Steam Next Fest Hit me in the Backlog

Back when everyone was losing their minds over Microsoft porting Xbox exclusives to other consoles, I dove into Steam Next Fest demos. My backlog is already stressing me out, but the demos made things worse. I tried out Pacific Drive, Indika and Abiotic Factor. Now I want to play them all when they fully release.

Pacific Drive

Pacific Drive station wagon dashboard lights on driving down the road

I remember Sony touting Pacific Drive as one of their paid exclusives from a third party developer, so I was surprised to see a Steam demo on Next Fest. It looked like a weird mashup of the Long Dark and Stalker, but with cars.

The whole story of Pacific Drive revolves around the Olympic Exclusion Zone. High tech experiments led to instability in matter itself and forced the government to build a huge containment wall around it. The player character is unlucky enough to get sucked in. The rest of the game appears to be about finding a way out.

The Car is the Star

This game revolves around the car. It’s the ugly old Station Wagon like something Clark Griswald would drive in Christmas Vacation. The game wasted no time showing me how much I’d have to care for the car. It’s fun though, at least in the demo.

I had to install a new tire before climbing in, starting the ignition and moving the shifter to drive. The bit of immersion all the steps add was a good start. Driving is about what you’d expect, until I ran out of gas. It was the way for the game to introduce the fuel syphoning mechanic.

I jumped out of the car to grab the fuel can in the back, only for the car to start rolling down the hill. Silly me forgot to put the car in park and had to run after it to fix my mistake. With that sorted, I grabbed the gas can from the back and syphoned fuel from another car.

Once I refueled my car and stowed the gas can, it was off to find a safehouse. I had to toggle the headlights and windshield wipers on, then cue some music to set the mood. After just that stretch of the tutorial, I had a feeling I’d preorder the game.

Tuning up the Station Wagon

Pacific Drive garage

Once I found the garage, there was a flurry of activity. Other survivors (at least I assume they are) guided me over the radio to places in the garage. I installed storage crates in the back of the wagon, along with a crafting table.

My guides walked me through using the repair putty to magically fix panels and fix my tire situation, again. I like that the tires can take damage like a bent rim that requires a mechanic repair versus a flat repair kit.

I even took time to craft additional panels to provide more armor for my car. After I completed my first successful supply run in the zone, I spent a lot of time seeing what I could upgrade in my car. I even accidentally scrapped my engine.

Although I could get out of the car to loot buildings, the car is basically the main character. It has quirks, like mine had a habit of losing a tire. It’s got health (armor) and stamina (fuel), basically. I just love all the tech available for the car and I only saw a limited demo selection.

Honestly, the whole garage and car upgrade experience, alone, convinced me to preorder the game. I wanted to keep playing when the demo ended so much, that I spent another hour messing around the garage. Lucky for me, the game releases the day I’m writing this.

Venturing into the Zone

I’d say half of the game is prepping and caring for the car, but the other half is supply runs in the zone. It’s not an open world, which is a bit of a let down. I can’t drive out of my garage and to my destination. Because the zone changes matter overtime, it’s a bit of a procedural generated location the game loads the car into.

That will provide plenty of variety in the beginning, I just hope it doesn’t get tiresome in the full game. I did like that the game threw some tools at me to ease my looting troubles. The Pacific Drive demo introduced me to a high tech vacuum-like device to literally suck up loot.

A giant grinder-like device helped me break down broken down cars into usable parts. Once I gathered the parts needed, I’d activate a giant pillar of light that acted as my portal back to the garage. That’s where some extraction game elements jump in.

It was a fun dash around trees and rocks while the instability storm chased me to my exit. Before the rush to exit the area, the junction area I explored was mostly stable, but I get the idea future ones won’t be. I look forward to upgrading my car to handle those intense environments and the mad dash to gather resources.

I have a feeling my weekend will mostly be a Pacific Drive one.


Indika Russian Nun with a snow covered town in ruins in the background

While browsing through the top games in Steam Next Fest, I saw the trailer for Indika and sort of skipped passed it. Later on, I read an article about how odd the game is. It involves a Nun who is either possessed or not far from it. At times a devilish voice mocks her and goads her into taking action.

It seemed so weird, I had to try it. The demo started me off with a Nun and a man that apparently kidnapped her. The man had a frostbitten arm and it forced the odd pair to rely on each other. They solved puzzles together and cared for each other.

Those puzzles were fairly standard fair with moving ladders, find items for leverage, etc. Where things became unique, was when the Nun sinned and the world almost morphed into a hellish version of itself. I’d activate her prayers to snap back to reality.

It was actually a very interesting concept to go from reality to the hell version and back to solve the platforming puzzle. The alternating between prayer and letting the devil take over has me thinking how certain groups will be very angry over this game.

I spent the latter part of the demo trying to evade a hellish hound. It looked truly evil, but apparently was just a starved dog. The character’s view of it though, made it look huge. Things don’t end well for the hound , so there’s that.

Let’s Rank up Grief

Another weird game wrinkle is collecting items and ranking up. After collecting enough points through the religious items, Indika presented choices to add points to things like Guilt, Repentance, Duty and Grief.

Not sure what they do beyond provide various ways to increase the rate of ranking up. It’s a very odd skill tree, but a game about a Nun talking to the devil is already there. I am curious as to how those play out in the full game

I didn’t finish the Indika demo, because Abiotic Factor got it’s hooks into me. When the full game releases though, I am curious to see a bit more about it. I’m intrigued as to whether the Nun gives into the evil or conquers it in the end.

Abiotic Factor

Abiotic Factor scientist stuck behind the cafeteria door

I saw a trailer and demo for Abiotic Factor awhile back, but the Half Life (the original one) level graphics turned me off of it. Fast forward to Steam Next Fest and it showed up on many peoples favorite demos lists. The weird survival/crafting/RPG mashup pushed me to try it.

The trailers highlighted the online coop, but it’s definitely playable solo. That is great, because I think I’ve now logged 10 hours into the still available demo and 8 of those on my Steam Deck! The best way I can describe the game is: imagine your character is a scientist starting at a facility like Black Mesa from Half Life, the day everything goes to hell.

Creating my Scientist

Abiotic Factor inventory screen

Right from the character creation, the game shows off it’s charm. I chose a properly gray haired scientist, but there’s plenty of variety to choose from. All are familiar Half-like characters. What’s truly funny is being able to choose a background with various benefits and weaknesses.

I chose my background to be a Theoretical Physicist for the better crafting and construction bonuses. There were also positive and negative perks to choose from. Choosing negative perks provides more perks for positive ones and they are just comedy gold.

The two I most vividly remember are Asthmatic for lower stamina and Weak Bladder to have to piss more frequently. Those are your basic stereotypical nerd ailments, so why not. That’s where the RPG survival elements come into play.

My scientist has all the puny human needs like food, water, urination, defecation, moderate temperature, oxygen, avoiding radiation and need for cleanliness. Plenty of games deal with food or water, but it’s actually pretty funny when my scientist needs the bathroom.

My various fights with creatures led to bleeding that I had to bandage. I also picked up a leg splint. That clued me into the depth of various ailments I’d encounter. I’m sure radiation sickness and other types of ick await me.

Invention is my Scientist’s Super Power

Abiotic Factor crafting and research menu

My character is no Gordon Freeman with fancy HEV suit, so brain power and ingenuity are the characters only defense. The way Abiotic Factor handles crafting is one of the most addictive features. Picking up items in the environment sparks ideas for crafting new items to survive the facility, aliens, mercenaries and robots.

Simpler crafting items were just that easy to unlock the recipe for, but more complicated stuff took some literal brain power. The game presented me with an actual brain with thoughts on various types of parts that could make it happen. Once I figured out the right combination, it unlocked the more complicated recipe.

One of my favorite simpler items in my early hours was crude chest armor that I pieced together with cloth scraps and a lunch tray. Later, I combined some parts with the head of a monster I killed to craft unique helmet.

There is a ton to craft in this game. It’s actually a bit intimidating.

So Much to Craft

I created a makeshift club with a pipe and pressure gauge at it’s head. My arms and legs now have armor thanks to rolled magazines. I built a battery to store energy for when the power shuts off at night.

Since it gets cold, I beat the hell out of some PCs to scrounge parts to build a heater. My heater and battery combo kept my character comfy, at least for a little while. It’s probably going to take more than 1 battery to make it all the way through the night.

Looting stuff filled up my inventory fast, so I crafted a backpack for more storage. Unfortunately, that was not even enough, so I found parts to craft a handcart. Now I can go on proper looting runs. The game is great at feeding newer and better solutions to problems.

There’s NPC and Actual Campaign Missions Too

It’s not just about survival , NPCs in the facility dole out missions to progress towards the ultimate goal of escaping. I started out finding a way to let a scientist through the locked cafeteria door which did not end well for him.

The game quickly whisked me away to talk to security about where to exit from. That chat led me to a poor guy injured in front of a blocked door I needed to get through. Which had me meet a scientist giving me plans for a hacking device to get to a power cell.

Now that project has me fetching dozens of different components to build the 4 high tech devices that make up that hacking device. Honestly, I need to just stop playing the demo and wait for the full release. It’s not a good idea to spend so much time just to start over later.

The crafting and survival loop, alone, will rack up my gameplay hours when this fully releases in May. I wish listed it, but I’d happily preorder it right now. It’s just so odd to look forward to a game that appears so dated, but I’ve fallen in love with the great gameplay.

My Poor Backlog

Playing these Steam Next Fest demos stole time away from other games I already own. The worst part though is now I own Pacific Drive (which is also good news), wish listed Abiotic Factor and am leaning towards checking out Indika. I spent less time actually tackling my backlog and now added additional hours to it.

Even though I’ve sort of shot myself in the foot, I’d still play demos in a future Steam Next Fest. These weird games I might have overlooked are now a part of my backlog to look forward to. It’s great to play all these off the wall, weird stuff for free before I buy.

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