My Steam Next Fest 2023 Wrap-Up!

Steam Next Fest always feels like one of the best and most frantic times of the year. There are so many demos available to play in a short amount of time and with my limited streaming schedule, it’s hard to know if I’ll be able to play any at all.

This year, however, I got my butt in gear and made time for 5 demos from the many, one might almost say too many, available titles. Since I only stream a few days a week and for limited amounts of time, I did some (very quick) research and found a few helpful articles to narrow it down.

Going from these lists and my inbox from folks who reached out, I ended up giving a fair bit of time to: Super Space Club, Dust & Neon, Card Crawl Adventure, Dark Tree and Book of Hours.

Some were hits, some were misses, either due to technical issues, or my needing a little more handholding. Noting that these are demos, not the final product, some glitches are to be expected as well as the developers incorporating feedback into the final release. But overall, I enjoyed what I got to try, even if I couldn’t progress through them all!

Super Space Club

Super Space Club is a lo-fi arcade space shooter to chill to. Defend a vibrant galaxy as a club of misfit heroes and battle endless waves of spacecrafts to the tune of atmospheric beats. Outlast your enemies and vibe to the rhythm of the stars.

This one was a blast to play, pun fully intended. Reminiscent of Asteroids from the arcade days, with a colorful palette and chill beats. I was lucky enough to have the developer in chat to give us some behind the scenes details while also listening to viewer feedback. It’s been a while since I’ve had to remember to use the trigger to advance my ship, normally I just jam it forward on the thumbstick. But the demo gave us a look at multiple characters, each with their own special ship ability, two ship types and two bullet styles along with different kinds of enemy types including a boss which I didn’t quite reach. 😅

This was a fun demo, I have very few notes. I’d love more control over the color schemes and the ability to remap controls, but beyond that short of getting a paddle controller, I just need more practice in space!

Super Space Club

Dust & Neon

Dust & Neon pits a single cowboy against an army of robots in this fast-paced, roguelite action twin-stick shooter, set in a futuristic Wild West.

This setting is already one of my favorite genres: Weird West (also the name of a different video game). I’m not super jazzed about Wild West, even though the movie was hilarious, but if there aren’t aliens, magic or robots, I’m less into it.

Dust & Neon happily fills the top-down, try-try-and-try-again roguelite feeling I’m looking for and also gives Borderlands vibes in both art and tone. You play a cloned cowboy set forth to destroy robots and mechs who have taken over the frontier. It’s absolutely shoot and loot, looking for gear upgrades while managing ammo and health levels.

Each run will net you money, resources and enhancement points to add permanent upgrades to your cowboy before heading out again. This is one genre that Hades really set the bar for when it comes to blending narrative with a roguelite and Dust & Neon is a welcome addition. Learning to aim and shoot, as well as employing cover mechanics was a little finicky for me, but again that’s more me needing practice than anything else.

Dust & Neon

Card Crawl Adventure

Card Crawl Adventure is a single player card game with light deck building and roguelite elements. Engage in a unique path based combat mechanic to battle against devious tavern bosses. Visit a variety of cozy taverns, collect cards and improve your deck with magic equipment items and charms.

I love card-based games, mostly because of the art and any deckbuilding video game reminds me of the collectible card games that I love to play but simply can’t afford to maintain as a hobby. Also: I’m really bad at those types of games because “cards pretty, strategy… eh?” So when I get to play video games with card elements that are easy to follow, even if difficult to master, I’m all in. This was another stream where I was fortunate to have the developer in chat giving pointers and explaining game rules that may not have been as clear. And pointing out things that didn’t quite work right in the demo.

Overall, I’d call it a “pathfinding solitaire” game. Your cards represent attacks and spells, while the Tavern Owner plays cards representing monsters and obstacles. Your path of cards can deal damage and other effects, while the monsters can affect your health, resources and sometimes your cards.

Each Tavern has a different owner, different house rules and different challenges to be met while playing, and while it took me a minute to grasp the elements of gameplay, I’m ready to snag this one when it comes out in a few weeks!

Card Crawl Adventure

Dark Tree

In a world where virtue considered a relic of the past, something is changing. Tormented by omen-dreams six heroes going to the distant kingdom of Hevalos. Fight hordes of enemies and the machinations of fate to uncover the secret of the Dark Tree.

Dark Tree felt like a nice isometric blend of Hades, Diablo, and Vampire Survivors. Unfortunately, I ran into a glitch with the game crashing, but what I’d experienced up to that point revealed a good narrative, selection of quests and interesting gameplay.

Your character “auto fires” a standard attack at enemies, with the ability to focus on a target, while also having additional special attacks. Resources dropped allow you to upgrade abilities, the less damage you take, the better the drops. As I was getting into the story, I ended up dying on a level and at that point, I wasn’t able to exit back out or reset my progress, so I moved on to another game.

I’ll revisit Dark Tree to see if a future patch works out the issues. The art is gorgeous and it hinted at a rich story, so I look forward to giving it another try.

Dark Tree

Book of Hours

Restore a crumbling occult library by a winter sea. Build the world’s foremost collection of grimoires and arcana. Master the invisible arts. BOOK OF HOURS is a narrative crafting RPG set in a 1930s world of hidden gods and secret histories. What sort of Librarian will you choose to be?

This was another one where I ran into a wall, not because the game glitched, but I simply couldn’t figure out how to progress. My character crash landed on a beach with few possessions and I needed to get to shelter. But with all the options available to me, I could not sort it out for the life of me, or my character.

The game has a gorgeous look, it looks to be detailed in a way that I mostly associate with Disco Elysium, using cards to represent aspects of yourself and the world around you. It also had an extensive system of magic, that you would eventually determine your own path through.

It is a small team, and they did advise that the demo might be a janky build, but I was stumped. Popping over to their community page on Steam showed that I wasn’t alone and that others also needed a bit of a tutorial to get through the opening, so I’m hoping they take that feedback to heart and the next version is a little easier for onboarding new players.

Book of Hours

Overall, I’m happy with the amount of games I did get in. As of the time of writing, I’m afraid I’ve missed my chance to try others offline, though some games are leaving their demos available for a little bit longer. Hopefully for the next Steam Next Fest, I can get a better head start and plan to showcase others, but since I usually don’t switch games during stream, I’m pleased enough that I could manage to jump from game to game after 30-60 minutes.

And again, these were demos, not final releases. So running into issues with optimization, unforeseen crashes or errors, or simply that the game may have not come across to the player in the same way that it did the developer… all of that was to be expected. All of the above games are on my radar (and my wishlist) and I look forward to all of them announcing release dates.

Here’s to Steam Next Fest for letting me give these titles and try and I look forward to the next one!

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