As it’s the start of 2020 and the release schedule is as sparse as a deserted island. It’s a time of catch-ups and working through the lost backlog games that you pick up on a hunch, but this time it’s the world of early access games. These are very early builds of games that folks buy into before the finished product is, well finished. Personally, it never really floated my boat, that idea. Buying into an unfinished game demo, but it’s a more popular trend more so on PC with the likes of Steam. So, I took the plunge and looked at a bunch of early access games and see if there are some gems out there.
First up on the Early Access tour is by the folks down at Crunchy Sushi, with WillowBrooke Post. A management sim where you manage a Post Office in a sleepy village, because your parents decided to go on holiday. So, with little cash and or idea, you manage a Post Office and not get it repossessed – no pressure.
On a day to day process you would have to sort out the post for the next day, hold and post parcels and meet all sorts of the local community. So it’s good to see the main gameplay elements there in place, and as a concept, it’s an interesting idea and refreshing to see. Although the start of the game where you can name your character anything, as there isn’t a profanity filter at all is a delight. so I spent my time known as “Motherfucker”, so maybe it may be a good idea to have some kind of filter in place.
The Art style has taken some pages from Minecraft which does look really nice, but the character models, however, are very janky with their animations and their faces don’t look very nice at all. I would have also appreciated tutorials at the start that would have taken you through the mechanics rather than the flaying about winging it. Just like nearly all early access games, it is very easy to break and it’s not all up together. Overall, there is a good game to come here, it just still needs plenty of work to live up to the expectations.
Up next is from Big OFF Games PTY LTD is Trenches WIP – an online multiplayer FPS where two teams war it off. Unlike the likes of Battlefield, you have to acquire resources to build all the things needed for Warring, Guns, Tanks, Planes etc. Which is a nice change from the usual suspects, of hunting down your fellow man
Now, when I played it at first the gameplay was there and was but the level designs were horrible, but still playable. Aside from the obvious polish issues, it was a serviceable and enjoyable game, but it is worth noting that the servers were very empty. Trenches WIP has recently included an update which massively improved the visuals and level design, but didn’t allow spawning into a game itself. So if they can merge the gameplay with the visuals and smooth out the technical issues and such and it could be a fun little game.
Now we come to Hyperion Studio and their latest offering, Journey of Life, a survival sandbox sim game where you just survive on a series of islands with their own unique flora and fauna. While there isn’t any plot as of now which doesn’t need war and peace to be massive just enough context to work with. It’s already got most of the main aspects of a survival game along with multiplayer as well, and with more in the pipeline to come. It looks very well planned admittedly with expanding on crafting and more advanced systems as such.
In-game it plays well enough, but does look particular objects in the distance do look a bit rough, and like before it doesn’t run as smooth. Also, one little bugbear is that it’s not at first easy to work out what interactable and what isn’t, because the UI Box that explains what the thing is is at the base of the object itself. Which after spending 30 mins fumbling around the island trying to work out what I can interact with, it does get slightly old quick. So, better graphics, smoother technically, and some context and it could be a solid game.
Next on my early access hit list is from Dark Night Studio with Escape from Earth, a 2D platformer where we play as an alien who crash lands on one of 16 planets (only two planets are playable at the moment). Which have their own unique art style and gravity settings which changes how jumping is affected which is a neat touch. And with 2 game modes available to play with 2 more to come from future updates, also with new characters as well to come.
Mechanically, the game is fine and the art style is very kid-friendly. The levels do look a bit bland at the moment and could do with some background art of distant towns or similar, and Escape From Earth is extremely buggy. A work in progress here, but on the right path.
Last and not least is Road to Guangdong, which we had a look at way back at EGX last year. And I very much enjoyed my time with it. Now it has been updated and revamped since October, and also in that time I also had a look at its stepbrother Jalopy. So, there are new changes and also a bit better comparison with Jalopy than before. It’s a more relaxed experience than Jalopy and much more visually engaging, but some aspects like choosing your own route, there are also car upgrades are not there at the moment.
Stuff like overheating which wasn’t in Jalopy where driving did get a bit “meh” was a nice change as it required some finesse that was missed from the last game, and with more of an emphasis on plot. In comparison to the rest of the games on this list, it is technically a pretty solid game. With the rest of the game to come, it could be an interesting one when it becomes a full game.