the one thing they all had in common was how real, how raw, their dialogue was.

Speaking of which, I had multiple dialogue options available to during each conversation, but depending on Lina's mood, I wasn't able to select certain options. Her mood is indicated by a tech-y bracelet she wears that changes color depending on how she's feeling, and depending on how the conversations with the NPCs are going, her emotions will either be positive and shining, low and bummed out, or intense and borderline furious.

You'll want to keep Lina's emotions stable when interacting with customers, because if she's too upset, you'll only have access to mostly negative speech options, which in turn means you'll get a low driver rating If your score goes too low — 4.0 out of 5.0 is considered pretty bad, a la Uber — it's game over.

Inspired by games like Papers, Please and noire films like The Third Man, NeoCab boasts a great art style and rad music. Couple that with the incredible writing, and we've got a really cool narrative adventure game to look forward to when the game lands on Switch, PC, and Mac later this year.

Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble (Area 35)

The original Tiny Metal was created as a direct response to the lack of Advance Wars games. Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble continues that mission statement. Developer Area 35 has taken its inspiration and love of Nintendo's strategy series and is hoping to release a game that will ease the appetite of starving Advance Wars fans everywhere. After playing a few missions myself, I can definitely say the game is on the right track.

Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble features the whimsical look and lighthearted style of Advance Wars, but it still manages to feel like its own thing. Gameplay is fast-paced but still very strategic, forcing you to move your units around the map like chess pieces in order to defeat enemy soldiers, destroy rival tanks, and take control of bases.

These types of games are typically hyper-addictive “one more turn” affairs, and Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble is looking to fall under that  category, as well. With roughly 100 unique maps spread across its campaign and skirmish modes, as well as multiple difficulties, the game is likely to keep you coming back for a very long time.

When I asked the developers what they had to say to both fans of Advance Wars and newcomers alike as a sort of pitch for Tiny Metal: Full Metal Rumble, I got a very earnest response: “We have mechs.” That's right, mechs. It just got real. Watch for the game on Switch and PC later this year.

The Last Friend (The Stonebot Studio)

Dog lovers unite! The Stonebot Studio's The Last Friend takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where dogs the world over have gone missing. Oh no! That's not a future I'd want to live in!

The game mixes tower defense and beat 'em up gameplay, sending waves upon waves of villainous dog haters your way as you protect a van full of canine comrades. You've got weak and strong attacks, as well as powerful special moves. The beat 'em up gameplay felt really smooth and responsive when I went hands-on with the demo, and it's a total throwback to arcade action games.

You're not just using your fists to defend the doggos, though. As you pummel bad guys, you'll earn points that can be used to drop turrets, defensive walls, force fields, and more. The Last Friend does a surprisingly great job at mixing the action and strategy elements together. While it certainly leans more on beat 'em up sensibilities, the game still gives you a strong tower defense experience.

The Last Friend isn't a walk in the dog park, as I struggled to get through a single stage in the demo. Though the game is highly accessible, succeeding in each of the stages will be a tall task — enemies are tough and defending your base requires sharp command prompts. That said, it's that accessibility, and the pure fun there is to be had with the game, that makes The Last Friend such a blast to play. The game is being developed for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC later in 2019,

Lemnis Gate (Ratloop Games Canada)

Ratloop Games Canada is adding an interesting spin on the multiplayer FPS formula with Lemnis Gate. Matches consist of multiple time loops made up of 25-second rounds. In that time, players take turns mapping out a plan of attack. Once the first player's turn is up, the second player then has 25 seconds to counteract whatever the first player did. You can take a soldier character and have him attack an enemy core, and then the other player can use his turn to either do the same or attack your first character, who's now in a repeating 25-second time loop.

This goes on until all turns are over, but it's a lot more chaotic than it sounds due to matches repeating the 25-second loop with each turn. By turn three or four, there's a lot going on, with characters being shot down, cores exploding, and grenades being tossed every which way.

The game gets especially strategic when you attempt to cut off an enemy attack. Maybe that other player made some smart guess as to where you would come from to attack — so while you may see that character shooting into thin space during his turn, you're better off not approaching from that route or those bullets you thought were being shot for no reason will hit you.

Playing Lemnis Gate at E3 felt great in terms of both controls and mechanics. If you've played an FPS before, you know the drill. The big change comes in how matches play out, which then forces you to play a little differently and strategize in ways first-person shooters never have.

If you're looking for a twist on the FPS, keep an eye on Lemnis Gate. The game is due out on PC, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

Project Witchstone (Spearhead Games)

The team at Spearhead Games is currently working on an ambitious strategy game influenced by both Dungeons & Dragons and Game of Thrones. Rather than forcing you to choose a good or bad allegiance from the start, the game allows you to carve your own path and choose how you want to play.

There's a deep crime system put into place, so if you decide to loot from random houses and stab a bunch of dudes, you'll obviously lean toward a more sinister ideology. Of course, you can take on a more heroic approach and battle villains so you essentially become a "for the people" type of character. Alternately, you can also take on a more diplomatic approach, opting to lead factions rather than just be a grunt.

Speaking of factions, there are various groups you can join in the game. This allows for further experimentation, as you can frame members of other factions for crimes you committed by, say, planting evidence at a crime scene that will incriminate your rivals.

Speaking with the developers, I was told that the game will greatly influence player freedom of choice. Judging by the options available, Project Witchstone definitely seems like something that would warrant having multiple save files. Maybe you'll want to play your evil character one day, while playing as the benevolent leader another.

Visually, Project Witchstone has a really charming art style. A lot of the time, sandbox strategy titles like this feature a quasi-realistic look that's not necessarily bad but all too common these days. Project Witchstone forgoes that in favor of a more colorful, cartoon-like appearance, and it definitely works in the game's favor.

Although the game is only playable in single player at this time of development, the devs are looking into four-player multiplayer. This could mean some fun co-op, or it could result in your allies potentially turning on you and costing you a prized leadership role. The possibilities are definitely there, and it'll be interesting seeing how this game evolves over time.