The Steam Games Festival: Summer Edition

During June, Steam featured a selection of free demos for upcoming games as part of The Steam Games Festival: Summer Edition which ran alongside the Steam Summer Sale. During this time, myself and WesleyWhale decided to try out a handful of games to write about, however, this handful quickly became two handfuls and before long, it turned into a list as long as my arm. In the  end, we settled on a list of 12 games to try (all displayed in the header) consisting of a variety of styles and genres. After playing through each of the demos, we wrote all about our experiences in this post with a couple of screenshots to accompany our reviews. So, let’s get started!


Spiritfarer

Developer & Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
Release Date: 2020
Demo Length: ~45 minutes
“Spiritfarer is a cozy management game about dying. As ferrymaster to the deceased, build a boat to explore the world, care for your spirit friends, and guide them across mystical seas to finally release them into the afterlife. What will you leave behind?”
Steam Store

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Skylar-Mei: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this demo. I’ve had my eye on Spiritfarer for few months and the demo confirmed my interest in the game as I believe it really displayed its contents well without giving too much away.

WesleyWhale: I don’t usually play games like this, but I did find Spiritfarer to be quite enjoyable. The crafting/farming system seemed competent from what we saw in the demo and I liked the idea of having these tasks to occupy yourself whilst waiting to arrive at your next destination.

Skylar-Mei: I really liked that about it too. As well as crafting, you also had to build homes for new passengers and complete certain quests for them. Each passenger also has requirements such as hunger management, mood meters, and you can even give them a nice hug. Weather changes are also much appreciated.

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Skylar-Mei: I also loved the local co-op feature (including Steam Remote Play Together) as I did not expect a game of this genre to accommodate such a thing. Player 1 controlled Stella, while the 2nd player controlled fluffy kitty companion Daffodil, both being able to interact with anything in the world equally. I especially adored Daffodil’s animations, but overall the animations were wonderful and the hand-drawn design was incredibly pleasing to look at.

WesleyWhale: Spiritfarer does have a very appealing aesthetic and the animations were very smooth. I think this game shows potential and could do well with a casual audience, however, to keep my interest it would have to have some interesting events or diversions to prevent the game from feeling stale.

Added to the Wishlist?

Skylar Mei: Yes. I’d added it previously, but it’s definitely staying there!

WesleyWhale: No. As I’d mentioned before, this game isn’t for me so it won’t be going on my wishlist, however, I could imagine myself playing it with Skylar-Mei if she was to buy it.


The Iron Oath

Developer: Curious Panda Games, Publisher: Humble Games
Release Date: 2020
Demo Length: ~20 minutes
“The Iron Oath is a turn-based tactical RPG within a medieval fantasy setting. Lead, recruit and manage a band of mercenaries who will age, retire and die. Fulfill contracts over decades and centuries, and build your company’s renown while navigating an ever-changing world.”
Steam Store

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WesleyWhale: A pretty solid demo which shows off the dungeon crawling and enemy encounter aspects of the game. The Iron Oath‘s combat seems deep and engaging with a strong focus on strategy. In the demo, we got to see 3 mercenaries; each of them were well designed, had diverse loadouts and synergised well together.

Skylar-Mei: The turn based combat was easy to grasp but I imagine it will take some time to master as you have limited resources per run. The demo only included a very short run containing 3 separate enemy encounters, but I can honestly see The Iron Oath having the potential to be huge due to the nature of the content and a few hints from the synopsis.

WesleyWhale: The game boasts in-depth management mechanics as you take control of the mercenary company, overseeing the logistics, finances and politics as the game progresses. Unfortunately, the demo did not display this feature but it does sound very impressive and could make things interesting.

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Skylar-Mei: We did also witness a small chunk of the choice making and time progression feature which generates boons randomly depending on how you manage your time within the dungeon. It’s a shame the demo was so short as it sounds like The Iron Oath has a lot more to offer with a handful of intriguing mechanics.

Added to the Wishlish?

WesleyWhale: Yes. This game has definitely piqued my interest. I have added it to my wishlist, but I’m not sold just yet. I’d like to see more of the game first.

Skylar-Mei: Yes. The detailed pixel art initially caught my attention and the demo definitely shows promise. This isn’t my typical genre, but if they can pull of the management aspects then I’d be willing to give it a go. I’ll be keeping my eye on it.


Chinatown Detective Agency

Developer & Publisher: General Interactive Co.
Release Date: Early 2021
Demo Length: ~50 minutes
“Chinatown Detective Agency is a cybernoir point and click adventure blending stunning retro design with innovative mechanics. Manage your detective agency and use real world research to solve cases as you unravel a global conspiracy.”
Steam Store

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Skylar-Mei: A point and click mystery game is usually right up my street, but this one needs some work. Firstly, the voice cast just needs to go. Chinatown Detective Agency‘s  demo was partially voiced (very amateurly), but the silent sections definitely suited the style of the game more. Secondly, the left hand sidebar should be retractable as it’s a massive eyesore and I didn’t even use it once throughout the whole 50 minutes. Thirdly, even though the puzzle mechanics certainly fit the description of ‘innovative’, “Google-it, The Game” was not what I had in mind.

WesleyWhale: It’s a shame really because the ‘real world research’ concept does seem like an interesting idea, but the two puzzles in the demo did just require you to “AltTab” out of the game and do a quick web search to find the answer – there wasn’t much detective work going on. Concerning gameplay elements, Chinatown Detective Agency falls back on the use of minigames, and not even good ones at that. Picking Pairs? How exciting…

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Skylar-Mei: The puzzles / minigames were very inconsequential. We tested this mechanic to see what happened if you failed, the result being a risk-free “Try Again” request, making the whole idea feel like an unnecessary obstacle. Booking flights and managing the protagonist’s endurance were other elements to the game that were more frustrating than impactful, so to sum up Chinatown Detective Agency, all I can say is that it made me feel pretty irritated. Aside from the gameplay, I really liked the visual appearance of the game with the pixel style and the music was also very suitable, however, I would not describe the game as a traditional point and click adventure, more like a mystery puzzle game.

Added to the Wishlist?

WesleyWhale: No, The game wasn’t engaging, it lacked any sort of charm and substance. Overall it just seemed very uninteresting.

Skylar-Mei: No. Certain aspects such as the setting, map design and music reminded me a lot of Tokyo Dark, but as I found way more I disliked about the game than I enjoyed, I will not be adding Chinatown Detective Agency to my wishlist. It’s a shame because I really wanted to like this game.


Shady Knight

Developer & Publisher: Alexey ‘cptnsigh’
Release Date: TBA
Demo Length: ~15 minutes
“Shady Knight is a first-person melee action game full of dynamic interactive fights and fluid platforming. You’ll run through high towers tearing your enemies apart, kicking them on spikes or fire, jumping from their heads, nailing to the walls with swords and arrows in a freestyle close combats.”
Steam Store

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WesleyWhale: Shady Knight surpassed my expectations for how fun a game can be. All the elements of gameplay blend together seamlessly to create an exciting and extremely satisfying experience. The super smooth platforming compliments the fast-paced action, the overall pacing of the game is spot on and the skill based combat system is deeply rewarding. It takes some getting used to, but as you learn the mechanics of the game and get into the swing of things you’re free to get creative.

Skylar-Mei: Wesley must have played this demo at least three times. Although I didn’t play it myself as this fast paced style of gameplay doesn’t suit me, I enjoyed watching Wesley have a whale of a time rampaging his way up the tower throwing kicks, barrels and the occasional sword in all directions. It’s a shame the screenshots don’t do the game justice as you can’t capture the fast pace in a still image (I recommend watching a video for this one).

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WesleyWhale: There was a surprising amount of variety to the combat despite the game’s very simple controls. There’s definitely a good amount of replay value here as there are so many ways to beat each stage, I think would make entertaining speedrun material.

Added to the Wishlist?

Skylar-Mei: No. Personally, I would not play a game of this genre and I didn’t particularly like the way it looked either, although it certainly seems to play fluidly from what I witnessed from Wesley’s multiple playthroughs.

WesleyWhale: Yes. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else Shady Knight has to offer. I’ll likely snatch this one up as soon as it’s released.


Eastern Exorcist

Developer: wildfiregame, Publisher: bilibili
Release Date: 2020
Demo Length: ~30 minutes
“Eastern Exorcist is a stunning 2D side-scrolling action RPG set in a fictitious eastern world with the infestation of vicious demon monsters. Play as a skilled exorcist against chaotic evil to fight your way through the brutal world, and experience unforeseen entanglements of complex beings.”
Steam Store

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Skylar-Mei: I had fun with this one. Eastern Exorcist‘s side scrolling, hack and slash combat was pretty enjoyable and easy to grasp. I feel like it does have a learning curve in order to master the special moves and it takes some practice to pull of those perfect parries, but this contributes to the whole experience.

WesleyWhale: Once you get used to the parry timings, the combat system feels much more rewarding and I liked the magical abilities the protagonist had to compliment the swordplay. To summarise, the combat is of good quality with only real issue being the stamina management. Stamina seemed to drain far too quickly and took too long to regenerate, and despite it being clear that this was for balance reasons, it killed the pace of the skirmishes.

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Skylar-Mei: Aside from the stamina issues, the combat was fluid and the protagonist’s animations were smooth. However, the animations for the enemies within the game were a little clunky, moving somewhat like puppets as apposed to fearsome monsters which negatively contrasted to the flow of the main character. The art style is beautiful and I’m looking forward to seeing more stylish backdrops as the story progresses. I will also add that the entire game is voiced in Chinese with English subtitles (in case that puts anybody off).

Added to the Wishlist?

WesleyWhale: No. I think this looks like a decent game, but it just didn’t interest me all that much. Eastern Exorcist seems very linear and that’s not what I would typically look for in this sort of game.

Skylar-Mei: Yes. I enjoyed the demo and I’m interested to see more. I’ll admit it needs a little work in places, but I think this could be an enjoyable game if the combat pacing is analysed.


Lamentum

Developer & Publisher: Obscure Games
Release Date: 2020
Demo Length: ~1 hour
“Lamentum is a pixel art survival horror game, set in New England in the mid-nineteenth century.”
Steam Store

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WesleyWhale: Lamentum drew me in with it’s New England horror setting and themes of the occult. I was intrigued so decided to give it a go despite knowing full well that I don’t typically enjoy indie horror games… Lamentum helped me remember why I don’t typically enjoy indie horror games. The majority of the gameplay involved walking around a big empty house, picking up items, shoving them into your special pocket and rubbing said items together in the hopes that it might somehow let you progress with the story. This is tedious enough as it is, but combined with the games inventory management system, the whole experience felt like a chore.

Skylar-Mei: The inventory management was unnecessary. It destroyed the whole pace of the game as you didn’t know what random assortment of rammel you might need (or how much inventory space was required) in the near future until you came across your next item. Due to the lack of special pocket space, this made backtracking to your little storage room a common feature which became incredibly boring very quickly.

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Wesley-Whale: This wouldn’t have been so bad if the game had any sort of lasting atmosphere. The demo didn’t contain anything that could really be classed as a threat. For the most part, the monsters seemed to potter about the hallways aimlessly, being no more than an annoyance as you try to path your way around them and the monsters we’d been introduced too weren’t all that interesting. Everything Lamentum‘s demo had to offer was pretty generic.

Skylar-Mei: The trailer for the game actually looks like it has a lot going for it so I’m surprised at how plain the demo ended up being. The whole thing was a complete drag, whether we’re talking about the emptiness, the lack of direction or the dull enemies encountered along the way, I failed to note any redeeming qualities. I feel as though the demo would have been much better off being 20 minutes of a later section, showcasing a more interesting location with creative enemies like what is shown in the trailer. Basically, if you have any interest in Lamentum: Don’t play the demo!

Added to the Wishlist?

WesleyWhale: No. I really do feel like Lamentum has much more to offer but it would have to do something spectacular to make up for the flaws we’d come across in the demo. Call me cynical, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Skylar-Mei: No. The demo really let my overall opinion of Lamentum down, but I honestly think that I might stumble across this game in the future and add it to my wishlist purely because I completely forgot all about the demo.


Cris Tales

Developer: Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK, Publisher: Modus Games
Release Date: 17th November 2020
Demo Length: ~40mins
“Play the debut demo now! Cris Tales is a gorgeous, indie love letter to classic JRPGs with a new perspective. Peer into the past, act in the present, and watch as your choices dynamically change the future — all on one screen as you play!”
Steam Store

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Skylar-Mei: Cris Tales‘ art style instantly drew me in with the vivid colours and overall design, as well as the interesting concept of past, present and future time zones. The game revolves around impacting something in the present to effect the past or the future, using this to create unique puzzles by briefly sending your companion, Matias, into each of these two other time zones. After playing the demo, I found the design to be a little overpowering, especially when the time split was present on the screen as there was always a lot going on.

WesleyWhale: The art and sound design were well executed, it was just lacking in the game design department, however, the demo didn’t really have much to show. It was essentially all tutorial followed by one puzzle and one combat sequence, both of which were mostly unimpressive.

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Skylar-Mei: I disliked that the exact same fight scene was used twice, once right at the beginning, and again in progression with the story. This was very tedious and unnecessary as the turn based combat system was simple (edging on boring), it’s not like it involved something that needed to be addressed straight away. To game’s credit the animations were smooth and I appreciated that it was fully voiced, although I personally didn’t like the theatrical style used.

Added to the Wishlist?

WesleyWhale: No. Not really much to say here, I just wasn’t interested.

Skylar-Mei: No. I really didn’t like Cris Tales‘ combat design and the demo wasn’t as interesting as I was hoping it to be. I don’t think this game is for me.


Rustler

Developer: Jutsu Games, Publisher: Games Operators
Release Date: “When the time comes”
Demo Length: ~50 minutes
“Become a medieval thug in a crazy open-world action game, full of pop-culture references. Complete insane quests, kill heroes, steal horses, fight guards, rob peasants and more! All packed in old-school gameplay style!”
Steam Store

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WesleyWhale: Rustler is a GTA inspired, open-world sandbox game that takes place in a historically inaccurate, Medieval setting. If you’re looking for a high-brow title, then this isn’t the game for you as its immature, tongue in cheek humour is one of the main focuses. Although it’s comedy falls flat at times, I found the game’s unwillingness to take itself seriously quite charming.

Skylar-Mei: I was briefly reminded of Graveyard Keeper due to the type of humour scripted into the game, but there are some unique little things included such as the horse parking bays and the bards playing dance music with their lutes which greatly contributed to its design. The world seemed a bit on the empty side, but if side quests and random encounter events are added, I’m sure it’ll be filled out just fine.

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WesleyWhale: The empty world was an issue. The demo had a series of short quests which were fine, but after those had been completed and you’ve beaten up a few bards, there wasn’t anything left to do. Of course, a sandbox game needs to be filled with diversions to keep the player entertained.  I have a suspicion that the developers fully intend to do this in the final build, but unfortunately we didn’t see any of that in the demo.

Added to the Wishlist?

Skylar-Mei: No. Rustler isn’t the type of game I would play myself, however, I’d probably watch Wesley play it if he was to buy it.

WesleyWhale: No. I will be keeping my eye on this one, but my concern is that there won’t be enough hours of gameplay. If, on it’s release, Rustler‘s open world looks to be full of content then I’ll consider it.


Children of Silentown

Developer: Elf Games / Luna2 Studio, Publisher: Elf Games
Release Date: Coming Soon
Demo Length: ~25 minutes
“Children of Silentown is a dark adventure game that tells the story of Lucy, a young girl growing up in a village deep into a forest inhabited by monsters. People disappearing is nothing uncommon in the village, but this time, Lucy is old enough to investigate on her own. Or so she thinks.”
Steam Store

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Skylar-Mei: Children of Silentown is a mystery point and click adventure game featuring the collection of different sounds to form melodies in order to unlock different abilities for the protagonist, Lucy. The demo was very basic with very minimal gameplay interactions and the melody section of the game was barely even shown despite this appearing to be a main feature.

WesleyWhale: Where to I begin? I don’t think there was a single aspect of this game that I liked. The few puzzles in the demo were incredibly obvious and showed a lack of imagination, the music consisted of short, repeated loops of melancholic plinky-plonk on a very roomy piano. As for the art design, the characters were very generic and the colour palate used was bland with the backdrops mainly coloured beige. I wouldn’t say that the content we saw was objectively bad in any way, but I didn’t think it was good either.

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Skylar-Mei: The demo was rather forgettable, but I think it does have some potential. We momentarily witnessed the town after dark where the atmosphere changed and actually did feel somewhat spooky although this was short-lived. Unfortunately, the content displayed in the demo was essentially a really dull tutorial, not showcasing much of the game at all and I felt like this let it down. From what we’ve seen, Children of Silentown did seem fairly interesting, but not intriguing enough to grab my attention.

Added to the Wishlist?

WesleyWhale: No. Boring/10, will not wishlist.

Skylar-Mei: No. Although I feel like the puzzles will get more complex, I don’t think it will be enough to convince me after experiencing the demo. There’s games I’d much rather play instead.


Ghostrunner

Developer: One More Level / 3D Realms / Slipgate Ironworks, Publisher: All in! Games
Release Date: 2020
Demo Length: ~12 mins
“Ascend humanity’s last remaining shelter, a great tower-city. The tower is torn by violence, poverty and chaos. Conquer your enemies, discover the secrets of the superstructure and your own origin and obtain the power to challenge The Keymaster.”
Steam Store

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WesleyWhale: Ghostrunner is a fast paced, first person, action game that aims to combine simple swordplay with fluid parkour platforming. From what we’ve seen of the demo, the core of the gameplay is straightforward. You, the player character (presumably a ghost?), run, jump, swing and slide your way across a detailed cyberpunk world, dodging bullets and cutting your way through enemies.

Skylar-Mei: There’s clearly a major focus on the graphics with a strong setting and some great lighting, but at this stage, I feel like the world is a little on the bland side at times. The map design could have been more interesting with different routes to take rather than just following the signs through the area so I’d hope to see more variety in the finished game. The default settings also piled on the motion blur (which we’re really not a fan of), but after we turned this off, the world looked so much better even though it did appear to slow the pace down slightly.

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WesleyWhale: I think it goes without saying that Ghostrunner was the most graphically impressive of all the demos we have played and it was very nice to look at. The music and sound design was also superb, but unfortunately, I don’t think I could say the same thing about the gameplay. The platforming felt a little uninspired, the best way to describe it would probably be a more streamlined and intuitive Mirror’s Edge. This doesn’t sound so bad but making the gameplay this way takes away the element that makes it involving, so what you’re left with is a platforming system that is pretty boring to use.

Added to the Wishlist?

Skylar-Mei: No. Like I said with Shady Knight, this genre isn’t my cup of tea. The graphics look rather impressive, but that’s not enough to win my over this time.

WesleyWhale: No. As I previously mentioned, I wasn’t wowed by the gameplay. Personally, I can’t see this game keeping me entertained for more than and hour or so.


8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure

Developer: Rootless Studio, Publisher: NEOWIZ
Release Date: TBA
Demo Length: ~80 minutes
“8Doors is Metroidvania style 2D action platformer game based on Korean afterlife world view. Explore 8 different area of purgatory by becoming the main character ‘Arum’. Solve the mystery of happening on purgatory through fight against the specter and lead fugitive souls to the right path.”
Steam Store

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Skylar-Mei: 8Doors: Arums Afterlife Adventure is a Metroidvania style platformer containing puzzles, action and unlockable abilities throughout a vast map. The demo was much larger than I expected despite purposely skipping a few of the free roam routes and secrets along the way, but this demo provided a good chunk of gameplay to really get a feel for it. Personally, I really enjoyed a lot of aspects, but I think the main selling point for me was the purgatory setting with the simplistic colour scheme and art design. The music when entering a building also gave me Spirited Away vibes.

WesleyWhale: The setting of 8Doors was mired in themes of theology which was fitting because the game was as ugly as sin. It was definitely my least favourite of the games we played in terms of aesthetics, but visuals aside, 8Doors is guilty of a far greater sin, an unforgivable sin… bad controls. It’s always difficult to describe bad controls, but something about the platforming just felt ‘off’ which made it very hard to have any sort of fun while traversing through the world. Having said that, credit where credit is due, it is a functioning game (which is more than I can say about other games we played during this event).

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Skylar-Mei: I think Wesley is being a little harsh here, but I can agree to some extent that 8Doors does have it’s faults. The combat wasn’t anything particularly impressive and the most challenging thing about the boss fights came down to them not displaying health bars (which is unlocked through the perk tree… why?). I didn’t have much of an issue with the controls as such, but I found the dash awkward as it seemed to cut short. If you didn’t place yourself perfectly in front of obstacles, you would be damaged while passing through them – I’d very much like to see this revised. I really enjoyed this demo overall, and I’m interested to see what more it has to offer as more perks and abilities are unlocked the further game progresses.

Added to the Wishlist?

WesleyWhale: No. Better than a kick in the stick, but I’d rather avoid both.

Skylar-Mei: Yes. I’m looking forward to 8Doors. I found the demo gameplay straightforward but enjoyable and I can see myself playing this game when it’s released.


FAITH: The Unholy Trinity

Developer: Airdorf Games, Publisher: New Blood Interactive
Release Date: Soon
“What you are about to do has not been approved by the Vatican. As a young priest, struggle against demons, insane cultists, and your own weakening faith in this pixel horror game inspired by the era of classic 8-bit gaming and the “Satanic Scare” of the 1980s.”
Steam Store

FAITH ###

Due to FAITH: The Unholy Trinity being a 3 part series, this review will obviously be a lot longer. For this reason, we’ve decided to feature FAITH in a completely separate post covering all three instalments of the game! The first game is available right now and you can get it for free on Steam.


Top 3!

After all that, here’s our individual top 3 from the 12 games we covered:

Skylar-Mei:

1. Spiritfarer

2. 8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure

3. Eastern Exorcist

WesleyWhale:

1. Shady Knight

2. FAITH: The Unholy Trinity

3. The Iron Oath


We hope you found some of these reviews interesting and that maybe at least one of these games made it to your Wishlist. If you played any other demos during The Steam Games Festival that we didn’t get round to covering on this list, please let us know in the comments about your favourite/s!

Thanks for reading!

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