Unknown Pleasures: the best new little-known Steam games this week

best-new-steam-games-sep-17

Welcome back to Unknown Pleasures, our weekly round-up of the most excellent hidden gems we dug up from the past week of new releases on Steam.

This week: endless runners remixed, spaceship life simulation and Dark Souls vs Ico.

Destination Ares

($19.99/£16.99)

A sort of noncom FTL, focused not on deadly escapades across a war-torn galaxy, but rather the day-to-day business of keeping your spaceship’s crew alive as they drift peaceably onwards. That means keeping the engine fuelled, keeping stomachs fed, keeping air clean, keeping machines well-maintained – and all of it taking a terrible toll on your ship’s power. So it’s a constant juggling act of what to turn on and what to turn off, each decision you make quite likely impacting some other vital system. Mini-stories also play out, with short but charming text and multiple outcomes. Mostly death.

All told, it’s an unashamedly challenging affair – you are always fighting fires, and the fires will not stop – but I like to think of it as what life was like for the crew of the Nostromo in the days, weeks and months before they went into stasis. Has a lovely echoey-space-doom soundtrack, too.

Caligo

$5.99/£4.79

Mostly linear take on the walking simulator essence, set in a dark and meditative fantasy landscape. The voice acting is very amateurish, which harms the mood somewhat, and the writing ping-pongs between self-aware and going on and on and on and on and on about nothing much at all, but I simply cannot argue with some of the scenes it presents me with.

One moment, it’s Giger, another it’s like Morrowind, another it’s like Pathologic, or BioShock, or Doom, or – well, that’s the treat of it. All of it presented at extreme levels of quality and detail. The story stuff I can take or leave, but the sights and sounds have been an absolute delight.

Fall Of Light

($14.99/£10.99)

Oh dear, you lot do it seem to hate it when we compare anything to Dark Souls, but I’m not sure how else to crack the nut of describing Fall Of Light. It looks like an isometricish ARPG and, sure, it involves combat and finding weapons, but it is not… straightforward. Establishing how to play – how to fight, how to use and protect the spectral figure which accompanies you from the off – is opaque, death arrives suddenly and frequently and involves running back to your corpse, and the mood is sombre, mysterious, purgatorial.

Quite a bit like Dark Souls then, but with a touch of Ico to it. Alas, the acting’s awful, the combat is a bit annoying – hitboxes are all over the place – and the more constrained level design makes retreading your steps after a death rather more grating than it is in Souls, but the moody atmosphere and unusual mechanics manage to survive this.

Linench

($0.99/£0.79)

This week’s Minimalist Puzzle Game Of The Week in this, the week of 29 September, week 39 of 2017, is a maze-like affair in which you have to navigate from a start point to an end point within a certain number of steps – but you also cannot do it in less than that number of steps. Darting straight to your destination is fairly straightforward, but moving all the way around the grid of dots, arrows and, later, teleporters in exactly the right number of steps most certainly is not.

It’s one of those that begins insultingly easy but, after ten minutes, has evolved into all-encompassing head-scratching, as it’s thrown landmine after landmine under your feet.

Hare

($0.99/£0.79)

A fairly obviously Canabalt-inspired (right down to disturbing flocks of resting rooftop birds) Endless Runner except – well, it’s doing a little more than that. It’s Endless Runner as an actual adventure, with different levels and spaceshippy bits and special powers and even boss encounters. There’s a lot going on here, in a low-key sort of way. I think it’s a little plainer than it deserves to be – despite doing more in other regards, it doesn’t match the simple elegance of Canabalt’s backdrops and animations. Its story, which by its own admission is “completely forgettable,” gets in the way to start with too.

But! This is full of surprises, while maintaining a throughline of endless runner timing challenges. The very definition of an Unknown Pleasure, say I.

This week’s pick of the week iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis: I reckon Destination Ares, for simulataneously being both a lower pressure and oh-my-god-so-much-higher pressure remix/inversion of FTL’s spaceshippy doom concept.

25 Comments

  1. CitizenX3639 says:

    Ive played about 5 hours of the demo and game for Fall of Light and its a must play. Yes, its got issues, but its a solid indie game. It may envoke DS with the regen of enemies and some difficulty but that’s about it.
    The forgotten game on the list is Vaporum. basically a little bioshock with a lot of Legend of grimrock. This is a must pay if you like grid-based dungeon crawlers.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      THX for the info. I wasn’t aware they had a free demo.
      I’m really not into “buy, play 2 hours then refund” -demoing.

      • CitizenX3639 says:

        Finished the game today 20+ hours, 5 because of a bad puzzle, some backtracking and looking for stuff but I chocked up at the end. Sad story, not a bad game. I would say wait for the first patch at least.

  2. maxbuttpayne says:

    What a sorry set of games.
    You guys had a freaking chance to get rid of the ordinary but the ordinary grabbed you by the balls and told you to sit down.

    Let me explain.

    Destination Ares: Im trying to get excited but just its pixels doing unknown things I cant tell because its non -art directed pixels and bad voice acting. Lustmordish attempt at the end but it doesnt work since theres nothing to lead me to believe there will be this mood.

    Caligo: Dark faces bad things, ornaments. Its probably like The Void except its worse than micromanagement and theres nothing to do but look at moody 1st person things with twisted badsurfaces with some mandatory Dear Esther story elements.

    Fall of Light: Before the fall of light, the gods I bet they would fiddle with the lightswitch and lets be safe and fall into the safety of the top down perspective. Some cutscenes to prove me otherwise -> Shit on a biscuit!

    Linench: Puzzles. Its like the Witness except theres no world. Im sorry thats not right, theres a vanilla colored background with simple dot puzzles that get less simple as we go on. Why are you doing this to me??!

    Hare: It sounds like a runner wabbit but its really a tiny scapeship gliding through space. It seems to be as bored too as someone would be gliding through anything.

    So maybe I’m a little c-word that doesnt like anything but COME ON. We’re making games here, it’s not rocket science. Rocket science is literally calculating the trajectory of a rocket ship and how much fuel it would need. F that, let’s make a special video game instead. There’s a protagonist, something something adventure, and then, the bad guy probably doesn’t die but gets defeated by the power of goodness. But theres something in-between all that. Its the power of computer games. It’s like magic except you dont need wizards. Dont you freaking forget that, mr. developer.

    • Urthman says:

      Sheesh MaxButtPain, the first paragraph of your rant had me all excited because I thought you were going to recommend a handful of games that were much better than these that RPS had somehow missed. But no, just bitchin.

    • geldonyetich says:

      Phew, somebody spends a lot of time on /v/.

      I do appreciate you took your time to write a perfectly relevant opinion about how you feel about these games, but you’re overwhelmingly certain that just because you don’t find these games to be particularly enticing that this applies to everyone.

      It’s the difference between critical thinking and just plain being critical. Critical thinking, you need to try to be more objective, your personal beliefs and preferences are no less in need of qualifying themselves than what it is you are trying to assess. Just being critical, if you don’t like it at face value, it must be bad.

      That said, lets take into context the overall location you are posting here. Rock Paper Shotgun is not yet another lets-bash-everything-because-it-makes-our-peers-like-us-more-through-producing-a-unified-front-of-hate forum. That’s sort of a reverse hugbox, really. Rock Paper Shotgun is more of an extolling the virtues of PC gaming kinda place. Not that they can’t be critical when a game deserves it.

      Now, more specifically, this is a post written by said writers of said blog who happened to have spotted a few games on Steam that they sort of liked. Inconceivable, I know, that somebody should have an opinion of liking something that seems to obviously terrible to you. But that’s that whole objective perspective again, some peeps might just like what you don’t like. The thing is, they’re not lying through their teeth here to try to bolster up a crap platform, they were legit impressed with what these games set out to try to do.

      Third point of context to consider, the Steam Charts posts on RPG are a nauseating repeat of the fact that we’re sadly slow to change playing what games are out there. We need more diversity in our life. We need less kneejerking and more critical reassessment of what we should like. That might just lead to said writers of said blog trying to create a parallel feature to the Steam Charts that get us to look at the underappreciated. It’s a noble idea. I like it.

      TL;DR: This is probably too long and you won’t read it.

    • Beefenstein says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, I’ll check out the games you recommend instead.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Yeah it’s not gold of the century coming out every week but maybe you should ask yourself why it bothers you so much to write a long comment about in the first place.
      Why not get into game developement with the time saved?

      • Ghostwise says:

        Anger therapy also comes to mind as a good investment of that time.

      • Jay Load says:

        “Why not get into game development with the time saved?”

        I’ve always found this a curious attitude, as if Game Development is a skill anyone can pick up successfully. You see it in IT worlds too, especially Linux, where it is often assumed that everyone can easily learn to code and those who aren’t doing so are just there to spite/annoy the ones who can.

        So picking up storytelling, writing, digital world building, animation, sound design, art design, level design, proper coding skills, including big-finding and optimisation etc can be done casually?

        Not everyone can draw but they can still tell perfectly well if a drawing is good or not.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      You do seem to be suffering from maxbuttpayne over this. My condolences.

    • rochrist says:

      Yeah, you pretty much are.

    • TinKelp says:

      Destination Ares doesn’t have any voice acting, let alone bad voice acting.

  3. and its man says:

    I’ve been considering buying Destination Ares for quite some time.
    Is the maze mini-game -that you have to complete when you take a decision- still in the game? According to some Early Access reviews, it is/was quite irritating, yet no word about it in the article.

  4. Jazzhole says:

    Amused seeing Fall of Light here. The game is garbage and looks like a lazy DS-like cash-grab. Or at the very least a game that needs another year in the early access.

    • MasterRPG says:

      Hi Jazzhole,
      nice to meet you. I’m really interested into your feedback on the game – because I’m sure that I can learn and improve the game BETTER from a bad review than a good review. So, if you want, give me more details and I’ll try to improve the game. I want to create the better game that I can.

      Thank you so much.

      • Jazzhole says:

        link to steamcommunity.com
        This sums it up. Your game is bare bones in the state you released it and it’s amazing how far DS-like formula can get you even with a very basic product. I’m glad you take critisism seriously and want to improve your game, though.
        I’d have it in early access for half a year/year maybe, got some support, real textures, real models that don’t look like asset flips, got some more passes on the voice acting, get a concept designer for characters and environments (the design is serisouly lacking), work on some original sfx (instead of the default ones you have in the game). So on and so on.
        In my opinion your game has very nice potential, but atm I can’t recommend it and honestly had a hard time enjoying it. But maybe it’s just me.

    • Jazzhole says:

      There’s also the fact that almost every positive steam review looks like a paid one: low lvl steam account with same 12-13 games and only Fall of Light played. Yeah, all this sound not like a game released a bit too early, but a pretty deliberate scam.

      • MasterRPG says:

        Ok, with order:
        1. ok, I understand your opinion about the game and I respect it; but… I think you’re talking about a different budget game. We’re a small, new, indie company. We’re only two devs and our budget is really small. So, OF COURSE, if someone give us the budget of Bloodborne, we will do Bloodborne. But, because nobody give us money, we’re doing small games, trying to create something fun.
        I can accept, of course, that you don’t like the game. But try to put the things in the correct perspective :)

        2. About “fake” reviews this is a serious accusation, so please don’t tell again something like that because it’s totally false and not fair. As I said before, we have a very small budget and I assure you that also if we wanted (and we DONT’ WANTED), we can’t buy reviews. And, in your opinion, we we have bought also this article to RPS? Because it sounds to me like a sci-fi novel :D

      • MasterRPG says:

        Just note – about the “fake review”, that a lot of negative reviewer has also only one review.
        Like this: link to steamcommunity.com

        So… we’re buying also the negative review? >_>

        • Jazzhole says:

          Number of reviews don’t matter. There’s always a first review you make.

          But MULTIPLE accounts with SAME games and the ONLY game played is 2 hours of your game and a positive review for that? That’s a very different story.
          “serious accusation” my ass. Either you or your publisher should’ve spent more money on the actual game instead of reviews.

          • MasterRPG says:

            Ahh, ok, now I understand that you are like Sherlock Holmes. Except for the QI.
            Don’t worry, you are not alone in this world.

        • Ayt says:

          Best to just ignore him.

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