The Value of Early Release Games

So we have seen them or heard about them:  Games that have been released before their final polishing.  What would have been a seemingly questionable, or bad business practice is becoming the norm, but with good reason.  Whether it is for advertising, financial backing, or just general feedback from the community, developers are grabbing our attention with this method and what was just small ripples, is now a tidal wave of content.  So while we are all drowning in this salty sea of pictures, audio, and gameplay, let me get my head above the splashes to name you why this brings benefits and unfortunate side (if not full) effects.  In looking at this, I will do the examination based upon games that I am already investigating.

So, let’s go ahead and get the most obvious con out of the way.  It is INCOMPLETE.  No matter how much fun you have, or how much you enjoy the game…especially if it is campaign based, without a sandbox, the game will end fast.  I will say that if the only value in the game is supposed to be the story…it might be best to avoid.  However, I counter that with the games that are following the procedural generation or sandbox design.  You will find that many of these games are attacking that route, adding to great replayability.

Overgrowth,  AI Combat:  Ever hear of kung fu rabbits, angry wolfs, and security dogs?  Well, that’s exactly what you will find here.  The developers are putting a lot of time into the combat and physics, and while i enjoy playing as a kung fu rabbit, I really just love turning the AI off and on so that everyone fights with each other and I watch.  Yes, these fights can take place in a coliseum or pit.  Arbitrary Michael Vick reference here.  Nevertheless, having access to developers tools is a great bonus for being an early buyer.  If you are into coding, practice with this and see what you can do.

Contagion, Added Horror:  When purchasing this game, I and my friends saw many problems from the start.  Getting lost was way too easy, but that is kind of a good thing.  Contagion runs on the concept that the maps are large and you are constantly on the run and getting divided from your survivor group.  There is a hopelessness that comes with feeling lost, and whether that was intentional or not, I think it adds much to the early gameplay.

Folk Tale, Social Commentary:  While this game promises sandbox mode, it isn’t there yet.  What you do get is a very long tutorial.  I find humor in this development due to the accidental sexism in the game.  The male peasants are allowed to have jobs, where as it doesn’t work for the females yet.  I think to myself, “Certainly, this wasn’t done on purpose.”  Then, I hear one of the peasant women talking to the guards, and she is really pissed.  “Why can’t women join the town’s guard?”  So, despite the design still being in process, the developers saw fit to add the social commentary, and I find that excellent.  The conversations between npcs give me a chuckle here and there.  Anyways, feeling for the lady peasant, I rounded many females to fight alongside the towns guard, but I can’t arm them yet (dammit), but they hold their own, and are outlasting the guards with just their fists.  They are level 3’s right now, whereas I have to keep producing town’s guards.  The guards keep dying.  Anyways, the social commentary was the benefit of early access in this.  Nevertheless, I hope to see many more rpg opportunities with each npc.  I want all of them to be unique, all with a different personality (and specialty traits).  Hopefully, this will be within their best interests to pursue.  The biggest setback though for this is wanting the sandbox mode…I am waiting anxiously…but sandbox leads me to the next game…

Kenshi, Too Much Fun NOW:  Incomplete, and yet I have put over 30 hours into this game.  I love the concept of a desert wasteland with real time combat and rpg elements.  There are times where the game can turn unplayable, leaving me to reset it.  However, the developers make it easy to extract your characters and put them on a new map.  In doing that, I don’t feel the game is ruined…it is easy to tack on a story that my group was exiled from the settlement which they established and had to move off to find a new trade.  That is the thing I love about sandbox…you can make your own story.  Really, there isn’t a unique feature to this game’s early alpha element except that you get to play it NOW, and that is enough for me.

So, there you have it.  The Steam Sales are going on until January 3rd, so take this opportunity and have a look at some of these.  Their gameplay will only grow after your initial investment.

See you on the other side, folks.

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