Indie game news, reviews, previews and everything else concerning indie game development.

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‘Invader Eliminator’ Promises Old-School Arcade Style Addiction

There is something extremely gratifying about watching a high score meter rise, either beating a personal best, or finally topping that friend who has been rubbing it in your face that you could not best their miracle run. It gives classic gamers an undeniable sense of satisfaction. That satisfaction is an integral principle of the upcoming arcade-style game Invader Eliminator from developer Underground Pixel, creators of Holiday Havoc and Pastry Panic.

The idea of Invader Eliminator sounds simple at first, but the concept is pretty original. You control a  genetically engineered mutant which was created on a secret U.S. government space station located on the moon. When the station is suddenly threatened by an alien invasion, the super-strong, fast, and agile mutant needs to jump into action to save both the space station and eventually the Earth. It is and idea as beautiful as it is ridiculous.

The gameplay is a classic combination of simple and addictive.  As they say it takes “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.”  But cliches aside, the gameplay structure is novel.  Your character travels counter-clockwise around the screen and attempts to avoid the aliens which constantly pop out of the ground. Gravity appears to be a non-issue, as the incredibly powerful mutant walks on walls and ceilings. The player can jump from wall to wall or ceiling to ceiling to avoid the aliens or crush them to rid the space station of them. By crushing them the player no longer has to deal with their lingering threat and picks up points, but if he or she misses, the aliens may counter with much greater accuracy. Players can score more points by smashing multiple aliens in rapid succession. The key to mastering Invader Eliminator is timing; and, as we all know, timing is key to defeating the alien menace.

Destroying the alien menace continues to raise your high score, but Invader Eliminator offers more. Along with multiple locations, enemy types, and power ups there are planned to be a plethora of additional aspects to unravel. As you complete rounds you gain access to power ups and unlockable characters from classic indie games much like Super Meat Boy’s bevy of unlockable characters. Also, the developers are planning on offering character upgrades which will be earned either through coins or EXP received in game. These unlockables promise to give added motivation and replayability, and also separate it from simple Temple Run type games. It is difficult to deny that we all love a little added incentive. All of it is backed up by a retro chiptune soundtrack, which oozes 80′s gaming and is one of the highlights of initial alpha videos.

With its easy to pickup and quickly habit-forming “beat the high score” style gameplay, Invader Eliminator is due out Q1 of 2013 for PC, Mac, and iOS. For more info and to check out Underground Pixel, hit them up on their official website or on Twitter.

Invader Eliminator 1
Invader Eliminator 2
Invader Eliminator 3

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – ‘Invader Eliminator’ Promises Old-School Arcade Style Addiction


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Dusty Revenge looks like a cross between Overgrowth and Shank

Singapore isn’t all about banning chewing gum and caning it’s lawbreakers.  It also is the home of the small indie development team behind the upcoming 2D brawler action game, Dusty Revenge.  Dusty revenge looks like a cross between Overgrowth’s bipedal fighting rabbits and Shank’s 2D violence and action.  Dusty Revenge has been in development for over a year and a half now and is the first release for Singapore based PD Design Studio.

In the game, you control an angry rabbit out for vengeance in a wild west setting.  This game is all about old-school 2D combo carnage, but when things get too messy you can call on supporting characters for artillery support (reminds me of Streets of Rage).  The game features fantastic 2D graphics and stylish cinematics.  The game is scheduled to be released this Fall for Windows PC and should feature 8 environments to bash and shoot your way through.  For more information, check out the game’s official website.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Dusty Revenge looks like a cross between Overgrowth and Shank


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F2P Strategy/Shooter Hybrid ‘AirMech’ Enters Open Beta On Steam

I’ve said this before, but Carbon Games’ AirMech is one of the big indie releases to watch out for this year. Some people identify it as being a DOTA-style game, but they really couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a near-perfect direct update of Herzog Zwei for the Genesis/Megadrive, spliced with a dash of Advance Wars. The game has been in closed beta for quite some time, and ramped things up with the game featuring in a couple of Indie Royale bundles, but now it’s time for the doors to swing open for anyone interested in trying the game.

AirMech is a direct blend of action and strategy. You only directly control a single unit – the titular AirMech - which can transform between aircraft and giant robot forms. While on the ground, you’re capable of offering plenty of fire support for your troops; while in the air, you act as both air support and a deployment carrier – each unit produced has to be manually taken from one of the deployment bases you hold, and dropped off with orders to either guard, patrol or attack. Your goal is to capture or destroy the opposing home base, although capturing the outposts along the way is essential. The only way to do this is to escort infantry units in through the front door until the building turns to your side, so there’s a lot of flying around to be done.

The game leans very much towards the ‘arcade’ side of action-strategy. It’s often possible to overwhelm a slower opponent just by quickly swarming a single front with units that you figure will be effective against their defences. Of course, the loadout you begin a match with can change a lot. Depending on the mech (changing your weaponry and speed, mostly), your pilot (various economic and stat perks) and units (more or less specialized troops), you might end up playing a completely different set of strategies to your opponents. While one player might have a perfect combination of turrets and tanks for a stonewall defence, another might be great at rushing units into bases and swinging the battle that way.

The game is multiplayer-focused with matches up to 3v3, but there’s skirmishes against bots, wave-survival modes, co-op and more for those who aren’t up for clawing their way through the rankings. While the starting Airmech, pilot and units are decent, the game has a complex progression system. Through play, you earn currency to unlock more unit types to replace unwanted ones in your loadout, and other, more specialized mechs and pilots. It seems to be fairly well balanced at this point, with no one setup being objectively better than another, so there’s a lot of room for personal preference and style. It’s entirely free to play, essentially. Players with a bit more money than sense have a broad range of alternate skins and AirMech models to pick from, but they don’t give any specific gameplay advantage.

The game is live on Steam now, and free to download and play. There’s also a Beta Bundle on sale, which unlocks almost every unit, mech and pilot currently in the game. Nothing that you couldn’t earn through extended play, but ideal for those who would rather just buy the title outright, rather than work their way up through in-game money and microtransactions. The game is officially set to leave Beta sometime this September.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – F2P Strategy/Shooter Hybrid ‘AirMech’ Enters Open Beta On Steam


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‘Starfarer’ 0.53a Update Brings Ship Modules, Phase Cloaks, Brutal AI

It’s no secret that Fractal Softworks’ Starfarer is one of my most eagerly followed alphafunded indie games. A shockingly in-depth space shooter/strategy blend with RPG elements – it might sound intimidating, but the combat is accessible, the interface is well designed and the sandbox elements are very reminiscent of Mount & Blade even at this early point. It’s been quite some time since a new playable build was released to pre-purchasers, but this one is fairly massive, to the point of actually having four staggered change-logs.

While the scale of the game is still sadly limited to a set of standalone missions and a single sandbox star-system to explore (the final game will have a large part of the galaxy to freely roam around), the individual components have all been tweaked, tuned and refined here. The ships themselves are much more interesting now – previously, they were just hulls onto which you mounted gear, but now each chassis has a built-in ability/feature that defines it. One might have anti-missile flares, another a short-range teleporter, a powerful but damaging booster engine and so on.

Another major gameplay feature is phase-cloaked ships, which can fade in and out of reality. They’re not just invisible, but largely invulnerable while cloaked, capable of even phasing through the front of an enemy capital ship, turning round, un-phasing and unloading some cannon fire into its exposed engines. There’s already a range of tools and tricks to counter these new ships, and they’re largely limited to the ‘high-tech’ factions of the game such as the Tri-Tachyon corporation.

The already-impressive AI has gotten yet another overhaul, too. The importance of this can’t be understated – while you have command over a fleet in Starfarer, it doesn’t work like a traditional RTS. You’re an admiral, and pass orders down to your captains. How these captains carry out those orders depends on how well supported they are, their morale, their personal skills, stats and so on. It’s much more RPG-like than you’d first think, and this requires ship AI capable of holding its own.

The AI feels a little more human now, and more aware of exactly what ship it’s flying – strengths and weaknesses included. There’s already been some players caught unaware by the newfound survival instinct of the previously hapless Buffalo Mk2 missile barges. When threatened and cornered, they’re likely to launch their entire cargo of missiles while retreating in order to save their own skin. Conversely, aggressive hunter-killer ships will now actively seek to bring down missile boats sitting on the edge of battle in order to clear the field for their less agile bretheren.

Reminiscent of Cortex Command, Starfarer may still be a long way from completion, but it already has a large and dedicated modding community. It’ll take a while for the current wave of mods (and there’s dozens, if not hundreds – some even adding whole new playable races) to update to the current build, but the game should grow even faster now that modders have these additional features to play around with.

Starfarer is available for Windows, Mac & Linux PCs, and planned to cost $20 when it finally hits V1.0. Until that fateful day, you can buy in early for $10. While there’s only a finite number of missions and a small sandbox, I’ve probably sunk more hours into this than many AAA blockbusters already, so I can easily recommend it if you’re a fan of space combat games such as Freespace, or would rather that Mount & Blade be about spaceships and lasers instead of horses.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – ‘Starfarer’ 0.53a Update Brings Ship Modules, Phase Cloaks, Brutal AI


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‘Wrack’ Preview – Four Levels Of FPS Nostalgia

I’ve been meaning to try out Wrack for a while. First announced what feels like an age ago, it’s the product of Final Boss Entertainment, a group of old-school, ‘first generation’ Doom modders and mappers getting together to put their own spin on the retro FPS genre. This weekend, to celebrate Quakecon, they’ve updated their preorder demo and dropped their pre-order price to a very palatable $5 for the weekend. I jumped on this deal to see just whether they’re recapturing that old-school magic, or missing the point, and to tell the rest of you whether or not it’s worth taking the plunge as well.

There’s no pretension here – you’re an all-American action hero, and there’s a bunch of alien lizard-men from Arcturus invading the planet, so you’ve got to shoot them and their robot buddies until there’s nothing left to shoot. First off, the game is still way, way off from being complete. Right now, it contains just four levels, and some key visual effects clearly aren’t finished yet – enemies spawning into an arena just unceremoniously pop into existence, rather than being heralded by a teleporter effect and a shower of particles. Other than the small handfull of levels, you’re going to find four weapons and – surprisingly – three boss battles, although one of those is wildly unfinished.

Yep, bosses. Plural. While the game is developed by Doom veterans, they’re billing this one as halfway between Doom-style FPS and Contra-style arcade game. There’s platforming, traps, pattern-based bosses which fire walls of bullets that have to be jumped over or ducked under, points, secret areas, checkpoints and extra lives. Right now those features feel a little shoehorned in, but with a little more focus on them in the HUD (some kind of indication of when you hit a checkpoint would help), I can see it actually being a fairly interesting blend.

The levels themselves are fairly standard early Doom-era stuff, albeit with a lot more coloured lighting (reminiscent of Quake 2 in places, for better or worse) and the occasional floating platform to hop across. It’s fairly forgiving platforming, and doesn’t tend to get tricky unless you’re trying to get access to all the secret areas scattered around, which often offer permanent +5 boosts to your health and armor capacities. Once you’re past the first level, there seems to be a rising focus on throwing you into thunderdome situations with a pile of ammo and waves of enemies in an arena.

Right now, I think the two largest problems with the game are an over-reliance on the scuttling spider-bot melee enemies that seem to be in EVERY room, and are just short and annoying enough to require shifting your aim, yet somehow aren’t easy to jump over despite looking only two feet tall. That, and the lack of sense of impact when fighting the space-lizards themselves. There seem to be no blood or impact effects at all when they’re hit, outside of a few red particles on the biggest type in the current build, and they don’t seem to make enough noise, vocally speaking. Maybe it’s because I’ve played too much Doom, but I like enemies that groan, scream and fall over with a gory thud.

It would seem that there are no enemies with ‘hitscan’ weapons – everything is a visibly moving energy blob that can be dodged, jumped over or ducked. After the spiders, the largest annoyance probably comes from the slightly-too-small ceiling and floor turrets, which fire diagonally up or down at you, and also don’t seem to have quite enough visual presence. If they made a loud noise and flashed a warning light at you before attacking, maybe that would help. There’s quite a few things to be tuned up here.

Still, I grumble, but the overall feel of the gameplay is solid and enjoyable. The larger arenas tend to be pretty satisfying, with you chewing through wave upon wave of fodder enemies. The bosses, as mentioned, are Contra-inspired. We’re talking telegraphed attack patterns, broad sprays of bullets, big health bars and dramatic opening poses/death-animations. You even get a first-person thumbs-down animation played after taking one of them down. It’s something I’d like to see built on in the full version – they made for interesting breaks in the action. The cel-shaded aesthetic works well for the most part, making the graphics clean and easily followed, and the music is very much in the style of the original Duke Nukem – plenty of energy without rushing you.

They’re planning on rolling Wrack out in episodic format. Almost like the old Shareware days, but probably with a smaller demo. Right now, a pre-order covers just that first episode, so your $5 will theoretically get you maybe 8-10 levels. There’s definitely a lot to be done with this one, and the game is clearly far from complete, but there’s a framework here that I can’t help but find compelling. Looking forward to seeing the final version of this once it’s done. You can get a discounted preorder now for $5 and pass your own judgement if you want here on the official site. Keep an eye round these parts for a full review once the final version comes out.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – ‘Wrack’ Preview – Four Levels Of FPS Nostalgia


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Anna Delivers Occult Scares and Difficult Puzzles

To get the boilerplate out of the way: Anna is the first game out from Italian developer Dreampainters. It is a horror game with adventure elements built around legends from the Val D’Ayas region of Italy. Anna was built in Unity and is currently only on PC, though other verions are planned for the future. The game is currently available on Desura.

All of that is factual information about Anna, but that doesn’t tell you what Anna is. Let me try to explain.

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Anna can be purchased through Desura.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Anna Delivers Occult Scares and Difficult Puzzles


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School Of Hard Knocks – ‘Neo Scavenger’ Takes Survival Seriously

It’s been a while since we too a look at Blue Bottle Games’ Neo Scavenger. A turn-based browser RPG that takes absolutely no prisoners. Available now direct from the developer as an beta-funded work-in-progress, there’s already a demo available to cut your teeth on. Despite being browser based, Neo Scavenger is as hardcore as they get, outstripping most Roguelikes for difficulty.

In recent updates, the developer has made efforts to drag the game away from any fantasies of post-apocalyptic heroism that the player might have burnt into their head from all these generations of Wastelands and Fallouts. In Neo Scavenger, you’re a (largely) regular human being – frail, fallible and vulnerable to death from a thousand different sources. You need food, water and sleep to function, and the forests – while occasionally bountiful – are often inhabited by horrible mutant monsters.

The two big changes in the works for the game are a vastly expanded combat engine. Combat was previously a case of ‘Use axe on looter’ and repeat until someone ran out of HP and collapsed. The combat engine is set to expand to allow the use of a much broader range of skills and manoeuvres based on your characters knowledge and stats. Not many RPGs can offer the option to try and grab an attackers leg and pull him to the ground with you if you’ve already been knocked flat. Combat won’t be decided by Hit Points, but rather blood-loss, shock and other, more realistic incapacitating factors.

The AI seems like it’s getting an overhaul as well. While mutant monsters might be a little more aggressive, human enemies aren’t going to want to fight to the death over a handful of berries and scraps that you’ve picked up in a field, and will often just turn and run if hurt. No more last-man-standing Thunderdome action, which is good. I wonder whether speech-related skills will come into this more later on – being able to shout down and intimidate attackers is always an interesting option.

Winning a fight doesn’t mean you’re going to survive, either. Get slashed with a knife and you’re going to be left bleeding with a potentially infected wound, so you need to properly treat the injury. Sterilize rags to use as bandages, take antibiotics to fight infection, painkillers to stop yourself from falling into shock and all that serious medical fun. I reminds me a little of survival-roguelike The Unreal World, or perhaps Silmarils’ quirky survival simulators Robinson’s Requiem and Deus. It might not be the first game to offer a medical system like this, but it makes for a much richer survival challenge.

It sounds like there’s going to be a good range of injuries, illnesses and unfortunate events that can befall your tragically mortal avatar, too. Broken bones need to be splinted, bruises need to be reduced or risk them causing additional pain in the future – it’s gritty stuff, and the example images for the medical system are quite amusing – while it’s unlikely you’ll ever end up anywhere near this injured in the game without dying, it looks like it’s possible to practically mummify yourself. Always good fun.

It’s an impressive amount of progress for what amounts to a one-man show. While the game is low on animation, there’s some pretty sharp pixel-art on show, especially in the scattered ‘setpiece’ locations such as the laboratory shown in the header pic waaaaay up there. It’s definitely a game to keep an eye on, and there’s a lot to get your teeth into if you decide to buy into the early beta. If nothing else, give the demo a spin. Just don’t be surprised if you die horribly. The post-apocalyptic world is a cruel place.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – School Of Hard Knocks – ‘Neo Scavenger’ Takes Survival Seriously


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Third-person Stealth Shooter ‘Worlds’ Launches In English With Demo

Shades of Newgrounds’ famous Madness series here. Worlds is a third-person shooter by small French studio Curious Planet. While wrapped in almost pointedly early-2000s style graphics, there’s a little more going on under the hood than you might expect. Putting you in the combat boots of Reyk, an agent tasked with hopping between dimensions and doing whatever it takes to make sure the various linked worlds never discover each other’s existence. This apparently involves a lot of shooting, some sneaking and even a bit of conversation.

Originally released in French only, the English version of the game has just been rolled out via Indievania, or you can buy it direct from the developer if you so wish. The game isn’t complete – only about a quarter of the missions are currently implemented – although the developer estimates that’ll still take you a solid 5-8 hours to chew through. When new builds are released with further missions, the game will auto-update and bring you up to the latest version.

I had a quick poke around the preview build sent my way, and found something pretty interesting. I wasn’t too impressed at first with the tutorial. Too many cutscenes and not enough hands-on action. The gunplay seemed solid enough, and the stealth was interestingly presented as a two-way street, with the end of the tutorial segment ending in a gunfight against a rival agent trainee that can also hide in the shadows and snipe you as you blindly run past. It added an interesting cat-and-mouse element to the gameplay that I hope is explored more later.

What seems to be a fairly clean-cut, low-fi shooter with some stealth elements expands impressively after the tutorial ends. From there, you’re given an equipment budget, and tasked with investigating a missing agent on an icy world, meaning that you first have to buy yourself some cold-weather gear. The mission is just equipment recovery – the agent is dead, but he had some sensitive gear on his body – but rather than shooting everyone in my path, I found myself talking to the locals and slowly piecing together clues as to who killed the agent, and where I might find his stolen equipment. Stumbling into a random house got me a torrent of verbal abuse from the surprised inhabitant, too – a cute detail.

It seems that there’s quite a bit to the game beyond sneaking and shooting. If the trailer above is to be believed, then things keep getting bigger and weirder as the game goes on, with special powers, gravity-flipping, more abstract dimensions and the occasional bit of low-res brutality. Shooting a guy in the feet and stomping on him as he tries to crawl away is probably not kosher under Queensbury rules. I guess that’s another element that it’s carrying over from the Madness animations and games – if abstract, grey pseudo-people dying violently offends you, this might not be the game for you.

The translation is workmanlike for the most part, although a couple of French words seem to slip through the cracks here and there. Nothing that makes it hard to understand, but it doesn’t feel like a final version yet. Understandable, really – it isn’t. The work-in-progress price tag of 5 Euros (or $6) seems quite reasonable, especially if you consider that if the missions continue to be as long as the ones included in the current build, the final game should be 15-20 hours long.

While I can’t really recommend it or not until I’ve played a bit more, you can (and should) grab a demo over on the official site, and if that tickles your fancy, then the full game is only a few bucks direct or on Indievania.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Third-person Stealth Shooter ‘Worlds’ Launches In English With Demo


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Overgrowth Part 1. The Colour Red

NOTE: This game is in Alpha and does not represent the final and finished product.

Ah, the colour red. The colour of blood, the colour of violence, even the colour of the shards in the mao. Also, the colour of love. The love of my trusty javelin, fists, legs and other things that kill hares and make them show their glistening bright red blood. (Disclaimer. You have just arrived at Mad Hatters Tea Party and this game is in alpha. That means that it crashes at awkward moments and is still being worked on.)

Welcome to my 2 part preview series of Overgrowth. In this post I cover the base game itself. Next time, I cover the great modding and map-making scene for this game.

I recommend that you watch the combat in this video to understand the rest of this post.

Overgrowth is a beat-em-up. By “beat,” I mean pummel and kick violently. By “em,” I mean other hares and occasionally wolves. Finally, by “up,” I mean kick their sorry and lifeless bodies into the air. The video above shows what I mean. However there is a lot more to this game. By “more” I mean awesome stuff that very nice people over at the forums have made.

The combat is extremely polished. For every situation all you need is WASD (move, duh), space bar (jump, AIII-EEEE), shift (crouch, roll), Q (throw) and both mouse buttons. Considering the wide range of options – that isn’t a lot. That, is down to the fantastic engine that does something different each time you charge into combat. The smoothness is outstanding during combat. When fighting is the main point of the game, it needs to be good. If you really want to see how well it is done, press tab. Suuupppperrr slllooowwww-mmmmoooo engaged. The rhythm and the interlocking punches are just beautiful. However I can’t wait for more weapon options. Crossbow please.

Overgrowth has been in development for four years by the team that brought you Lugaru – Wolfire. To sustain such a long development cycle as an indie team you need pre-orders, lots of them. To gain attention and the pre-orders that follow you need something to entice a community. Some of the best map-making tools ever certainly help with this. In the video above, I had to place the weapons and characters in. I can plonk them down somewhere in a matter of seconds. It would be like playing Battlefield and just deciding that the level was slightly boring, then adding tank and a terrorist with an RPG. Not possible. Though it is in Overgrowth.

Feeling more adventurous? Add in buildings or take to Blender to create new objects and character models. This game doesn’t have a lot to it. What’s there however is polished. Nowhere else have I seen such good animations and fighting mechanics. There is loads to this game. Sadly there is no story – yet. The lack of a proper time filling level is also notable. However that is where the community steps in. For my next post I will be taking a look at one or two of the best community maps.

PS. You could have an argument about whether Overgrowth is actually a game and not a tech demo or Hare fighting simulator. Though the ultimate objective in any game is to have fun. I take pleasure in being able to defeat a dagger wielding hare with my bare paws. Therefore this is a game. Disagree? State why in the comments below.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Overgrowth Part 1. The Colour Red


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‘Path Of Exile’ Preview – The Indie Answer To Diablo 3

Path of Exile is a comparatively small game by small New Zealand-based studio Grinding Gear Games that’s trying to do some very big things. How big? How does standing up to Blizzard and trading blows with Diablo 3 sound? Currently deep into its extended Beta development phase, the game has earned no shortage of praise from players and critics alike, and while the final build of the game will be fully free-to-play, you can get early access now by putting down $10 on cash-shop currency. It’s not a large price to ask, but is it worth your money, even in this early state?  Well, let’s see if we can’t answer that.

If you’ve ever played a fantasy action-RPG in the style of Diablo, Torchlight, Titan Quest or countless others, you’ll be right at home here. While PoE makes a lot of interesting changes under the hood, this is a game that any genre fan can leap straight into. Playing as one of six character classes, you’ve been condemned to exile for various crimes against the kingdom and are being unceremoniously dumped on the cursed continent of Wraeclast. A haunted place where mutant monsters roam, jungle temples lie overgrown, and the dead walk. Good place to hoard loot and level up, really.

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Path of Exile has no fixed release date yet, but it’s nearing completion. It’ll be completely free to download and play when version 1.0 rolls round, but until then, you can either sign up on the official site now for a chance to win a beta key in regular drawings, or put $10 down now on cash-shop credit to jump the queue and start playing now. Personally, I’ve had more fun with PoE already than Diablo 2 and 3 combined, so consider this a glowing recommendation. Just don’t expect the game to go easy on you, especially in Hardcore mode.

Source: The Indie Game Magazine – ‘Path Of Exile’ Preview – The Indie Answer To Diablo 3