For #6 this year, I’m breaking my own rules a bit as I’m not giving one specific game the award but an entire company. But considering the year they had, it’s easy to understand why.
#6 — Arcen Games:
Arcen Games has had one busy year for 2013. After the unfortunate commercial flop that was A Valley Without Wind 1, they decided to start designing smaller more focused titles compared to their monster hit AI Wars.
Starting with A Valley Without Wind 2, it was a radical departure from the original’s “do whatever you want” structure. Instead it was about an interesting mix of turn base strategy with a pinch of Actraiser thrown in.
Next came Shattered Haven which was different from other Arcen games by its linearity. Which is funny because talking with owner Chris Park on the podcast, he said that Shattered Haven was one of the first game concepts he worked on at Arcen.
Shattered Haven at this point is the most straightforward game in Arcen’s lineup thanks to being largely about puzzles. One underrated aspect behind Arcen would have to be the lore they write for their games. And Shattered Haven’s mix of a zombie apocalypse with a Lovecraft twist was a good one.
Another AI Wars expansion was released which I didn’t play but considering how successful AI Wars has been for them, I’m sure it did well.
The big turnaround for Arcen in 2013 came from Skyward Collapse, a strategy game where it wasn’t about winning, but keeping two different sides from losing. For someone tired of the same old strategy game, it was a breath of fresh air and they already released an expansion and major patch for it.
Their last game for 2013 was Bionic Dues: An attempt at creating a rogue-lite around a time limit. The concept was that you had 50 days of in game time to power up your mechs in order to fight an invading army. Every mission you would do would give you parts and possibly weaken the enemies while advancing to the next day.
What I like about Arcen is how each one of the games I mentioned here was completely different from one another in terms of design which gave them a very diverse lineup for 2013. Speaking with Chris Park throughout the year, it was great to hear how they turned it around this year. At the start of 2013 he talked about how much A Valley Without Wind 1 bombed and if it wasn’t for AI Wars the studio would have been in trouble.
But as the year went on and after the success of Skyward Collapse and their new design model, he was more optimistic about the future of Arcen Games on our last cast together. So, here’s to Arcen Games for 2013 and hopefully 2014 will be even better.
And with that, we’re now at the top five and I’ve got a very diverse lineup left to talk about.