Here's a remarkably open-ended sci-fi RPG inspired by the classics

The indie RPG scene is basically solely responsible for keeping the torch of the old-school isometric RPG burning. The spirit of that those old games inherited from tabletop roleplaying—do whatever, be someone weird, have your choices truly matter, nobody's immortal—aren't very feasible to implement in the fully voiced, richly animated world of modern AAA RPGs. (Not that Baldur's Gate 3 didn't do almost all of it it anyway—at massive time and expense, mind you.)

So that's why I'm telling you about Space Wreck, which after a year or so on my radar is finally released. A lovingly animated, deeply complex and very interesting game, Space Wreck is about the length of a movie but offers wildly divergent ways to take on its many challenges in your character's quest to find just the precise gear they need to escape repair their broken spaceship and escape junkspace. There's a demo that goes right into the full game, if you want to try it out.

Junkspace being the network of wrecked space debris you find yourself stranded on, a former salvage operation gone wrong after a workers' revolt made the corporate overlords decide to just straight-up abandon the place. You'll make a character and then dive in, not worrying about levels after you start—it's just a few hours long—but rather worrying about how to use your set of skills to make it through the world.

Space Wreck is the kind of game where your stats really affect what you can and cannot do. A character with a low speech skill isn't just bad at talking, they're an introvert with a very limited set of options when they start conversations. A strong character is obviously jacked and NPCs will respond as such. A good engineer and tech guy can rig traps for enemies, or hack into workstations, while a person who's bad at tech is definitely 100% better off never touching a computer.

People who enjoyed games like Disco Elysium, Citizen Sleeper, and Norco will probably benefit from checking out Space Wreck. It's a clear take-off from the modern tabletop RPG mechanics that inspired those games, driving you right into the maw of circumstance as you either succeed—or don't—and let the dice lie where they fall. At just a few hours long for a playthrough you can really get in there and enjoy the consequences of failure or success without feeling like you've wasted hours of playtime.

You can find Space Wreck on Steam, where it's $17 US, or 10% off for another few days.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.