5 Highlights from Steam Game Festival

I played through more demos than I could count over the Festival week, and as the festival has wrapped up and I have lost the ability to download more it seemed a great time to write about the games that have piqued my interest, and whose development I will be watching keenly.

Graven

The Graven demo offered what seemed like the opening few quests of the game, introducing you immediately to a dark and mysterious offering. The start sees you helping some tired guards and venturing into the sewage system to clear the piles of bodies from the sewer. On the way down you find your first spell, a fire spell to help you in clearing the bodies, and against those that rise up to stop you. 

After succeeding in your plumbing duties The second quest of the demo sees your journey out to the collapsed lighthouse to draw away the zombies by lighting a huge fire. More enemy variety here- zombie hounds, acid spitting bat-things and jagged sword wielding zombie brutes gave me a tougher time, sending me back to the checkpoint on several occasions through the demo. The Demo also offers several different weapons to find and a blacksmith to forge a weapon should you find enough coin. The weapons feel light, but Graven is going for a more old school first person style with its stylised art and quick movement speed. Due to that I felt the ranged crossbows felt better to use, especially when ammo was fairly abundant in the Demo. The spells look to offer an interesting dynamic to the combat, allowing you to stun or burn enemies as you hack away at them, though at this stage the spells offer more utility than offensive capability. The snippets of story throughout the demo offered intrigue and mystery, even in the main character.

The Graven Demo offered a fairly polished experience, and has landed it on my interested in a full release pile when it lands later this year. Whilst I am not sold on the aesthetic just yet, the combat is shaping up to offer something fast paced and action packed.


The Last Spell

The Last Spell demo offers what seems like a vertical slice of gameplay as you attempt to survive through five nights of horror to cast the last spell, thus saving humanity. Prepare during the days by suring your defenses, building walls to keep the monsters out or buildings that will provide benefits to your 3 heroes in the coming nights. Heroes are randomised between runs and start with a weapon that dictates their attacks along with some traits. Each can be leveled up during the day if they earnt enough experience the previous night, offering some RPG goodness to help suit your playstyle. My Archer didn’t seem to move much of the first night so when offered the skill to have him gain benefit from not moving it seemed the logical choice. If you are unhappy with a weapon that came with your randomised character you also have the ability to purchase a new weapon opening up 4 new abilities that come with that.

All of the weapons and abilities I came across felt good in the turn based grid combat and offered a variety of strategies to protect the town, whether it was cleaving monsters with an axe or firing a deadly volley of arrows. Heroes have 3 resources to manage, attack points, movement points and mana, with the former 2 replenishing each turn. Mana was often involved in the more powerful attacks but is a precious resource. My first run saw me using most of my Mana in the first night meaning I was forced into building the Mana pool so I could continue sending high power lightning bolts to melt the monsters at my doorstep, though this meant my walls were not as secure as they could have been, leaving a big hole in the side of my town.

I am often wary of games that bill themselves as difficult from the get go, but the Last Spell seems to be shaping up to have fairness in the difficulty, and as with any strategy game, a good learning curve before you will be surviving to cast the last spell.

Shady Knight

Do not be fooled by the simpler graphics – climbing towers and killing bugs is not often as fun as it was in the Shady Knight Demo. The Demo itself can be completed quite quickly, offering three towers to climb and two arenas to fight in, but the demo is able to show what the Developer Alexey ‘Cptnsigh’ is looking to achieve, stylish and varied combat. Efficiency is thrown off the tower as you complete a level and are ranked on your style, not your speed, giving more preference to your mid air and sliding cuts that your stand and fight slashes.

All in the first person you whiz around using everything in your environment to speed up or add to your style. You never start with a weapon, rather you pick them up from the fallen enemies you have already kicked into spikes or knocked out with a barrel. Keeping the weapon is also optional, sometimes it is smoother to fling the sword at your next enemy and continue at pace. The game also offers a good level of variability in what you get from the options in the environment, whether that is from the enemy you kicked into the pile of barrels or the different attack you get when you first jump from a swinging chain. Movement is very fluid and is a large part of the promise that Shady Knight shows.

For a game that I found simply by searching Hack and Slash in the Demos, Shady Knight quickly had me looking up the developer and adding the game to my wishlist. I eagerly await my next chance to take up the mantle of the Shady and Acrobatic Knight.

Roguebook

Roguebook was one of the few demo’s I played during that I was interested in prior to the Festival. As a big roguelike and card game fan, I am always looking for the next deck to shuffle. Roguebook has a promising pedigree of developer and designer and has so far lived up to those names.

You start each run by choosing the two heroes you will be journeying forth with, though only two were available in the demo. These heroes influence your starting cards as well as the cards you find throughout the runs. Each came with their own benefits, different health amounts, relics and skill trees. As you play with two heroes, positioning becomes important and plenty of cards allow for switching and ways to abuse those synergies. One hero dealt more damage when in the front position but my other hero gained extra block when he was in front. With enemy mostly damaging the front hero, turns always needed to be planned to make sure you knew who was going to take the brunt of the attack. In the demo my ability to abuse synergies and combos was limited, but I saw cards offered in drafts and shops that piqued my interest and promised a variety of combos. The promise of further relics to be found and the ability to augment your cards also promises strong decks and synergies.

Roguebook offers a different overworld which allows for plenty of freedom. A run starts with a path drawn to the boss and as you progress along you gain the ability to paint the board, revealing more encounters, drafting opportunities, health and more. Only things along the main path are required meetings and this allows you to rush the boss if you so desire.

Roguebook has the potential to reach the heights of Monster Train in 2020, and perhaps Slay the Spire before that with its tight cardplay and character design and left me very interested in the preorder. 

Almighty: Kill Your Gods

With a name like that and premise of fighting demons, monsters and gods, it was easy to not be impressed before the demo, but the gameplay showed a promising formula.

What sets Almighty apart is the traversal and the combat, and the way these complemented each other. The movement was fast and varied, allowing you to sprint at speed, double jump in satisfying arcs or being able to maneuver in the air whilst hovering. This meant enemies were never far from being attacked and closing distances was never a problem. The combat allowed for melee or ranged all on different buttons making it easy to switch mid fight. Melee had different attacks based on how you were moving, allowing you to charge enemies or stand and deliver devastating combos. Hovering above the enemy allowed you to rain fire from above before slamming into the ground and dealing aoe damage. All these quick changes were fluid into each other, meaning combat always felt you were the agile warrior the game wanted to portray you as.

Potentially the most Demo game on this list, with some frame drops and obvious jank to be improved upon, but Almighty is also potentially one of the most ambitious games that I played during the demo. The rough edges never shied me away from the game and with further polish this will be another game I watch with great interest.

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