What picture do we portray when thinking about a successful game? Obviously, spectacular visuals are among the top factors to create a real joy from the gaming process. The Order 1886, both EA's Star Wars Battlefront parts, the Witcher, DriveClub, and many other games serve as a prime example of becoming wildly successful, not least thanks to having stellar graphics, attracting masses of players with shiny trailers before the release. Low-poly games, on the other hand, have to mostly rely on making great and addictive content in order to compensate for the visual austerity. Despite having a devout fanbase that appreciates the low-poly setting, there is no doubt that niche developers have to strive at adding enough depth, fantasy, and cool mechanics to their games. Let's take a sneak peek at some of the most influential games that were ingenious enough to create a great experience without using contemporary tools and techniques.
Superhot is an unorthodox FPS game developed by the company of the same name, made in Unity, that gives the players an opportunity to kill enemies with various guns and melee weapons. The major feature revolves around an ability to plan the player's actions beforehand, as the time only moves when the main character performs any actions. Graphic wise, the game is also distinctive in its style, gray and white surfaces only add to the contrast of the black weapons and the red enemies, giving extra chills when you shed their blood in slow-mo. The game has also given some remarkable VR experiences, as not every game is capable of letting you stop the incoming bullets with your VR controller. Despite some sizeable issues with the VR port, Superhot has managed to look gorgeous and fun at the same time.
Morphite is a game developed by Crescent Moon for mobile, console, and PC platforms that is very reminiscent of No Man's Sky (NMS) in its concept. To its credit, the game had learned a lot from the NMS flop and managed to provide users with a huge number of randomly-generated planets that are open for exploration. Being an adventure-style game, it strives at having wide areas; however, it can't be boastful about its inhabitants, lacking the density of various living creatures and plants due to its initial platform limitations. Given that the game has been initially developed for mobile devices, it probably doesn't have the prettiest low-poly assets, but its scope really amazes when spending hours and hours just for exploration’s sake in a colorful but not asset-saturated world.
Astroneer is another sci-fi peer that spurs players to explore different planets. Being available for Xbox and PC, it utilizes Unreal Engine 4 and looks notably better than the previously-mentioned game, presenting game objects galore. The lack of a discernible goal doesn't appear to be an issue since the gorgeous nature of the planets is truly mind-blowing sometimes, causing you to forget the low-poly core of the game after you take a look at the sky or the grass beneath you. Such factors as terraforming and the changing day and night phases only amp up immersion factor, not to mention the beautiful vehicle and gear at the player's disposal.
MORBUS is somewhere in between an MMORPG and a survival game, demanding the players to fight between each other and capture villages, killing NPC creatures, and other typical attributes. Despite the fact that the game doesn't impress from a gameplay standpoint, it has some good-looking visuals, especially during night combat, given how small the development team was and how simplistic the 3D graphics used were. Not to say that the game has shown some groundbreaking graphic solutions, but it is clearly a prime example of how powerful Unity engine can be, allowing to achieve great performance without the usage of complex 3D modeling and animation/VFX effects.
Clustertruck is a game that is worth mentioning, considering how massive it got over the recent year. There are a ton of reasons why it became popular, mainly due to the smart development team. It included a great marketing strategy of sending game copies to Twitch and YouTube personas prior to the release date. Messing around with those players during the live streams, showcasing how dedicated they were, had also created a positive mood around the player base — not to mention the gameplay was really cool and addictive. However, the visual look of the game was also worth commendation. A high frame rate, incredibly polished image, and the great contrast between the white trucks and the colorful surfaces, obstacles, and the changing environment has played a huge role in creating a great gaming experience.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods is an adventure game made by Infinite Fall in Unity. Yet another game where a graphic fidelity wasn't the main part of its success, but it is hard to deny how big of a role the environment has played. Not expecting too many stunning visuals from a 2D game, it still maintained an extremely pleasant and cozy visual component, despite the terrain distance being fairly narrow. Add some great characters, terrific writing, and funny dialogues to decent-looking graphics and you will receive a well-deserved 87 points on Metacritic.
Grow Up is Ubisoft Reflections’ game that grants access to an open world where you control a robot whose primary goal is to collect ship parts by climbing the monument of the world. Given how much time you need to spend when reaching the location vertices, you will notice how great it is to behold the planet beneath your robot. Staring at the sky is another thing you may find yourself doing, as once in a while, it will distract you from constant peak reaching. Not to say that the shadows look terrific, but the clear sky around you creates a great mood for the game's time being, let alone the beautiful waterfalls.
Virginia is an adventure game from Variable State, made on Unity engine. Praised for its thrilling storytelling and well-designed interaction, it also garnered attention for its gorgeous looks, especially when driving a car through the rural parts of the state. Sometimes it’s hard to believe the game was done with the low-poly assets, considering how the state of Virginia is portrayed. At no point is it disappointing to witness the beauty of the game, neither nature nor the buildings' interior. If you want to be entertained by a coherent story and the grace of the Mid-Atlantic state, then Virginia is a go-to option, since not that many games are able to represent this picturesque place in all its glory.
Fruits of a Feather
Fruits of a Feather is a great game for all-around relaxation, allowing to soar through landscapes and collecting fruit as a primary goal. Surfing through the countless trees and exploring caverns might seem dull for a regular person, but the simple and friendly game environment, paired with truly adorable music creates a unique, seamless experience. Weather effects also serve a great deal, adding more immersion to the flight process. Not every developer can afford the triple-A size of a budget, therefore, many indie developers resort to using low-poly assets, and even a Ubisoft department wasn't hesitant to develop such game. And despite a widespread notion that the game's success is defined by its graphic capabilities, the list above can prove that having a small team that makes a visually simplistic, yet a deep and saturated game, can still achieve success with a well thought-out development process. That being said, it's hard to deny that often a high-quality image is a deciding factor whether or not the game will even be appealing to a wide audience, let alone becoming wildly popular. It's a well-known fact that our visual perception is among the most influential ones when it comes to how we want to behave towards a certain person or an object. This leaves the developers with a simple takeaway — regardless of how many polygons each asset has, it has to be appealing to the customers, especially in conjunction with the great audio tracks.
Don’t Mess with Texas
Another solid example of a well-looking game, that was initially designed to promote the decrease of littering in Texas, introduces us to a fictional world where the main character decides to commit for cleaning the litter, caused by a local gang. Created exclusively with a help of low-poly assets, it is mainly focused towards younger audience, showcasing some simple, yet appealing visual environment, where you play as a young armadillo whose primarily goal is to collect different trash from the ground. Created by Game-Ace, our sister company, it is an easy way for inculcating the kids to love the environment in cozy and pleasant gaming locations.
Not every developer can afford the triple-A size of a budget, therefore, many indie developers resort to using low-poly assets, and even a Ubisoft department wasn't hesitant to develop such game. And despite a widespread notion that the game's success is defined by its graphic capabilities, the list above can prove that having a small team that makes a visually simplistic, yet a deep and saturated game, can still achieve success with a well thought-out development process.
That being said, it's hard to deny that often a high-quality image is a deciding factor whether or not the game will even be appealing to a wide audience, let alone becoming wildly popular. It's a well-known fact that our visual perception is among the most influential ones when it comes to how we want to behave towards a certain person or an object.
This leaves the developers with a simple takeaway — regardless of how many polygons each asset has, it has to be appealing to the customers, especially in conjunction with the great audio tracks.