The Steam Game Festival had plenty of demos and live streams to suit gamers of every genre and is always a great way to see what’s coming out in the future. I selected a handful of demos with the spare time I had and have come up with three standout games to keep an eye on in 2021.
Release Date (Aus): Q1 2021
Genre: Survival City Builder
Well I’ll be dammed… if you are looking for a new city builder with a twist look no further than this original survival game. The world of humans is over, enter the obvious superior beings, the lumberpunk beavers. Not only do these little guys know how to build dams and control rivers, but they’ve also turned their knowledge of wood into electricity.
Help your settlement survive the dry season, where all the water dries out through a collection of food and water. Build vertical shelters, farm berries, carrots and potatoes as well as keeping them entertained around a campfire. Create a colony of happy beaver friends throughout the perils and catastrophes that come.
I managed to complete the Timberborn demo twice over, surviving the ‘dry seasons’ for the specified time with at least 10 surviving beavers. I loved the ability to build vertically; I find in a lot of city builders you need to expand to survive and it isn’t always possible. It’s really not a common feature in a game so kudos for something new. It’s also refreshing not to have the winter be the time of survival, changing it up to the ‘dry season’ where literally, all your water is gone, was a game-changer. My first playthrough ended pretty soon after the first dry season started as I had no idea I needed to stockpile water, food and wood to last through. There are also many more secrets locked behind the demo doors but from what I can see there is an extensive tech tree and different species of beavers to play with which come with their own challenges.
I am incredibly excited for this title to release and to see what content is behind the demo screen! Timberborn is due to release on Steam and GOG in Q1 2021.
Dream Engines: Nomad Cities
Release Date (Aus): March 2021
Genre: Survival City Builder
This whimsical alienesque landscape city-builder has a lot of potential mirroring popular city-builders like Factorio and Frostpunk. Being locked behind a demanding tutorial, however, didn’t leave me a good lasting impression.
You control a Ghibli looking robot and help build, automate and repel enemies from your settlement of ‘people’. You create farms and mines to then ferry via conveyor belts to smelters and homes. It promises flying cities however I didn’t get that far. From what time I spent I did enjoy Dream Engines but it was sullied with the intense handholding. This may appeal to those new to survival city builders, but for me, 30 minutes of the tutorial was too much. I did enjoy the new takes on a city builder but is it enough to stand out from the saturated market of city builders coming out? I guess we will have to wait and see.
The Tim Burton-esque art and music style is incredibly appealing to me, alongside a somewhat sci-fi fantasy setting. I can share that current rotation of city builders are severely lacking in the whimsy which is what drew me to the game in the first place. Cute purple vegetables and the hint of a tower defence mechanic does have me intrigued. I want this game to be what I hope it is going to be, but only time will tell to see what unlocks on release in March 2021.
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator
Developer: Niceplay Games
Release Date (Aus): 2021
Genre: RPG Simulation
Ever wanted to become the towns most powerful and knowledgeable alchemist? Well, look no further! Potion Craft is an alchemist simulator that allows you full control of your learning and brewing of potions. Grow your ingredients, experiment and invent new recipes and sell them to the town. I’ve played some alchemy games in the past but this is just wonderful by comparison. The player needs to physically grind and stir the potions, and the physics are surprisingly accurate on the weight of the tools.
The experience of creating new potions is so neat with each ingredient having a set path on the ‘map’ of potion-making. It’s a cool little minigame that is true to the experimentation theory of trial and error. Selling your potions has its own strategy as well. Customers will line up at your store and ask for help, giving clues to what they need. It’s up to you to brew them a potion that will aid them. Then it’s time for haggling, another mini-game that requires the player to click at the right moment to gain favour with the customer.
Can we mention the art style now? Because it is gorgeous. It looks like an anthropologist notebook with the sepia tones and lined art. Absolutely stunning! Combined with a beautiful soundtrack that was both calming and interesting I can see myself getting lost in my alchemist shop for hours on end.
The demo didn’t reveal all of its secrets but I’m looking forward to becoming the ultimate alchemist wizard in 2021.
It’s really great to see demo’s making a big comeback in the regular form of the Steam Game Festival, along with others from companies like Capcom and Square Enix. I guess in some way we have COVID to thank for that. I believe demos will help indie developers immensely as it increases the chances of potential buyers placing it on their wishlist. This in turn tells Steam that there is a demand for the product, placing it higher in their advertisement ranks. I find myself wishlisting every game I find that I am interested in, even if I’m not entirely sure I will purchase it, and if you want to support these indies, you should do the same.
Did you play any demos during the Steam Game Festival this time around? What were your favourites?