Although Steam’s Next Fest is starting to wind down, you can start to hear the faint whistle of the hype train as it starts to gain speed. Over the past several days I’ve tried dozens of RPGs out of over 200 that were showcased during Next Fest. Throughout the mixed bag of roguelikes, PvP focused slaughterfests, and too-early-to-call-alpha headscratchers, I was able to whittle down the list to 5 RPGs that you need on your Wishlist.
Inkbound – A Unique Roguelike Multiplayer Strategy Game
Developer Shiny Shoe has been on my radar ever since I got sucked into a little game called Monster Train. When I heard that Inkbound was going to be an online-only multiplayer roguelike game, I was over the moon, and then I sat down to finally try it some weeks back. At first I wasn’t really sure if the multiplayer aspects would work in a roguelike tactical strategy game, but Shiny Shoe showed me that they actually work very well.
The demo available on Steam is quite limited in its current state, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an ample amount of fun to be had. You’ll be able to swap from three different characters, complete with their own set of unique cards to play, and upgrades to unlock. Despite the limitations, I found myself running through the various books, testing new strategies, and ultimately defeating the only boss available in the demo, dozens of times. If you’re looking for something that feels like a fresh take on the turn-based tactical RPG, Inkbound should be on the top of your list.
Darkest Dungeon II – Everything Sucks, Then You Die, Then Do it Again for Fun
Darkest Dungeon II is not a multiplayer game, unfortunately. But, if you played Darkest Dungeon before, you may realize that, it’s probably for the best. After all, you don’t want to bring any of your friends or loved ones into a world so dark, punishing, and horrific that you’re all but guaranteed to die. In Darkest Dungeon II, however, that’s just part of the fun.
I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted with Darkest Dungeon II, due to the constraints of the demo, but I did jump into my carriage and hang in there long enough to make plenty of bad decisions. For those that have played the original Darkest Dungeon there will be a lot of strategy required, with new heroes complete with their own backstories, new gruesome monsters to learn how to defeat, and roguelike replayability where even a failure could be to your benefit on your next playthrough. If you haven’t hopped into the demo yet, you don’t have to wait too long to get into the game as Darkest Dungeon II will finally release on May 8th, 2023.
Dark Envoy – Gunslinger Mages and Multiplayer for this Classic Strategy RPG
I am a big fan of great strategy RPG’s like Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland 3, so I wasn’t all that surprised when I loaded Dark Envoy by Event Horizon and fell into a state of strategy RPG euphoria. Dark Envoy provides a classic strategy RPG experience, with a few changes mixed in to keep you on your toes, like a cover mechanic, and a semi-realtime mode that will allow you to play at a pace that keeps combat interesting, without having to completely stop the battle (although you can pause the battle if you must).
Players will create two characters at the start of their journey, then choose their classes and difficulty, and then you’re off to the races, forging a path ahead with many difficult decisions, and death defying battles. My first foray into Dark Envoy was spent in normal difficulty, and I was pleasantly surprised at some of the curveballs that were thrown at me early on in the game. I can’t wait to see how those choices change when I can co-op with my friends when the game releases later in 2023.
Ethyrial: Echoes of Yore – An Oldschool MMORPG That Embraces Team Play
I was a little skeptical when I first covered Ethyrial: Echoes of Yore back when their kickstarter hit the scene a year ago. I was equally skeptical when I finally hopped into the game on the demo during Next Fest, and noticed that my movement was slow and a little clunky, and that I couldn't walk diagonally. However, Ethyrial: Echoes of Yore started to grow on me as I stuck it out, and moved beyond the tutorial stage. As an MMORPG player that loves to play a healer, I couldn’t help but feel ultimately useless throughout the tutorial as a Mystic focused on healing.
After I made my way to the outer world, I was able to group up with other players, heal them through some difficult encounters, gather plenty of goods, and explore the dangerous world of Irumesa. I also enjoyed the unique feature of text-chat with NPCs. While the text-chat still felt very limited in use, and the game needs a lot of polish, Ethyrial offers an updated take on the “games of yore” classic hardcore MMORPG formula. It’s insanely obvious from the look and feel of the game that this won’t appeal to everyone, especially gamers who are used to a more streamlined way to play, but for the right niche of hardcore group MMORPGers, Ethyrial needs to go on your list.
Ravenbound – Visceral Combat, Roguelite Progression, and an Open World
Ravenbound, to say the absolute least, is my uncontested favorite game out of everything I tried during Next Fest. Ravenbound features an almost souls-like combat feel, with a roguelike progression system, a huge open world, and oh-yeah, the ability to turn into a raven and fly to your destination of choice. Every one of the features, from the combat to the card-based equipment system, really hit me in all the right places. During my one-hour playthrough on the demo, I fought through hordes of enemies, completed several quests, and of course, explored the world in the air and on the ground, all of which left me wanting more.
While the game may not be quite as complex as a game like Elden Ring, it’s important that potential players know that the combat is very skill-based, with timed dodging and blocking being paramount to your success. I also did not see any ranged classes during the demo, so if you’re hoping to build out a bow-wielder, this may not be the game for you. However, if you’re looking for a roguelite challenge, and don’t mind a little permadeath with your progression, Ravenbound might just be the game for you.