We're right in the middle of the summer slump, but that just means it's time to learn what's coming up next. It's been a season of big-time AAA showcases, but my eye is, as always, on the smaller titles coming out of Next Fest.
This crop includes a lot of games that the well-aware consumer knows already, now accompanied by brand-new demos. However, there are a few very interesting titles to keep an eye on, including several scheduled for release in the not-too-distant future. Here are just a few of the more interesting releases to grace the Summer festival.
Alien Hominid was a three-minute Flash game that was eventually turned into Behemoth's inaugural commercial release but has since vanished into the shadow of Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theater. It's a shame that more people didn't get the chance to play that game, but they'll soon get the chance to play its modernized version.
Invasion takes Alien Hominid's Metal Slug-inspired gameplay and pushes it in a roguelike direction, presenting the player with a randomized mission map and a range of upgrades. It's engineered for co-op, too, so up to three friends can join you on your quest to bite off every human head in sight.
For a sketch in a notebook, a leaky roof is a potentially apocalyptic event. Such is the fate facing Stick, a little figure left unfinished by his creator and then forgotten. As Stick, your goal is to collect the genetic memories that link you to the artist and the rest of her creations, while also restoring sense to the soggy doodles who've been rendered feral by the depletion of their ink.
Combining dodgeball-esque mechanics with a charming, whimsical story supplemented by FMVs, Ink Inside could be an interesting experience for anyone looking for something different in their RPGs.
As deck builders continue to take over Steam, new developers have had to find new innovations to stand apart from the crowd. Some recently announced titles have swapped out cards for dice, but Astrea adds an additional wrinkle.
Astrea features themes of corruption and purification, and this is integrated into the combat system. Blue purification dice are used to inflict damage, while red corruption dice will hurt the player instead. But for the risk-taking player, intentionally taking on corruption dice can unlock powerful new abilities at the cost of a shorter life. Resist the lure of destruction or embrace it - the choice is yours.
Swashbuckling hasn't been a discrete genre in film for a very long time, and it's never been a big part of video games. That means, alas, we've missed out on generations of games featuring clever, whimsical heroes hopping onto tables and slicing down chandeliers onto their hapless foes.
So it's refreshing to see En Garde bring some of that charm back to an action space that's in dire need of a sense of humor. Taking control of the Zorro-inspired Adalia de Volador, the player must fight against an army of witless goons using a combination of timing-based swordplay and environmental attacks.
I didn't exactly need Next Fest to tell me about Sea of Stars - any throwback RPG fan has had this one on their radar since it was announced. But if you'll forgive the indulgence, I really do need to gush about this game for a paragraph.
Sea of Stars is clearly inspired by Chrono Trigger (complete with a guest appearance from Chrono composer Yasunori Mitsuda), but this is no "spiritual successor" - it is its own game. Featuring a dynamic combat system, a distinctive art style that weds classic pixel art with modern graphical flourishes, and lots of side content, Sea of Stars is the most impressive JRPG to come down the pike in a while.
Continuing the theme started with Astrea, TactiCube is a "deck builder" where the deck is composed of dice. This time, though, the game goes in a completely different, more tactical direction.
Taking place on a cubic battlefield, the player uses their dice to manipulate the tiles in order to defeat the construction automatons of the ruthlessly ambitious Queen Azanbo. Some tile types damage the robots directly, while others push them into hazards or each other's attacks. TactiCube has definite Into the Breach vibes, but the 3D battlefield adds a new strategic twist.
If you're at all familiar with my writing, you'll know that I'm a bit of a fan of Paradox Interactive, with Europa Universalis being my default fallback when I have nothing else going on. But I know that most people lack the time (and, frankly, the desire) to get into a strategy game with 40+ hour campaigns.
The good folks at Paradox hear you, and for those of you in more of a hurry, you will soon have Stellaris Nexus. Thematically tied to the sci-fi grand strategy game Stellaris, Stellaris Nexus is a multiplayer-oriented simultaneous turn-based game that Paradox promises can be completed in as little as an hour.
Finally, a reminder that in the world of indie games, nothing is too obscure to resurface. For those of you not familiar, Toxic Crusaders was a children's cartoon inexplicably based on the gory Troma cult classic Toxic Avenger. There was a series of games based on the show (as there were for most cartoons of that era), and thirty years later we're getting another one.
The new Toxic Crusaders is a side-scrolling beat-'em-up with a story that follows directly from the end of the cartoon series. While it will obviously appeal to fans of the show, the developers promise that familiarity with Toxic Crusaders isn't necessary to enjoy the game. Really, anyone with a taste for early 90's cheese (and isn't that all of us) will find something to like.
So those are just some of the best games I saw at this latest iteration of Steam Next Fest. Let us know in the comments what titles are on your radar!
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