Building cities, stalking demons, and singing tunes in the highlands.

Indie Release Dispatch for Dec 8, 2023 is here with city builders, immersive sims, and the Scottish highlands.

Building cities, stalking demons, and singing tunes in the highlands.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Indie Release Dispatch! There will be no podcast this week - turns out that I holidayed so hard that my body decided that I should immediately get sick as soon as I arrived back in Tokyo. Thankfully it wasn't COVID, but it has been a persistent and annoying head cold that has left me drained, and sounding very croaky. I will save you all that voice, and will return back to the podcast for the next dispatch.

Being on holiday meant that I didn't do much gaming at all. I took my Playdate with me, which was actually the perfect device for this road trip. Playing 10-20 minutes of bite sized games in the back seat while not driving was a treat, and now I need to try and remind myself to make more time for the little yellow bundle of joy, because turns out those games are seriously rad. But I find when sitting at home, I always gravitate towards the Steam Deck or the Switch to get some "serious" gaming done.

But enough about that, let's get to the good stuff.

What came out this week?

Against the Storm

Developer: Eremite Games
Steam rating: Overwhelmingly Positive
Store page

City builders are definitely on the rise, but Roguelike City Builders? Those are a little more rare. Against the Storm came onto my radar earlier this year thanks to Snark and Undeadpyxel from our community, and it has been rolling around in my mind ever since. Against the Storm is a dark fantasy city builder where as the Queen's Viceroy, you must lead the various races of in harmony to reclaim the lands as civilization's last surviviors.

Each "mission" has some set goals, as you build out and expand your city in unknown territory. As you expand and clear the fog of war, you will happen upon various resources and random events that can help, or hinder you settlement.

With a whole tech tree of persistent upgrades to unlock, and ever-changing conditions thanks to the relentless storms, Against the Storm has solved my biggest problem with the genre - having an objective and an end point. If you like SimCity, or maybe even classic base building RTS games like the original Warcraft series, you should check it out as it hits 1.0 this week.

SteamWorld Build

Developer: The Station ​
Steam rating: Mostly Positive
Store page

Sticking with the City Builder theme, the latest addition to the ever growing SteamWorld franchise has arrived. SteamWorld Build has you building out an Old West settlement, as you develop a thriving place for your Steambots to live. Staying true to the world of the SteamWorld Dig games, you won't just be building on the surface, but you will also develop underground mines to get resources, and search for ancient technologies. At times you will have to defend the town from varmints that lurk below, which seems like a neat little addition to your standard City Builder fare.

SteamWorld has been a great little series that has released titles in a bevy of genres, and there is no reason to think that it cannot make the jump to a fun City Builder experience. Keen to check this one out when I get my fill with Against the Storm, simply because I really enjoy the SteamWorld franchise.

Svarog's Dream

Developer: VI Game Forge ​
Steam rating: Very Positive
Store page

I am always a little surprised when a game pops up on the new release best sellers on Steam that I have zero knowledge of. That's why Svarog's Dream made it to the list. This open world ARPG is heavily influenced by your actions, as you decide which gods or beasts to call your ally, and which ones you nominate as your foe.

You are an aimless soul that is pulled from the Underworld to inhabit a human host, as you take your first steps in this dangerous world. With each death you will revisit the Underworld, only to return as a new character, each with unique backgrounds and talents.

The reviews all praise its fluid combat and detailed collection of items and weaponry. Watching a few streams, it does seem like one of those games you can completely lose yourself in, which could be a nice way to end your 2023.

Blood West

Developer: Hyperstrange ​
Steam rating: Very Positive ​
Store page

If you want to con me out of $20 all you need to do is make an eldritch horror stealth boomer shooter immersive sim that combines Thief, S.T.A.L.K.E.R, and HUNT: Showdown, which is exactly what Hyperstrange has done with BLOOD WEST.

Stalk your prey across canyons, swamps, and mountains as you explore the three open-ended worlds at your own pace. BLOOD WEST puts you in the soggy boots of an Undead Gunslinger who needs to purge the curse from "them hills". Offering over twenty hours of gameplay, perk-based character progression, and a heavy focus on scavenging and stealth, this is pretty much the game I never knew I wanted, but now I desperately need to play. It seems to have been in Early Access for a while now, and has finally hit 1.0 this week.

A Highland Song

Developer: inkle Ltd
Steam rating: Positive
Store page

There aren't many studios out there that elicit an instant play from me, but inkle is one of those studios. Masters of interesting narrative, the team is back with a new platforming adventure. Moira McKinnon is fifteen years old, and has never seen the sea. She's lived her entire life on the edge of the Scottish Highlands, and when she received a letter from her Uncle Hamish telling her to come to the coast, she decides to run away.

The Highlands are full of secrets and stories. As you move throughout the hills you will uncover history, mythology, and family secrets, weaving an unforgettable story for you discover. Like many of inkle's games, one playthrough won't be enough to reveal all of its secrets, which means you are likely going to be exploring those hills for a few days after your first steps.

Tell me about your game of the year

Did you know that we have a Discord? We do, and occasionally we have some really lovely folks having fun discussions over there. This year I thought it might be fun to get some Game of the Year nominations from readers, and perhaps share some of them over the next few newsletters as we wrap up the year.

Even though this is an indie-focused publication, feel free to put AAA titles on your lists. I play those too, after all. Here are the categories.

Top 5 Games of the Year (Released in 2023)

Give me your top 5 games, and a paragraph about each of them, and why they earned their spot in your list.

Top 3 Favorite Games You Played This Year (regardless of release year)

I have played a lot of games this year from the early 2000s, and they have eaerned a special place in my heart. So I thought it would be a cool chance to highlight some games from other years that your loved playing this year. Give me your top three, with a paragraph as to why they stand out for you.

Top Newcomer (non-sequel game)

What was your favorite new game this year? A game that was not a sequel, and what a wholly new IP for the year.

Favorite live service game

Most of us probably have one of these in our lives. Let me know which was your favorite for 2023.

Favorite moment in a game (released in 2023)

Did you have a "OH SHIIIII" moment in a game this year? Let me know what it was!

You can email me your answers (, you can add it as a comment below, OR you can answer our Discord thread right here.

And that's a wrap folks. Thanks so much for coming back, and don't forget to share the newsletter with a friend. It's the only way we can keep on growing.