More than once I had people come up to me and ask me what the hell is this Steam Next Fest and how is trying demos useful? I’ll illuminate you in case you’re one of those pesky kids that didn’t grow up during a time when demos were not only a way to try out games- in a time where the internet was all but a wishful dream- but a legitimate way to entertain when the few games one had eventually grew stale. Steam Next Fest is a unique opportunity for players to get an early look at some of the most anticipated games of the year, with a very nice focus on some unknown indie titles. During the SNF players can try out new games and provide feedback to developers. The extroverts amongst you even have a chance to connect with developers via the neverending dev streams. Additionally, players can also attend developer panels, where they can learn about the creation process, behind-the-scenes insights, and more from the game developers themselves. The highlight of the show is- of course- the chance to play hundreds of demos of upcoming games that might have gone under the radar otherwise. It’s a celebration of all things gaming should be: trying out new and fun stuff!
I’ve been away at work for most of the festival, meaning that the games highlighted below are but a small slice of what’s available. These are the ones I personally enjoyed the most- You have until the end of the week to try them out (and so many others) by yourself. I can’t stress enough how much I love Steam Next Fest, to the point that it’s Steam’s event I most look out for, even more so than the ubiquitous Steam Summer Sales.
Also, don’t take this as some sort of analysis, but as recommendations, for you to try out.
Broken Arrow demo is a thrilling slice of a real-time strategy game that offers those who were unfortunate enough to have never played World in Conflict a glimpse into the unique and immersive experience it was when it came out, all the way back in 2007. In Broken Arrow, you’re tasked with building and managing your own army in a way that’s not too dissimilar to that of Eugen’s Wargame franchise. The demo only has one single mission, whose objectives are to, at first, destroy all the anti-air missile batteries and… Well, it is better you experience that for yourself.
It plays like a charm for a game in its alpha (or is it beta?) state. Unlike its older relatives, Broken Arrow manages to avoid many of the pitfalls it marooned the Wargame series for years: it ditches the click-fest nature of the gameplay and opts for a more slow-paced experience, where tactics matter more than clicks per minute. Infantry is actually a threat to tanks and other vehicles and surprisingly doesn’t get instantly mowed down as soon as it steps a pinky in the open. Units have a lot of micro abilities that allow players some adaptability: sprinting and dropping smokes for infantry is crucial, helis can raise and lower their altitudes, and mortar units have several barrage options to customize your solution to the tactical problem at hand.
The game features stunning graphics and detailed environments. I personally believe that whether you’re a seasoned strategy gamer /wargamer or a newcomer to the genre, Broken Arrow is sure to keep both entertained for hours. Unfortunately, I cannot vouch for the quality of the rest of the game, but so far it’s fair to say that BA is taking all the necessary steps to appease. There’s still no release date available, but one can probably expect to be hands-on with it sometime later this year.
Phantom Brigade is an “innovative” tactical RPG set in a dystopian future filled with mechs. Oli, our resident master scratcher wrote last Friday that “The fact that Phantom Brigade existed for nearly four years, and flew completely under our radar is downright disturbing. What’s this? A turn-based and real-time tactical RPG with big mechs that play similarly to Frozen Synapse? I guess we’ll find out how good it is when it finally gets rid of its Epic shackles later this month when it comes to Steam. The game will be available for everyone to try later this day when the Steam Next Fest goes live”. The cat wasn’t far off, I gotta say.
Players control a squad of customizable mechs as they battle against overwhelming forces to uncover the truth behind their world’s downfall. With deep and challenging gameplay mechanics, an immersive storyline, and stunning graphics, Phantom Brigade is a must-play for fans of strategy and tactical games. Download it now on Steam and experience the thrill of leading your brigade to victory.
The Great War: Western Front
The Great War: Western Front is an intense and arcadey real-time strategy set in the midst of World War I. It’s a very interesting game, and I’ve been pestering Petroglyph to allow me early access prior to its release for a couple of weeks now. The demo has a long demo that introduces players to the way things will play out while they experience the battles of the Western Front like never before. It’s curious, really, how nobody ever did what Petro with doing right now, by adapting well-known mechanics to the realities of the First World War.
So far, it’s a game that’s treading that thin line between historical plausibility and fun gameplay in a way I didn’t expect going into it. In fact, I was imagining a drab and uninspired take on the War, since that’s what we’ve gotten used to. Battles play out by setting up defenses and prepping up the attacks. Set cannons, mortars, heavy guns, machine gun nests, trenches, and units in the best way possible to take maximum advantage of your lines of fire. Do this while managing the limited resources you have as a tactical commander to achieve victory. These resources can be used to call bombardments, rolling barrages, bombing runs, new units, and a lot more. Almost every fight ends up in the dirt and mud of the trenches, where units club, kick and stab each other to death. It’s a brutal affair. Also, the maps are expertly well done, with the location and placement of defenses being persistent throughout the grand campaign. Oh did I mention there’s a great campaign set on the Western Front with dozens of hexes, each having its own map to fight on where it’s possible to play as the Allied or Central Powers?
The Great War Western Front will be available on Steam on the 30th of March, 2023.
Xenonauts 2 is a thrilling and challenging strategy game set in an alternate version of earth that fights aliens with Cold War-era weapons. Players take the role of commander and lead a world coalition of elite soldiers and scientists in their fight against the alien invasion. Xenonauts 2 doesn’t seem to revolutionize anything to separate it from the first one, and that’s okay. It ends up feeling more like a reworked version of Xenonauts than anything particularly genre-changing. Xenonauts, being an homage to the original XCOM is played using a world map, fighting against the eponymous Xenos. Combat happens in nail bitting turn-based combat in procedurally generated missions, and the game is rounded up with complex research and development systems. There’s a tutorial (a very simple one, very useful for anyone not familiar with this kind of game), and you can give the game a whirl for a while. I’ve enjoyed the demo quite a lot and I’ve even installed Xenonauts on my laptop to finally give it a proper try, almost ten years after its original release.
It’s a solid recommendation if you have a passing interest in trying games similar to XCOM but don’t know where to start.
Another XCOM-like, USC: Counterforce is a very curious game I didn’t know existed until the Steam Next Fest (hey, it’s working as it should!). Again, players take the role of a commander, tasked with leading another team of elite/ragtag bunch of soldiers against the alien menace. It’s not revolutionary and it seems that it lacks any overworld map to fight the strategy conflict, and that might be a serious turn-off for a lot of folks. However, the tactical battles are quite atmospheric and character customization appears to be extremely complex if you’re into that kind of stuff. Just give it a whirl and let me know what you think of it down below!