Being a PC gamer allows me to check out many games that are nowhere near ready for a full release. These games are known as “Early Access” games. By purchasing such a game, you become an investor in a project still in development, but get to play what is readily available. One of the cool things about Early Access is that the game is offered at a lower price because you are making a good-faith investment. Sometimes Early Access projects will make it to the big 1.0 version. Other times, they may be abandoned due to a variety of reasons. I did a post back in 2020 that presents some things to think about if you decide to buy an Early Access title. For this post, I want to share some of the good experiences that I’ve had investing in these types of games.
Last Epoch is my favorite Early Access title. It’s a Diablo-like action RPG developed by Eleventh Hour Games that has been in its pre 1.0 state for more than two years. Yet it is packed with more content than a lot of full releases that I’ve seen. Even in its unfinished state, it’s also one of the best games I’ve played in the past two years. My background with hack and slash RPGs before Last Epoch mainly came from the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series. Last Epoch gave me my first taste of what a Diabo-like experience was because I had not played any of the Diablo titles up to that point. This Early Access game has become the reason why I now own several of these types of games from Diablo II & III to Titan Quest and The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Another bonus for me with Last Epoch is that it also contains time travel with the ability to travel to different eras. Even if Last Epoch received no further updates, it is still a fantastic game in its current state.
I can not say enough great things about Last Epoch and would recommend it for anyone to give it a try. The skill tree and character classes are very well done providing the player with a wide range of potential experiences that also encourage multiple playthroughs. Once you start playing, you’ll easily lose track of time. Even when you put the controller down, you’ll like forward to when you take it up again and continue your journey. Last Epoch is only available on Steam and will drop a significant update within the next two weeks.
After buying Madden NFL 20 and being severely disappointed in Electronic Arts for the present state of its popular football franchise, I had convinced myself that I didn’t need to buy another football video game. I had both ESPN NFL 2K5 and Madden NFL 08, which both receive updated rosters annually and have a collection of classic rosters. But it was an indie game in Early Access that caused me to change my mind in March 2021. The game is Legend Bowl.
Featuring a retro style with modern mechanics, Legend Bowl was the breath of fresh air that football gaming had needed for years. It was developed and published by Super Pixel Games with King Javo (a longtime content contributor within the sports gaming community) as the team lead. Playing the game reminded me of Tecmo Super Bowl and the earlier versions of John Madden Football (minus the passing windows). First off, the game is a ton of fun to play. From there, it features plenty of customization that allows you to create your own teams and players. Although Legend Bowl’s full release took place in September 2021, the six months I spent with it in Early Access led me to conclude it was the best modern football game on the market. The fantastic NFL mod has only sweetened the deal for me. To this day, the game is receiving updates and a full Franchise Mode is planned for the future. At this point, Legend Bowl is only available on PC.
OPERATION: HARSH DOORSTOP
The plan is for Operation: Harsh Doorstop to be free when it is fully released on Steam. A free alpha version will launch on March 30th. In the meantime, Patreon supporters can obtain a Steam key for a minimum of $5 that allows them access to a pre-release version of this indie first-person shooter. Under development by Drakeling Labs, Operation: Harsh Doorstop takes an ambitious approach with seeking to include multiple theatres of war that will include World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. It takes inspiration from classic Battlefield games, Squad, and Insurgency Sandstorm. While the current map selection is low and the game still needs a significant amount of work and polish, what I’ve played so far since last fall shows a great deal of promise and I’m excited to see where this game ends up by 2023.
Many first-person shooters saturate the market. What drew me to this game was the sentiment shared by the developers of wanting to create a shooter that truly appeals to the FPS community. From the beginning, Drakeling Labs has implemented bot support for those who wish to have a single-player experience and not be restricted to multiplayer. Even in its Early Access state, the game has also been made mod-friendly. So along with the work the team has already been doing on Operation: Harsh Doorstop, mod kits were made available last year for mod creators to work with the game. This type of mod support ensures that user-created content will play a vital role in the game’s longevity. A free alpha version of Operation:Harsh Doorstop will be made available to the public on March 30.
Continuing with great shooters in Early Access, Ravenfield is a treat to play. The $14.99 gem developed and published by SteelRaven7 is much further along than Operation: Harsh Doorstop with much more content and a ton of available mods on Steam Workshop. You can tell from the start that Ravenfield is inspired heavily by Battlefield with its class system, use of vehicles, and modes. But the “Army Men” type graphical style of this game is what makes it stand out. Ravenfield looks as if someone took my toys from when I was a kid and put it into a video game. Yet it works, especially with the ridiculous ragdoll physics. If you are looking for an ultra-realistic shooter, Ravenfield will fail in that area. But if you are looking for a good time, Ravenfield can provide that and then some.
The two default sides are the “Blues” and the “Reds” although they can be modded into whatever you want. If you want the NYPD or Star Wars Stormtroopers, it is possible. While I can have a blast playing with all of the default content, the mods really add to the fun. Units aren’t the only things that are moddable. You can also explore weapon mods, vehicle mods, plane mods, map mods, and so much more. Ravenfield is a game that flies under the radar since it is Early Access, can only be purchased on Steam, and has a non-realistic look. But it’s better than many other shooters out there, including Battlefield 2042. Ravenfield is highly worth checking out if you’re into shooters on PC.
When I first played Hades in its Early Access state in early 2020, it did not take long to realize that I was playing something special. After a few hours, I became convinced that Hades was Game of the Year material. The creation of Supergiant Games wasn’t even finished and was still several months away from a full release during my initial experience. Yet everything about Hades was top-notch. Every single aspect of Hades provided an absolute feast for the eyes, ears, and mind. It was as close to a perfect game as I had seen in years and I had never even been much into Roguelike games. Even before its eventual full release, I was fully persuaded that I would play no better game in 2020. IGN also agreed.
Hades is an excellent gaming package. The art style is dazzling, the voice acting and music are superb, the controls and gameplay are smooth, the levels are both challenging and rewarding, and there is a ton of stuff to discover and unlock. What Supergiant Games accomplished with Hades showed that indie developers can produce games that can rival the big AAA-produced titles. In many ways, all of the awards that Hades has garnered since 2020 has been a huge win for indie games as a whole.
Last Epoch, Legend Bowl, Operation: Harsh Doorstop, Ravenfield, and Hades are five games that I’ve been proud to support since their Early Access days. Better yet, they are indie games, which I’m always eager to endorse. Last Epoch, Operation: Harsh Doorstop, and Ravenfield have yet to reach “full release” status. I look forward to the day they all get there. My experience with these five games makes me continually open to supporting other games through Early Access in the future. And when the games do as awesome as Hades has, it’s nice to know you were there from the beginning.