Navigating the murky waters of Steam’s veritable swamp of early access titles is not for the faint of heart, and with good reason. Many developers use the platform to push games that, shall we say, don’t meet even the lowest of standards and are nothing more than a unscrupulous money grab. There are however diamonds in the rough worthy of attention. Here are five games currently in early access which are worth more than a dubious passing glance.
Apple of every streamer’s eye currently if Twitch is anything to go by, SCUM is DayZ on steroids mixed in with a not so subtle commentary on the values of modern entertainment rooted in drawing enjoyment from the woes of everyday people. Through and through a survival title, it does introduce a battle royale-esque feel; a 12x12km island is populated by up to 64 players vying to be the most famous inmate. How they go about doing so can vary from hardcore survivalist prancing across the map, gathering resources, upgrading gear, all complemented by one of the most in depth metabolism dashboards we’ve ever come across, to a murderous approach where those topping the fame echelons are targeted. Weapons are scarce and survival is no easy task. To boot, environmental dangers in the form of zombies, wildlife, and even high-tech military mechs are at hand to stunt progression. Scum has its share of launch bugs and networking issues it must be said, but the potential is definitely there and Devolver Digital have extensive plans for various modes, single player campaigns, and more.
Slay The Spire
Slay The Spire borrows from two different genres, which on the surface shouldn’t really complement each other. First up, we have battle card games in the vein of Hearthstone or Gwent, and second we have the good ol’ classic roguelike. Players build a deck to suit their style based on three character types and over two hundred cards, then embark on a thrilling adventure packed with battling creatures, strange deck boosting artifacts, and procedural generated levels while they attempt to reach the top of an immense spire. As a purely single player title, he game is marked for multiple playthroughs thanks to each session coughing up a different experience depending on the cards chosen, the randomly generated scenery and combat situations. Slay The Spire has received lots of love from Steam users with a solid ‘Very Positive’ rating since it launched close to a year ago now.
My Time At Portia
Cutesy post-apocalyptic farm simulator slash dungeon crawler, My Time At Portia, is an early access purchase you won’t soon regret. It has more content in the form of missions, dungeons, farming, crafting, and a host of lovable NPCs, than you can possibly hope for from a game supposedly still in development. Bestowed your father’s abandoned workshop, you must gather resources and craft to return it to its former glory. Things aren’t that simple though as you maraud through the marvellously beautiful town of Portia and environs battling increasingly worthy adversaries, mining for rare minerals, and helping the town folk with various efforts at reconstruction after a disaster of epic proportions. Crash landing spaceships, townsfolk to woe, a truly extensive crafting mechanic, and a multitude of engaging mini games, My Time At Portia can’t be ignored for fans of homestead-inspired sims a la Stardew Valley.
We’ll come right out and say it; Last Tide is an opportunistic gimmick. Yet, in this instance, the game is fully aware of this and doesn’t shy away from the downright weird concept that permeates it; a battle royale played under water in the depths of the ocean. As a diver you must contend with 99 others equally intent on being the last swimmer. Join a match by way of a one man solo submarine, loot, and start battling. Decked out with weapons tailored to the rigors of underwater combat, Last Tide puts an interesting slant on battle royale antics with a verticality only barely rivaled by Fortnite’s building mechanic. And yes, those angular dorsal fin sporting predators of the seas known as sharks make an appearance as an environmental hazard, but also form the danger zone surrounding the safety of Last Tide’s version of the blue zone or eye of the storm. You can of course use bait to attract sharks to munch on unsuspecting opponents. PUBG with sharks!
For the initiated, it can be hard to accept RimWorld is still technically an early access title, simply down to how good of a game it is. What’s so special? Isn’t RimWorld just another mundane sim title? Yes, and no. RimWorld is unique because though you are managing a colony borne of a messy crash landing in some unknown recess of the galaxy, the story and characters are crafted by the AI every time a new game is started. This means no two play throughs are the same and the storytelling AI can conjure up a seemingly infinite number of survival narratives. The management aspect is incredibly in depth as well with character traits having an impact on what an NPC can and can’t do, how relationships evolve, and as whole how the colony fares in the long run. All this via a serious number of indicators from hunger all the way through to colonist stress levels. There’s also combat, enemies, refugees, trading, inter-species slavery, and more all randomly selected by the AI. And of course, you get to tinker with colony layouts as any city builder worthy of the name permits.