Stardew Valley was my personal game of the year in 2016. Like so many others, I’d paid zero attention to farm-sim games before falling completely in love with the 16-bit art-style, charming characters and town, and endless variety of gameplay.
Ooblets, available now in Early Access via Epic Games Store and Xbox One, may lack Stardew’s pixel art, but it’s every way an effective farm-sim successor, along with its own unique charm and gameplay courtesy of the titular creatures.
Playing Good Company taught me that I do not have what it takes to run an electronics manufacturing business, even when the employees are little more than autonomous drones. When production is stalled due to a missing component in my increasingly complex logistical chain, I’m more likely found hiding in a corner hugging my knees than addressing the problem.
Good Company is a sim management game currently available via Steam Early Access, putting the player in charge of a burgeoning tech company making everything from calculators to advanced drones and robots.
I adore Gloomhaven, the tabletop game. It’s a tactical RPG in board and card form, and has been the best board game on BoardGameGeek since 2017. Gloomhaven captures the turn-based combat and progression of Dungeons & Dragons along with unlockable hidden classes, a huge campaign of nearly 100 scenarios, over three dozen monsters and bosses, and a Choose Your Own Adventure story with multiple avenues and choices. I’ve completed dozens of scenarios and sunk well over a hundred hours, and now I’m starting over with the new digital version on Steam.
Killsquad looks and loots like the lovechild of Diablo and Destiny and plays like a co-op MOBA. It hit Steam Early Access this week as an action-RPG for up to four players, drenched in a hellish sci-fi theme that could almost be a Doom spin-off with some of its demonic alien creatures. The fast-paced action is easy to jump into, with gorgeous art design, fun attacks, and, refreshingly, zero microtransactions.
When I unlocked the Bone Prison specialization for my Mark for Death spell, I forgot to read the fine print. Though a wall of bones now encircled my enemies, my once insta-cast spell now had a nasty side effect: a 20-second cooldown. But I was delighted to find that I could now cast another spell on each individual bone piece, turning my new bone prison into a cascading wall of death.
Last Epoch‘s skill system is a brilliant evolution of Path of Exile’s labyrinthine web of upgrades and Diablo 3’s rune modifications.
I lived through the initial 3D gaming era of the mid to late 90s. Whether for better or worse, most games made the awkward, ugly transition from pixels to polygons. And for every Mario 64 there was, well, a Sonic 3D.
Thankfully we’re far removed from those days. But rarely do we see a series so completely, and effectively transform from 2D to 3D, as I’ve seen in Risk of Rain 2. The sequel was announced and released via Steam Early Access during the Gearbox panel at PAX East, and it’s already fantastic.
The fighter is too slow and clunky. The mage brittle and lacking. But the rogue feels just right. Rocketcat Games’ pixelated roguelike dungeon crawler Wayward Souls didn’t click with me until I stepped into the shoes of Renee the Rogue.
Renee has only a single ability aside from her basic dagger attack: the all-important dash. With a reliable way to avoid attacks I finally reached some level of success as I plunged deeper into the randomly generated dungeons… until I was devoured by a horde of angry boars.
Earthfall has a very simple goal: make Left 4 Dead, but slightly better. And with aliens. Left 4 Dead’s strict focus on cooperative survival gameplay endeared many co-op fans, and has left a noticeable void since Left 4 Dead 2 released back in 2009.
Earthfall is here to fill the gap. It shamelessly pulls all of its action beats, enemy types, and campaign structure from Valve’s zombie-survival series, but does it all very well. The Early Access version has all the right pieces to make a worthy spiritual successor to one of the best cooperative series in gaming.
The rogue-like genre has absolutely exploded in the last several years thanks to indie developers. FTL. Rogue Legacy. Spelunky. Risk of Rain. Binding of Isaac. Darkest Dungeon. The Flame in the Flood. It’s becoming a well-worn genre that demands more of each new game.
Streets of Rogue, now out on Steam Early Access, distills many of the most successful elements of the games before it with free-form, procedurally generated level designs that promote creative mayhem. And you can do it with friends.
Survival-crafting games are a dime a dozen, but We Happy Few’s real joy is its immersive world and how it plays with conformity and hallucinatory drugs.
What if you had to survive in a BioShock-esque world without all those fancy plasmids and guns? Instead you’re armed with rotten food, pointy sticks, and one very special drug.
We Happy Few began life with a successful Kickstarter campaign before hitting Steam Early Access this Summer. The game combines survival-crafting into a unique setting rarely explored in gaming – the drug-fueled, post-war 1960s. This initial Early Access version features most of the gameplay sans story, and with only the one playable protagonist.
In this world’s alternate history, World War 2 went very, very badly for England. The Nazis successfully invaded and destroyed much of the country, leaving its population frightened and destitute. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying life right?
One little happy pill called Joy, and all your real world problems simply melt away. The people in the island city of Wellington Wells may harbor some deep secrets, but most of its drug-addled citizens don’t seem to care. Except for you.