Steam Game Festival (February ’21) – Part 2

The second part has a few more visual novels/point and click games than the first one. But there are other genres as well! As is usual for me, these are mostly city-building games, simulations, strategy games. No FPS or action games made it onto my list.

Zen World

This is currently a very short game. You add tiles and need to make sure that they fit on all sides (water, land, forest). If you’ve got tools left and place a tile with a flag, your little running people will found a town on that tile. You can find science points, tiles and tools in the cest which you reach when placing a land or forest tile below it. My first two games were over within a minute or two as I ran out of tiles. But then… nothing happened. My little people were still running around on the map and I could watch them, but I couldn’t do anything else anymore. I had two science points which I could use to unlock something, but the game didn’t change its state then either. Now I really had nothing left to do, but no “game over” etc. appeared.

Compared to Dorfromantik, which is similar in its basic playstyle (as in: you get tiles that you place which slowly increases your land), I definitely prefer Dorfromantik as it was already more polished and longer in its prototype-state. I like relaxing little games like these two from time to time, but at the moment, I wouldn’t buy Zen World. I’ll keep it on my watchlist, though.

 

Weltreich: Political Strategy Simulator

You immediately get a warning that this has a hard difficulty and you need knowledge about politics. Okay then, let’s see what the game has to offer – advanced graphics do not belong to that as the game has pixel graphics. But this doesn’t say anything about a game’s quality, after all. The game also tells you that every decision affects the game somehow. One of the first things I am told by… an advisor, I think… is to destroy the heating system to stop climate change. Yes, destroying something with no alternative sounds like a very smart idea! Unless we’re living in a desert. … Only that it wasn’t a suggestion that I could “click away”, by clicking on the arrow, I, of course, gave exactly that order. That was dumb.

What I don’t get is that in the beginning, I was told I could read the news on the left, but message after message with decisions keep popping up. I’m on day 4 and haven’t found a way yet to read the news. There is also a little globe on the lower left of the screen and I’m wondering if it’s just decoration or if I should be able to click on it as well. With the pop-ups open, I definitely can’t. Also, people suggest something that you can approve or not approve of, but there is no futher information. For example, Savva Lurie suggests to dig a lake in order to improve the ecology and attractiveness of the city – where should it be dug? How much does it cost? What do other people or even experts say about this suggestion?

For a split second, in between two pop-up messages, I could click on something on the map behind these messages. A window opened, but then a pop-up window opened on top of it and the other window with text on it behind it closed again. Too bad. The texts are also badly translated with several grammatical errors. Altogether, yes, apparently your decisions influence the game, but all I get is a message on how many citizens we gained or lost and how much money we have at the end of the day (when the day ends, I do not know… it just does at some point). The star shows the approval rating. That’s about it. There is no way to read the news or see what exactly your decisions did. It may become an interesting game one day, but this now isn’t much yet.

 

Sphere: Flying Cities

My first play through this demo was short-lived. I had just placed two buildings and got a pop-up message with my next task. I had assumed that – as is usual with pop-ups – the game was paused while the window was there. So I left my PC for less than five minutes. When I returned, I looked at the task when all of a sudden, an alarm started and shortly after that, it was game over. On to the next try. That one lasted longer, but at some point, the tutorial just stopped. I had one food farm which apparently wasn’t enough (the tutorial had only told me to build this one), so I added another food farm. Probably too late, because half my people were starving at which point they couldn’t work anymore. So, food production was in the negative and there wasn’t enough energy produced anymore which led to a collapse and that was the second game over. Too bad, because the game played very well until then and I like the look of it. Maybe if there’ll be more of a tutorial later on, it’ll be easier to understand.

 

Ring of Fire

This game starts with music that’s both relaxing and suspenseful. It also warns you that you have to do “real deductions” and it expects you to write things down! Right at the beginning, you are given a case number that you look up but you need to type it in yourself. So far, no issue, because the speech text is still visible and you just copy what you see. Then you’re told the address of where you need to go. This one, you need to memorize already as you then have to put it into the navigation system of your car.

The music is good, but I would still like to turn it off at some point. As isn’t unusual with these demos, I couldn’t. Other than that, the story is set in the future – or a future. What I learned in the beginning is that some people like to wear animal masks, their alter egos. But not everybody does. You’re investigating a murder. The blood is pink, more than red. Other than that, I won’t go more into the story or the characters because this could potentially be spoilers. I would say: Look at the pictures and decide if this is a game for you. Do not necessarily watch the trailer on Steam as it actually shows you the first steps of solving the first case.

I, personally, like the UI and that you’re required to memorize things. It seems well-made and the big question now is whether the story is any good. But that’s not something you can determine from a demo. With games like this, I like to just get into the world and the atmosphere of the game. I don’t even care that much about the writing style, because if the story is interesting, then it will be so even if the writing isn’t that good.

There is also a free Prologue available. I don’t know if it differs from the demo or not. I’ll keep this one on my watchlist. I like detective games and well, I’m sold!

 

Nine Noir Lives

Another detective game (point & click-style). I am not a big fan of games with humanoid animals. There are some exceptions (I can stand tauren in WoW and… Charr in Guild Wars 2, but these are less humanoid than others), but especially combined with the cat puns in Nine Noir Lives, I am not sure this is for me in the long run. On the other hand, the voice acting is really good so far and I do like the setting. What I definitely don’t like, however, is that while two characters are talking, there is no way to pause. At least, I couldn’t find one. You have to sit through their dialogue and wait for them to be finished before you can hit ESC and pause. The user interface is pretty easy to understand and the setting and story seem promising, but the sequences of conversation with no way to pause them is something that I don’t like at all.

 

Dr Livingstone, I presume?

Too bad that all the “walking simulators” rely on first person view. However, when I turn down mouse sensitivity, this usually works well enough. These games don’t rely on fast movement, so my simulation sickness isn’t that bad and it lets me play most of these games, thankfully. The same seems to apply here.

About the game itself: I sat here thinking that I can’t even solve the first puzzle: How to open the door! So, I went back downstairs. There, I found a bookshelf and tried clicking on the door on the bottom. Same thing: I couldn’t open them, even though the icon changed into a hand. And then it dawned on me: I clicked and dragged the door open. That’s how it works! I went back upstairs and tried to do the same, but it wasn’t working. No wonder, because this door has to be pushed open!

What I don’t like that much is that you’re thrown into the game with no explanation who you are or where you are and why you are searching through somebody’s house. The graphics are nice, though. Not that detailled or high quality, but fitting, I think. There is quite a bit of screen tearing going on and I haven’t found a way yet to reduce this. I also found an instrument and it made sounds when clicking on the different parts – as one would expect – and then a male voice said “That’s it!” which actually made me jump a bit as I hadn’t expected my character to speak!

After wandering around the room for a bit, I looked at the hint section again where I now found a page with some information on why I was there. Apparently, my friend had called for help. I’m not sure about this one. It looks good and promising, but I got confused with the user interface and I’m missing an introduction into the story.

 

Intergalactic Pawn Shop

Oh, the constant cat noises in this game were getting on my nerves! And while I’m on the subject of noises: I don’t like it when text appears letter by letter, even if it’s fast, and is then accompanied by sounds. But thankfully, these are my only complaints. The demo is super short and it ends with a teaser. I want more! The basic game is that people come in and want to sell their things. You need to check whether it’s genuine or not in order to estimate the item’s worth. At least in the beginning that I got to play now, this was very easy! You can then sell the items for a fixed price or give them to an auction with an estimated price. The auction function wasn’t available during the demo.

It is a story-based game, so the items you’re offered are apparently the same every play through. It did remind me of “Papers, please” with people coming in one after another and me having to decide whether what they’re giving me is real or fake. I really liked that game and I think I will like this one as well!

 

Detective from the Crypt

Now, this is a positive example with text-based games: The text appears all at once and it isn’t accompanied by any sounds. What I can say about this game without spoiling any content: I want it! It’s got a very gloomy atmosphere – of course: you wake up as a ghost and don’t remember how you and your family died, and that’s what you want to find out now! The music is really unobtrusive and fits the setting perfectly. And even after playing for only a few minutes, I really want to know how she died! There haven’t even been any hints as to what happened yet, so I don’t know why I immediately say that I want to have this game. I guess it’s the combination here of graphics, sounds, user interface and the promise of the story, because there hasn’t been more than that yet. It doesn’t happen often anymore for me, but there are still these games that I start playing and know I’ll really like them!

 

Peachleaf Pirates

I saw that it’s a “point & click” game with “farm-sim elements”, but given the name of the game, I was expecting some… pirates. Maybe that comes later, but at the beginning, it felt like a “copy” of Stardew Valley. I don’t think Stardew Valley is a bad game or if more like these were a bad thing, and if you like this genre, then this game surely looks promising! There will also be some backstory as you end up on the island without your memory (okay, that’s actually a very common start) and there’s something going on that may explain why you’re on the island, but you have no idea what it is. I did see a research and a skill tree and I assume there will be fighting at some point because I saw an option to change the difficulty for that in the settings – and if you scroll down on the game’s description page on Steam, you will also see a short fighting scene in a temple. The game description also hints at a bigger story behind everything and mentions puzzles, so there’s definitely something going on on that island for you to discover!

But I just can’t help wondering where the “Pirates” come in. A pirate would be on his own ship, not farming some land. So, it looks like a nice game for what it is, but it’s a pass from me.

 

NovaMundi

On the starting screen, the game informs you that the map will be randomly generated. You set out to warn friendly neighbouring villages of an upcoming invasion. Unfortunately, you have to fight your way through the jungle. Your expedition will sooner or later run into enemies and get attacked. Other than fighting for your survival, you also have to make sure that your supplies last long enough. I am not good with games like this and my playthrough was over pretty fast because my expedition was left with only one man and not enough coins to hire enough helpers. Oh well. It sounded interesting, though, and the exploration part was fun. I don’t think I’m going to buy the game, but it wasn’t a waste of my time either.

 

The Commission 1920: Organized Crime Grand Strategy

This is a strategy game and I liked the name as well as the screenshots. That’s basically the whole reason I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, the game has no tutorial. Another user asked if there’d be one in the final version of the game and a developer answered that they would bring that suggestion up with the team…

I think I understood the basics of the game after a bit, but I don’t think that what I did made that much sense. I also have no idea how to recruit more helping hands to my family. So, I decided to quit this game and focus on others instead. If this game was released already, I would probably look for a tutorial on YouTube to make a decision on whether I’d buy it or not, as most of the time when developers don’t manage to release a proper or good tutorial, there are players out there willing to help other players. So, at the moment, I’ll pass.

So, that was the first Steam Game Festival this year. I did manage to look at 17 games and out of these, none were bad per se. The “worst” games I saw were the ones that seemed very unfinished and were just offering a glimpse of what they may be one day. Or games that turned out not to be for me (which doesn’t make them bad, of course!).

My favourites were: Detective from the Crypt, Intergalactic Pawn Shop and Ring of Fire. Dorfromantik doesn’t count because I already knew this game and decided I would buy it before the game festival even started.

2 Comments

  1. I really hated Ring of Fire. I only lasted ten minutes. It was one of those games where I didn’t just not want to play it, I wanted it off my computer completely. Horrible in just about every respect but especially having to spend time with the vile, aggressively foul-mouthed main characters. I’d have much preferred a game where you play Internal Affairs, investigating them and getting them thrown off the force!

    Nine Noir Lives I really liked. It’s nothing original but of its kind it’s very well done. I didn’t notice that you couldn’t pause the dialog because there was no point where I wanted or tried to. I didn’t think it was all that much of a game – most of the time I spent sitting back and just watching (or listening, because there’s very little animation, either) but I was more than happy to do it. Sometimes I do wonder whether the people making “games” like this wouldn’t be better off just making animated movies instead. I think I might rather just watch those than have to click something every few minutes just to keep the story rolling along.

    Those were the only two I played out of the ones above. I had Detective from the Crypt on my reserve list, though, and having read your review I’m going to download and play it before it disappears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, the language wasn’t my favourite either. But I ignored that and focused on the gameplay instead. :)

      I was trying to have a conversation with my husband when I tried out Nine Noir Lives and I just can’t listen/read what’s happening in the game and listen to my husband (two different languages simultaneously as well…). So that’s when it was the most noticeable. I was hoping it’s just the beginning of the story where there’s not much choices and that once the investigation starts, we get to do more – but that’s also when the demo is over…

      Detective from the Crypt is probably the most ordinary of these, but well, it was so quiet in its own way, just “being a nice little game waiting to be played”. :)

      Like

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