From Portugal… with speculative art

Most games are commonly assessed by either their playability or by the way gamers get to enjoy their experience as they play. Often, the richness of the theme or the intricacies of the world where its story is set are considered secondary. If you are someone who enjoys a good background story, often conventional reviews make it difficult to understand which games would be right for you. In this space we will focus mostly on the story, the environment that is painted by the developers, the alien worlds you get to visit. And while focusing on this, we will still worry a bit about gameplay mechanics and the crispness of controls!

Games can be divided in four classes: Reality games – a class that would comprise most simulators and games that tend to emulate the real world, both hardcore and casual games; Abstract games – such as the popular Snake game that existed in all mobile phones, where you control some physics elements and try to accommodate abstract rules in order to attain a relatively obscure goal – and these tend to be casual games; and in the final 2 classes, as Robert Heinlein would say, we have speculative fiction – that includes both Science Fiction (3) and Fantasy (4) – where most games with a longer story tend to fit.

In this space we will mainly look at games with a large component of speculative fiction. Here we intend to dive in the market and search for novelties, projects under development and all the new releases of Portuguese fantasy and science-fiction. However, occasionally, we might look back to what was made in the past years, bringing back old titles that truly never die.

The videogame industry in Portugal has been emerging slowly and stubbornly, but we can already pinpoint some of its stronger players and it’s a pleasure to see a great mix of kinds of games (with different playability) and genres (with sci-fi and fantasy games being a large portion of these).

Camel 101

As my sci-fi portuguese game developer hero I would choose Camel 101 since most of the work they’ve done sends us to space, literally. They offer us sci-fi worlds rich in horror, in fear, in adventure, in strategy, either equipped with guns or wrenches. Occasionally they follow another path to offer us funny fantasy worlds with orcs and sunken ships.

Camel 101 is “sci-fi oriented” and it’s preparing a new launch this year. It has shown us curious titles in the past,  such as Gemini Wars in  2012, where you get to build and solve problems, make decisions, manage resources in a cool environment that allows you to unplug from daily life. And later, Syndrome, in 2016, where you wake up in a ship filled with bad guys that you have to exterminate, while solving puzzles and exploring a spooky and scary environment. Two very distinct approaches to science fiction, since the first is a strategy war game and the second a horror first person adventure.

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Bigmoon Entertainment

Syndrome, the second game we’ve mentioned, is made in cooperation with another Portuguese studio – Bigmoon Entertainment and has won an impressive number of international awards. Bigmoon is a major developer in the national scene with huge projects, and with room for titles like Demons Age – a fantasy world and sort of clever mix between Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons”; or Lichdom BattleMage, where fantasy, power, and strong emotions gives life to a first-person spellcaster fighting game, trying to fight for justice in a realm of destruction.

Each of these games deserves a special article so I won’t go any deeper right now, but we’ll come back to those amazing examples of some of the best art Portugal can create.

From Ground Control we have a series of games we should be looking into, but Cosmonaut can really stand out – between a space simulator and a fiction is a great example of how sci-fi can be a journey between science and story, and how games can be emotional experiences where the story leads you into the universe and the science helps you make decisions. This is a game that deserves game time!!

Jumping from futuristic sci-fi back into the fantasy realm we can find Rize Zombies from Marmalade and Zombie Apocalift from Battlesheep.. These are titles that although simpler in complexity, are equally entertaining as they bring a fun gameplay while killing hordes of green silly toons.

Zombies are a “must-have” in casual games, with simple and captivating stories, so yes, we need lots of ingenious weapons and fast reflexes, because zombies are getting faster, hunger, and deadlier. So do yourself a favour – give them a go and you’ll find out how zombies are portraited in Portugal.

And more…

From recent posts, amongst Portuguese game developers, there are around 72 other Portuguese studios who are working to develop amazing games and every month we find new releases and new projects, new ideas and lots of events happening.

I’m thrilled to start this project – hoping to give Portuguese developers the spotlight they deserve and gamers everywhere a taste of unique stories and hours upon hours of gameplay within speculative realms.

Games love to tell stories and the quality of a game can and should be measured in its degree of immersion; Portugal is a country of storytellers, that take pride in keeping you coming back for more. And if CS:GO has found a Lisbon Map worth playing in (IronPrim shows the map on Youtube), I’m sure our developers will have a 1001 games to offer you.

Let’s find games together and draw bridges, in maps that overlay in our imaginations, to settle into our lives.

And “may your blades never dull”.

The images used in this article link to their original location.

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