It’s time for another Steam Next Fest! This means that you can currently find a lot of demos for upcoming games on Steam. The event runs from February 21 to February 28.
I went through the genres and picked games that looked interesting. I chose about 20 demos and added a few other games to my wishlist, so I can check out their demos later if I’ve still got the time. Since I don’t have much time to begin with anyway and basically need to decide if I want to play or write about a game, I will try to keep my impressions here even briefer than usual! As always, if I don’t have anything nice to say about a game, I will probably just uninstall it and won’t even mention it here.
Special mention: I had a weird demo experience with Cthulhu Pub in that while I was told to place a table and hire a waiter, I already had an attack going on which killed my guests and the waiter and it was game over. I don’t think a tutorial is supposed to go like that. I had wanted to give the demo another try because this could be just my kind of game, but the developer has since pulled the demo and released the game into Early Access (the explanation why that happened was posted here). I haven’t bought it (yet), so I don’t know if it’s any good. We also don’t know if the game will ever be finished and just thinking about this makes me extremely sad…
Mandala: color shooter game
“[…] a hypnotic and meditative bullet hell shooter.”
Meditative and shooter – I was curious how these two go together. With this game, I make an exception and do mention it here despite not being able to recommend it or even write about my game experience. But it sounds like a really nice game in theory which is why I still wanted to mention it!
I really would have liked to give this one a try. However, on two different evenings (with a game patch in between), I got an error message and the game closed itself.
Now let’s get to the demos that I could properly play.
“[…] a roguelike word game where writing is fighting.”
I chose this game purely because of the title! It’s easy to explain: type words on the typewriter (no keyboard use other than for “delete”, unfortunately). Some keys have to be used in order to avoid damage, others cause damage when used. Fight your way through the end. You can also buy items to regain health among other things. It’s a fun little game, but my brain didn’t like to think English when I played it and it only told me German words! I don’t think I could have made it to the end of the map before losing all hitpoints. Still, it’s fun! So if you like word games, this is definitely worth checking out!
“IXION combines city building, survival elements and exploration, into a thrilling space opera as you explore the stars.”
First things first: Ugh. You can either waiiiiit for the NPC to say its text or you can skip to the next paragraph, but you can’t scroll up to read what was said before. So, the start of the game consists of waiting for them to talk. I am a fast reader and I’m better at reading than at listening when I want to gain information. So this is annoying. I am also always disappointed when a game demo doesn’t have a save function because it means I will have to go through everything again when I start the game up again. I am not sure I want to do that with Ixion. Nothing is wrong with the game, actually. But it just didn’t keep me wanting to play! One thing I need to point out, though: The graphics. I really love the way this game looks and I wish it had captured my attention more than it did because of this.
“All the strategy of a classic 4X in a faster format […]”
This game caught my attention with just this one sentence in their description. The negative aspect first: It feels like a board game – but a quite nice and fun board game! The helper in the tutorial outright tells you it’s a game you’re playing, too.
It doesn’t exactly feel like a “faster Civilization” to me as games like Civ just have so much depth to them that it’s necessary for a game session to last much longer. Or, to use the game description again: “Strategize their rise to power in a uniquely streamlined 4X”. Streamlined is probably the best description. Still, the game made it onto my wishlist and I haven’t even finished the tutorial yet! There are four parts and I lost to the AI in the third part. Most likely this happened because I had trouble understanding how the opportunities cards work at first (basically very short tasks to fulfill that will, for example, unlock a bonus which makes it easier to gain more hexes) and it hindered my progress on the map.
“Single player or simultaneous turn multiplayer 4x gameplay in less than an hour. Easy to play. Hard to win.”
While Ozymandias only claims “faster”, this one even states that it takes less than an hour! I actually like that Civ takes hours and hours and hours to play. But it still sounded intriguing! However, I doubt that it really only takes an hour… But I assume there are people who can play this really fast and then it’s probably an appropriate assessment.
It took me a bit of time to get used to it as Hexarchy works with a card deck from which you draw cards every round that lets you do certain actions, build units, buildings and so on. You can usually not keep your hand, so it’s best to use the cards you want to if you can. However, a card can also be saved in the inventory until the next round, but only if there is space in your inventory. Resources go in there as well. My biggest complaint here is that I had a hard time telling my units apart from the enemy units (when it wasn’t pink vs. beige like in the screenshot) and my units look too much alike. Out of all the games mentioned in this blog post, this is my favourite!
“Build and develop your very own magic shop.”
I had seen the screenshots of having the potion shop first before I saw that it also contains fiddling with ingredients to find potions. Otherwise, I might have skipped the demo. I did try out two alchemy games before and while they were nice, it turns out that I am not that much of a fan, after all. However, this game makes the selling part a lot more fun. You have a lab with a store and a staff room that you can expand and equip with items, furniture and tools. There is also a decor section. Overall, I really like the graphic style! And the game itself is quite interesting as well. There is the usual puzzle part to create potions. Then you need to buy your ingredients and sell the potions – the usual.
I quite liked trying to find out how to make a good mana potion (for example… it was just the one I wanted to create, but there’s more than that, of course!). But I think that I need to research more ingredients or tools first in order to do that. The system to add positive or negative effects to a potion also seems like fun. But I am not sure if it still is fun when you desperately need a good potion for something. An ingredient has four parts (ordered in a square on the card) and you put that ingredient card on the border of a circle. Depending on which side of the circle you place the card, there are different effects and only two of the four effects of the ingredient count (the two inwards facing effects).
I am not sure how much I want this game. But from all the potion and alchemy games, it’s my favorite and it made it to my wishlist.
“While investigating a series of mysterious murders, you will have to make choices […]”
To mix things up a little bit, I also took a look at visual novels and chose this one. Investigating sounds like fun and the game states to have different endings which is always good! For me, a visual novel isn’t so much about the art style, although I do need to not hate it in order to enjoy the game. The game also doesn’t need to be a written masterpiece. It just needs to have likeable characters and an interesting setting and story. In general, I don’t play these games often. But once in a while, it’s nice to just sit here and relax with one.
What this game does quite well is using Korean terms sometimes instead of trying to translate them and highlighting them in red. If you don’t know what the word means, you can click “I” to open the index which jumps at the currently shown red word if there is one and shows its description. It certainly adds to the atmosphere and teaches you something about Korea back then (or today, depending on the word).
The game gave me some options of what I wanted to ask a character. But in order to advance, I had to ask all questions anyway. I found myself skipping the text because I am not too interested in what that character had for dinner (not the actual topic we talked about, but I’m keeping it spoiler-free here). If I played the whole game, I would probably read it, but not when I’m playing a demo to get a feeling for the game’s story. It does help building the main character and his relations to others, though! During the whole first day, there was no decision to make other than choosing the order in which to visit which character.
On Day 2, the “real” story (the description mentioned mysterious murders) starts. Of course, once you get to the first murder, there’s the cliffhanger and the demo ends. It is good for story purposes because it leaves you wanting more. It is not good for gameplay purposes as I have no idea how the investigation works in a visual novel and how making choices works…