Friday, February 2, 2024

Next Stop: Next Fest

The next Steam Next Fest
is set to roll up in just a few days. On Friday, to be precise. Since I found about the event a couple of years ago I always look forward to it, although the last one, back in October, was kinda disappointing. I could only find a handful of demos I was interested in playing and that only after spending more than an hour trawling through the immense list of not very good games on offer.

Curiously, one of the demos I did try was for Enshrouded, the recently-released, Early Access title, currently running a very, very far second to Palworld in the breakout survival game stakes, while still doing very respectable business in its own right. At the time I called Enshrouded "eminently playable and enjoyable" but said I wouldn't be adding it to my wishlist "because I'm not in the market for another survival game while I still have Dawnlands on simmer and Valheim on the back burner."

Yes, well, if we could foretell the future, we'd all be rich, wouldn't we?

The more significant thing about that experience is that, when Enshrouded did release, just a couple of months later, and I started to read about in news feeds and on blogs, it didn't ring any bells with me at all. It wasn't until I read Belghast's first post about the game and saw some screenshots that it vaguely began to come back to me that I'd already played it.

I'd say that says plenty about my memory or rather lack of it, and it does, but I have absolutely no problem remembering most of what I've heard about Nightingale, especially that there's a stress test this Friday (aka today!) and a planned EA release at the end of the month. I also didn't need to be reminded what Palworld was when it launched itself into the record books last weeks, even though I'd barely paid any attention to the reports I'd read about the game months before. I guess I just wasn't that interested in Enshrouded after all.

In fact, the main outcome of last October's Next Fest was that I added two titles to my wishlist (Captain Pawsome and Sovereign Syndicate) but removed two more (Sky: Children of Light and Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley), leaving me back where I started. I'm not sure if that's the way its supposed to work although I guess it is, at that. 

I did buy two other titles in January that I discovered through previous Next Fests: Crowns and Pawns and Tails Noir Preludes. I've even played one of them, although I haven't finished it. I've bought other games off the back of Next Fests, too, so as a marketing excercise it appears to be doing its job, even if I frequently feel the demos themselves give me about as much time with most of the games as I'd ever want - and that's the ones I like.

What hasn't really drawn itself to my attention before is the fact that Next Fest isn't Steam's only demo-led event. I did sort of know there were others but they don't ever seem to get the same attention and I generally don't hear about them until they're almost over. 

That's precisely the situation with The Storyteller's Festival, an event focused on "the art of storytelling, featuring a wide range of visual novels and narrative games that showcase the best in interactive fiction." It started on Monday and ends on Sunday so there's just a long weekend left to dig into the demos.

It's a real shame I didn't know about it sooner because it's an event much more suited to my tastes and interest than Next Fest itself seems to be these days. I skimmed through the two hundred and fifty titles on offer last night and could easily have downloaded a dozen or more demos that looked really interesting. 

In the end I restricted myself to just five and even then, unless they remain open to play after the festival ends, there's not much hope I'll get through them all. That said, I bet some of them turn up in Next Fest as well, so I should get an extension.

The five games I picked are:

Leila: a point and click narrative game with hand-drawn animations (Yay!) and thought-provoking puzzles (Boo!).  

Not Only Nine: a narrative RPG adventure in which a cat journeys through the afterlife to save their human.(Like any cat would do that!)

The Hayseed Knight:  a fully voice-acted animated visual novel telling the tale of a one-eyed farm boy's accidental rise to fame.(A one-eyed farm boy's intentional rise to fame would be a lot more original...)

Roadwarden: an illustrated text-based RPG that uses isometric pixel art and combines mechanics borrowed from RPGs, Visual Novels, adventure games and interactive fiction. (Covering all the bases there, then.)

Moonbriar: a dark fantasy visual novel featuring the voice talents of Ralph Ineson, Simon Callow, Savannah Steyn, among others. (Simon Callow must have bills to pay.)

As I look at those now, I see they at least three of them are already out and have what look like permanent demos so I should at least be able to play and report back on those. I bet you can't wait. 

In other, barely-related news, Amazon Prime Gaming, which seems to have given up producing promotional videos (The last sign of life on their YouTube channel, to which I subscribe, was back in November...) sent an email about the games and offers for February. I said a while back that if I couldn't say anything nice about those in future, I wouldn't say anything at all, so...

I did get a free parrot pet for World of Warcraft, though. I guess I shouldn't complain.

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