We return this week with another episode of our hidden indie gems feature, and we picked a great week for to go back to the regular schedule, too.
That’s because the autumn edition of The Steam Game Festival kicked off this week. This latest iteration of Steam’s popular demo festival has been live since Wednesday, and will remain so until Tuesday, October 13.
The first part of this week’s column will cover new announcements/reveals, whereas the second part is all about Steam Game Festival demos you should check out while you can. We’ll never be able to cover everything (there are hundreds of games!), so feel free to check out the official festival page on Steam. You can sort by genre, too, which is great if you want to narrow things down.
With all that out of the way, let’s get started.
Hot indie games week of October 5
Ziggurat is one of the early shooter rogue-lites. The original game came out at a time when not every indie shooter had rogue-lite elements, and it excelled at providing a satisfying loop, variety in class setups and balanced difficulty.
Somehow, this many years later, there aren’t that many equally good FPS rogue-lites out there, which is what makes this week’s surprise reveal of Ziggurat 2 exciting. Like its predecessor, Ziggurat 2 is a simple first-person dungeon crawler where you sometimes wield a staff, cast spells from an ancient book, or fire a gun.
Rooms are procedurally generated, and so are the enemies. As you clear room after room, you get to specialise in new abilities and unlock new weapons, expanding your arsenal and getting you ready for what’s to come. Outside of the dungeons themselves, there’s a persistent progression system that lets you upgrade your equipment and core skills.
The original game is a fast-paced shooter that looked well and ran even better. Combat felt tight, and rooms never outstayed their welcome so you were always bouncing between them. The sequel looks to be improving on it in every aspect.
Ziggurat 2 enters Steam Early Access on October 22. You can wishlist it at the link.
Games you can play this weekend
DEEP: Battle of Jove
DEEP: Battle of Jove is a deceptively simple third-person space shooter. It has a very arcady flight model, and its combat offers plenty of assists. The goal, really, is to make you feel powerful as you fly your ship through its beautiful environments to the tune of explosions and lock-on tones.
At its core, DEEP: Battle of Jove is an old-school shooter with a handcrafted, story-driven single-player campaign that doesn’t rely on loot, procedural generation or bloat its design with infinite open worlds.
The full game promises a number of varied ships, but the demo only had one. Outside of a standard selection of weapons and missiles, the ship could also switch flight modes to become a VTOL-style vehicle, which makes it easier to decimate hordes of smaller enemies, but won’t help you chase down fighters.
The demo was missing voice acting, too, but the quality of the presentation compared to other space shooters was hard to miss. Best of all, Battle of Jove is a very accessible game that isn’t too punishing on the default difficulty.
You have a couple of movement abilities at your disposal that you can pull off anytime like a somersault to quickly get behind your tail, and a drift to cut the boring loop the loops of dogfights short and get straight to the shooting.
If you’re a fan of Everspace, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw or even the classic Rogue Squadron – the demo is absolutely worth playing. Grab it from Steam during the festival. The full game is in development for PC.
Speed Limit is a side-scrolling shooter with an ingenuous premise. Things start out in a boring morning commute and quickly escalate as our hero suddenly gets chased by the police, secret agents hiding among passengers and laser sight-equipped special ops forces.
That chase is essentially the entire game, presented though a one-shot, do or die setup. You get control of the character immediately and you use what you learned on previous runs to anticipate traps as you duck and weave to get through each encounter as quickly as you can. A single bullet is enough to end your run, but the game switches genres liberally, which is really where it shines. The demo starts off inside a train cart, takes you outside to the top of the train, and then throws you into a car which you have to drive as you shoot pursuers.
It’s a hell of a rush to see how long you could last without restarting. A single bullet is enough to end your run, but checkpoints are fairly generous, and the restart is snappy so you’re back in it almost immediately.
The full game promises an endless mode, and even crazier stunts that play with the perspective and expand the scale to ridiculous degrees. It’s a good time. Catch the Steam demo while you can. If you keep dying, there’s an easy mode that drops the number of enemies and adds more checkpoints. The full game is coming to PC.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin
We covered the 9 Monkeys of Shaolin release date announcement back in August and developer Sobaka Studio has since released a free demo, a perfect excuse to talk about it again.
9 Monkeys of Shaolin is a very deep beat ‘em up starring a staff-wielding Chinese fisherman. It starts off slow with basic staff-based attacks, but quickly teases its depth with customisable moves, and three fighting styles.
The demo is essentially a prologue for the game, and really shows the studio’s ambition with its big focus on narrative compared to its previous work. Another cool feature you can try out in the demo is online (and local) co-op, a big addition to what’s clearly a solid beat 'em up.
The trailer above breaks down everything you need to know about 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, so give it a watch. Nothing, however, will convince you of its qualities better than getting your hands on it, and you can do that on Steam, as well as the PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store and Switch eShop.
The full game is due out October 16 on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch.