I’ve tried to stay away from betas and early access games but nowadays you can’t help but stumble into them. Maybe it’s a marketing promotion or a free key passed around by friends. Maybe you get an invite for being an Xbox Gold or PlayStation Plus member. Maybe there’s just a good (pre)sale on Steam. Despite my efforts I wound up playing more of these than I expected to in 2014. Here’s a little about each.
Beta: It’s just another word for ‘Timed Demo’
The Crew beta
Ubisoft blew it! A free-form racing game across the United States with no loading from coast to coast; and they gave it all away in the beta. All I ever needed out of this game was to recreate the Cannonball Run, and I did, and then I was done playing the beta. The actual game seems neat as well but the emphasis on multiplayer spoils it for me.
I managed to get into the beta for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox One and the difference between them was a surprisingly minute amount of fidelity. They both played identically and ran just as smoothly with only higher resolution textures making a difference. This was the closest I got to being swayed by a beta into buying the full game but I was already bored by the time I got to the moon.
I love the world, the acrobatic gameplay and the giant mechs slamming onto the battlefield. It’s the playing that bums me out. It’s just another tiny arena where you mindlessly, endlessly shoot other people. I tried to explore the space available but some people just don’t care about architectural appreciation.
Early Access: Play the game you just paid to help finish
Neo Scavenger Early Access
I played the demo of this game endlessly and finally bought into the Early Access version when it was in a bundle. I’m rubbish at surviving this game’s hardcore, hard science world but like any good randomized roguelike it only makes me want to try again (and again and again). It’s still not “finished” but what is there is substantial, I actually had to make sure it was even still Early Access.
Nom Nom Galaxy Early Access
I love the idea of focusing the resource gathering and crafting of Terraria on a larger gameplay mechanic. It’s all about streamlining the production of soup to beat out the competition. It’s the kind of mundane excitement that I can really get behind but like most of these games I’ve only dabbled until it’s farther along.
Prison Architect Early Access
Another pre-sale bundle buy, this is the one beta/early access game I’ve spent the most time with; around 30 hours to be more precise. Being a simulation game makes it easier as I’m building everything from nothing and not exploring already built content. It’s missing some core motivational features (campaigns, progress, Achievements, etc) but the basics are there to instill loads of stress and accomplishment.
Starbound Early Access
A sci-fi Terraria with interplanetary travel? I was sold the instant I heard the description and it’s still one of the few games I’ve backed. I’m still waiting for it to be more Final but I did jump into the beta build a few times. I’ve kept up with the development blog and though people seem to think the game has stalled I’m happy to wait. It just doesn’t make for any interesting stories to write in this recap.
Viscera Cleanup Detail Early Access
There is something supremely clever and oddly appealing about being the janitor that comes in behind the rampaging sci-fi hero. It wasn’t a kickstarter thing but I put down money as quickly as possible to pre-order this one. A year and a half later and I’m still waiting for it to be final before I put my heart into mopping up ludicrous gibs.