Steam Next Fest Had Some Great Games…And a Few Mediocre Ones | Darkest Dungeon 2, System Shock, Planet of Lana

Every time Steam sets up one of its Next Fests promises to be busy – and this latest one was no different. Join me as I do a quick run-down of the demos that left an impression on me one way or another–and if you’d like more content like this, don’t forget to let me know in the comments. A subscription would also mean a lot, but not getting one is okay, too! Let us let me tell you all about some exciting games coming very soon indeed!

Darkest Dungeon 2

Darkest Dungeon 2 is shaping up to be everything I was hoping for, a real twist on a beloved formula that keeps to the rhythm of the brutal tactical combat of the original game. Narrator Wayne June is back and he’s bringing so much fresh cosmic lore into the mix. The one boss I fought against shows that boss design is razor-sharp at Red Hook Studios. It’s bound to test even the most hopeful among us as we travel towards the newer, shinier, more awful–and supposedly even more darkest–dungeon. With so much to explore, I can hardly wait until May 8th.

If you want to find out more about my impressions, I’ve actually done a video on Darkest Dungeon 2 – a link should be popping round anytime now.

System Shock

The world of System Shock is fully realised cyberpunk horror, with all the freedom you’d expect from the granddaddy of interactive sims – and to me, this demo is a master class in inducing a slow-moving sense of dread. I’ve heard of SHODAN but to get my first glimpses of her in this remake–my hairs stood on ends. I can’t wait to experience the gauntlet one of the best written AIs in gaming is going to put me through–and it’s not going to be long at all until I have the chance.

This remake should be out in March, marking whatever date it pops up on as a very exciting time for me. I played the demo for close to two hours and I didn’t even manage to wrap up the first zone; it kept me up until after two in the morning. If that’s anything to judge the finished remake by, this is going to be a chunky game. I hope to the gods this one is successful – the immersive sim genre has long been in decline but if any genre deserves a renaissance and many, many titles, it’s this one. I think I’ll be buying System Shock on release, even if I’m not sure how long it’ll be before I give this game the time of day – the sad realities of being a grad student. I did put a full video out for this one–you can check it out on my channel!


Not to be mistaken with Klei’s title, Oxygen Not Included, Oxygen is a game about a planet where Oxygen is very much not included. I spent little time with this survival city builder, but more than enough to take a few lessons away: this is a challenging game that does not forgive mistakes. If you’re anything like me, preferring to go at it alone, you’ll be forced to restart. Oxygen won’t go easy
just because it’s your first time. As far as interface goes, it reminded me of an obsession many city sim afficionados will have shared at one point or another – Frostpunk – although I don’t believe it will have the role-play and morality elements that Frostpunk did. I didn’t have a whole lot of time with Oxygen, and I doubt I’ll pick it up but that’s not because I’m not interested; it’s because I very rarely have time for survival games.


One title in the genre I will definitely be picking up, however, is Fabledom. This fantasy city builder/kingdom manager has charm to spare, without any of the stress that something like Oxygen offers up. If System Shock had me at my tensest and most engaged, Darkest Dungeon 2 at my most cultist-y, and Planet of Lana at my most tender, Fabledom definitely introduced the most significant element of chill to my demo diet. As you might guess from this video, it’s not something I posses too much of.

Fabledom had a whole lot to offer in this vertical slice of gameplay – and outside being able to construct fantasy buildings, houses, wells, kilns, and lumbermills, farms and mines, you can also expand from one zone into those surrounding it. This means there’ll be a whole lot of expanding to be done and I am eager to test the limits of just how many hundreds of peasants you can stack up in mediocre living conditions and squalor before they come up with the guillotine. You’re not just managing your kingdom, you’re actively building it up. There’ll be elements of military exploration and conquest, as well – though those were strictly closed off in the demo. Playing Fabledom made me happy – I can’t wait until its early access launches later this quarter.

Dreadful River

Here was something I’d not seen before – a violent and deadly boat manager. Dreadful River starts off slow, with a mage kicking you out of your own castle in order to protect the kingdom. Said kingdom is about to get real run-down with rebels, brigands, and opportunists. What you got to do is protect the Eternal Crown, your sacred right and responsibility.

There’s an aspect of exploration, plenty of challenge, and lots of micromanaging your guardsmen, who come in at least five varieties – bowmen, lancers, swordsmen, warlocks, and others. Your boat is liable to see many an upgrade as you travel down the river in search of better fortunes and a cure for what ails the land. I wish it were a breezier ride, but it’s not; brigands will shoot from the riverbank and even come after you in boats, many, many boats full of many, many wonderful resources. Yet, before I knew it, I’d gotten in a scrap that saw my king’s bodyguards dying despite my best efforts. Though I’d started as the hunter, I all too quickly became the prey, losing my life and the sacred duty to protect the Eternal Crown.

It’s challenging, pretty to look at, and a lark. What’s more, it was different – and though I may not be the target audience for it, I suspect it will find an audience, one extremely happy with developer SureAI’s efforts on Dreadful River.

Perseus: Titan Slayer

I enjoyed playing Perseus: Titan Slayer, but thought it was severely underbaked. It released just as Steam Next Fest was winding down to my honest surprise. Despite the fact that the game is currently listed as “Very Positive” on Steam, a quick read of the reviews will show a lot of the positive ones are lukewarm rather than ebulant. It is dirt-cheap, however–that might be helping its case. My full impressions of the demo are available in a video that did a whole lot better than I expected; most of mine can barely make it to a hundred, but that’s around the 400-view mark. Nothing for anyone who’s anyone in this platform, but I take pride in growth, no matter how small. You should go check it out if you’d like to know more about this title.

Planet of Lana

The twenty five minutes of Planet of Lana’s demo passed by without notice. This is a game that knows the value of silence, that can set the mood through its environmental storytelling and ambient sounds, and that, most importantly, is a labour of love. With some games you can just tell – Planet of Lana is one of them.

The game is slated for release over Q2 and trust me when I tell you, I will be there when it releases and I will be playing it. If the rest of the game is as good as this, I suspect it might be a personal Game of the Year contender for me. I’ve spoken extensively about the demo in a video all its own – you can find it on my channel. I’m beyond proud of it and I do believe it deserves your eyeballs!

That’s it! Well, I also played a game called Inkbound but…I genuinely can’t think of a way to talk about it without unnecessarily mean comparisons to better game; nor do I feel the need to do so.

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