My Journey with the Steam Deck: Reviving my Love for the Gaming Handheld
Previous Gamedev Interview: James Wragg (Creator of Dread Delusion!)
We’re back with another episode of the Indie Corner! We’ve just come through a massive heatwave here locally. I tell you, no air conditioning isn’t fun!
I’m slowly getting back with these gaming opinions and impression reviews. I still have a rather large library to make my way through. From keeping track of my gaming spreadsheet to keeping an eye on releases I’ve played over the year, all I can say is making a solid Top 10 for the end of 2022 is going to be very difficult! To put things in perspective, I have nineteen games fighting for a spot on that list, and the Best of Early Access is going to be even more challenging than it was last year. A few games which were on my current Top 10 list have been knocked out of the running, but I’m having a lot of fun with the game releases this year. It just proves how much the indie and AA scene has grown.
Speaking of GOTY stuff, I really need to get back into Elden Ring soon…
I have a couple more indie titles to talk about today, and both of these are playable on the Steam Deck!
Urbek City Builder
First off, I want to begin with this awesome city builder. There is plenty of this kind of game on the market, all with their quirks. I love this kind of game because it’s nice to sometimes sit back and relax, building a little world. What always surprises me is the variance in city builder games. We’ve got stuff like City Skylines, Banished and Medieval Dynasty, real-time strategy hybrids like Black and White 2 (an underrated city builder in my eyes) and Age of Empires, and roleplaying versions like Kenshi and Sands of Sazaar. It’s baffling how diverse the genre is!
This is a new one and an excellent addition to the genre. Releasing a free prologue earlier in the year, Urbek City Builder was officially released on the 13th of July. I had played a fair amount of the demo and greatly enjoyed my time with it, so purchasing it was a guarantee for me. I’ve spent about a dozen hours in the game so far as of this article, and I’m having a blast. With the healthy amount of options it provides, maps, sandbox mode, and modding support, there is a lot to enjoy.
At its heart, Urbek is a voxel-based city builder that focuses on resource management and careful layouts rather than any survival mechanics. The little people who end up living in your growing cities don’t really care about surviving, so that’s one less thing you need to worry about. Urbek is more of a puzzle game than anything else, and it’s a solid one. It’s not an Early Access game either: everything is available from the beginning; a complete experience with more to come. The developer is both active and a delight to talk to, always a benefit!
Instead of researching technologies and buildings like other similar games, Urbek’s things unlock through organic gameplay. Different building layouts and requirements will gradually unlock new, more advanced systems as the game progresses.
Urbek’s graphics are gorgeous for the genre. Voxel graphics are always cool to have in a game and I love how the game looks and feels to play. There’s even a first-person mode of sorts, where you can zoom in at ground level and explore the little cities on foot with a great camera to explore the work you’ve built. While there’s a lot to process, Urbek’s interactive tutorial goes a long way to help. It has a difficulty curve, but there are plenty of different ways to tweak that. Want a relaxing experience? That’s fine! There are higher difficulty modes, and boy they can be a challenge.
There’s something for everyone, and the more I play Urbek, the more I like it. It has a phenomenal price point for what you get, delivering a powerful package. Few city builders come out of the gates swinging, but Urbek is one of them.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was one of those games which exploded at the right time. It was released just as most of the world went into lockdown during the first surge of the Covid pandemic, and it really took the world by storm early on. It was so successful that I can’t help but wonder if Nintendo planned this all along… I’m joking, of course. If I’m found later with an apple in my mouth and dead, you’ll know why. While I enjoyed the game plenty during 2020, I eventually got bored of it and stopped playing it.
*Falls under the onslaught of angry Animal Crossing fans*
Well, imagine Animal Crossing in Australia, and you get Dinkum! The work of a solo developer, I first learned about Dinkum through browsing Youtube channels. Several amazing channels cover indie games, such as Nookrium, SplatterCatGaming, and The Scarlett Seeker. I’ve got links to these great content creators, go check them out!
Back onto Dinkum, I picked up the game after checking out the gameplay, and I’m already getting hooked. It’s great to have a game like Animal Crossing for the PC, and so far, people seem to agree. Dinkum sits with ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ reviews on Steam, and it’s rapidly gaining the attention it deserves.
This might be one of the ‘earliest’ Early Impressions I’ve done on a game, but I wanted to quickly chat about it. It’s a weird smoothie of Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley with Minecraft-like graphics and physics, and it’s just as cool to play as it sounds. While the game is in Early Access, there’s already plenty of content. One of the things which pissed me off about New Horizons was how limited the multiplayer was. Well, Dinkum has you covered on that. Almost everything which can be done in single-player can be done in multi-player, apart from moving to their island. Progression is still an issue, but the development has that in mind with an impressive roadmap for future updates. I haven’t tried out the multiplayer yet, but I’m excited to try it as soon as I convince some friends to pick up the game!
Boasting a lovely graphics tileset, the game plays and runs rather well. Assisted by a lovely granny character who focuses more on helping you relax, with no pressure, the game slowly eases the player into its dense depths, which oozes charm with all the Aussie goodness. With terraforming, crafting, fishing, hunting, farming, and vehicles, there’s plenty to see and do with a learning curve that’s gentle to experience.
There are a couple of things that do need work though. While this runs well on the Steam Deck, the current lack of Steam Cloud support is a bummer. I want to pick it up and play on the go and right now, the only way to keep saves constantly is to backup and replace save files, which does get frustrating. Apparently, a fix for this is in the works, so I’m looking forward to that! As an Early Access game, there are the usual quirks like bugs and the like, but so far I’ve found nothing which stands out as game-breaking for me.
Chill games are all the rage, and the more I delve into Dinkum’s contents, the more it impresses me. To all Animal Crossing fans who might want to try something similar for the PC, Dinkum will scratch that itch and then some.
That’s all for now. It might be a little early for me to talk about Dinkum with how little I’ve put into it, but it’s impressed me so much that I’m happy to discuss it. I’ll write up a more concise review once I have more time in the game.
As 2022 advances, more and more great indie games reveal themselves to the world, and it’s a delight to play them. I started the Indie Corner series on this website late last year, and now we’re on Episode 15! It’s wonderful to explore the gaming world. To anyone who says they are bored or disillusioned with certain gaming trends, I urge them to go off the garden path. In the wild forests of the gaming scene, you can find some true gems.