This is part 2 about the demos from the Steam Game Festival. I already wrote about the ones that didn’t make it onto my wishlist, so let’s switch to the games that are on my wishlist. Some have been on there before and some are games I discovered because of the festival. I actually forgot one game when I prepared these two blog posts because it sneaked in in the last hours of the festival, so it’s nine games on my wishlist and five of these weren’t on my radar before.
Let’s start with the one game that is in a class of its own and I did not know how to rank it with the others. Emotional impact? Number 1. Fun and entertainment? Hmm… So I decided to just mention it in the beginning without adding it to the ranking.
LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories (Rocketship Park)
This game was a recommendation from Krikket when I asked for favourite demos in the Blaugust Discord channel. I jumped into this one without reading about it which was a good thing to do. It’s basically a story-telling puzzle game. I didn’t understand the user interface at first or when I had to click what and where. It’s a very very short demo, but it tells you everything you need to know about the game! It’s a game where the song playing in the background captivated me from the beginning and I think it played a huge role in my reaction to the scene I experienced. The puzzle part and the mechanics seem to be well done. The story I experienced, a very short one, was intense already. And when I say intense, I mean that I was so emotionally touched that it took me a few minutes to calm down again. And yes, there may have been two or three tears. All of this within eight minutes. I don’t even like puzzle games, but this one may be an exception.
The demo is still available.
Now let’s continue with the games I ranked for myself.
8 Starmancer (Ominux Games)
Starmancer has been on my wishlist since June 2019 and I actually was a little disappointed with the game. Not enough to remove it from my wishlist, but enough for it to be at the bottom of this particular ranking. The game has a tutorial and I still got stuck several times. At one point, I had to put a radar dish outside and then the game told me that nobody could reach it. I even constructed an outside path to it. Still the same error message. After some searching through their Discord channel, I found that one side of the radar dish has an access point and the path has to be connected to this. I built another radar dish and paid attention to where the access point probably is as it wasn’t easy to spot and then it worked. At another point, my inhabitants died because I hadn’t had enough power to keep the oxygen turned on. My fault, of course! But the tutorial didn’t tell me that in the beginning, I have to turn off machines I don’t absolutely need because there’s no way to get enough power for everything. All in all, the demo was frustrating because I constantly did things wrong. Then again, it was a demo and with the way games change during development, the tutorial is something that comes last when the early game experience is finished. It was just frustrating because it made me pause and search for solutions online several times. Once I knew how everything worked, I finally got to enjoy the demo. But it does make me cautious about the game as a whole and how easy it will be to understand the mechanics and features later on.
The demo isn’t available anymore.
7 Hammerting (Warpzone Studios)
A game with dwarves – what could go wrong? Another game that’s been on my wishlist before, but only since April 2020. And another one that didn’t make it to the top of my ranking! I’m wondering if maybe that’s because I already had certain expectations about these games and even if they were met it’s nothing to get excited about as the game is exactly as I expected.
Hammerting plays a bit like Terraria with dwarves or Craft the World. You dig, you build, you fight. And you accept quests from the world on the surface, because there is a war going on and your task is to support your allies up there. It is actually done quite well, because you have to click on the map of the surface world to see what is going on there which means that I really felt like I had no idea about anything happening on the surface most of the time. Meanwhile, you also get attacked and need to defend yourself, so it is far from peaceful down there. I was expecting a game where I’m digging and building until I have a nice big dwarven settlement. I didn’t realize that I’m mostly there to help and support the people on the surface, even though it is in the description of the game. It makes it more stressful in a way and takes away the focus from exploring. I did find the game rather easy to get into, though. The dwarves are charming – for dwarves, that is – and it seems like it is going to be a really well-made game. I just didn’t think that the focus on supporting the allies would distract me so much. But this is a minor complaint here!
The demo is still be available.
6 The Final Earth 2 (Florian van Strien)
This is the game that sneaked in at the very end and I hadn’t heard of it before the Game Festival. I wouldn’t say that it is a better game than Starmancer or Hammerting. I placed it before these two, simply because it was more accessible and relaxing to play. I knew immediately what to do and understood everything even without an elaborate tutorial. Of course, this is because this game probably is a lot less complex. But that’s what I liked about it. A cute little city builder game! The graphics may be a little too simple, but for this game, I think they fit quite well. The game description says that there will be an “optional story”, but there is also a sandbox mode and free play. You are in space trying to colonize some piece of land, but as it’s rather tiny, the focus will be on expanding vertically.
The demo is still available.
5 Secret Government (GameTrek)
Just a hint here for the developers: If you release a game on Steam, make sure that certain key bindings aren’t identical to what Steam uses. Also a hint: The problem reports including the words “Screenshot” or “F12” are from me. Whenever I took a screenshot, so that I can show the game here, it opened the window to report a problem. There was no close button. I tried escape, but that also closed whatever else I had opened before and caused my tutorial to get stuck and me having to restart the game. So, my time playing the demo was a little bit awkward. I hadn’t heard of the game before the Game Festival, so this is a new addition to my wishlist.
Other than that, I really liked what I saw! It is basically a political real time strategy game. You lead a secret society and influence and manipulate historic events. I’m not sure how complex this game is going to be in the end. I know I felt lost a few times with what I was supposed to do where and what would raise too much suspicion from the governments of the different countries. The user interface was also a bit confusing and when it told me to cancel a mission with Brother Walter, I had some difficulty figuring out who Walter was – out of four brother I had – because the name of the brother wasn’t where I expected it to be. But it was intriguing to play anyway! Since the game is now in Early Access, there will be more people playing it and I can watch from the outside and hopefully figure out how to actually properly play this game.
The game entered Early Access and the demo isn’t available anymore.
4 ORX (john bell)
I had put this game on my wishlist back in December 2019, not because I wanted it, but because I often add games there just to check them out later. When I saw the name “Orx”, I assumed there’d be orcs – correctly so – but I did not expect a card game. Yes, as I said, I had put the game on my wishlist intending to check it out later and I never did – until the demo was available. So my first impression was disappointment because I didn’t expect a “They are Billions”-kind of game with cards. But this game is ranked number 4, so this is obviously not the end of the story.
You use cards to build up your kingdom – you basically place them on the ground. This is a bit like Carcassonne, if you know that game. Then there are waves of orcs appearing and you need to defend your castle. Thankfully, when you’re looking at the cards in your hand, the game pauses, because it is a very fast game! And a stressful one if you ask me. In the end, I thought I’d dislike the game, but I actually had a lot of fun. I’m not sure I’d like playing it because I prefer games that let me relax. Still, at the same time, I had fun. Did I mention that already? And even though it’s fast-paced, because of the autopause feature, it didn’t actually feel stressful at all. I think it has potential and I am definitely not deleting it from my wishlist! It may have even placed higher on my list if I had figured out how exactly everything works.
The demo is still available.
3 Cartel Tycoon (Moon Moose)
I added Cartel Tycoon just a few days before the Game Festival started. So technically, I did not play the demo during the festival. But I still count it because it was so close! Even though it has a different theme, it reminds me of Tropico – and this is a good thing, because I love the game! Here, the theme is inspired by “the ’80s narco trade”. So you are basically in the drug production business and need to make sure the police aren’t getting too suspicious of what you’re doing. There are also rival cartels to watch out for and of course, you need to find a way to launder your money. Your drug lord can die, but as long as there’s a successor, you can continue playing. The game is tongue-in-cheek, as it should be with such a theme, but not as much as Tropico, I think. The reason it is this high on my ranking is because it’s exactly the kind of game I love playing with an interesting theme.
The demo is still available.
2 For the People (Brezg Studio)
I had not heard of this game before the Game Festival. Steam tells me that it is similar to Beholder and I think there was also a “Papers, please”-atmosphere. At least, when it came to people asking me for something and I had to guess whether I wanted to believe their claims or not. It’s a political game as you play a mayor in a small city and several spokesmen from the different city districts come and ask for money. Since your budget is limited, you need to make decisions. The user-defined tags are “Choose your own adventure” and “time management”. It certainly has strategic elements as well. I did get stuck at one point where the demo asked me to do something I wasn’t allowed to do yet. Other than that and up until that point, I really liked what I saw and definitely want to play more! The developers promise that the game has “more than 5 possible endings” and that your decisions matter. I know I definitely want this game!
The demo is still available.
1 Sovereign’s Will (Literal Team)
I had also not heard of Sovereign’s Will before the Game Festival. This is advertised as a political game with multiple endings. The music here is really nice and very relaxing. A lot of game demos didn’t have all the settings available yet and this game wasn’t different. I generally turn off the music almost immediately, because we watch streams or a film or a series while gaming in the evenings. I couldn’t here and I’m glad about that, because it added to the game’s atmosphere! I am usually not a big fan of the piano for game soundtracks, but it works very well here. It is basically a text-heavy political RPG game or “ruler simulator” as the developers call it. It promises a nonlinear story with multiple endings. My character had a lot of misshaps that made his coronation ceremony a bit awkward. There is also the open question what happened to my father and if he is really dead or not. Out of all the games I tried, this one stood out the most for me and I know that I definitely want this game, preferrably at release depending on its price.
The demo is still available and will receive updates.
The demo may still be available. I couldn’t start it anymore, but the store page says it is and just now, I was able to load the demo.
This festival certainly did give me the feeling I often got at gamescom: There are games everywhere you look, you have no idea where to queue first if you want to try a game and you will most certainly miss a great game that you’ll later find out about by accident. Thankfully, it wasn’t crowded and there was no wait time to try out a demo. A virtual tour through the halls with games would have been nice, though. But probably a tiny bit too much trouble to code and programme only to give you the feeling of being at a game expo. But one can dream…