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It’s 4:01 pm and I’m about to hit the off switch on my work day when I receive an email. It’s from a man named Jeff Spoonhower, one half of two-man indie studio Resonator Games.
“I thought you and your readers at Gearburn would be interested in knowing that our open-world action-exploration game, Anew: The Distant Light, will be coming to Kickstarter…” reads the opening line.
At first I’m sceptical and I give an annoyed sigh. I’ve encountered too many emails like this from first time indie devs trying make it big in the ruthless world of gaming, their titles not nearly the standard you would expect.
But as I read a little further Jeff tells me he and co-founder, Steve Copeland , have “+15 years” of experience in the AAA-industry and have worked on a string of notable titles such as “Borderlands 2, Bioshock 2, Command & Conquer, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth, Saints Row 1-4, Star Wars: Empire at War, and many more.”
My demeanour slowly starts changing and I instinctively give a nod of acknowledgement. One thing that I’ve realised in the last few years is that, more often than not, developers who have left the commercially focussed big-leagues to start their own indie endeavours usually produce some of the most remarkable and unique digital experiences I’ve encountered (Cradle, Ori and the Blind Forest, Firewatch).
Jeff has captured my attention and I decide to follow the link to their Kickstarter campaign.
I am immediately struck by the gorgeous art style, a distinctive world of vivid colours and eccentric spaces. I see a spaceship leaving an exploding Earth, venturing into the unknown reaches of space.
Words appear on the screen and hint towards the narrative: “A child is born of a dying Earth… sent twenty light years into space… to save his home”. A wonderfully eerie soundtrack, produced by Will Roget II (Dead Island 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic), is playing in the background and conjures up a magical and captivating atmosphere. It’s only a few seconds in but I’m already absolutely mesmerized.
Suddenly the enchanting cinematics give way to energetic gameplay scenes of our spacesuit-wearing protagonist shooting down a plethora of bizarre looking creatures while acrobatically traversing the alien landscapes. The animation is smooth and impressive.
The longer I watch, the stranger and more entrancing everything becomes. I’m taken through a vast array of bizarre worlds, swimming through monster ridden waters and defying gravity as I effortlessly leap between meteorites and deadly environmental hazards.
I’m also exposed to an arsenal of equipment and weaponry with which our protagonist conducts an aesthetically stunning symphony of destruction. From the simple machines gun, shotgun and shield to the dominating jetpack and homing missiles, defending yourself has never looked this fun. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, our player character jumps into a gigantic mech and obliterates his enemies with a lazer gun.
Needless to say, by the end of the trailer I found myself on the very edge of my seat. Imagine what the game’s going to be like?
With Anew: The Distant Light, Resonator Games aim to fill the gap of narrative heavy platformers “in a genre that is typically light on story.”
According to the developers, the game features no spoken or written dialogue.
“We believe in ‘pure cinematic storytelling’ – using visuals, sound design, and music alone to convey emotion and narrative… we won’t bombard you with backstory via lengthy blocks of text, mission logs, and voice-over dialogue.”
As the story goes:
A great catastrophe has blown up most of Earth’s southern hemisphere and our unnamed protagonist has been sent to an unknown location for unknown reasons (I think that’s what you would call mysterious).
After years of cryo-sleep, you wake up as a young adult and find yourself on a distant and foreign planet. You notice an empty and badly damaged cryo-chamber next to you (presumably you’ve developed some cognitive reasoning in your cryo-sleep).
“Who travelled with you on this long voyage? Who are you, and why have you travelled so far from home? What is your mission on the alien moon?”
More details on the story are still vague at this point but the developers have mentioned that “you must carry out a mission of critical importance” and “find out who you are and why you’ve been sent 20 light years into space to a hostile alien environment.”
According the developers, Anew: The Distant Light is inspired by classics such as Metroid, Cave Story and Dark Souls and will appeal to “fans of platforming, combat, exploration, and visual storytelling”.
You will be provided with a huge open world to explore that boasts a fascinating dynamic environment with a day/night cycles and perpetually changing weather conditions that will “affect pacing and tactical decisions”.
The game follows a classic Metroidvania structure where new and upgraded equipment will allow you to enter new areas in previously explored environments.
“Environments play differently as you evolve, making it fun to explore familiar territory for previously unreachable items and access to new realms.”
You will also be able to upgrade the ship that brought you to this alien world, which sounds like it will act as a type of home base. Power cells found throughout your explorations will enable you to unlock hidden rooms within the ship that offer new gameplay options.
“Your ship grows with you as you master the game world.”
The gameplay puts a lot of emphasis on the upgrading and customizing of your equipment, such as your suit and weaponry. The developers describe each piece of gear as a “game-changer” that will provide you with “situational advantages” and “ensure that nothing becomes obsolete”.
We’ve also been promised that we will have a chance to pilot “massive mechs, tanks, shuttles, and a variety of other awesome weaponized vehicles”, which is something I’m very keen to see more of.
Anew: The Distant Light’s Kickstarter campaign launched on February 14 and needs to reach its goal of US$30 000 before March 20 to receive funding. If you’re as eager as me to see this title cross the finish line, head over to their Kickstarter and give your support.
For $14 alone, you are able to get a digital copy of the game which is a steal for a title of this quality. If you’re willing to spend more you can gain access to a host of other goodies such as exclusive in-game content, a one hour Q&A session with the developers and VIP spot at the launch party.
There is also a wealth of detailed information to be found on the page, such as the team’s approaches to art, design and musical influences.
Resonator Games aim to release Anew: The Distant Light somewhere around June 2018.