Steam Summer Festival 2020: 10 Great Games from the Show Floor

It’s a little strange doing a whole preview event from home. During these extraordinary times, events such as E3 and EGX Rezzed have had to be cancelled for safety reasons, and the future of these circumstances is still unclear.

“The show must go on,” as they say, and so game creators and publishers from all around the globe have come together to deliver us a whole summer of announcements, previews and other hands-on occasions. Last week, the Steam Game Festival was hosted on the eponymous platform, bringing with it hundreds of demos from upcoming video games. Although we didn’t get a chance to play every single one, we’ve selected ten which we felt were our favourites.

Desperados 3 [demo] (3)

Desperados 3
Developer Mimimi Games
Publisher THQ Nordic
Release 16 Jun, 2020

Starting our list off strongly with Desperados 3. I got the original as a free gift inside a cereal box when I was seven, and while I can’t remember much about it, I can vaguely recall being killed a lot by angry gunslingers and bandits. Set in the ruthless Wild West, the game is a real-time tactics shooter where you control a gang of outlaws who go on adventures around rural towns and expansive canyons. Each one has unique abilities and weapons to use against enemies, and the beauty comes in harmonising them together to sneak through unscathed. Then there’s the level design, an approach I can only describe as Hitman-esque, with varied ways to complete objectives and many chances to utilise the environment to your advantage. This is one for stealth fans.

Ghostrunner [demo] (1)

Ghostrunner
Developer One More Level, 3D Realms, Slipgate Ironworks™
Publisher All in! Games
Release 2020

Ghostrunner looks fantastic, but it’s even better to play. In a towered cyberpunk setting strewn with violence and poverty, you free-run and slash your way around the labyrinthic metropolis while also engaging in speedy platforming puzzles. It’s Mirror’s Edge on steroids, where combining its one-hit-kill mechanics with the breakneck parkour makes for some chaotic set pieces. My interest in this game skyrocketed after playing the short demo, and I’ve thrusted it up towards the top of my wishlist.

Superliminal [demo] (2)

Superliminal
Developer Pillow Castle
Publisher Pillow Castle
Release Nov 12, 2019

It’s hard to sell you the concept of Superliminal in writing, it’s something you need to experience first-hand to deeply appreciate what it does. Its puzzles are built on optical illusions and forced perspective, where the size of objects can be altered based on your point-of-view. Pick up a chess piece off the table, look over to the other side of the room and drop it. Now it’s huge. These mind-bending mechanics are wrapped up in an enigmatic Aperture Science-style mystery that has inspired many indie puzzlers as of late, and the opportunities you can do with it are simply endless.

Röki (Demo) (3)

Röki
Developer Polygon Treehouse
Publisher United Label
Release 23 Jul, 2020

This was originally listed in our EGX 2019 coverage, but we felt it deserves a second shout out. Tove is a young girl journeying into a forgotten world of lost folklore to save her family. Röki uses a simplified point-and-click design as you guide her through this land of children’s fairy tales and Scandinavian mythology. It aims to recreate the feeling of foot in these legends just as you did as a child. Tove also encounters various monstrous creatures on her journey, some friendly and some hostile, as well as solving puzzles as she explores her environment. The great thing is these moments aren’t too difficult, making it accessible to younger gamers who may have been initially drawn in by the imaginative art and fascinating narrative.

Unto the End [demo] (3)

Unto the End
Developer 2 Ton Studios
Publisher Big Sugar
Release 2020

Another one from our EGX 2019 coverage, Unto the End is a side-scrolling action platformer where you explore a punishing world filled with many threats. You play as a father trying to get home to his family, battling through countless hazards as you edge closer. The combat is dangerous since you’re extremely vulnerable to enemy hits, always being a couple away from death, and so have to be perceptive of timing and visual cues to perform perfect parries. It’s even entirely possible to beat the game without being hit once if you could time each move flawlessly. Not to be all “It’s like Dark Souls!”, but if you’re a fan of those games you should give this a try.

Destroy All Humans [demo] (5)

Destroy All Humans!
Developer Black Forest Games
Publisher THQ Nordic
Release 28 Jul, 2020

We were pleasantly surprised to see how the upcoming Destroy All Humans! remake revitalised the beloved THQ classic through a new coat of paint and updated controls. The destruction effects are incredible, with extra detail given to building explosions and ray gun kills, as you play as Cryptosporidium-137 on his mission to unleash chaos on the human populace and collect their DNA. Sadly, it looks as though the remake aims to abduct as much from the original as possible, which includes the tiny playable areas that may not feel good on modern platforms. This was something we also noted in our retro review of the original. Even so, the modernised mechanics and buttery graphics breathes new life into a franchise that’s remained dormant for over a decade.

When The Past Was Around [demo] (7)

When the Past was Around
Developer Mojiken Studio
Publisher Toge Productions
Release 2020 

I’ve played a lot of scary, gruesome and intense games lately, but not only was When the Past was Around the exact opposite of these experiences, it was also something I didn’t know I needed. On the surface it’s a point-and-click adventure where you solve puzzles and journey through dreamlike worlds. The story is about Edda, a twenty-something woman who dreams of love and feels lost in her pursuit of it. Then she met The Owl, a man who would help her find that spark, as well as teach her about heartbreak. It’s a beautiful premise that will be a cathartic spell of emotion for anyone who has experienced these associative feelings, and while the art style is very cute, we’re also preparing for some serious crying.

Spritfarer [beta] (2)

Spiritfarer
Developer Thunder Lotus Games
Publisher Thunder Lotus Games
Release 2020

I felt a grand sense of adventure when I played Spiritfarer. As the captain of a ship sailing the seven seas, your job is to ferry the souls of the deceased to their final resting places while you trade at ports and navigate dangerous storms. As you meet and befriend these spirits, you build a relationship and form memorable bonds with them which is where the game’s writing fully shines. These characters are equally wholesome and cunning, but even with the short demo time I was really interested in getting to know them better. Then there’s the ferry itself, where you can construct and customise all the different rooms on the ship which adds a deeper degree of versatility to the game. The movement is slick as hell too, with every run, jump and slide feeling very fluid. It’s so smooth that it’s really satisfying to dash across the boat during a storm, desperately trying to salvage as much as you can. I love a good voyage, and it looks Spiritfarer will quench that thirst for adventure.

Fights in Tight Spaces [demo] (8)

Fights in Tight Spaces
Developer Ground Shatter
Publisher Mode 7
Release 2020

Did you enjoy the violent catharsis and badass visual flair of SUPERHOT? Fights in Tight Spaces is a turn-based deckbuilder where you engage with angry men in visceral hand-to-hand combat. Each stage takes place in a small, enclosed space as you take turns performing certain moves – such as uppercuts, kicks and shoves – from the cards you collect. The most fun aspect of the demo was being able to manipulate enemy moves so they’d end up attacking each other on the next go. It felt extremely satisfying to pull off the perfect run. I can’t wait for this to release.

Gloomwood [demo] (7)

Gloomwood
Developer Dillon Rogers, David Szymanski
Publisher New Blood Interactive
Release “Soon”

While I’ve never played Dusk or Amid Evil, I was immediately enthralled by New Blood Interactive’s Gloomwood as it was described as inspired by retro horror and immersive sims. You’re trapped in a dark, cursed city patrolled by vicious guards and otherworldly creatures, and must plan your escape using an arsenal of unusual weapons and sneaking talents. The opening level features huge Bloodborne vibes as you sneak down shadowy cobbled streets and trudge through defiled sewers. After a short tutorial you’re able to venture off into multiple directions, fully emphasising the immersive sim qualities the game has. Then there’s the retro aesthetic which brings in some great visuals reminiscent of PS2 horror, but it also has the added benefit of making it playable on lower-end PCs. I even tested it on an old laptop from 2013, and it ran flawlessly. If you end up only getting one title from this list, make it Gloomwood.

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