Early Access is a hotbed of indie development and continues to bear higher and higher quality fruit the further into its lifespan we get. It’s not, however, the best or most clearly curated service — a challenging task given the massive number of entries and the accelerating pace of new additions.
But Playsource is here to help; I’ve sifted through the Steam detritus and hand-picked a selection of the most promising new Early Access games launching this month.
The Wild Eight
Launching today, February 8th, #TheWildEight throws you on the mercy of the harsh Alaskan wilderness after a catastrophic plane crash leaves you stranded. The product of Russian developers #Fntastic (who, being headquartered in the coldest area in the north hemisphere, know a few things about harsh winter conditions), The Wild Eight challenges you to hunt for food, find shelter and warmth, and endure intense blizzards.
It features an art style reminiscent of games like #Firewatch and #TheLongDark, and promises a rich crafting system that allows players to progress through a skill tree and build shelters, clothing and tools of increasing complexity. It also focuses on a cooperative multiplayer component that will allow players to combine their efforts to tackle more complicated tasks, like the construction of proper buildings.
Perhaps most intriguing, The Wild Eight promises a full narrative that includes some mysterious, possibly paranormal elements. Players choose one of eight unique characters and can accept quests that will propel the story forward, revealing secret facilities and sprawling conspiracies concealed beneath the frozen tundra, as well as some hidden in the minds of the player characters themselves.
Continuing our winter theme, #Northgard is a Viking real-time strategy game that incorporates 4X elements like a tech tree and territory control. The game features a lovely art style that blends cartoonish elements with evocative depictions of longships and Viking warriors.
Alongside the standard RTS tropes, Northgard drops giants, undead warriors and strange portals into the mix, challenging players with harvesting resources while simultaneously fending off the terrors of this frozen northern realm.
To help your fledgling civilization survive, individual Vikings can be assigned to different tasks, things like warrior, farmer or loremaster. And while not available at launch (on February 22nd), the creators at #ShiroGames have teased upcoming features like a story campaign, multiplayer and more playable clans.
Our next game also has you waging war of a sort, except instead of rival clans or frost giants, in #Quarantine the enemies are deadly pandemics.
As the director of an international agency specifically tasked with controlling the spread of fatal viruses and other contagious afflictions, the player will recruit teams of highly trained operatives and make difficult decisions that will mean life or death for thousands (or millions) of souls.
Developer #Sproing is touting Quarantine as the product of real world research on the science and tactics of epidemic response. Containment strategies won’t be limited to directly combating the disease; as well as medical specialists, players will need to recruit a diverse team with members ranging from diplomats to security personnel to try to contain panic and negotiate with the governments of the affected nations.
The unpredictable nature of these diseases and the procedural traits the spawn with/develop should ensure that no play session develops in exactly the same way, and hopefully provide robust replayability.
#TheExiled is a collision of a huge number of genres, and the ambition of its premise has me very optimistic about its prospects.
At first glance, it looks like a MOBA, with their isometric perspective and that genre-unique sense of traversal. But in reality The Exiled is at its core an MMORPG, though with concepts from survival crafting games and online PvP arenas liberally blended in.
It promises an open-ended character progression system, free from class restrictions, and it has other familiar RPG mechanics like skill trees and loot.
From the survival playbook, The Exiled is pulling craftable equipment and the ability to construct full settlements to share with other players, with whom you can create clans and square off against other player alliances in large scale PvP. Those settlements need protecting, though, as The Exiled also allows you to raze buildings and claim other’s territory for you own.