Feature Friday Five: Steam Early Access Games Image

Published on March 22nd, 2013 | by Kevin Kartanata


[Friday Five] Most Interesting Early Access Games

Early access betas were virtually unheard of four to five years ago, but with the runaway success of games like Minecraft and the explosive growth of independent game developers, it’s no wonder that Steam has unveiled its Early Access program. Here are some games that we’re keeping an eye on.

fridayfive starforge 01


Most any sandbox creation game takes cues from Minecraft nowadays, and StarForge does exactly that while offering a sci-fi shooter twist to the mix. The game features a creative mode for pranking friends or crafting empires as well as a “horde mode” called Fort Defense, where players must protect a vat by building fortifications or blasting away at waves of alien creatures. Procedurally generated weapons and tilesets, real-time physics, and a LAN-capable multiplayer mode to create or destroy at your leisure all make StarForge particularly tantalizing.

fridayfive kenshi 01


Open-ended sandbox RPGs are often the stuff of memetic legends and Kenshi seems to be no different. With an emphasis on freeform gameplay, Kenshi tasks players to forge their own destinies to be anything you want it to be, whether that is a tactful trader, bloodthirsty bandit, rambunctious rebel or beyond. Players take on allies as squadmates to carve their way across a dynamic and original game world that they also have a hand in shaping by building settlements and safe havens to use as a business or base of operations. Evocative of both the venerable KOTOR series and the cult hit Mount and Blade, Kenshi is shaping up to be every bit as addictively granular as its RPG brethren.

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Kerbal Space Program

Gamers still mourning the death of NASA’s space program can finally pick themselves up off their tear-stained basement floors and pick up Kerbal Space Program, probably the only simulator video game market that isn’t based on a farm vehicle and also makes crashing look damned fun. Players create and launch custom-built spacecraft manned by the titular Kerbals, little green creatures who endure the inevitable failures of whatever hunk of metal that you decide must be strapped to a set of rockets. Should you succeed in making it into space with exploding into smithereens, an entire solar system is yours to explore and settle with space stations and bases, an intergalactic planetary adventure to tickle the fancies of space nerds and sadists alike.

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Gear Up

Tank aficionados looking for hardcore simulation have World of Tanks, but those with a more chaotic palette may find themselves in want of something along the lines of Gear Up. Supporting up to 32 armored behemoths per battle, Gear Up allows players to create and customize their own tanks with which to wreak havoc across any number of environments including cities and deserts. Parts range from the practical and tactical to just plain weird – machine guns and missile launchers can be attached to tanks equipped with spider legs or turbines. While the game will eventually launch as free-to-play with “premium” features, early purchasers will receive access to all vehicle parts as well as forthcoming single player and co-op missions.

fridayfive prison architect 01

Prison Architect

If you’ve ever passed by or been to a state penitentiary and thought, “I could do way better,” then Prison Architect is probably the game for you. Tasked with building a prison from the ground up, players construct cell blocks to contain the criminal elements sent to you by the busload and keep them as docile as possible as they serve their sentences. This means hiring prison guards to keep the peace and chefs to feed your inmates – failure to do so may result in a riot, which, as we all know, is a less than satisfactory outcome at any prison. It’s hard not to be charmed by the trailer’s frankness regarding the amount of bugs in the alpha version, but fans of micromanagement games like the SimCity and Civilization series may want a piece of this quirky title.

The addition of the Early Access program and its first wave of games is telling of Steam’s growth as a platform while signifying how far indie games have come that developers now have any number of ways to release games on their own terms.

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