My impressions from Steam Next Fest (June 2022)

Another Steam Next Fest featuring lots of game demos has come and gone. I tried to narrow down my selection this time, but ended up with too many games yet again.

As always, I will only write about games when I’ve got at least something positive to say about it, because all of these games are still in development and may change enough to not warrant an impression that’s only negative, even if that was what I walked away with. The games that I do mention here all left some kind of positive impression on me, even though the first few all had some caveats or flaws that made me not want to continue playing. The second category is for demos that I liked more, but I ultimately decided that I would most likely not buy them or only when they’re cheap. And last but not least, I’m going to write about the demos for games that I put on my ever-growing wishlist.

Not wishlisted, for one reason or another:

Rise of the White Sun

“Rise of the White Sun is one of the deepest political simulator set in the Chinese Warlord era. Play as every significant faction of 1920’s China : the Guomindang, the Chinese Communist Party, the Warlords and even the masters of the underworld – the Green Gang.”

Rise of the White Sun

This game sounds super interesting, but when I played the demo, I had no idea what I was actually doing or what I was supposed to be doing. It could be that the tutorial just wasn’t helpful enough yet or maybe the game is too complex to understand in the short amount of time that I had been playing – or both.

I could raise influence with different institutions and locations and I had three, later two, characters to do that with. The info screens told me what happens at which influence level, but I still had no idea what all of that is good for. I did not encounter any bugs or crashes, though. I played as Green Gang and somebody asked what you’re supposed to be doing as that faction – yeah, I definitely wasn’t doing any of that! To sum it up: The game still sounds interesting in theory, but it’s not for me.

Flying Neko Delivery

“Take on the role of Onigiri, a feline witch who lives in a cottage in the forest and delivers packages flying on a broomstick. Earn money from each delivery to customize your cottage. During deliveries, explore new worlds, forage plants and fungi, and meet quirky villagers along the way.”

Flying Neko Delivery

To be honest, I did not expect to like this game as much as I did! I am a dog lover and at best tolerate cats – in real life, that is. When we’re talking pixels, then yes, give me as many cats as you can! Still, I couldn’t get used to the controls for flying. It’s really a pity here because I wanted to continue playing the demo and find out more about the game and decorate said cottage. Or just fly around and do deliveries. But yeah, it was too uncomfortable. Judging from the game’s forum on Steam, I wasn’t the only one who had trouble with the controls. I’ll be watching this game. Maybe they rework it or fix whatever it is that feels off here, but as it currently is, it’s a pass for me.

Sapiens

“In Sapiens you create your own primitive civilization. Lead your tribe from the ground, immersed in the world while you shape it. Build towns and industry with complete freedom and control, from placing the tiniest pebble to constructing monumental structures. Start with nothing and advance through thousands of years of technological advancement in this intimate yet expansive colony sim.”

Sapiens

This one seems to be a nice game. I am not a fan of the graphics, though, as the world looks a bit too empty. But that’s actually my only complaint after playing the demo. My issue with this game is that it reminded me of The Universim and since I own that one already, Sapiens didn’t catch my interest for long. I feel a bit bad for not being able to write about it more positively, simply because some other game is filling that niche for me already. The two games are not identical, after all. Sapiens lets you more or less freely design your buildings, for example. The Universim doesn’t. But still, for me, that is the reason I didn’t wishlist it.

Big Ambitions

“Big Ambitions is a revolutionary role-playing business sim. Starting from the bottom, you take over the city, from small businesses to huge corporations. You control a single person in the middle of the bustling metropolis of New York City. Your goal is to achieve financial success in any way you like.”

Big Ambitions

I am not sure I would call it revolutionary, but the description sounded promising nonetheless. However, I found the walking around and especially clicking/interacting with items a bit tedious. The graphics were also too boring for me. It didn’t really let me feel immersed in the world. I also spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to put the food I had just bought into the fridge. And walking through an almost empty store with just a few fridges and freezers to simulate a supermarket felt a bit awkard, actually. I don’t know if there’s going to be richer environments in the finished game, but again, it didn’t keep me playing. What I liked was the feeling of walking through the streets that are part of a big city and having to pay attention to what time it was and whether stores were open, watching out for cars when crossing a street – but I don’t think they can hit you.

Plank Road

“‘Plank road simulation’ is a game that allows you to enjoy easy and free simulation of plank road construction. By following the construction method of Chinese traditional frame structure and combining various building elements, To create our own legendary plank road journey.”

Plank Road

This one was nice, but I wouldn’t call it a “game”. It is a simulation, but there are no goals and I didn’t see any progress other than placing more and more tiles. Maybe there is progress and I just didn’t play the demo long enough. You can make everything look pretty, though!

We Stay Behind

“We Stay Behind is a single-player third-person mystery between dreams and reality. A comet is on course to destroy a small town but its inhabitants refuse to leave. Interview the people of Laburnum Creek, explore a beautiful national park and unravel the secrets of this picturesque town.”

We Stay Behind

Oh, I tried! But unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the bug that crashes the demo which happens after a couple of scenes into the game. Maybe Indiecator has been more successful as I saw him play the demo as well and he also mentioned wanting to play it? I still wanted to mention the game here, because I think it looks promising – if they can get rid of bugs like this one! It’s especially awkward that it wasn’t fixed during the duration of the Steam Next Festival.

 

Demos I liked from games that maybe…probably… aren’t for me:

Catizens

“Inspired by RimWorld and The Sims, Catizens is a colony management simulation game where you watch over unique cats with quirky personalities, as you help them build and grow their settlement while exploring new lands, facing off against wildlife and overcoming the challenges of each environment.”

Catizens

“Inspried by RimWorld and The Sims” – yes, please! And… it’s got cats! As I already wrote above, I am a dog person, but when it comes to games, I don’t care either way. Cats are cute, after all! And imagining the same game with dogs is weird. Cats just fit a whole lot better. The game was fun to play and I would say that it has a lot of potential. I am not too sure about The Sims being an inspiration here unless they mean because you need to take care of your cats’ needs. Then again, that goes for RimWorld and any other colony builder as well. I would have thought that when The Sims was mentioned, maybe you can decorate buildings or even build their homes, but I didn’t see anything like that. What confused me a bit was that one cat could attack the hostile boars, but another couldn’t. One cat could pick up flowers, another couldn’t. I did not figure out where or how to check what each cat could or couldn’t do and why. It seems that the two “main cats” that I started the game with, had some prototype classes (like the one being “the fighter”) and the other cats that joined later didn’t. Overall, it’s a cute game, but I have other colony builder games that I like better.

Ballads of Hongye

“‘Ballads of Hongye’ is a unique city-building game. Unlike the conventional city-building games, lands in Ballads of Hongye are expanded by finishing the challenges. Through excellent planning and calculations, find the right way to build your dream eastern city with different massive buildings.”

Ballads of Hongye

Pretty! So so pretty. The first maps that you could play in the demo were very small and still part of the tutorial. But on each map, you have several goals to achieve – in challenge mode within a given time frame and in sandbox mode without a time limit. You can switch back to previous maps and continue building there later on. I think this is probably helpful when you’ve unlocked new buildings as you can improve the production on these maps then. At least, I assume that it’s important because you can still access the earlier maps and choose advisors for them.

I am not sure I like having such concrete goals to fulfill on such small maps. I prefer bigger maps and less direct goals (if any!). The description says that there’s a story unfolding with every map you’re playing. So, will there be replay value? Either way, this one is on my wishlist and I’ll be watching for reviews when the game is out, but I am really torn about this game!

Tree House Survivors

“Through an ‘accident’ seafarers arrive on an island where they have to fight for their survival. Help them by building and managing a tree house for them.”

Tree House Survivors

Let me start by saying that I think this is a great game! But it reminds me of Project Highrise and Mad Tower Tycoon and I like them both better. There is one thing this game has that the others don’t have (apart from that tree, of course): You can and have to decorate the rooms! Once a room is built, it has the basic equipment in there and works flawlessly – like a bed in a bedroom. But your citizens won’t be happy about that and want more decoration. However, in case that you actually aren’t interested in doing that and just want to place a room and be done with it, you can decorate one room and then copy the decorations to all rooms of the same kind.

This is another “Sapiens vs. The Universim” thing for me. I have two games that fill this niche for me already. But here, I also like the graphics and that you can add decoration to your rooms and customize the look more this way.

Sweet Transit

“Sweet Transit is a unique city builder where the railway is king and trains are the sole means of transportation. Quaint villages will expand to bustling cities, farms to industrious factories, and steam-powered rail to combustious diesel… and beyond in this interconnected, train-driven world.”

Sweet Transit

It’s basically a city-building game, but there is only trains for transport. I did try to finish the tutorial, but when it came to placing signals, I was just lost. I tried to solve that “puzzle” of which signals to place where in order to not block a crossing with my trains completely, but I failed miserably and gave up at some point. The screenshots on the game’s store page are still making me interested in checking out the game further. It’s basically a matter of whether I can understand trains and their signals or not.

Minicology

“Enter a universe full of miniature planets and miniature adventures in this whimsical sandbox-rpg! Build bases, terraform planets, and fight off invasions – all while crafting powerful new tools and accessories for your character.”

Minicology

During the demo, the planet just seemed a bit too small (you’re going to explore several planets, but still!) and I had no idea what I had to do in order to advance or progress or repair my ship or whatever. But it was similar in Terraria as well at first. Only that the world was much bigger! I played Terraria at a point where there were a lot of guides available, though. So maybe, if I wait long enough after this game has come out, there will also be good guides telling me how to get properly started. Or the game will have a good tutorial that holds my hands and explains what I need to do. Either way, I will wait and see what happens with this game.

Poly Skies

“Poly Skies is a casual village builder and colony sim designed to help you relax. Take care of your villagers who are seeking refuge from dangers below the clouds.”

Poly Skies

The part about “relaxing” in the description sounds nice, but the dragon that flew by and burnt down my buildings told a different story. So, I would say that relaxing is probably a bit of an exaggeration. The demo didn’t let me progress at first, though. An airship appeared, but no more villagers arrived and progress stalled. What confused me in general was why all my villagers were angry after I had given them jobs? They got happier once I was allowed to build a campfire as they came to sit there together in the evenings. Other than the stalled progress, I also found the controls and the user interface buggy: The game didn’t let me place a fishing hut with a pier reaching into the lake, but I could place it completely on land. Tooltips stopped working at some point.

Altogether, this seemed to be a rough preview of what the game could be one day, but nothing more yet. That’s too bad because I liked it. I will be watching this game’s progress, but it’s not a game I would buy immediately.

A Twisted Tale

“Discover a humouristic point and click adventure inspired by all the masterpieces which made us stick to our computers back in the day (and therefore we played outside way too infrequently).”

A Twisted Tale

This game wasn’t actually part of the Steam Next Fest, but since I found it during the Next Fest, it has a game demo and is from an indie developer, I figured I should add it nonetheless. The demo doesn’t tell you anything about the story of this point and click adventure, apparently, but it introduces you to the main character, Vio. I played with German voice acting because the developer is German (a fellow Hessian, even!). There is English voice acting as well, of course! The Kickstarter project tells you who is going to do whose voice. The game felt quirky and looks cute. I really love the art! But with games like this… I never really know whether I like or dislike these games. So I tend to only get them on sale after I determined whether I’d like the story or not.

 

Wishlisted:

Great Houses of Calderia

“Great Houses of Calderia is a modern generational Grand Strategy Game set in the fantastic land of Calderia inspired by the Renaissance. Build your family’s legacy of power and rise in the ranks of the Great Houses of Calderia!”

Great Houses of Calderia

This is much like a smaller Crusader Kings 3, but with enough differences to CK3 that you wouldn’t call it a clone. Or I wouldn’t, at least! The diplomacy fights are interesting, for example. A bit like your rock, paper, scissors game. I also liked that you could trade wares with your neighbours. Your family members are important as you place them to increase production of certain wares or you can send them on specific tasks. I didn’t figure out which traits and attributes influenced the outcome, though. In general, I had the feeling that a lot of things and mechanics were flying over my head.

Monorail Stories

“Monorail Stories is an adventure game focusing on extraordinary things happening to ordinary people. Board the monorail and experience a special story about humanity, friendships, and intertwined destinies manifesting during the everyday commute.”

Monorail Stories

I never had a shorter demo! I also never had a game that showed me what it’s about in this short amount of time. But I guess this one manages to show off the game in the time you are given. Basically, I guess, the game’s description says all that there is to know. I could choose whether to place a scarf somebody had forgotten into the lost and found box or not. And another character at a different time on the train could try to retrieve their lost scarf from the lost and found box if I had chosen to place it there with the other character.

Roots of Pacha

“Be a part of a thriving stone age community. Discover ‘ideas’, domesticate crops, befriend animals, and contribute to the growth of your village. Play with friends in co-op or explore the early days of civilization in single-player.”

Roots of Pacha

I always think I would love such a game and then I end up not playing it – like with My Time at Portia. However, I found myself wanting to continue here and only stopped because other demos were waiting for me. As usual, I spent most of my time farming. I am also intrigued by it having multiplayer and the game’s description said that this feature has been on their mind when designing the game. Now I would just need to find friends (and time!) to play this game with.

The Lawyer

“The Lawyer – Episode 1: The White Bag is the first part of an episodic adventure game which combines gripping crime story with classic courtroom drama. Immerse yourself into a world set in early 90’s in which you gather (or fabricate!) evidence, deduct and run fierce courtroom battles.”

The Lawyer

This one turned out to be very interesting as well! Only some part of it has been voiced yet, but it’s only a demo, after all. Unfortunately, there is only a little bit of evidence that you look at before the trial starts, but again, it’s a demo. During the trial, you are introduced to the system of calling “Objection” while somebody testifies, but you are also told that you must not do so every time you can as that would have negative ramifications. The demo stops rather abruptly then. It was still enough to get me interested in the game. What such a demo can’t tell you is whether the cases will be any good, of course, so I may wait for other players to review the game once it has been released.

So, out of the 17 demos I mentioned here, 4 have turned out to be my favourites which I’ll be closely watching. But as I said, even though some didn’t make it onto my wishlist, none of them were complete disappointments.

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