Three picks for Steam Next Fest: Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, DarKnot & Stick it to the Stickman

Every PC gamer knows about Steam’s big sales, but when you’re thinking of upcoming games it’s all about Steam Next Fest, which starts today. With hundreds of demos to choose from, we thought we’d recommend three of them for you – here’s a look at Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, DarKnot and Stick it to the Stickman.

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider

Indie publisher The Arcade Crew has worked with developer JoyMasher before on the very well-received Blazing Chrome, and they’re now gearing up towards the release of Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider – which will be available in demo form during Steam Next Fest. The game is due out for release later this year on PCs and consoles.

We actually had the pleasure of meeting with The Arcade Crew and JoyMasher a few weeks ago just after the game was unveiled, and during a developer-aided play session it was easy to see that the inspirations that fueled Blazing Chrome are here for Vengeful Guardian as well – it’s another side-scrolling action platformer with roots in the 16-bit era, but where the previous game was a run and gunner like Midnight Resistance, Vengeful Guardian is more of a platformer with an emphasis on melee as well as ranged combat.

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Your protagonist is the titular Guardian, a robotic ninja designed to uphold the rulers’ hold over humanity in a dark version of the future. Luckily (for us humans), this particular guardian decides to grow a conscience and rises up against his makers, deciding to take them and the other guardians down. As with most games from the 16-bit era, the gameplay itself is very much action-driven, but at least now you know why you’re battling huge bosses at the end of each of the game’s eight levels.

And while eight levels doesn’t sound like a lot, there’s a steep learning curve in the game, and getting to the end boss (with enough health) in each level is a serious challenge. Luckily, you can upgrade the Moonrider with special modifier chips you can find and unlock, which also change your fighting style. With classic action platforming where remembering and learning is part of the experience, combined with retro visuals and a ditto soundtrack, this is one to look out for. You can check out the game here.

DarKnot

It’s October, so you might already be on the lookout for something a little more on the horror side of things. If so, then DarKnot has you covered, especially if you’re looking to see what’s out there outside of the usual brands like Resident Evil and The Dark Pictures Anthology. Developed and published by DarKnot Team as a PC exclusive, it’s a brand new IP from an indie team developing their first game.

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You wouldn’t think so though, as it’s an incredibly ambitious project both in terms of technical achievements and gameplay design. To start with the former, DarKnot’s world is fully realized in 3D with some impressive (and gruesome) design work on display, and while some of the UI elements are a little rough at this point, we couldn’t help but be impressed by this first time effort.

Even more impressive, however, is that DarKnot was designed to support several modes of play, with a game world that lets you choose your own way to play it. If you’re more action-oriented, you can choose to go after weapons and fight enemies. Prefer a more stealthy approach? You can do that too – looking for useful objects in the dark and/or crafting what you need in order to progress. The way that lore is distributes to the player facilitates multiple playthroughs as well, as even a playthrough with the same gameplay style should feel different a second time.

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DarKnot is one of the most ambitious new horror projects we’ve seen in a while, and fans of the genre should keep an eye out for it. For now, however, you can try the demo during Steam Next Fest.

Stick It To The Stickman

This one’s not coming out until 2023, which by itself makes it worth checking out because it’s a nice early look at a game you wouldn’t be playing any time soon otherwise. Stick it to The Stickman is being developed by Free Lives and will be published by Devolver Digital. We had access to a demo build last week, and think you should check it out during Steam Next Fest as well.

It’s hard to describe a game like this though, because from one perspective it’s a business/tycoon management game but in reality it plays much more like a roguelike brawler where the only way up the corporate ladder is by literally fighting your way up there. It’s satirical and sometimes even harsh in that sense, like when you’re greeted by someone telling you you’re lazy and should “get a job!”. When you get hired, your first line of business is to fire the person who told the company you were the best possible candidate for the job – thereby making himself obsolete. Ouch.

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And that’s not even half of it – the “firing” process is actually to pummel your buddy to death, and to rise up the ladder you need to that to plenty of other colleagues as well, working your way up to management and even CEO level. If you’re successful, you get offered the job by a couple of ominous overseers, and the game makes it clear that free choice – at least in most cases – is an illusion.

It’s a pretty bleak look at corporate capitalism, brought to life through easy to grasp combat mechanics with tons of upgrade paths for you to tweak your fighting style with. New characters for future runs, new attacks, it’s all there. It’s certainly a brawler with a very special and unique kind of attitude, so be sure to grab the demo while it’s available here.

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