Last year, it felt as though Humble Games could virtually do no wrong as a publisher. They kept serving up hit after hit with both critics and audiences, consisting of stunning games such as Unsighted, Unpacking, Dodgeball Academia, Archvale, Flynn: Son of Crimson and more. Heck, they were so successful that they were able to take the bronze medal at Metacritic’s annual game publisher rankings, ranking only behind Sony and Microsoft. It would be accurate to say that Humble Games is in the upper tier of indie game publishers now (or just game publishers, period), but now that they’re at the top, is there any pressure to keep of the quality content?
I asked that question during a recent showcase for some of Humble Games’ upcoming games, and according to VP of Global Publishing Mark Nash, there doesn’t seem to be any real pressure. He said they’re just going to focus on quality that comes from the result of the great work of their partners first and foremost, and keep that focus going forward, plain and simple. And while it seems like an obvious strategy, it’s the way we wish all game publishers operated: just invest in developers with plans for original games that look interesting and hopefully stellar games will result from it.
Of course, there’s more to Humble than just game publishing, as over the past twelve years, they’ve been known for their charity bundles, charity work and their Humble Choice subscription service, among other things. Mark was accompanied by Director of Community Development Andrew Kauz and Vice President of Social Impact Kamini Tiwari, who wanted to showcase how Humble wants to be a force of good in the gaming world, having raised over $200,000,000 for various charities over the years, sponsoring the Game Devs of Color Expo, and having created the Black Game Developer Fund, hoping to help out creative voices in several ways and build upon diversity around the world.
That kicked off the start of the showcase, and it led to Mark stating how they see publishing as big part of Humble’s future, including fully funding projects while allowing developers to keep full creative control of their IPs, and it’s clear that this larger push into publishing will hopefully benefit developers and players. This led into the support of existing IPs and developers as well, and the announcement that Pocketwatch Games’ Monaco would now be a Humble IP. Which sounded a bit like a random announcement at first, until it became clear that this was leading into the first of nine games to be featured in this Humble Games Showcase: Monaco II
A sequel to 2013’s award-winning heist game, Monaco II once again sees you forming a team of various thieves in order to plan a series of heists and carry them out as quickly and efficiently as possible…or watch them blow up in your face in various ways. Details are sparse right now as the game is early in development, though, but it does appear that the sequel will now feature an isometric view, new skills such as rappelling down walls, and procedurally-generated environments. Beyond that, Pocketwatch is being fully transparent with their development process, streaming their work on the game and discussing it over on their Twitch channel from Tuesday through Friday. Also, it looks like the game will have a monkey in it, so you know, that’s one step towards an instant GOTY contender right there.
Next was the announcement that Humble would be partnering with Stairway games to help publish farming sim and Kickstarter success Coral Island. Not only does this game see you building your dream farm and crafting your own story as you befriend/potentially romance the island’s inhabitants, but you also get to help out the island even further as you take part in community projects, restore the coral reef, and get rid of various garbage and debris. The switch to an island life setting opposed to most traditional farming games feels like it could easily be a unique hook on its own, but what’s shown so far seems like it’s make for a great sim as well.
Minus the final game in the showcase, the rest of the revealed games were amusing to me given that they were all graduates of Screenshot Saturday, having personally picked them to be featured back then. The first reveal was that of Moonscars, from Moldovia-based developers Black Mermaid. It’s their debut game, they’ve been working on it for three years, and they’ve been inspired by the Dark Souls series and the works of master Dutch painters…and that was admittedly all the info we received outside of the trailer here. Still, it looks gorgeous, has impressive 2D soulslike combat and a nice air of mystery, so it looks like the terrifying world of Grey Irma is hopefully worth exploring.
The reveal that Humble Games would be teaming up with Old Moon to publish Ghost Song followed. Yes, Ghost Song, the metroidvania game that’s been kicking around for so long that it feels like it outlasted its previous publisher (Adult Swim Games) popped up again. It’s a story about a long-dormant Deadsuit on a desolate moon that’s been reawaken and has to descend into a journey of self-discovery in order to find the truth. It still looks impressive, full of a good amount of action, and I remember it as being quite the enjoyable metroidvania romp, but I wondered if it would still age well after so long in development…and then I looked over at the reviews for the now-released Tunic, which spent over seven years in development, and realized that things should likely turn out fine for this terrifying action game.
Speaking of terrifying, rose-engine’s sci-fi survival horror game Signalis was up next with a brand new gameplay trailer. I had the chance to try a demo of this game last year at the Tribeca Games Festival, and was more than pleasantly surprised by it. The indie gaming scene has kept trying to get this “fifth-gen survival horror” trend going for a while, but all of the “warts and all” games that are a part of it Vaccine, Back in 1995, and Daymare: 1998 have been duds, in my opinion. But be it the top-down perspective and gameplay or the unique and haunting atmosphere of a dystopian retro-tech world, Signalis seems to have a special twist that really makes it stand out, and the new trailer only gets me more hyped. Definitely keep an eye out for it.
Humble then revealed that they would be helping to publish Infinite Guitars, developer Nikko Nikko’s rhythm game/RPG hybrid where you battle giant mechs with guitar solos in a post-apocalyptic universe and…once again, I know of nothing that I could add to the description of this game beyond that, since it’s virtually all you need to know. You can’t really say no to a pitch like that. Thankfully, the game also looks fun as well, and the anime style is nice, so here’s hoping the final product as awesome as its core concept.
Some release date news for two of Humble Games’ titles came next. Chinatown Detective Agency, General Interactive’s futuristic cybernoir mystery adventure game inspired by Carmen Sandiego is now set to come out for the PC on April 7. While the new trailer focuses on the characters that private detective Amira Darma will be interacting with, the real hook is that this is a a detective game designed around actually doing real-life research in order to solve various puzzles and figure out where to go next, as in actually having to look up information online. It’s a rather unique approach, to say the least, but the last time I checked it out, I wondered if it’s going to work for everyone. Then again, the free prologue seems to be warmly received so far, so it looks like this clever little gambit just might pay off.
Curious Panda Games’ turn-based tactical RPG The Iron Oath will be released in Early Access shorty after, on April 19. This is a game whose setting and genre combo isn’t my own cup of tea, but I can still appreciate it…and drool over the detailed pixel art. It’s the type of game where your adventure in the world of Caelum span entire years as your mercenary team can grow, retire, and/or die, depending on your decisions, and the stories change along the way over time, which is a hook that be a sucker for, though. So there’s indeed a ton of potential here and fans of the genre should be excited (if the free demo hasn’t already done anything for them, that is).
Finally, the showcase ended with the Australia-based Summerfall Studios and the announcement of Stray Gods. Originally titled Chorus: An Adventure Musical during its 2019 Fig campaign, the teaser for this roleplaying musical didn’t have any gameplay for us at the moment, but it was made pretty clear that this is a big one for Humble and Summerfall, taking us behind the scenes during the showcases with Creative Director David Gaider, Executive Producer Elie Young, Composer Austin Wintory, and Managing Director Liam Esler all discussing the game. It would appear that over time, what was once a simple two-hour interactive musical with a branching RPG narrative has become way more ambitious as details have been worked out and fine-tuned, and the team saw Humble Games as a perfect partner to help out with such an ambitious game.
Set in modern-day Greece, Stray Gods has you playing as Grace, a young woman who finds themselves thrown into a hidden world where gods and monsters live alongside mortals when the last Muse dies in their arms and passes on their power to Grace. What follows is an urban fantasy where Grace has to uncover the mystery behind the Muse’s death, with choices made during the musical numbers determining what happens along the way and what the outcome is. It already looks and sounds like a unique gem, with the hand-illustrated art and style alone already hooking me in, but with Humble’s partnership now allowing for full voice acting, more songs, more romance options and more content and a longer play time in general, we could be in for something truly special here.
Bringing it all back to Mark, he states in the game’s official press release that Stray Gods “ultimately personifies exactly the type of games that Humble Games wants to bring into the world.” And throughout the showcase, it was indeed shown that Humble is truly passionate about all of these games, and sees them as something special that gamers everywhere should hopefully check out. These aren’t the only titles humble has up their sleeve, though — they didn’t even get into Bushiden, Totemic, Midnight Fight Express, and Mineko’s Night Market, all currently with 2022 release dates, plus the still-in-Early-Access Temtem and Prodeus — but if this is even just a taste of what Humble Games will be offering, expect yet another superb year and beyond for them.