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Unity Best Game Engine for Indie Game?

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This thread has been very informative to me. I've personally been looking to use an engine for a project of my own, and until recently I was set on using Panda3d, however I've hit a bit of a dead end with the physics engine as using either ODE, or the native Panda3d physics engine seems to be lacking in detailed documentation, doesn't like meshes other than the pre set collision meshes(spheres. boxes, capsules, etc), there also seems to be a lack of making the physics geometry visible for debug purposes which is a pain. I like just about everything else about panda but the physics has proven to be a deal breaker for me.

So I've been looking for a different engine, another alternative is Blender's engine as it, like Panda3d is open source, and uses panda as the scripting language which is a strong preference for me. However Blender has the problem that I feel incredibly limited by the logic brick system that they use, I much preferred the freedom allowed by the straight up ciode setup of Panda3d. I'd be willing to go back to Blender if I absolutely had to, being as it's physics simulation and graphics capabilities seem to fit my needs the best, but like I said I don't like the logic bricks.

Cost is a bit of an issue as I don't have tons of money, but if necessary I could pony up the cash on the scale of C4 or Torque.

My main requirements are:
Deal Breakers[/u]:

decent physics engine, doesn't have to be too advanced, but needs to be able to reliably handle more complex geometry than basic shapes like cubes and spheres, they don't have to be really hi poly meshes though

at least mediocre particles, again nothing too fancy, I'm actually going for a retro sort of look so uber fancy particles won't be necessary, though they would be nice

some post processing effects, like bump mapping and some basic lighting effects, normal mapping would be nice but not a killer, and some kind of basic shadows but again doesn't have to be too crazy

Obviously cost, I can't go in with some real high end priced game engine that costs thousands of dollars per license, like I said before torque and C4 range pricing as about where I wanna go

networking ability must be present

[u]strong preferences
python scripting as well as the possibility to fiddle with the actual engine source itself, I'd be willing to use C in stead, but really feel comfortable using python, plus i'm a bit rusty with C

free licensing, like zlib or BPL, free is always better, but I'd be willing to pay a price if the engine had everything else I wanted

I'm working on making a Descent/forsaken style shooter with a sandbox element involved, so any game engine which is too married to traditional FPS style gameplay is a nonstarter for me.

I've been seriously considering Irrlicht and C4, obviously Irrlicht I prefer because it can use panda for scripting and is free, and I gather it can reliably and relatively easily use Bullet physics engine which is the same as blender uses and seems to be able to use user created meshes quite reliably.

So what are others' thoughts?

Thanks in advance

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You should definitely check out the [url="http://sio2interactive.com"]SIO2 Engine[/url]!

A cross platform 2D/3D game engine framework uses OpenGL ES as its core to deliver fast graphics and provide all the modern game engine functionalities. You can use this engine to develop on MacOS and/or Windows. http://sio2interactive.com

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Since I made my first Steps with UDK I am in love with it. But I don't get behind the System and the documentation is confusing for me.
For example, I managed after several hours to get rid of the standard player and menus, but I never managed to define my own controller. Did not find the documentation for that.
Seems like I need to buy a book or so.

What I like most: BSP Brushes. Bummer that Unity does not have this. BSP Brushes make your life so easy when you want to build indoor levels.

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What do you think of [url="http://www.maratis3d.com/"]Maratis[/url] ?
I released it previous week, it's free and open-source,
of course it's not as powerful as UDK, but it's simple, visual and portable.

There is already professional games made with it, including on iPhone.
I'm actually working on tutorials, and I hope it can be useful.

See you !

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Shiva engine , 169 euros for many platforms and features

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I'm currently working on Unity and its a very comfortable platform, plus it works on virtually anything, Its best if you buy the license but you can use it for free.

Also I never miss a chance to indulge in some torque bashing, having suffered that engine for around 3 years I can say its not just a bad tool, paying a license of that engine is something you will hide in the darkest corners of your "shameful mistakes closet" and hate yourself a bit for it.
The last company I worked in went bankrupt largely due to sticking with torque as their main development tool, every single programmer there (except for the asshole who pushed it) hated it and agreed that in any other engine they would be able to work at least 3 times faster.
Torque makes your most trivial task take a minimum of a week to get it right. Documentation is inexistent, you will deal with networking bugs even on a single player game, there is an extremely toxic number of hardcoded values and hacks all over the damn thing and as you get deeper into it you will slowly loose faith in mankind.

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