When you think of indie games, games like Savage: The Battle for Newerth probably aren't the first to spring to mind. For one thing, Savage is currently available in retail stores, and it's a high-quality production from start to finish--that is, it bears little trace of being a small-time production, and, in fact, it spent a good two years in development and cost between $1 and $1.5 million. Still, it's the first offering from upstart developer S2 Games, whose relatively small but dedicated team pulled off a game that's good enough to compete with the big guys.
For another thing, Savage provides a unique gaming experience that simply isn't available anywhere else. It does so by combining the fundamentals of competitive multiplayer action gaming with competitive multiplayer real-time strategy gaming. You join forces with either the remnants of human civilization, which has devolved into a tribal hunter-gatherer society, or the forces of the beasts, a gaggle of manlike creatures locked in a perpetual conflict with humankind. One player on each side must always serve as commander for his team, overseeing his side's progress via a real-time-strategy-style bird's-eye view. Most players assume the role of various soldiers, but they can stop to gather resources for their side or go out and try to mount an attack.
Savage is a complex game that equally demands and rewards teamwork. The game allows well-organized teams to execute spectacular assaults, involving magic, siege weaponry, tactical feints, and much more, and the game is structured so that pitched battles may ensue despite one side or another seeming to get the upper hand.
Savage is a unique game that's being actively supported by its developers as well as by a vocal following of fans. The game stands as an excellent example of how independent game developers can still put together a unique and competitive product amid today's tough market.
Developer: Slitherine Strategies
Ancient Sparta had some of the most feared warriors in history, and the goal of this epic turn-based strategy game is nothing less than conquest of the ancient Aegean world. Contrary to its appearance, Spartan isn't like the Total War series of strategy games, nor is it a real-time strategy game. Rather, it's a game all about empire building through diplomacy, trade, research, and war.
Spartan is a game of considerable depth. For example, there are more than 100 playable nations in the game, including virtually every tribe and city-state that existed during that era. When you think about it, the amount of historical research required for the playable nations alone is staggering. As befitting a turn-based strategy game, there are a variety of diplomatic options and trade agreements that you can form with your neighbors, or you can choose to spy on them. You can research new technologies, build epic structures like the Acropolis, and more.
The game takes place on a beautiful 3D campaign map, and there are 3D battlefields that allow gigantic battles, with up to 16 squads on each side. (There's also an option to run battles in 2D for low-speed machines). In addition to all the land battles, there will be plenty of naval combat and naval invasions among the many islands of the Aegean Sea. And, to top it all off, there will be multiplayer support, so you and your friends can take sides and wage ancient war on a personal level. Developer Slitherine Strategies is still looking for a publisher for Spartan, but this could certainly be the definitive strategy game about ancient Greece.