The 2021 Steam Game Festival has kicked off, bringing with it developer interviews, live streams, and heaps upon heaps of demos. There is something for everyone, but all of the options can be pretty overwhelming. So, I played through about a dozen of them, and below are my four favorites.
The Last Stand: Aftermath
Developed by Con Artist Games and published by Armor Games Studios, The Last Stand: Aftermath is a rogue-lite sequel to The Last Stand: Union City and the popular flash game series. Players control procedurally generated members of a survival colony who volunteer to leave and scavenge for supplies. Why would they volunteer to put their lives on the line like this? Because they’re all infected. and have a limited time to live. This set up serves as the rogue-lite mechanism, giving players a randomized new survivor after they die with their own models, backgrounds, and load-outs. Players then venture out into the wasteland from an isometric view to travel from sections of the map to scavenge for supplies and kill dozens of zombies along the way. The atmosphere is great, the combat is tense, and the resource management meta-game forces players to balance thing the risk/reward of every action.
Potion Craft is a relaxing, puzzle focused shop management sim where players step into the role of a new alchemist. Developed by Niceplay Games and published by tinyBuild, Potion Craft is calming bliss. With a fantastic art style, organic discovery, and loads of humor, it is sublime. The gameplay loop is simple. Players wake up in the morning and harvest herbs from their garden. Then, they go to their store, where customers are waiting. Each customer tells the player what their dilemma is, ranging from the humorous to the dastardly. Either way, players then figure out what potion would help them the most before figuring out what ingredients the potion needs through the game’s ingenious potion mapping system. Then all that is left is to haggle a price and move on to the next one. It is simple yet extremely fun.
Graven is a first-person action puzzler developed by Slipgate Ironworks and published by 3D Realms and 1C Entertainment. Taking place in a dark fantasy world with a retro aesthetic, Graven follows a disgraced priest dropped off in a swamp city suffering under a terrible plague. Graven also matches its old school graphics with old school game design as well. There are no map markers or hand-holding, just an open map with obstacles to overcome and puzzles to solve. Using a trusty staff, spells, and crystals, players kill various enemies and solve problems in an engaging new dark world.
Gatewalkers is an action RPG survival hybrid developed and published by A2 Softworks. It takes place in a dead fantasy world that sends warriors through a portal to take life from other worlds and bring it back home. Hazard follows them wherever they go. If the dangerous wildlife does not get them, poorly managed hunger, thirst, fatigue or sanity will. To survive the gatewalkers gather resources to craft with, built load-outs with spears, hammers, bows, and shields, and upgrade their gear before each venture to a new world. With co-op already available in the demo, a multitude of worlds to go through, and skill trees to progress through, Gatewalkers has hours of entertainment to offer even through just the demo.
The Steam Game Festival has proven to be a great resource for developers and players alike. It allows developers to get early feedback on their in-progress titles without having to commit to early access, while also giving players a brief glimpse at the titles to get excited for their release. There is also a full schedule of developer interviews and highlighted streams so that players can get an even deeper look at the games that catch their eye. With over 500 demos available there are plenty of options for everyone, so even if none of these four titles looked interesting it is worth taking a look and trying some demos out for yourself. However, you will have to hurry, as the Steam Game Festival runs until February 9th and then the majority of the demos will be gone.