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Welcome to part two of the Best of Early Access segment of my GOTY event! I talked about five of my favorite Early Access games released in the last episode.
There’s no big introduction from me this time, so let’s get cracking! You can check out Episode 1 of my GOTY series by checking out the link below:
The Wandering Village
I might not have played this game as much as other games on the list, but every time I do, it leaves me with good memories. That’s as good a reason as any to place The Wandering Village. It’s also wonderful when a game you’ve been excited about lives up to your expectations. Unfortunately, I get hyped for games infrequently these days. That’s partly due to previous disappointments and partly because I’d rather see what the launch version is like. A pre-rendered trailer tells me nothing, after all.
The Wandering Village was something I discovered well in advance, and the concept excited me more than most games I’ve seen. Made by the fantastic folks at Stray Fawn Studio, they kindly granted me access to the game for review purposes in September. I wish I’d had more time to play it because I’ve had a great time with it.
Set in a dying world, it’s up to the player to find salvation for their tribe. Building a safe home on a giant turtle known as an Orbu, the player must explore the wasteland and protect themselves at any cost. Of course, that could mean sacrificing the turtle for the greater good, but that would be cruel, wouldn’t it? The Wandering Village is just one of several great colony sims released this year, which might be the most striking.
For one, the visual design is beautiful. A unique mix of 2D sprites on a 3D background sells the world better than I thought it would. It is a visually striking game, and you can zoom in rather close up to the colonists; even though I wish they had more animations, they look great. Watching Orbu’s slow pace through the world feels realistic and alive. Having a colony sim where the player explores the world on the go is still fairly unique. Airborne Kingdom and Dream Engines: Nomad Cities are the only examples I can think of, but The Wandering Village has the better design of the three games.
While it’s a standard survival city-building game, your actions also have moral consequences. How you treat the Orbu is also essential: farming horns stresses the gentle giant, and treating it like shit for the colony’s survival might be a necessary but brutal act. Plenty of events on the world map, such as scavenging areas for resources or taking in refugees, and plague events that force the player into challenging decisions. It’s a sweet combination of a surface, relaxing game with the brutality of an apocalyptic world. Even if the game only has this kind of procedural gameplay, there’s enormous potential for a narrative to be told in this world.
The Wandering Village, like every game in Early Access, is early in development. Just like the gentle, lumbering Orbu, it needs nourishment and nurturing to evolve. For instance, I’d like more customization and immersion with the colonists, and the text is still a bit small for my teeny eyes. These little things can be improved. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful and enjoyable game, even in this current state. However, out of all the Early Access games I’ve played in 2022, this might be the one I’ve got the most emotional attachment to.
What can I say? Animals are cute.
Against the Storm
Yeah, alright. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Against the Storm made this list seeing how much I gushed about it in my impressions review, it’s just impressed me that much.
While it was an Epic exclusive for a good while, its reputation seems good. Of course, some people still seem to think that going Epic exclusive is the equivalent of someone breaking into their house while they sleep and stealing their wives and goats, but people are weird when it comes to grudges.
I’m glad the exclusivity hasn’t hurt them because Against the Storm seems to have blown all expectations out of the window, with a critically positive reception across the board. It exceeded my expectations as well! I had my eye on the game while it was on Epic only, but like most people, I prefer the Steam platform. This way, I got to play the refined experience, and I’m so happy I did. With the game working great out of the box as well as a pleasant experience on the Steam Deck as well, it’s just lovely to play. I generally like city-builder games, but Against the Storm has been one of my favorites in recent years.
I won’t go into much detail here because I wrote a ton about it in my impressions review (see the link to read more!), but 20 hours later, it’s become part of my daily ritual. I play many different games, and it’s difficult juggling them enough, but Against the Storm has been a Steam Deck regular. It’s just wonderful curled up with a blanket, building up my different villages and meeting the evil queen’s demands to avoid destruction. That doesn’t sound fun (and it probably wouldn’t be if I really was a significant dude who has to dance to her whims), but it is.
It’s almost everything I can ask for in a city builder. There are many things to unlock, challenges, an expansive map with many events, and enough complexity to keep me engaged without being overwhelmed. That takes skill to do. I’d love to see something like a sandbox mode or mod support in the future, but right now, Against the Storm is perfect for me.
Deadeye Deepfake Siralcarum
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, either. It took me time to fall in love with this game, but Deadeye is one of the best games I’ve played this year. I could’ve made a Top 10 games list with Early Access titles alone.
Despite a gradual decline in the AAA industry, we’ve seen a resurgence of the immersive sim in 2022. Just this year, we’ve seen Weird West, the Dusk devs with their Gloomwood experiment, and Ctrl Alt Ego, a brilliant blend of puzzle and sci-fi that might be one of the most defining immersive sims to come out of the industry in years. I’m sad Gloomwood isn’t on any of my top lists this year. While it’s great, it’s still very early in its development cycle, and the bar is so high for me in 2022 that so many great games just missed the cut.
Deadeye Deepfake Siralcarum deserves a spot on the podium. Despite having graphics that belong on a Commodore 64 at times, the gameplay is like presenting me with a massive bowl of poutine. I love poutine, so if it’s offered to me, you can bet I’ll eat it and enjoy every mouthful. Furthermore, Deadeye supports my belief that graphics don’t mean everything. I’d take deep mechanics and addictive gameplay over a stunning visual design any day of the week. Of course, great graphics help, too, but that’s just chocolate, not the entire cake.
I’m making a lot of food references today. I really should eat something.
Deadeye combines immersive hacking mechanics with many different playstyles and abilities for the player to unlock, providing an expansive story to explore. From the start, I was drawn into the game’s cyberpunk corporate world, where death just adds to the massive debt to pay back. But these guys are still kinder than the raccoons from Animal Crossing. The missions are a mix of handcrafted levels and procedurally generated content that offers non-linear methods to complete them. With the different accessibility options, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. It’s a challenging game, but with so many tools at your disposal, it’s satisfying when a plan goes well. Turning myself into a bomber without hurting myself with grenades while summoning raised corpses and turrets to protect me is just one way to play.
One recent accessibility feature was the ability to choose from the selection of codes while hacking rather than typing them out. This is great for the Steam Deck because accessing the keyboard every time got a bit annoying: having the commands ready for a single click improves the experience for many people. More games should do stuff like this. I like typing commands in too, but it’s an excellent additional feature.
Deadeye Deepfake Siralcularum might be an awful game, but it’s one of the few games I am okay with being wrong at. It’s fun learning to improve, and with all its deep systems and surprisingly good immersion, it’s a bargain at its current price tag.
Cosmoteer: Spaceship Architect
The autumn was brilliant for indie games, huh? Come to think of it, every game featured in today’s episode was released between September and November. It’s not just recency bias. I’ve just had a fantastic time with these releases. After the somewhat dry summer, it’s like gorging myself on a feast. Cosmoteer: Spaceship Architect is no exception, and it’s been a stunning success. I was fortunate enough to play Cosmoteer early due to the TactiCon event in September, and you can read up on my early impressions here:
It’s safe to say that Cosmoteer’s stunning early impressions didn’t lose me, and it’s as exciting twenty hours in as it was during my review. Space sandbox games are everywhere, and while Cosmoteer hasn’t quite taken Starsector’s crown, it’s building up a powerful rebel army nonetheless. Right now, it’s my second favorite space game, only behind Starsector. It’s made one hell of an impression on me so far, and judging by the overwhelmingly positive reception it’s received already, I’m not alone on that.
What drew me to Cosmoteer, above everything else it packs, is the insane customization in building ships. Many space sandbox games offer some form of shipbuilding, with the ability to change weapons and tools, but few give players the freedom that Cosmoteer offers. Everything can be changed from the shape of the spaceship, the armor, the equipment, weapons, engine, and cabins… it feels like an Expanse simulator, just with more magical things like wormhole generators and whimsical methods of power. Seriously, read the books. The show was pretty good too.
With a solid career mode, a sandbox mode for unlimited ship designs, mod support, and co-op, Cosmoteer launched in Early Access with a plethora of content. There’s something for everyone’s tastes, with modifiers for people to tailor their experiences the way they want them, as well as many updates.
While I wish the game focused on its lore and worldbuilding further in the campaign mode, I’m having an absolute blast with Cosmoteer.
Prime of Flames
Honestly? I had yet to decide what would take the coveted 10th spot. There were so many choices that I felt paralyzed trying to decide! I probably take this kind of thing too seriously, but I’d rather be spoiled for choice and struggle to determine what great games belong on the list than struggle to find good games! I’d take that any day.
The other nine choices this year were simple, but it’s always the final slot that’s the most difficult, isn’t it? After long deliberation, I decided upon Prime of Flames. This is the most overlooked game I’ve played this year, but after over forty hours of playtime, it ended up being one of my most-played indies in 2022. The work of a solo developer Rayka Games, it’s seen many updates since the summer Early Access launch, and I’ve found it an underrated tactical RPG that people should try at least once. While some things are lost in translation, and the game could be more balanced, it’s a deep and highly engrossing game that punches above its weight class. The fact I’m not bored of it after over 40 hours pushed Prime of Flames above the others, although I’ll stress the other games that missed the cut are still excellent!
I’m still amazed at how cheap this game costs. Despite the complaints a vocal minority makes about the indie scene’s pricing, this is an example where I think it’s charging too low.
Since its release, the developer has actively supported the game, providing frequent patches and content updates. There are several different classes with many abilities and powerups, with each clan getting separate ‘story’ modes. It’s also a roguelike where you have access to a hub area, and gathering resources after each run allows the player to unlock more perks and extra help for the subsequent runs. With additions to the story mode providing more chapters, difficulty settings, and an endless gauntlet mode, it’s mind-boggling how much Rayka Games has included in the game.
It’s a weird blend of Slay the Spire and Fire Emblem. I’m not going to go into much detail here because I covered the game in depth in the link above, but it’s one of the most robust tactical games released this year. In a world where we’ve seen Tactics Ogre: Reborn, Triangle Strategy, Symphony of War: Nephilim Saga, and many others, it’s incredible to see more innovation. Provided the game continues the excellent start it’s made in 2022, it could surprise everyone.
I have a few other recommendations for my Best of Early Access; these will be super short summaries, but hopefully enough for you guys to check them out. They really deserve it!
If you had asked me a couple months ago, I would have said Cantata would’ve made the top cut. It was an awesome sandbox turn-based game that launched earlier this year, and a game I was impressed by my review: with its deep map editor, large campaign maps, and deep systems, there’s a lot to like. While it’s been ultimately outclassed by other Early Access games for me this year, it missed my Top 10 cut by a sliver. The map editor is something I still tinker with to this day, and the future is bright for this alien tactics RPG.
Songs of Conquest
This was another late cut, an ambitious strategy game hoping to bring the Heroes of Might and Magic series back to life. It’s had a successful year since launch, and I’ve enjoyed the campaigns, skirmish mode, and the solid map editor. Unfortunately, like Cantata, a solid autumn for the Early Access scene proved too much for Songs of Conquest, pushing it out of this Top 10 list. Significant improvements have been made to the game in 2022 including a Battleground mode and random map generator, and I’m excited for the future campaigns to come. You can read my impressions review on it by clicking on the link down below:
Captain of Industry
The final ‘missed the cut’ game of this roundup is Captain of Industry. Firstly, I apologize to the devs: this game slipped past me in 2022. Its insane ambition and massive depth make it a challenging game to review, but I promise I’ll be featuring it in detail in Episode 26 of the Indie Corner series, which will likely release in the first weeks of 2023. I haven’t forgotten!
I wanted to talk about this game because it had massive attention in the indie scene leading up to its launch. It’s the kind of ambitious minds that created incredible experiences such as Rimworld, Kenshi, and Factorio, something we need more of in the world. An intense manufacturing survival game with terraforming and mountains of content (pun not intended), I want to give this game the time it deserves. Right now, I cannot give it that time, but it’s already one of the most robust management sims, and it might even have the potential to eclipse Factorio in time. It’s already more enjoyable than Satisfactory in my eyes.
That was a lot of words! With so many Early Access games played this year, I’ve had so much fun experiencing them. Of course, I’ve had a few disappointments, but the vast majority have been enjoyable.
With that, we’ve completed the Early Access section of this series. In the next episode, I’ll talk about hidden gems and games that have fallen below the radar or have struggled with their launches, but they are all games I’m willing to give a chance.