I Played This Indie Game and You Should Too!

Ah, glad someone else played Haven! Those two really are charming, aren’t they?

I picked up A=B in the winter sale, and am enjoying being frustrated by it. It’s a Zachlike programming game - the presentation isn’t a million miles away from TIS-100, but the interesting thing is that the language you use has only one instruction.

It is split into chapters, and each new chapter enhances the instruction in some way. The first chapter and a half were a breeze, but then I found it started getting quite tough. There aren’t any public performance histograms to try to beat - instead, once you solve a puzzle, there’s an optional challenge of solving it within a given number of instructions: a few of which have elicited an “oh fuck right off” kind of response from me.

Worth investigating if you have enjoyed Zachtronic’s games and have a similar itch to scratch.

7 posts were split to a new topic: Wytchwood: a crafting-centric adventure game

The alchemy has become significantly more restrictive over time, to where alchemy is basically a checklist without much sense of wonder or experimentation. It has a list of things you can make next, and you typically see those empty slots way before you get the elements required to craft them. Recent being most everything since they switched to the PS3.

Since about that era, they’ve also tried to add tension by leaning into the time pressure, with harvesting and crafting requiring time, and quests having some time limit on them. The time limits are generally very generous, but it functionally penalizes experimentation, and makes the previously mellow harvesting experience stressful. My wife very much enjoyed the PS2 era ones (Iris, Mana Khemia), but gave up quickly once the time limits were introduced.

I was thinking about picking up Wychwood for her, but wasn’t sure.

Wytchwood from Alientrap Games is a crafting-centric adventure game. Your average Steam reviewers (within their positive reviews, I hasten to say) will remark that Wytchwood “is just a bunch of fetch quests.” And that’s not true. But even if it were, these “fetch quests” lead you back and forth across a world not only created with charm and confidence, but spilling over with so many ways of expressing itself.

First, there’s the vibrant paper-cut-out art, which is undeniably beautiful. Then there’s all the critters teeming about, often waiting to be trapped, zapped, or plucked–but sometimes lurching at you to BASH you if you dawdle past. There are major NPCs, most of them brashly vile beast-people, the harvesting of whose souls is your primary goal in the game. They manage to be familiar folkloric archetypes, tragicomic cartoons, and surprisingly modern villains (a ruthless landlord, a sexual predator) all at the same time. Oh, and your main quest giver is basically Black Philip from The Witch:

At the wide bottom of the World-Expressive Pyramid is the STUFF. Stuff pops out of nearly everything when you press the right button or apply the right tool: Spongy purple mushrooms that plop forth from a decaying forest stump; Miyazakian soot-sprites that bound out of a pile of ash; the probosces of giant mosquitos that make handy sewing needles; curled raven feet, pillars of salt, a ghost’s exorcized skull, fairies that vaporize into glitter-dust inside your butterfly net.

All these pinches of powder and putrid plants and piles of monster offal get combined into more useful objects according to your recipe book, called the Grimoire. The list of recipes constantly expands as you encounter new obstacles or victims and scry them with your “Witch Eye” power to learn their weaknesses.

To be clear–because you might expect this from a crafting game–there’s no waiting in Wytchwood. You’re never holding down a button for minutes on end watching a bar fill and fill and fill again. If there’s any tedium, the worst of it is in revisiting a lush, bustling biome you left an hour earlier and vacuuming up more of its peculiar fruits. If you’re really playing properly–if you’re wytching well, if you will–the first time you traipsed through the swamp or frolicked through the farm fields, you weren’t blindly speeding to the next objective, but instead you stopped to snip some reeds or dig up some bones or net some grasshoppers as they crossed your path. This approach leaves you often pleasantly prepared to cook up whatever new cursed contraption you find you need next.

So this is the greatest challenge in Wytchwood–a game with no jump button and no attack, and sure as hell no dodge-roll:

DON’T RUSH. The killer strat is instead: Harvest thoroughly while on a useful trajectory. That is true secret of Well-Wytching.

Thank you for the write up! My gf bought this on the switch but she’s yet to get around to it - starting new stuff is a bit more daunting than just firing up Animal Crossing again

Sounds interesting. How does the game create tension? Are there timers of some sort? Consequences for taking time to complete quests?

Nope, no time limits!

There are a few dangerous creatures on each map, but you’re always faster than them and they take some wind-up time to strike, so you have to get extremely close to them or stop next to them to get hit. If you do, you lose one of your three hearts; lose all three hearts and you drop a few random objects and get kicked back to your home base (where there’s a kind of portal that can take you back to the main maps). You sometimes have to get resources from the dangerous creatures, in which case you craft a spell that typically does an AOE that kills or stuns them and gets them to drop their ingredients. I think I died three or four times, mostly from being careless and lazy about using my healing potions (which are cheap to craft). I wouldn’t call any of this “combat.” It’s more like finding that some plants have thorns and you need to be careful when picking them.

There are a few quests with some unique gameplay, like a puzzle or something, and there was one that was a chase sequence. If the baddie got you, it pretty much instantly started over. I got it the second time.

@Chappers generously gifted this game to me, a game I was looking forward to, while being a bit cautious, not being in a crafting mood in the slightest lately… and while it is really a beautiful game, it also bored me by being so directive, which is exactly what I was fearing it would be!
As you said, if you are meticulous, you won’t miss a thing, and thus the game suffered from what I have been disliking in crafting games of late: the genre seems to have been going away from the benevolently inquisitious spirit of experiments and discoveries, and turned instead into the compulsive checking of marks on a notebook. And I don’t like that!

I think that’s fair! I admit, I am often satisfied by checking all the boxes. The games Wytchwood reminded me most of is actually the Hero of the Kingdom series. Totally different interface, but the work of playing it feels similar. (Don’t Starve seems like a much more direct comparison, but the threat and survival elements make it feel completely different to me.)

Is there a crafting game that is more exploratory? I am thinking of Potion Craft (which I played the demo of). Any other classics of that type?

Ah, exactly the same way I bounced off the Hero of the Kingdom series, so dear to my forum’s archnemesis!

The one game I’m thinking of mostly is a somewhat dated freeware called Lemeilleur no Renkinjutsushi, that sadly didn’t get translated as far as I know. It was one of the first games of Inu to Neko games. Nowadays their games are translated (poorly, from what I hear) and sold on Steam, but they went towards the silly pseudo-puzzle minigames genre lately.
That game was inspired by the earlier Atelier games from Gust, especially Atelier Marie and Elie. Elie is a crazy complex game which featured an open ended mixing option featuring literally hundred of elements.
I have Atelier Lilie sitting in my backlog for nearly 20 years now, but from what I saw played more recent entries, the series went back to more and more directive play as times went.

Edit: what is going on in this thread! Time paradoxes!

I think Tom might have moved it to its own thread and then moved it back?

I know this thread and the other indie one cause some consternation. I start stand-alone threads when I think a game will get a lot of conversation. If I think it’s less likely to resonate with a critical mass of folks, I post here. Maybe that’s the wrong approach; we’ve already talked more here about things related to Wytchwood than I expected, honestly. (Also, *I* wrote more than I expected to originally!)

It’s tough, because if not for those catch all threads, I wouldn’t learn about most games: I’d never click a random game’s name’s thread! Ah, what a complex world!

Agreed, we need both catch all threads and specific threads.

I’m always interested in things like Wytchwood. I’m always looking for more farming/harvesting/alchemy/crafting games, my wife has played most of the entries in the genre. I’ve considered a catchall thread for the genre since it’s exploded post Stardew Valley. It’s mostly my job to learn about/vet them for her.

I wish the Survival Kids/Lost In Blue series would get a spiritual successor.

I’d hang out in a farming game thread!

Well, usually when someone makes a thread about a game, it’s because the reason the title here indicates: ‘I played this game and you should too’.

Seems to me the best way is to do both posts. One in the indie game thread, so followers of such games know it exists, and then its own new thread to start a discussion.

I agree with @Left_Empty , I would never know most of these games exist without the indie game threads… but discussions of the games become very frustrating to follow without their own threads.

I pretty much mentally filter out the game specific ones until I see one for a game I recognize and am interested in, so I appreciate the mentions of cool
new games in these catch all threads.