Indie Variety Hour: Next Fest

It’s been awhile since I last did an Indie Variety Hour covering one of Steam’s digital events. Presently the Next Fest is running until the 22nd and there are hundreds of demos available for upcoming games that can be played. That means if you read this over the weekend you’ll be able to download and try out any of the featured games here for yourself instead of simply taking my word for if they’re good.

As per normal I sifted through a ton of game pages, filtered out the games I thought were most interesting from a variety of genres, and am now here to tell you about my favourites. I also played a lot of bad demos, so much so that I almost feel like writing a post about things that should be avoided. Either way, here are the stand-outs from the various demos I played over the past two days.

They Always Run

This is going to turn into a bit of a running theme throughout the post, but most of the games featured here are the same ones that big publishers chose to showcase during E3. I guess it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that developers who could impress large publishers understand how to showcase their game in the best light.

They Always Run is a platforming game with an excellent sense of style and flow. The game sees you play as Aiden, a three armed bounty hunter who roams the galaxy collecting anyone with a price on their head. That third arm also plays into one of the game’s unique mechanics as you can use it to sucker punch enemies to break their guard, or otherwise get the drop on a powerful foe. While it doesn’t have many new ideas to it, They Always Run offers an experience that felt great to play and I’m keen on playing the full release.

I think the aspect of the demo that stood out the most to me was Aiden’s counter attack. You can counter attack up to three enemies at a time with a single timed button press and this will always kill them in one hit. This means combat is criminally easy, but it also ensures that combat encounters don’t bring the level to a screeching halt. I really liked how this felt and would attribute this design decision to playing no small part in why the demo felt so fluid.

Trailer | Steam Page | Website

TOEM

Probably not a game anyone was expecting to see here, but yes I enjoyed a quasi-point and click adventure game enough to include it.

TOEM is a chilled out game where you run around taking pictures of things to help people out. It’s not the most complex thing I’ve played, but it was fun and had a great sense of charm to it. Unlike games that are trying to intentionally be funny, TOEM managed to consistently make me laugh with some of its goofier characters. There’s a lot of heart here and the demo did a great job of selling me on the full release.

I think my favourite bit from the demo was when you encounter a bear who tells you that you don’t have enough swag. Once you obtain a couple of clothing items though, you can return and he’ll allow you to enter a bear rave that is taking place in the middle of the woods. It’s goofy stuff like this that made TOEM a pleasure to play.

Trailer | Steam Page | Website

Rogue Lords

Despite how I’ve repeatedly voiced disdain for turn-based combat on the podcast, I don’t actually hate it. Rather, I hate boring turn-based combat where playing passively and healing is the optimal strategy. Rogue Lords is no such game and I had a lot of fun playing the demo.

You take up the mantle of Satan and command a troupe of “monsters” pulled from popular fables such as Dracula and Bloody Mary. Similar to Slay the Spire, each turn enemies will flag their intentions and you must then determine how best to utilize your limited action points to mitigate as much damage as possible. Players need to critically evaluate their best set of moves each turn to come out on top.

The aspect of the game I found most interesting was how the skills worked. Once you obtain three copies of a skill they’ll combine to form a stronger version of said skill. With only a handful of skill slots available on each of your party members it becomes critical to manage your skills appropriately so you are able to upgrade them throughout a run.

All in all, Rogue Lords left quite a good impression.

Trailer | Steam Page | Website

Terra Nil

Finally we have Terra Nil, which is a sort of reverse city builder. You’ll be placed into a wasteland that was presumably destroyed by humans and are tasked with returning it to nature. There are a handful of different buildings you can place, each with their own function with the end goal being to return bio-diversity to the area and remove all of the human footprints that were used to restore the environment.

I actually knew about Terra Nil already, but apparently the version I was familiar with was a prototype. The developers have since spun the whole idea into a full release, and I had a lot of fun playing through the demo level so I’m eager to play the full game. The concept is relatively simple though, so I’m not entirely sure how they’ll make a whole campaign of levels out of it, but either way I think Terra Nil is one to keep your eyes posted on.

Trailer | Steam Page | Website


Okay. I think that more or less wraps things up for the Next Fest. As previously stated, you can still download and try all of the demos for the games listed until the 22nd of June. Hopefully this gives you a few suggestions to get started with while looking through the demos on your own. I’d also like to know which demos you’ve tried and enjoyed in the comments below if you’ve already been cruising through Next Fest on your own.

2 thoughts on “Indie Variety Hour: Next Fest

  1. Thanks for the look at these. I downloaded a few myself, including Toem and Terra Nil. If I get the time to try them, I might put down my thoughts as well. You make a good point about humor in these games as well — if it’s trying too hard to be wacky or something, it usually falls flat for me, but I’m interested to see how Toem gets that down.

    Liked by 1 person

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