Building something out of nothing is incredibly difficult. The creative liberty that comes with not being constrained by pre-existing IP can be exhilarating but also terrifying. New IP are a rarity in the AAA space these days. Yet each one brings a breath of fresh air to the space. Watching a new vision come to life is one of the most satisfying experiences in gaming. The indie space is where this creativity can thrive the most. These types of vision deserve to be rewarded. They deserve to be celebrated. With that in mind, here are the recipients of this year’s Golden Lance Award for Best New IP.
Winner: It Takes Two
If someone told me at the beginning of 2021 that It Takes Two would end up being more critically acclaimed than DICE’s new Battlefield entry, also published by Electronic Arts, I would have been surprised. It Takes Two is a family-friendly title with no single-player option whatsoever, yet we saw Hazelight Studios Director Josef Fares hoist the Game of the Year award for it at the 2021 Game Awards. The game represents the dying breed of couch Co-Op while also being entirely unique in its premise. A premise that’s meaningful and loveable, one that couples can really relate with. Josef Fares and Hazelight insist on creating these wonderful Co-Op titles for us, which is a niche the gaming industry desperately needs and something we should applaud when it’s pulled off with aplomb like It Takes Two.
Runner Up: Kena: Bridge of Spirits
I believe the obvious observation here is if Kena: A Bridge of Spirits were to be a Disney Pixar movie, would it be a hit and become a viable franchise? The answer is yes. While Kena touches on an uncomfortable subject in death and the afterlife, it has a relentless charm that can get over on almost any consumer.
Kena has a look and feel that large publishers need to capture. Something that can take someone from the movie theater to the couch. Kena’s natural path to the big time is going to be carried by the team’s ability to capitalize under a small budget with almost no game development experience. Undoubtedly a AAA publisher is going to take another crack at Kena. Could Ember Labs next release turn this charming IP into a household name?
Runner Up: Death’s Door
Those of us who play video games can often be sucked into the cycle of only waiting for sequels. Those tent-pole moments in beloved franchises that offer us phenomenal experiences. Many of the most highly anticipated games are entries in long-running series, which can offer some truly amazing experiences. But just as often, these sequels lean on their prior entries too much and we are left with underwhelming experiences. That’s why it is so wonderful to see new IPs, carried by fresh ideas and dedicated development teams. Death’s Door is just such a game. It’s difficult to have a truly transformative experience with a game if you are already familiar with all the mechanics and story progression from prior entries. But a novel experience gives a player the chance to truly see this hobby we all love in a new light; that is what Death’s Door accomplished. Unique style, story, gameplay, and a dash of humor to create an experience I will not soon forget.