This week, to mark the technically “postponed” Game Developer’s Conference, a bunch of developers who planned to show their games at the conference have released preview versions of these titles through the Steam Games Festival: Spring Edition.
Valve debuted the Steam Games Festival program last December, which ran alongside The Game Awards and showcased 14 demos for unreleased games. This event looks to be considerably larger, as more than 40 game previews are available through Steam through next Monday, March 23. As Steam proprietor Valve pointed out in a press release announcing the event, many of these games would have been shown at a number of indie showcases during GDC.
A quick word of warning: Most of these are pre-release preview builds, which means they may not be as polished as the demos put out by giant game developers right before a game comes out. It’s possible that some things don’t work right or the game crashes. That’s just how things go with pre-release software.
That’s a lot of games to try. I’ll be working my way through them over the course of the event, but if you’re looking for somewhere to get started, here are a few the ones I’ve tried and enjoyed so far.
Raji: An Ancient Epic
India and Indian culture rarely appear as a central influence in video games, so Raji, a third-person action-platformer set in Ancient India, feels new among video games for drawing its art and story from a different part of the world. At the same time, if you’ve ever played a game like God of War or Tomb Raider, you will quickly get the gist of its familiar movement and combat.
If you’re looking for something to play with a friend, Retrograde Arena is a simple but effective competitive twin-stick shooter. Each player controls a little circle with a gun barrel sticking out. The gun is both your weapon and quickest means of moving around because the recoil sends you flying. More than anything, I love its Tron-esque retro VR look, which uses both bright neon grids and fuzzy, black-and-white static to great effect.
There’s not much to do unless you have people to play with, so keep that in mind.
Haven is a survival RPG where you control a couple, Yu and Kay, who are surviving in the wild on another planet. You need to cook, gather supplies, and in some cases fight wild alien creatures to stay alive. Many of its mechanics, from dialogue to turn-based battles, revolve around creating synergy between the two halves of the couple. As with many RPGs, though, the story is the driving force: The dialogue-intensive experience goes for a nuanced portrayal of the bond between partners that many games, even those who focus on romance, gloss over.
This one’s technically a demo, not a preview, since the game is already out and I’ve played most of it. Superliminal is a first-person puzzle game, similar to Portal, where the real-world size of objects change to reflect how they look from your perspective. The trippy dream logic gets used in interesting ways. Though puzzles never get too, too challenging, it’s a fun concept to fool around with.
Described as a “reverse horror” game, you control a strange, scary blob that’s breaking free from its cage and eating all the guards and people trying to keep it from getting loose. The blob, spooky as it is, can’t take much punishment though you need to be clever enough to get in biting range. Despite its pixel-art aesthetic, the creature looks weird and gross and scary. It’s definitely a neat little romp for horror fans. With that in mind, this is definitely not one for young kids.
One last thing: If you try any of the games from the festival and enjoy them, make sure to add them to your Steam wishlist or follow their product pages so you get a notice when the final version comes out.