It’s time for Steam Next Fest, which means a bonus round of Indie Insights! So, unfortunately, I can’t use my fortnight catchphrase in this edition. But hey, you get bonus ramblings, so that’s a fair trade-off.
Steam Next Fest highlights upcoming games from smaller developers and publishers, giving things that could be buried under the seemingly billions of games released every day a chance to be discovered.
There is all manner of genres on display for this Next Fest. There are vegan vampires, glitchy RPGs, epic Zelda-style adventures, and so much more on show. I’ve dived into as many demos as I could to find my favorites and give you some tips on releases to look out for.
Voltaire the Vegan Vampire
Voltaire has denounced feeding on blood and has decided to sate his hunger through plant life. But, having been cast out from his home, Voltaire has to make it on his own. So, with a bit of help from his uncles Frank and Stein, Voltaire sets up a home and begins farming some strange horticulture to survive.
First to note is that this is very Don’t Starve in style. The game features similar mechanics and a very similar art style. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others as long as it’s done well, and developer Digitality Games seems to have done well. I found myself glued to my little weird wilderness corner, gathering resources and feeding Cthulhu moldy toasties.
Going off of the demo from Steam Next Fest alone, I would absolutely play a full version. That’s pretty handy because Voltaire the Vegan Vampire releases on February 27, 2023, in Early Access.
This piece almost became entirely focused on Townseek from developers Whales and Games.
I made the mistake of playing this demo second out of my long list of things to check out. Four hours later, I had become an airship piloting shark, traveling the land and seeing a whole bunch of weirdness. In the past, Sir Reginald Sharkinston discovered a potent mineral and dubbed it Sharknite. From there, mechanical legs were developed using shark science, amongst other things, and sharks can now go anywhere.
Your mission is to find the missing pages of Sir Sharkinston’s journal while exploring the world in your sick airship and helping out different townsfolk. The world is set out as a map beneath you, and you fly around discovering various towns, fishing spots, and other absolutely bananas things. There are strange and normal creatures, eccentric townspeople, and baffling landmarks. There is a Bob Ross tree. You can also customize your airship and have various companions following you. I chose the chunky chinchilla with a balloon. The map is kind of like a constantly changing Where’s Waldo? book with the landscape staying the same, but the characters are changing. Only a tiny section of the map is currently playable, and I cannot wait for the full game, even though there is no concrete release date.
The Star Named Eos
In A Star Named Eos from Silver Lining Studio, you play a young photographer struggling for inspiration. Your mother is also a photographer and is off traveling for work. The game is a point-and-click puzzle game similar to The Room series and games like Assemble with Care. To solve the puzzles, you must carefully examine everything in the area and use logic and deduction to put the clues together. Need a safe combination? You better ensure you’ve looked at everything with a number on it.
If you are a big puzzle gamer, then The Star Named Eos will be for you. It’s clear that there’s an emotional core to the game that’s hard to feel from a demo fully. Still, this is one of the more beautiful Steam Next Fest games. It also has some challenging but not too challenging puzzles, and the story so far is well laid out. The only negative I have to say about Eos is that the opening voice acting is not very good, but this is only a demo, and as the release date is only listed as coming soon, it may be a while before we get to see the finished product.
Mika and the Witch’s Mountain
In this heavily Studio Ghibli-inspired adventure from Chibig, you are Mika, an apprentice witch trying to begin your training. Upon reaching the top of a mountain, you are promptly pushed off by your mentor, who looks A LOT like Yubaba from Spirited Away, as part of your training. When you land, your broom breaks, and you must get it fixed and find your spilled supplies.
From there, I have no idea what happens. I use a keyboard and mouse, and the game is only optimized for a controller with no option to change it or check key bindings that I could find. I worked out most of it, but I could not figure out how to move while on the broom. So, in summary, it looks nice, but I have no idea how it plays. Hopefully, in the full release, there will be options to alter controller settings and key bindings.
Shumi Come Home
Shumi is a lil’ mushroom lost in the woods and trying to find its way home. For Shumi to get home, they must find their way through the forest while making new friends, cleaning up shrines, and learning about mycology. Jump, climb, and glide around the area to investigate and find valuable objects and collect green and purple crystals. The crystals are important for two reasons. Firstly, other creatures might want to trade your items for green crystals. Secondly, a terrifying mushroom/crystal skink-like creature in a hollowed-out tree stump wants purple crystals in exchange for different mushroom hats you can wear.
Shumi has a retro charm to it. Developer SomeHumbleOnion has imbued it with familiarity, and even in the short demo, you can see influences from Zelda and other early adventure games. The environment and character designs are cute and well-scaled relative to the size of the fungal friend you control, and it is a smooth playing experience. No definite release date as yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of Shumi’s adventure.
A classic adventure RPG with a twist, Glitched from En House Studios is a meta-adventure where your choices matter more than you can imagine. You are participating in an immersive gaming adventure, and before you begin, a terse frog administers a personality test to you from a black void. You are then thrust into the world of the game as hero Conrad. Unfortunately for Conrad, a nightmarish glitch in the world consumes him and leaves you playing as Gus, his reluctant best friend.
Glitched has standard RPG elements like turn-based combat, but importantly your choices, including dialogue options, will shape both Gus and your journey. To begin, you have to harness different aspects of Gus; throughout the game, choices will influence which trait is dominant. If your dominant trait changes, so will aspects of Gus’s personality and skills. There’s a great sense of humor woven in that prevents the meta aspects of the game from becoming grating. It’s a really interesting mechanic, and I am excited about the full release sometime in 2023.
Wrapping up Our Coverage of Steam Next Fest
That wraps up everything I’ve had time to check out from this Next Fest, but hundreds more games are waiting to be discovered. Did you find out any new games during Steam Next Fest? If so, let us know what you are looking forward to in the comments!