A Boon to Developers
New video games are fantastic. Explore new worlds, or revisit old ones in a fit of nostalgia and upgraded graphics. Meet fresh and vibrant characters, heroes, and villains, and see their stories unfold at your fingertips. Early Access allows us to experience new games as they develop.
However, development is a long and arduous project, especially for small teams. Despite this, our excitement and curiosity can hardly be sated so easily. Thus, what is better than being able to play a game early? A game in late development is still a game after all. Additionally, gamers testing games is a tried and true method.
Early Access allows developers to sell a “work-in-progress” game. During this Early Access state, the relationship between players and developers is paramount. Feedback from players will directly help developers learn what works and doesn’t work. Meanwhile, players have access to the game in an incomplete form. Thus, the community can have a solid understanding of what the finished product will have.
We’ve seen many games come and go through Early Access. Some of the more recent and notable examples include: the award winning Hades by SuperGiant Games, Dead Cells by Motion Twin, and Risk of Rain 2 by Hopoo Games.
Gunfire Reborn, Adorable and Satisfyingly Explosive
… [an] adventure level-based game featured with FPS (First-Person Shooter), Roguelite, and RPG.Steam Store Page
Gunfire Reborn is an Early Access game being developed and published by Duoyi (Hong Kong) Interactive Entertainment Limited.
This is an adorable, quirky, and vibrant game with colourful character designs. From the enigmatic yet cute cat Crown Prince, to the explosive, dual-wielding bear, Ao Bai. Each hero has distinct abilities that differentiate them from one another. As you play, you can grant permanent bonuses to your preferred hero to give them an edge in future runs.
An Addictive and Enjoyable First-Person Shooter
Runs are incredibly fun and provide a new challenge each time. You never know exactly what you’re going to get with each run. Gunfire Reborn offers a large assortment of different weapons, abilities, and buffs. You will find yourself designing a new build each dungeon dive. Likewise, enemies are varied enough that it requires you to rapidly adjust tactics to deal with oncoming foes.
Gunplay is surprisingly satisfying given the whimsical visuals. Shotguns are noticeably powerful and impactful, and pistols feel quick and responsive. However, you have a limited inventory and in addition to your starting gun, you can only carry two guns that you find.
During runs, you will invariably come across a handful of Occult Scrolls. These give a variety of different buffs that will help you greatly. They vary in rarity and strength: normal, rare, legendary, and cursed.
Additionally, you can find Ascension Scrolls from chests or fallen foes. These Ascension Scrolls allow you to modify your hero for that run. Upgrades give them a variety of bonuses to different abilities or passive damage modifications. These can be subtle things, like lowering the cooldown for your main abilities, thus allowing you to activate it more. Alternatively, you can gain passive buffs, like giving your abilities elemental damage.
Running Dungeons with the Best of Them
Gunfire Reborn is a game that provides satisfying gameplay. It mixes addictive rogue-lite mechanics with fast-paced first-person action. I look forward to the new heroes (hoping we get more than just men), guns, abilities, and more.
As an Early Access game, Gunfire Reborn is in-depth and challenging. I keep discovering something new each time I play, such as cascading boulder traps, new mini bosses, guns and more. With just a little more content it’ll be fantastic, but already it feels nearly complete.
Phasmophobia, Ghost Hunting in Early Access Like You’ve Never Wanted
A four player online co-op psychological horror.Steam Store Page
Phasmophobia is a psychological horror game. It has had the blessing of becoming viral amongst the game streaming community. This is largely due to the game’s highly effective format. Phasmophobia combines first-person horror and a hauntingly terrific puzzle-like goal. Combined with VR, this game has garnered an enviable reputation.
You play as a team of 1 to 4 ghost hunters. Your goal is simple in theory: you venture into haunted places and discover what kind of ghosts are haunting them. In practice? Absolutely horrible, and I’m here for it.
The Goal: Get Haunted, and Don’t Die, Yeah?
Phasmophobia includes the hallmarks of ghost hunting. It gains inspiration from the many ghost hunting shows that circulate the media. One of the most popular and long-running being the eponymous Ghost Hunters television series. Being a video game only turns up the stakes.
Your goal has multiple steps. First, you need to find where the ghost lives. Phasmophobia has a handful of detailed maps. You’ve got small maps like the Suburban Houses and the creepily rustic Farmhouse. Additionally, you have large, maze-like maps like the recently added Prison. Navigating these buildings and finding the haunted room is the first challenge.
The next, and most crucial, step is finding out what kind of ghost you’re dealing with. Phasmophobia has 12 different ghosts. Ghosts come in a variety of types and can look very distinct. Spirits, Poltergeists, Jinn, and Demons are just a few of the spectres you’ll be dealing with.
Primarily, you discover the kind of ghost by using a large assortment of ghost hunting tools. EMF (electro-magnetic field) readers, night-vision enabled cameras, and thermometers just to name a few. However, the challenge is that you can carry only 3 items with you at a time.
Meanwhile, the ghost is trying to find you as well. And kill you.
Emphasis on the “Try Not to Die”
Yes, in Phasmophobia, ghosts can kill you. Quite easily, in fact. A la Amnesia: the Dark Descent, you cannot defend yourself. However, there are ways to avoid the cold embrace of the undead.
The ghost enters a Hunting Phase periodically. During this phase, lights flash rapidly and the house is sealed, locking anyone unfortunate inside. The ghost “manifests” meaning it will become visible. Then it stalks the halls and rooms. During this Hunting Phase, your best chance is to hide, close the door, and most importantly: be very quiet.
Speak Into the Darkness, and Sometimes It Speaks Back
Phasmophobia’s most terrifying (and thus most entertaining) feature is that the ghost can hear you when you mic is activated. Ghosts are always listening. They track and follow you from listening to your voice. Saying their name will rile the ghost. So best not to say it to avoid an early Hunting Phase.
However, we can use this to our advantage in our ghost hunting mission. Speaking to the spectre is an important aspect of getting the evidence you need. Asking it questions you’d hear on Ghost Hunters is a good starting point. “Are you here?” “Give us a sign,” and “reveal yourself,” are all good questions. If you’re both lucky (or unlucky) the ghost might even respond. An opened door might slam shut. A telephone rings nearby. A hideous moan in your ear, and a haunting melody hummed in the darkness. All are signs that the ghost is with you… and acknowledges your presence.
One of my favourite hunting tools allows the ghost to speak to you in return. The spirit box looks like a handheld radio or walkie-talkie. With this tool in hand you can ask questions and certain ghosts will respond. Unfortunately, you must be alone and with the lights turned off to get a response. However, questions must be relatively simple. “Where are you?” “What do you want?” “How old/young are you?” Depending on the ghost, it will respond with one word answers. Here and Kill appearing on the spirit box is hauntingly effective.
Stay in the Light
Additionally, you have a Sanity level. Sanity is represented as a percentage that you can view in the van. Sanity works similarly to games like the Amnesia series. Looking at the ghost, witnessing a paranormal event, or lingering too long in the dark will all reduce your Sanity. Unfortunately, it is far harder to increase Sanity. Sanity Pills, an invaluable resource at higher difficulties, will help by healing it. Consequently, losing Sanity will enable the ghost to hunt more and more. This makes it increasingly difficult to get out alive.
A Cast of Wacky Ghosts
Your main goal is to discover which ghost is haunting the building. Each of the 12 ghost types have a different personality. For example, the Demon is highly aggressive, and will hunt more often than other ghosts. Meanwhile, the Yurei affects players’ Sanity more. Thus, you’ll be more at risk of a hunt starting the longer you play.
Phasmophobia‘s design is simply yet highly effective
Additionally, each ghost has a list of 3 clues that you can find with the various tools. This forms the base of the game. There are a handful of clues that will determine the ghost. Discovering clues like freezing temperatures and finding fingerprints, and others are necessary. Effectively, it is a sort of mystery with deduction elements to it. Phasmophobia‘s design is simply yet highly effective.
There is surprising depth to the game, especially for one in Early Access, but the overall method is simple and formulaic. It is the slight variety of each mission that makes coming back to it again and again so attractive. Because you never know what ghost you’re dealing with until you get haunted by it, there is always that curiosity and sense of mystery within each mission.
Being Haunted by a Murderous Ghost is Kind of Like Group Bonding
Many hands lighten any load. This saying is especially true for Phasmophobia. Having a team at your back will make finding and discovering the ghost significantly easier.
First of all, you literally have more people to hold more tools. With a limited inventory, having more people will reduce the amount of time and the risk of having to trek back and forth.
Secondly, being scared is just better with more people. Being in the van and hearing your friend say “nope, nope, nooooope!” After hearing the ghost brings a sense of camaraderie. You might get haunted and summarily killed, but you’ll be haunted and killed together. Bonding.
A Decent Horror Experience; Phasmophobia has a Strong Structure
In a genre that falls back on jump scares, Phasmophobia is a refreshing addition. While it does incorporate said scares, it relies mostly on its eerie atmosphere. The moment you enter the house or building, and the sound shifts into an unmistakably haunted silence, the game truly begins.
Trying to provoke the ghost to show itself and actually getting a response is surprisingly fun. Combined with the formulaic, logic puzzle structure, it feels as though you are investigating an actual paranormal case. Pushing yourself to get that one photo of the ghost without dying is challenging, but very possible.
However, the biggest flaw is the fact it has relatively few maps. This is naturally understandable, given the game is still in Early Access. The developers have been working on including new content, as well as fixing the problems that arise during development.
If you haven’t already jumped into Phasmophobia, it is definitely worth the relatively small price tag. It’s a great game to jump in for a few cases and a couple scares. However, it is truly meant to be a party game, so bring a few friends with you.
Baldur’s Gate 3, an Ambitious and Gorgeous Game
Gather your party, and return to the Forgotten Realms in a tale of fellowship and betrayal, sacrifice and survival, and the lure of absolute power.Steam Store Page
Baldur’s Gate 3 is the highly anticipated game based on the famous tabletop roleplaying game, Dungeons and Dragons (commonly referred to as D&D). In it, you create your own custom character based on the iconic races of D&D’s world, the Forgotten Realms. You meet and befriend (or offend if that’s more your thing) a band of colourful and eccentric people all based on the various classes of Dungeons and Dragons. Explore the beautiful and lovingly interpreted world, sacrifice to survive, and make difficult and meaningful decisions.
Blending Tabletop and Video Games
Baldur’s Gate 3 is developed and produced by Larian Studios, the creators of fantasy roleplaying series Divinity: Original Sin. Larian Studios has done an excellent job combining the picturesque landscape of the Forgotten Realms and iconic D&D elements with their own style of turn-based gameplay.
The game focuses on exploration, social interactions and relationships, and strategic combat. Baldur’s Gate 3 is easily the game on this list I am most excited about – as both a fan of tabletop roleplaying games, and Larian Studios’ past work on the Divinity: Original Sin series
As an Early Access game, Baldur’s Gate 3 offers a strong synopsis of what the final game will be. The cutscenes and environments are gorgeous, and the combat feels properly strategic. Though very much incomplete, it allows the player to make various choices. You may have to roll the dice to see how you succeed, but you can certainly try.
The choices vary greatly. Do you choose to awaken the mind-controlled thralls and slay them or leave them be? Do you intimidate the graverobbers to leave the crypt for you? Or do you fight your way through them with spells and steel? The consequences can be major or minor. You might close off potential allies or major options in the future. Alternatively, it could be as simple as spending resources in combat rather than saving them for later.
Experts on Strategic, Turn-Based Combat
Fighting feels like the combat in Dungeons and Dragons. To start with, everyone rolls Initiative to determine turn order. Then, everyone takes one Action, one Bonus Action, and moves… Essentially, Baldur’s Gate 3 excellently emulates D&D’s combat in a video game.
Unfortunately, combat can start off feeling a little slow and chunky (also similar to D&D’s actual tabletop combat). This quickly resolves itself as you progress through the game. Unlocking more skills, abilities, and spells will help the flow of combat. Additionally, befriending companions allows you to create a powerful and capable group.
As you progress through the game, the choices and strategic decisions of D&D truly shine. Fighting witches, goblins, or enraged beasts all feel vastly different.
Combat provides a satisfying challenge. Baldur’s Gate 3 uses dice to incorporate the luck involved in D&D combat, as is the way of most tabletop games. You can be blessed with critical strikes, obliterating enemies in a cinematic way. On the same merit, you can continue to roll poorly, missing hit after hit. Progression naturally alleviates these problems. Fighters and Rangers gain more chances to hit, and Wizards and Clerics gain more powerful spells.
However, as you gain more items, spells, and abilities, the screen can become a bit too cluttered. Organization is a necessary component to making sense of all of your possible choices. This is largely restricted to combat, as you are limited to one action and one bonus action.
Better to Quick Save than be Sorry
Regardless of luck, saving consistently is a must in Baldur’s Gate 3. This is partly due to how easy it is to get knocked out in combat (and potentially die and need reviving), but also due to unfortunate freezes. Due to its relatively short time spent in Early Access, bugs and glitches are to be expected. Though minor problems arose, simply loading and replaying would fix the problem.
The occasional tail will get stuck on scenery and forget how to behave, or hair will start to vibrate rapidly. Despite the occasional issue, the game is polished for an Early Access game of its size, but the largest tell is the unfinished content. Conversational options and cutscenes are being added or fixed with consistent updates. Along with bugs and weird combat glitches, these problems will eventually be solved through the remainder of Early Access.
So Many Character Options, So Many More to Come
Baldur’s Gate 3 has eight playable races. It includes the classic Humans, Elves, and Dwarves. It also has specific Dungeons and Dragons species, like the dragon-riding Githyanki, and the infernal Tieflings. I’m excited to see more species included in future updates, like the imposing and muscular Half-Orcs, or the Saurian Dragonborn.
However, classes and their subclasses are where D&D truly packs its character options (other than the literal immensity of our imagination and limitless spectrum of possible choices). In the tabletop game, you choose a class for your character. Then, at a certain level, you can choose a subclass. These then allow players to customize characters and make them unique from others of the same class.
Currently, there are seven classes. You can play a divine-blessed Cleric, the pact-bound Warlock, a stealthy and skilled Rogue, and several others. Each one has a small handful of subclasses.
Due to the sheer size and age of D&D, even just the most recent fifth edition, it is unlikely all the content will be transferred over to Baldur’s Gate 3. Larian Studios will likely continue adding more iconic classes, like the oath-sworn Paladin, and talented Bard classes. In addition to classes and their subclasses, I am excited to see what the team brings into this installment of the series.
The Band of Begrudging Misfits
Over the course of your adventures in the Forgotten Realms, you will encounter many characters. Of these non-player characters (simply referred to as NPCs), you’ll be able to befriend a handful of them and have them join you.
These party members are well-written and interesting characters. Each has their own motivations and preferences. You will have ample time to explore these as you progress through the game. It is as easy as simply talking to them while exploring, talking with other NPCs, and having more intimate interactions in camp.
While resolving situations you stumble into and planning your next step, your companions will offer their own thoughts on the matters. Some will like or dislike your choices. This relationship system is very similar to other roleplaying games, like the Dragon Age and The Walking Dead series.
Each companion has their own D&D class. Some, like the quick-witted Cleric Shadowheart, have their own subclass when you meet them. You can further customize these characters, like your own, through levelling them up. Levelling up lets you pick their bonuses, skills, and spells.
An Early Access Game on its Way to the Big Leagues
Baldur’s Gate 3 is a game that exemplifies the blend of tabletop elements with those of video games. Those familiar with D&D will quickly recognize the many elements that the two have in common. Many of the interactions and encounters are all easily recognizable in Baldur’s Gate 3. While those unfamiliar with tabletop roleplaying games will find an approachable and enjoyable roleplaying video game.
However, Baldur’s Gate 3 is still on its way to completion. Its flaws are not surprising for an Early Access game. Incomplete cutscenes, the occasional frozen dialogue or combat, and only a fraction of content that will be in the official release, are all things that will be addressed. Though resolving these issues will take time.
The biggest downfall of this is the total price of the game. It is currently the most expensive game on this list (and higher than most Early Access games not on this list).
In anticipation for the final version, this game is worth it. Already, Baldur’s Gate 3 appears to be highly promising. Even if incomplete, the game offers many hours worth of entertainment – with the possibility of multiple playthroughs. The myriad of character and companions options, various ways to resolve problems, and hidden troves and secrets to discover around the rich world of the Forgotten Realms all lend themselves to a great game.
Baldur’s Gate 3 feels like it is striving to be a massive game upon release. Watching its journey and changes along the way is part of the joy of playing an Early Access game.
Early Access: Witnessing Ideas Be Born
Early Access games allow the gaming community to actively participate in the development process. We get to see new ideas arrive and become refined. We get to play a game before it is even fully released, thus fixing problems that could go unnoticed otherwise.
This system helps developers in many ways. They get immediate feedback about what works and what doesn’t. Early Access is a boon to many developers and across a variety of game genres. Whether Indie Rogue-lites like Gunfire Reborn, VR horror games like Phasmophobia, and even larger games like Baldur’s Gate 3.
We get to see games reach their potential, and can help them succeed and achieve it.
Which Early Access game are you most excited about? Are there any you feel we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Curious about other new games coming out soon? Check out our article New Generation of Deck Building Games in Early Access.
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