Six Months On - My Time with the Steam Deck
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Welcome back to a new episode of the Indie Corner!
Christmas and New Year ended up being incredibly busy for me gaming-wise. I picked up a bunch of games in the sales, and amazing friends got me some great games, not including Persona 5 Royal, Harvestella, and Two Point Campus. These are all games I’ve wanted to play for ages, least of all Persona 5.
Out of all of them, Persona 5: Royal is probably the most special to me. I never got the chance to play it at release. After waiting years for Atlus to get their act together and release the Persona series on Steam, it’s a great moment for us all. I’m playing Persona 5: Royal on the Steam Deck, and it runs like a charm.
So, I’ve got a ton of games to play and review! On today’s episode of the Indie Corner, I’ll be covering two awesome little gems. It’s taken me longer than expected to write up my thoughts; the story of my life the last few weeks!
Winter Falling: Battle Tactics
I was able to grab an interview with Winter Falling’s developer in December, and you can check that out by clicking on the link here:
Winter Falling is a fascinating little strategy game. We need more titles that focus on military tactics and logistics; something which is woefully short in most games. TV shows can do a much better job at that; seeing all the bullshit from Game of Throne’s awful grasp of logistics annoyed me almost as much as the character assassinations. Yeah, the later seasons of that show still anger me to this day.
Winter Falling focuses on tricky tactical battles, managing resources, and roaming the twisted landscape. The developer describes it as a mix between FTL and Total War. It’s available in Early Access for £8.50/10 USD, a decent price tag for what you get. There’s a campaign mode, map editor, and mod support, although Steam Workshop support is planned future down the line.
On the surface, Winter Falling doesn’t look like all that much. The graphics are basic and won’t win any awards, but the battle maps get the job done, and I was drawn into the strategic aspects of combat. You see, you can’t just order your troops around free with the powers of a demigod. It requires careful use of messenger pigeons, and scouting is vital to scope out enemy forces. Messengers provide orders to the many types of units the game offers to the player, allowing them to carry out formation changes, special abilities, and movements.
These have a cooldown, so once they’re used up, you must wait to use them again. This is an impressive mechanic I’ve rarely seen in strategy games, and it makes sense. In the old days, it was difficult for armies to communicate because of magical things such as time and distance, so it takes great lines of communication for commanders to give troops their orders. It’s lovely to have this in a real-time strategy game, and I wish more games had this mechanic.
This is a challenging game, both in battle and on the campaign map. The main campaign feels like a mix of Mount and Blade as well as Battle Brothers, giving the player a solid tutorial to learn the ropes. With a large map to explore, troops to hire, and food to manage, there’s a sizable chunk of content to digest. For an Early Access release, I’m having fun. The game is full of heart.
There are a few bugs I’ve experienced, such as crashing after a battle ends (I’ve had that crash a couple of times with no explanation why), and sometimes I’ve run into problems when quests don’t complete properly. These are things that need fixing. I’d also love to see more things happen in the campaign map, like more dynamic events or enemy factions battling it out. For the price point, however, this is a competent strategy game if you’re willing to overlook some bugs.
A competent strategy game with a competitive price tag
Some bugs and glitches
An addictive mix of tactics and sandbox
The campaign could be more dynamic
Explores communication in battle rarely seen in similar games
Steam Workshop support not implemented yet
In this industry, we often hear the phrase: This game is as wide as an ocean but deep as a puddle. It’s usually to describe games like Skyrim, Fallout 4, and No Man’s Sky. You know. How do they have massive open worlds to explore, but everything feels shallow? While I always felt it was just an excuse to beat them with a stick, it’s not an incorrect description of them. Open-world games in recent years have suffered from saturation. They might be gigantic and pretty to explore, but few have genuinely exciting areas to experience.
I’ve been drawn to smaller, deeper experiences in recent years. The opposite phrase of this is “Wide as a puddle, but deep as an ocean.” Outer Wilds is a perfect example. Despite its fairly small open world, it’s a world full of secrets. It’s one of the best games ever made. Other great examples are Deus Ex Mankind Divided with its dense, hub world and my personal GOTY from 2022, the incredible Ctrl Alt Ego.
When I first played the demo of Space Wreck last year, I knew that it had the potential to fit my tastes. While the game’s world is tiny, it’s packed with content and things to explore, with multiple angles of approach. After getting my hands on the demo, I spent a while chatting with the developers. These guys are awesome, and you can check out my interview with them down below:
What I love about it is that the developers focused on replayability and character choice. There is an insane amount of different builds a player can spec into, with many different ways of completing objectives. Space Wreck doesn’t waste your time. There’s no bloat. True, the game has its fair share of bugs, but the ambition and detail that’s gone into Space Wreck are astonishing. Combat is optional too, which is a bonus.
The plot is simple. The player’s character has a damaged ship on a messed up space station. The goal? To leave. Pretty basic as plots go, but there’s plenty to do to leave. There are many different characters with their personalities and quirks, multiple levels of the station to explore, and a treasure trove of potential interactions; the amount of stuff the player can do is mind-boggling. Different character builds can drastically change a playthrough. In my first one, I went for an ugly, socially awkward genius who could hack anything. He was a wiz with technology and robots, but he was so uncharismatic that nobody wanted to talk to him. As you can imagine, that made some challenges!
I’ve run into a few bugs. I had one crash while trying to negotiate my way past a very irritating robot, which erased ten minutes of progress. This wasn’t a big issue, although you cannot reload saves in Space Wreck. While the game allows you to save pretty much whenever you want, I do wish there was a way to reload. This doesn’t bother me as much as it would in other games, however. This was a natural decision to prevent save scumming: understandable in a game as deep and wide as this. That encourages future playthroughs!
Space Wreck may be short, but there’s a ton of depth packed into this little, sci-fi sandbox. It’s in Early Access, but the complete game is already available. The developers plan on taking this cycle to make important bug fixes and flesh out the overall experience. I’m a little sad Space Wreck didn’t come out sooner. I’d likely make my Top 10 Early Access list for 2022.
Many different playstyles and ways to approach challenges that reward multiple playthroughs
A single playthrough can be rather short
Intelligent writing and believable characters
Some bugs and glitches: Early Access
Great value for money
The interface could use some improvements
That’s all for today! It’s taking me some time to work through the 2022 review backlog, but I’m having fun. Still got a bunch of games to cover such as Scarlet Hollow, Shadows Over Loathing, and SubROV, but that’s only a few.