Space explor-o-build-emup, Astroneer, exited Steam’s Early Access program and it’s still as cool as ever if you’re interested in mostly calmly exploring unknown worlds, building new things on them, and then occasionally running low on oxygen.
Mike Williams enjoyed Astroneer for it’s chill nature:
In terms of the survival genre, Astroneer is definitely on the soft side of things. The leisurely pace of Astroneer puts it closer to a game like Stardew Valley-it feels like the little brother of the current version of No Man’s Sky at times-giving you a series of tasks that push you toward an end goal. The primary focus is exploration, as you push out further from wherever your shelter is located. The planets you find yourself on are randomly-generated; a series of bright, colorful alien landscapes. Mountains, plains of swaying grass, and odd-looking trees stretch out in every direction in neon greens, oranges, and blues. Astroneer looks inviting and fun, and your lone explorer bounding across the landscape never diminishes that.
I’ve had fun with Astroneer as well, but I found that the text could be a little tiny when displayed on a TV, that’s with the Windows version on Steam (or via a key on Humble). Astroneer is also available on the Xbox One. Both versions are $30.
Developer hacker training simulator, EXAPUNKS, has exited Steam’s Early Access program for games that aren’t ready for the spotlight yet.
Typical development courses are about learning “big data” and rust and other modern baloney, Zachtronics’ EXAPUNKS is about pulling off hacking heists to earn a cure for the phage that you were accidentally infected with. Oops!
In the early access process much has changed, Zachtronics added an animated gif recorder to save short clips of your solutions to EXAPUNKS’ programmular puzzles. They’ve also added a bonus 9-level campaign, and released a free TEC Redshift player program on Steam that lets you experience community-made homebrew games on the in-game fantasy console without owning the full EXAPUNKS game. Interestingly enough, the homebrew games are embedded in image files distributed online. It’s not quite clear how to get them, so I’ll explain here that you download the image to your computer and then drag and drop the image file into the TEC Redshift Player. Here’s an example image I found online that plays the original Gameboy Tetris music in the TEC Redshift Player.
There were many more updates in that process, and EXAPUNKS is reviewing well. Jody Macgregor enjoyed the challenge in his review for Windows Gamer.
Every time I write about EXAPUNKS, or any other Zachtronics game, I want to mention that I think they’re something special, they each inhabit a little world of their own perfectly and I love that about them even if I’m not always up to their challenge.
EXAPUNKS is $20 on Steam or through the Humble store for Windows, macOS, and Linux. There’s a temporary sale, bringing the game down to $16. The feelies that were available for pre-orders may be available directly from the developer, otherwise you’ll probably get a PDF or something with the game to read Trash World News, the in-universe zine.
Dead Cells is out of Early Access now if you’ve been waiting to check out a more finished version of it. Here’s what I said about it a year ago:
Rogue Legacy was a new style of metroidvania. It reset the castle when your character died, just like Rogue and Nethack, and randomly generated a new castle when you came back to life. Dead Cells has those generated dungeons and also changes out the progression system and combat to be somewhat Souls-like. I love the variety of weapons and effects that speak a little bit more to Symphony of the Night while the art reminds me of the Neo Geo classic, Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
I’ve played a little bit of it post-release and Dead Cells is still a very impressive game and one of my favorite post-SOTN metroidvanias. This game has that indescribably polished feel that makes it so much fun to play over and over again, learning new tricks every few runs.
Dead Cells is on Steam & gog for Windows, macOS, and Linux as well as the Switch, the Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4.
The good news first, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will exit Steam’s Early Access program in four days on the 20th (or 21st depending on your time zone) of December. The 1.0 release will have the new desert map, Miramar, among many other changes.
The Xbox One version of Battlegrounds is also out on that platform’s Game Preview program for $30, which is similar to Steam’s Early Access, but word is that performance is miserable and the port is extremely buggy to start. That’s not unheard of for a game that isn’t finished yet, and it won’t have the new desert map or reach 1.0 this year, but Microsoft is making a big deal out of the release. It’s the first thing you see on the Xbox.com website.
Eurogamer’s Richard Leadbetter:
In terms of first impressions, PUBG is borderline horrendous – an assault of low quality artwork, jarring pop-in and disappointing performance. Input lag also feels off – whether that’s down to deadzone issues on the analogue sticks or the variable frame-rate remains to be seen (it’s something we’re looking into) and in this respect at least, it’s the same story whether you’re gaming on a standard Xbox or the X.
This is one of the few exclusive games Microsoft has this year, and while supposedly the developers have been aided by Microsoft, it isn’t clear yet what is going on with this Xbox port. It’s worse than the original Windows version in Early Access.
Of course it’ll get better over time, but this could be worse than what most console players expect.
The extremely adorable Slime Rancher has exited out of Steam’s Early Access and is available on Steam for Windows, macOS, and Linux as well as on the Xbox One where it’s currently available for free to anyone who has the Xbox Live Gold subscription. Otherwise it’s $20, except for right now when it’s on sale for $13.39 on Steam.
According to Steam I’ve put in a little under 5 hours of collecting Slimes and their poop and I know that I’ve enjoyed my time with it prior to release, it’ll be fun to come back and see how it has changed.
Everyone loves games with a retro aesthetic. Even if that aesthetic isn’t very authentic, an older art style makes it possible for an indie game developer to communicate their gameplay ideas without spending all of their resources on art.
Many games choose a lo-fi art style for that reason, sometimes it’s pixely, Geneshift is another breed. Nik Nak Studios’ Ben Johnson instead chose to start developing Geneshift 8 years ago with an overhead perspective borrowed from Grand Theft Auto 2, before that series went third-person and open world.
Geneshift borrows a lot from GTA 2, the cars, the art style, and the perspective, but it also borrows from Diablo and other action-RPGs to have a single-player story alongside multiplayer. I haven’t been able to get into a game, but there appears to be a fairly large community of players on the game’s discord server.
I’ve put some time into the single player and it is clearly still early on, but it brings back some fondness for GTA2 and the game’s development is an inspiring story.
Geneshift is $10 and out now in Early Access for Windows and Linux.
Games with pieces in them similar to tetrominoes aren’t usually my thing. I like them stacked up at a similar height until they’re removed. Wacky tetrominoes that don’t clear lines or have wacky physics applied to them are even worse. You think you’re better than Alexey Pajitnov? Nah, keep trying.
Robots In The Wild, from Heatbox Games, is a kind of spin on Rampart’s strategy. Instead of overhead castle building, you’re playing the side-game. Building up structures out of tetrominoes to survive and fight back. Different combinations of tetrominoes turn into energy robots, or laser shooting robots, or lanterns for night missions, and so on. Keep the heart of your base alive for multiple nights and you’re on to the next planet with a new twist.
The whole intro sequence involves the menu talking. A talking menu. Like Talkie the Toaster but without the aggravation.
I’ve played a bit of it, and enjoyed what I’ve played so far, but not enough to give it a full review yet. It’s one of the few games that aren’t Tetris and uses those tetrominoes well.
Robots In The Wild is in Steam‘s Early Access program now for a tenner on Windows and macOS.
Developed by one human, House of the Dying Sun is a tactical space shooter in the spirit of Freespace 2 and Tie Fighter mixed with a bit of Warhammer 40k styled lore. I love killing traitors to the emperor!
It’s only available for Windows, currently, but does support the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift in addition to regular monitors. You can buy it directly from the developer’s Humble widget or on Steam. Either way it’s 2 bucks off until the 14th of June.