The Fall Steam Next Fest has come and gone. I honestly nearly missed it, had it not been for our editor-in-chief pointing out. Upon discovering the treasure trove of simulator demos, I scrambled to download over a dozen of them on Steam, spending the course of two days sampling each one. Much like my experience with this year’s summertime Next Fest, I’m walking away from this one with a rotund wishlist and childlike eagerness to see more demos crop up, because the selection here was nothing short of ace.
I managed to find five standout simulators in this Fall lineup from the Steam Next Fest demos selection. While I can’t say there’s one that’s completely superior to the other, I can say that they each stand out for unique reasons. Either way, they’re all certainly worth checking out properly once they’re fully released.
Airport Renovator – A pilot’s playground
Flight simulator titles are a dime-a-dozen out there. But, Airport Renovator stands out as being a sim title that focuses, not so much on flying or even the aircraft themselves, but the management of airfields. It’s cool to get down into the virtual nitty-gritty of an often overlooked part of the flying world.
Airport Renovator allows players to buy old abandoned airports and spruce them up by repairing rundown buildings, mowing overgrown foliage, power washing away dirt and grime, and adding light fixtures to the runways and taxiways. These are the tasks that the demo version included, though the endgame survey does suggest that the team has plans to implement more interaction with, well, the aircraft. That’s the one odd omission I noticed; I never once got the chance to actually work with or around a single airplane. Aircraft towing, cargo/passenger transport, fueling, catering, emergency services; these are just some of the real life operations that go into running an airport. So, it would be great to see them implemented into Airport Renovator. Otherwise, it’ll just be another mundane “chore simulator.”
Art of Destruction – Cathartic carnage
Humans have an innate desire to create things. It’s why people make art, music, videos, crafts and the like. Yet, we also seem to be drawn to a good explosion. I don’t know why, but seeing bits and bobs get smashed and blown about in all directions is just…cool. As long as nobody’s getting hurt, that is. Well, Art of Destruction captures these satisfactions decently well.
As the name suggests, the objective is to simply…destroy. There are a few premade maps with buildings and other objects. The buildings can be completely smashed by means of effortlessly picking up trees and flinging them. Even dislodged pieces of said buildings can then be hurled at other structures to create further polygonal chaos. But, for a game that has “destruction” in its title, your toolbox for carrying this out is surprisingly light. Those methods of destruction are the only ones I found; there’s not even a stick of dynamite to use. Perhaps I may of missed it, but not even in the level creator did I find any. That said, this was only the demo version after all, so perhaps the dev team has some plans for the future.
Climber: Sky is the Limit – High-altitude hazards
I come from the Bahamas, which has terrain as flat as a sheet of paper. Thus, mountain climbing is one of the most foreign things to me. Even so, I enjoyed the concept behind Climber. The short demo did a great job at providing an overview of the game’s surprisingly in-depth arsenal of different mechanics. Climber features just about anything you can think of, like your character having limited stamina that needs to be managed in real time, not being able to traverse rough terrain without the proper equipment, etc.
Even the simulation of the different tools you have to use seems pretty authentic and works well with the mouse/keyboard combo. For instance, you climb vertical walls by means of clicking two close-range points, which feels pretty intuitive. Seeing that this is part survival-sim, there is some skill and strategy needed to complete each of its mountains; just like in real life.
Hometopia – Taking HGTV to the PC
I’m not the only one who has a mom that unironically watches HGTV without fail, right? Either way, I’ve casually watched alongside her plenty, and I actually am a little interested in home décor and design because of this. Thus, a title like Hometopia captures that feeling of putting together the “perfect room” scarily well.
Hometopia is filled to the brim with different items to deck out your new virtual house with. On top of that, the actual building system allows you to dictate even the exact shape and dimensions that you want. It even goes as far as including a floor plan and plot view, so the budding contractors and architects out there can really go to town with precise measuring. But, of course, the most fun part of actually painting walls, placing furniture and the like is very intuitive and easy to grasp. Much like other design titles out there, it’s far too easy to just get sucked into the experience and lose a few hours — which I became guilty of in just my first session. The only real complaint I have is the lack of variety in background music; which is quite important to the creative experience, for some reason. Nevertheless, Hometopia is shaping up to be one of those sleeper sim hits that could become a Twitch darling when it’s fully released.
SimRail: The Railway Sim – Track trials
Aside from flight simulators, rail sims are the next genre that I took a fancy too from childhood. Old classics like Microsoft Train Simulator and Trainz stole many hours from my younger years. Over the years, the genre has grown healthily with continually advancing titles, such as Dovetail’s recent hit, Train Sim World 2. That said, indie devs don’t tend to capture exactly the same level of complexity that such larger projects do. Yet, SimRail seems absolutely poised to break the status quo in this regard.
I was stunned to discover how in-depth and polished this budding sim is. SimRail has full voice acting, full cockpit and walkabout interactivity, along with solid visuals and sound design. While these all seem like a given, such smaller rail sims in the past have often just focused on the driving experience, so I’m very pleased to see SimRail go all out. The whole demo experience flowed quite nicely. I had initially downloaded it excepting it to be a cheap imitation of the larger IPs, but as the characters from Thomas the Tank Engine would say — consider my buffers busted.
I’ve already wishlisted the full versions of these demos on Steam, and I honestly can’t wait to check out each of these simulators in their full capacity.
Some will release before the year is out, while others are slated for 2022. Regardless, the next few months is looking really good for simulator fans, and there’s literally something here for everyone. Props to all of the studios behind these projects; these demos are really impressive.