Steam Next Fest (June 2021) – Part 1

We had another demo festival on Steam. Of course, I jumped in to see if I can find a new little gem to look forward to. I also wanted to see which of the games I previously tried out that are still in development may have a new updated demo. Unfortunately, I found several projects that seem inactive and one that is dead, because the game isn’t available on Steam anymore and the game’s website is down (Dungeon Consultant). Too bad, as it was actually quite fun to play.

To The Rescue is one that is still actively in development and that offers an updated demo. Sadly, I have to take this game off my wishlist – not literally, though, as I want to give them the extra support of having the game on my Steam wishlist. The game itself is fun, actually. I love it and I wish I could play it. But… personal reason: It requires a lot of clicking and moving your character fast because the dogs in your shelter need food, water, cleaning and visitors want you to greet them and put dogs into the show kennels for them to look at. All of this means that my chronically injured hand needs to do clicking at a pace that it just can’t handle. But the game is cute, the demo worked without any bugs for me, I love the graphics and the gameplay in general. If I didn’t have my hand issue, I would definitely get the game!

At first, from all the new demos, I hadn’t found anything too exciting. When it comes to city-building games, I may have finally reached a point of saturation where I look at new games and go “meh, nothing special”. But in the end, there have been a few that I liked quite a bit!

I am going to write down my quick impressions of the demos I played here and in a second post, because when writing this, I realized I played too many demos for one single post (I like bhagpuss’s comparison with “speed dating”). But I am also leaving my two favourite games to a separate, third, blog post. They deserve more attention, I think! This doesn’t mean that all the demos I am mentioning here are bad. Some were disappointing, others were quite good, actually. They just weren’t my favourites.

The Sundew – a point and click game set in a science fiction setting. This kind of game all depends on the characters and the story. As always, it can get quite frustrating when you have tried every single combination of objects to advance in the story except for the one that is necessary. I got stuck in the demo once and had to look at a YouTube video to find the obvious combination I missed. Other than that, it’s in a futuristic setting with cyborgs. Our female protagonist is one of these and apparently a cop without choosing this profession (or so she tells us in the beginning). It is a very short demo and basically gives you a glimpse of how the game works (classic point and click adventure). You also get a very basic idea of the world and a very quick glimpse into the story, but not enough to get a good enough idea if you ask me.

The Season of the Warlock – More point and click, but with a completely different setting and different graphics. It seems like a quirky game and lets you choose between two storylines. In the beginning, you play as the servant, but it then changes to Lord Alistair and as him, you get to make the choice that determines which storyline you’re going to be playing. I won’t go into any details here as to not spoil the story for you. But I can say that I was very intrigued! Basically, the soul of a warlock whose castle you are in offers you a pact. I like the graphics and think they work very well with the setting. Especially as the content is actually rather gruesome sometimes. But it’s also got its (dark) humor, so all is fine here. I have added this one to my wishlist and may buy it when I’m in the mood for a game with this genre.

Let’s Build a Zoo – The name suggests what kind of game this is already. And it is exactly what you will do: You will build a zoo. In the beginning, it’s not much like one, though. You get two rabbits (who “honk” – is that the English word for the sounds they make, if they make sounds?). It’s got very simple pixel graphics, so don’t expect anything realistic here! But there is also a world map that lets you trade animals with other zoos or take in rescued animals for a small fee. I did the latter to get my hands on some pigs, and another rabbit. Because two pigs and five rabbits (they reproduce quickly) make a good zoo, right? The game settings also let you choose whether your animals can die and whether they can reproduce. I admit, I didn’t spend much time in the game. It is cute and seems to work well, but I have Planet Zoo and if I get the urge for cute animals, I start up that game instead. Still, this one looks like it’ll be a fun colourful choice once it’s done – and I assume it won’t cost as much as Planet Zoo does! The game info page also shows that you will be able to make hybrid animals – how about a Chickow or a Crocoduck? Maybe this is a game I will have to get, after all, despite having a realistic choice, too.

Arisen – Chronicles of Var’Nagal – The first thing that the game told me is that it contains casual nudity which I could choose to enable or disable. I chose to disable it simply so I don’t have to worry about showing you any screenshots here. I don’t make a big fuss about nudity, but I know other cultures do, so… The game then lets you choose an avatar which looks female or male and you can then also choose your preferred pronouns. I didn’t look into the story behind the game. It’s a visual novel and your reactions are limited to emotions in the form of cards. The story itself starts off rather somber: You’re captured, enslaved and shipped off to some other country where you are bought by a female elf. It is set in a fantasy world, so elves, lizardmen, etc. are common. It is certainly an interesting story, rather well-written so far and I like the graphics! I find visual novels hard to judge before you have played through them, because the story itself makes or breaks the game. But it seems interesting and well-done so far! Reacting through emotions only is also a nice little change to the usual way of playing these games.

City Block Builder – A city-building game but the developers only offered a time-limited demo (20 minutes). The timer did not pause when you paused the game. So, I restarted the demo two times because during the first two runs, I was mostly trying to figure out what to do and how to work with the user interface. Additionally, even after hitting every key on my keyboard and using all possibilities that my mouse offers, I could not find out how to rotate items. I gave up and had my cinema chairs face away from the movie screen. I did hire staff for my ticket counters, but I was told that there was no staff assigned. Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to assign my staff to that ticket counter and the game did not tell me how to do so either. In general, there were more questions than answers about the interface and no explanations. Now add the 20 minute time-limit to figure it all out and you can probably understand how frustrated I was. The game had looked promising, but maybe it would have been better not to offer a demo. At least, I don’t think you should have one if you can’t at least explain the basic interface of your game! Something else that put me off: The graphics look realistic and you’re in a 1950s setting which is what appealed to me – and then you’ve got anthropomorphic characters, like my ticket counter guy that has a dog head. I am actually not sure if that’s a placeholder graphic or serious, because none of the game’s screenshots or the two trailer videos show any such characters!

Painting Werther – This is advertised as an interactive visual novel. All through the demo, I could not make a single decision. All I could do was click and sometimes drag the mouse pointer to advance. The latter was also frustrating at times when I didn’t know which direction to drag to and it felt like I was stuck. The drawings and paintings as well as the music and how it all fits together – well, it’s art. But I know I won’t be playing (clicking through) this.

Terra Nil – This game reminded me of Islanders. When I looked at the game’s Steam Page, it then did not surprise me that this is exactly what Steam suggested: I may like Terra Nil because it’s similar to Islanders – and to Planet Coaster. I am not sure how the algorithm got to that conclusion, but at least, it got one game right. But about Terra Nil: It’s a nice calm game with beautiful graphics. You are making wasteland pretty again with a healthy environment. I played through the map until the environment was restored and it was really nice to look at. But I’m not sure about any long-term motivation to play this.

My verdict so far: I did not find anything that I would buy (immediately or at all), but some of these games look promising – most of all,  The Season of the Warlock and Let’s Build a Zoo!

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