Steam Winter Festival 2021: 7 Great Games from the Show Floor

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, but we’re glad the Steam Game Festival has made a return. If anything, it feels like these small events are the modern equivalent of demo discs, allowing you to pick and choose slices from different upcoming games with an added dose of developer and community intermingling to make everything feel a lot more comfortable.

As we did before, we’ve picked out our favourites from the Steam Game Festival: Winter Edition for you to check out.

Zen World (3)

Zen World
Developer Cartboard Games
Publisher Cartboard Games
Release 2021

We listed ISLANDERS, a puzzler and city builder in which you have to strategically place buildings in the right spots to accumulate lots of points, as one of our favourite games of 2019. Zen World looks to take the same kind of premise, this time expanding it to tiles of land and having you place them in spots that will yield the best rewards. In order to expand correctly, you have to place tiles that will lead you to various bonuses located in the Fog of War which will allow you to place down even more tiles. It’s quite a peaceful puzzle game, and one I’m eager to see how it evolves further during development.

Cats and Other Lives (8)

Cats and Other Lives
Developer Cultic Games
Publisher Cultic Games
Release 2021

In Cats and Other Lives, you play as Aspen, a cat living in a large house owned by a middle class family in the wake of the death of the patriarch. It’s presented in the form of a classic point and click adventure reminiscent of LucasArts or Double Fine adventure games, as you explore the house listening in on the conversations of others and using your catlike agility to solve various puzzles. The story itself centres its themes around the hopes, disappointments and regrets of the grieving family, and also features moments where ghostly apparitions appear that only Aspen can see. We’re sure this one will grab a small cult following, considering there still aren’t enough games where you play as cats.

graven

Graven
Developer Slipgate Ironworks
Publisher 3D Realms, 1C Entertainment
Release 2021

Although billed as an action RPG, we also think Graven has some elements of immersive sims in there. It feels a bit like a more gothic BioShock, in Graven you explore a dark village and wield different weapons and powerful spells. Each item you do possess comes with its own uses and varied behaviour, which encourages creative problem solving as you solve puzzles and deal with diverse enemies. We have to give props for the level design too, effortlessly seeping many secrets into a world that feels really interesting to simply exist in.

loop hero

Loop Hero
Developer Four Quarters
Publisher Devolver Digital
Release Mar 04, 2021

Loop Hero is a roguelike deckbuilder that follows a knight lost in a dark, unknown world. This knight unwittingly follows a path through the world that loops back on itself, taking the knight in continuous circles as he continues his journey. As time passes, more enemies spawn on the path which the knight will fight, and rewards in the form of weapons and defense items are given. It’s your job to fit the knight with the right equipment to ensure he can survive each encounter. You will also be given cards that allow you to map out the world with new landmarks that both help or hurt the knight’s journey, so it’s important to place these in strategic locations. The roguelike element comes into play when you return to the camp and venture out again, in which case the world transforms and becomes anew. In terms of replayability, Loop Hero seems perfect for short sessions with many different options for how you want to play.

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Ring of Fire
Developer de Fault, Chard
Publisher Far Few Giants
Release Coming Soon

Don your investigator caps in Ring of Fire from Far Few Giants, a futuristic detective game that has you investigating a murder. You navigate a 3D space of the victim’s flat, collecting evidence, interviewing suspects while consulting with your own observations on the case. There’s a gorgeous red/orange colour palette that helps to reinforce the fiery motifs of the story, while the text conversations feature dialogue that is sincere yet funny at the best times. The demo opens with an advisory note to keep a pen and paper close by to take notes, as certain key information won’t be repeated and may be easy to miss. It’s an extra degree of challenge to have you work outside of the screen, but nonetheless remains an accessible, fun caper.

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Acid Knife
Developer Powerhoof
Publisher Powerhoof
Release Coming Soon

Olly can’t say he’s ever been on acid, but this is how he envisions it to be like. Acid Knife’s visual style is definitely unique, featuring a high dose of psychedelic carnage that emphasises the chaos of the action sequences. The combat is slow with a big emphasis on positioning, but it’s not “like Dark Souls” as a lot of game descriptions like to go these days. In fact, it feels like the antithesis of that, with enemy patterns being less predictable and improvisation remaining a core part of the action. This game has been on our radar for a while, and it surely looks like it’ll be one of the most distinguished releases of 2021. 

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In My Shadow
Developer Playbae
Publisher Alcon Interactive
Release March 2021

It would be remiss to do another one of these lists without including an experimental puzzle game. In My Shadow is the heartfelt story of the relationship between a little girl, Bella, and her dog. Each level is presented as a series of self-contained puzzles in which you have to guide Bella’s shadow across the room to the dog. There are obstacles, however, as well as a bunch of pages you need to grab too. The goal is to move furniture around the room so the shadows projected on the wall can give Bella safe passage across. It’s a nifty little feature that just about works in its favour, but combining it with the earnest story In My Shadow is no doubt going for, it’s sure to become an indie classic.


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