The start of the year has traditionally been pretty dry for big video game releases, but even when you factor that in, 2021 is shaping up to be a very quiet year for triple-A. The ongoing global pandemic has disrupted industry around the world and caused a cascade of delays, which means we could be in an even longer and drier period than we are used to.
But all is not bad. While the big games are still coming, of course – just check out our list of upcoming PC games – now seems like the best time to watch some new indies. That’s exactly what we did at the recent Steam Game Festival, which featured hundreds of free demos, and we spotted a trend we’d like to shout about: a number of promising games like Zelda on PC.
If you’re a fan of 2D Legend of Zelda games, or if you’ve always wanted to try out Nintendo’s flagship RPG series without splashing out on a console, then here are three promising new indie games you should keep an eye out for.
Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos
The first game on our list is probably the closest to a real Zelda game. Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is more roguelike than a classic Zelda, but the top-to-bottom pixel art aesthetic and gameplay is Zelda through and through.
After waking up in a small village, you are free to explore a world full of monsters to kill. There is a dungeon, you collect gems as your main currency, the combat is based on sword attacks and basic blocks, and there are a lot of puzzles to solve.
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The dungeon is also home to a boss – a giant fire-breathing crab who can collapse the ceiling by snapping its claws. I didn’t last long when we first met, but luckily these gems can open up shortcuts so you don’t need to complete the previous floors.
Speaking of gems, they unlock a lot of different things in your colorful hometown, like shops where you can buy new items, facilities that improve your health and attack stats, and gadgets like a bow, bag bombs or even a boomerang. New character classes can be purchased from the village tailor – who else? – from spellcasters to archers, each with their own special attack (the warrior can charge with his sword, for example).
Rogue Heroes also offers local co-op for two to four players, so if you’re missing out on the craziness of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, this game could be perfect for you and three friends. The demo is still available on the Rogue Heroes Steam page – you can Check it out here.
Dwerve is another fantastic take on the classic Zelda formula. Instead of an elf boy with a sword, you are a dwarf with blue hair. And rather than directly attacking enemies, the dwarf prefers to build turrets to attack for him.
Each structure you place costs Spirit Stones, and the number you can spend is limited in a given dungeon encounter. This means that Dwerve is more about placing and replace your structures strategically rather than amassing piles of spirit stones and covering the dungeon with defenses.
There were three types of turrets in the demo: a totem with rotating blades like a food processor, a tar to slow enemies, and a ballista to dig large holes in crowds coming from afar. Your dwarf can boomerang at nearby enemies as a sort of desperate defensive measure, but you really rely on your tactics and the swift redeployment of your turret to survive.
It takes a while to get used to, but finding the best places to build these turrets is an entertaining challenge. Of course, this part is a far cry from the classic Zelda action-adventure gameplay, but hey, you’re still cleaning up dungeons with glorious NES-era graphics.
Also, an optional pressure pad puzzle left me stumped for a few minutes. Classic Zelda.
Chicory: a colorful tale
But tower defense isn’t the most peculiar version of a Zelda-like that appeared during the Steam Game Festival. Chicory: A Colorful Tale lets you fight monsters and solve puzzles like any classic Zeldas, except you are also wielding a brush and repainting the world after all of its color is suddenly erased.
Your palette is pretty limited in the demo, with only four colors to paint the city / universe, but the full build promises more, as well as different types of paint. Most of the time, you solve puzzles, you help the citizens of the province of Picnic paint their houses and in general, you make a mess.
The best part is that Chicory makes each scene a blank coloring book, and although you have to fill in key areas to solve puzzles, you can decorate the rest as you see fit. You can even bring a friend in co-op to paint scenes together.
Unfortunately, the demo ends right after I unlock Glow-in-the-Dark Paint, and I can’t care about certain types of paint that have special effects, like the one that can open up new avenues. But painting doesn’t need superpowers to be fun to play – there are a lot of cosmetic items in the world, each one hidden behind a puzzle, and through a combination of clothes and paints, I’m able to to express myself in a novel really still. intuitive way.
There is no confirmed release date for Chicory: a colorful tale, But Dwerve is coming to Steam this summer and Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is available today (also on Steam), so there is at least one Zelda-inspired game on PC to try.