The Most Promising Early Access 2016

by on December 27, 2016

                I’ve
created this category last year because Early Access is a trend to stay despite
the problems, complaints and deceit that surrounds this controversial games
launching and funding system. This year has seen successful and well made games
like Layers of Fear and Killing Floor 2 leaving Early Access, while quite a few
notable titles joined in.
                The
year kicked off with Factorio, the base building and resource management
wonder. The kickstarted Hack & Slash Umbra changed its name into Wolcen:
Lords of Mayhem on its way to Steam’s Early Access and has taken inspiration
from Path of Exile’s skill tree to add more depth to the progression system.
The Bioshock looking game set in a drug-fuelled retrofuturistic city, We Happy
Few, has brought its survival mode to Early Access. EVERSPACE is trying to take
advantage of the space hysteria with the quite unique concept of roguelite with
spaceships. The Chris Avellone pumped story of Divinity: Original Sin 2 shows
great promise improving over its predecessor in every aspect. Stunlock
Champions returns with Battlerite to right the wrongs of Bloodline Champions.
SEGA has bought AMPLITUDE Studios, but Endless Space 2 looks as promising as
ever. And last but not least, the voxel driven planet exploratory with base
building and survival elements, Astroneer, joins Early Access to put No Man’s
Sky to shame.
                It was
quite a fierce year, with most of the genres being represented by games with
great potential and launching dates in the foreseeable future, but for me the
battle was between two games: Battlerite vs Endless Space 2.
                Battlerite
is an arena based PvP game with no progression system to hinder the 2v2 and 3v3
battles of wits and skill. It’s a game built on the backbones of Bloodline
Champions following the same concepts in gameplay and champions’ design. Each
champion has a set of unique abilities which can combo quite well and use a
skill based targeting system to give a learning curve and skill ceiling worthy
of a competitive game. Battlerite is PvP in the most pristine form, the kind
you usually see in MMORPGs, but without having to grind your characters up to a
playable point to enjoy what the game has to offer. I’ve spent 100 hours in
this Early Access and I see myself spending 100 more before its full release.
                On the other side stands the
sequel to one of my beloved but flawed 4X strategies. Endless Space 2 is a
continuation of the futuristic Endless universe with new lore and so many
gameplay improvements that make it a wonderful strategic experience despite
being incomplete. Compared to most of the 4X strategies out there, Endless
Space 2 takes notes from Grand Strategies, putting a focus on real and
meaningful decisions that are worthy of a galactic leader, leaving micromanagement
for RTS games and the likes. Powered by beautiful graphics, an artistic
direction hard to match, a minimalistic UI design that’s absolutely brilliant
and soul soothing music, Endless Space 2 is set on giving
the players a spatial strategic experience that we probably haven’t seen since
Galactic Civilizations II. Features like quests and minor factions were
borrowed from Endless Legend to give the gameplay even more depth while carefully
expanding the universe’s lore. A neat politics system has been incorporated and
the playable races are more different than ever before while every other major aspect
has been more or less revamped, including the combat, to better fit into the
complex yet somewhat streamlined gameplay.
                As
always, AMPLITUDE has been listening to the fans changing what’s necessary to
improve the game without destroying its identity. Endless Space 2 is the most
promising strategy game of 2017 and implicitly my choice for the most promising
Early Access game of this year.