Steam Next Fest June 2024 Impressions

Adam's Noteworthy Picks

Jun 20, 2024
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The Steam Next Fest comes every year, and I often find it slipping past me. Not so this year. I’m almost always neck-deep in something already, something that has my undivided attention, and I find it hard to tear myself away to pour through stacks of demos. There’s something different about doing it live at conventions; I can walk by a demo, watch others playing it, maybe chat up a dev while waiting for a controller to free up, but at home the simple barrier of waiting for an install always seems too big a hurdle to vault.

This year I made sure things went differently. I took suggestions from my fellow Sprites and Dice staff, and I poured through a few pages of Steam suggestions myself, looking for anything that caught my eye. What was I looking for specifically? I wasn’t sure, but I figured I’d know when I saw it. I didn’t try a vast swath of things, but what I did try left an impression on me. What follows are early impressions from some of my more favorable picks.

Wizard of Legend 2

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If your wizard dies on their question to become legend, don't worry. Another will be right behind them!

It’s hard to believe that I reviewed the first Wizard of Legend just over 6 years ago! At the time, I found the modular nature of spells and combo powers fun, but the lack of polish on controls frustrating. What I found in the sequel was the original core of that first game, but going through something of a Hades phase. It’s still just as demanding that you take as few hits as possible, but with the art style very Hades inspired. From the layout of the map rooms, to the NPCs you can talk to between missions, to the insertion of wry humor, everything drips with the influence of the much beloved hit title from Supergiant Games. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a major release influence game design in the industry, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. For what it’s worth, it fits the feel of Wizard of Legend 2, at least.

As for the controls? They are better now, I have to admit. I don’t have the same frustrations I had with the auto targeting of the original game. Everything feels more polished while at the same time retaining the feeling that made the first game engaging. If you loved the original, you love roguelites, or you just couldn’t get enough of Hades, consider marking this one for your wishlist!

Once Human

I love to make good natured jokes at Wyatt for suggesting yet another multiplayer, post-apocalyptic, crafting/survival game to play as a community. Which is what I did after he posted that we should all try the demo of Once Human. Crafting/survival, as a genre, doesn’t really do much for me unless the craft system itself is a special, unique, integral part of the game experience. But the aesthetic of this game, a cosmic horror sci-fi vibe, made me say, “why not”.

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Something wicked this way comes.

What we get with Once Human is, in a nutshell, the most bland crafting/survival gameplay I think I’ve seen in a while. It’s very much your standard fare of taking a break from the game to harvest enough tier 1 resources to build the tier 1 gear to fight the tier 1 enemies in the tier 1 map area. Until, of course, you progress to the tier 2 map area and do the same thing again to keep your gear relevant. There is nothing novel about the crafting that really grabs my attention. You might think, with me bouncing off the crafting so hard, that would have been it for me on this demo.

And yet, Once Human was singularly where I spent most of my Next Fest weekend!

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The first map zone is fun, but the second one is where the real good stuff starts coming out to play!

It’s true, for every time I had to stop “playing the game” to go chop down another small forest of trees or mine the conveniently roadside located ore deposits, I found myself wondering if the grind was worth my dwindling Next Fest hours. My immersion was broken, trying to survive in this hostile world by myself, when I’d run past base after base of other players, alerts displaying I was now in the territory of “DeezNutz” (not an actual player’s name I saw, though this conveys pretty much the effect they had).

But every time I hopped onto my trusty motorcycle and biked off into another unknown town for exploration and quests, I was hooked. The stealth and combat was fun. The gunplay and melee was satisfying. Once I left the starter map area, the enemy diversity and challenge shot up, giving me even more of that strange world feeling I craved while I scavenged the ruins of humanity. Some of the quests, in which I expected miniboss fights, presented me instead with fun challenges. I quite enjoyed never knowing what I was getting myself into, confident in my powers and gear but always with one foot looking to ditch if things turned bad.

When the servers went down after the Next Fest, I found myself sad I could no longer log in to keep exploring. Despite my relationship with the crafting. The game is trying to be a lot of things right now, with weekly and monthly quests, dynamic events, and a mashup of all kinds of game elements. Only time will tell if it pans out to be something truly gripping. I do still wish it would just ditch the crafting element and exist as a straight up action/adventure game, but when it’s back up in July for good I recommend you do what I did. If the vibe of the game looks interesting to you, give it a shot. It might not be the deepest game in its genre, but you might still have a lot of fun with it like I did.

Adam Factor