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City 20 is the dystopian survival game you've been waiting for – and it has a Steam Fest demo

City 20's demo is limited in size, but offers a glimpse of a truly deep experience.

City 20, over a terminal building, with the Wishlisted logo in the bottom right corner.
Image credit: VG247

I need fuel. Goga, my sole friend in City 20 has informed me his generator is empty. I'm crashing in his home, and have just broken down his door so I suppose I owe him one. He shoves a fuel can in my hand and points me in the direction of a nearby town. After a brisk walk I see a petrol station behind a locked fence gate. The people living here must not have heard that I'm somewhat of a savant when it comes to bashing doors open, so I take my trusty mallet and break in for that sweet black iccor. I am swifty beaten into unconciousness. City 20, it seems, does not take kindly to my murder hobo tendencies.

Check out Wishlisted, our video showcase of Steam Next Fest's best demos!

After a futile attempt at revenge ending with a bullet to my head I start again. New save, new me. I again break down Goga's door, but this time leave my inclination for propety damage behind me. Instead, fuel can in hand, I attempt to talk to the locals. "You best be here to trade" one prompty warns me. Aha, trade. Yes I suppose I can barter with my new neighbors. But what will I barter with? Should I trade my mallet away? No - behind Goga it's been a reliable colleage over the past three minutes.

Maybe there's something outside in the wilderness I can use. I leave the settlement, shaking trees and picking up flowers that I'm sure are worth something. I have no idea what I'm doing. Suddenly I'm thirsty. Returning to Goga with no fuel and a backpack filled with flora I fill up a water bottle and am struck with a brilliant idea. Why do I owe Goga a damn thing? I should simply beat him up and make his house a home. He swifty plants me in the ground next to his shattered door.

Fight in City 20
Go about things this way, and expect to get your head kicked in. | Image credit: VG247

By now you've probably figured out that City 20 is not that kind of dystopian survival game. This is not Mad Max, where almost everyone you'll run into is an immeidate enemy. You can, if you so chose, face the world head-on with your bare hands, but you are swiftly punished for doing so. No, City 20 throws you into a ravaged world where your fellow man is your lifeline. Where you must promptly make yourself a valuable and non-violent member of the ragtag society you've emerged into, get a lay of the land, and plot a course that keeps your fed, safe, and perhaps even liked by those around you.

I'm in love with the tone of this game; you get an espresso shot of it from the opening cinematic. It's not dire or depressing like other dystopian games you may have played, it's almost haunting. You feel like a rat caught in a trap, and to a degree you are. There is, at least in this demo, no escape from City 20. You're stuck here, starving and desperate. Putting my obvious jokey inclination for anti-social behavior aside, there's this real feeling that you may have to do rough things to get by. With a lack of monsters in the game, the people around you ultimately become both the greatest boon to your survival, as well as your biggest threat.

This comes together with this beautiful balancing act, where you have to both ensure your own survival as well as keep those around you happy. By the end of the demo I felt I was just getting to grips with the machinery that powers every NPC interaction, every little detail from how the wildlife acts to the full extent of what cheeky behavior I can get away with.

The best compliment I can give to City 20 is that I'll never touch this demo again. I don't want to see any more of the game. Instead, I'll sit back and wait patiently for the full game to come out. When it does, I'll be jumping in on day one. It's well worth checking out during the current Steam Next Fest if you've got even the tiniest craving for survival games.

Check out the other featured games in VG247, RockPaperShotgun, and Eurogamer's Wishlisted event at the hub page – including a nice, meaty video that shows you why we're so into the collected games.

Check out City 20 – and play the demo for yourself – on Steam.

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