Codex: Early Access

By Admin 05 Jun 2017 0

Early Access games have become a new staple in the games industry, allowing players to support a game through its early development in exchange for playing it sooner. First traced back to the continued development of Minecraft in 2009 and reaching mainstream status in 2011 via Valve's efforts, the term "Early Access" is now mostly associated with the eponymous Steam program.

steam early access logo

In theory, game developers do not release unfinished versions of their products. Instead, publishers rely on in-house testing and internal quality assurance to fix bugs. Indie developers often can't afford QA teams, and instead must rely on their players to help them work out any kinks before launching their games. In exchange, players typically get to influence development via feedback and suggestions, creating a more personal investment in the development of the title as a whole.

Buying into an Early Access game is not always a safe proposition -- players that pay to participate often get alpha and beta builds of the title before the final version is released. When the developers are not in constant contact with their community or overestimate their financial or technical capabilities to deliver the product, complications arise and players might find themselves without a game. Steam's security and convenience helps mitigate the dangers of supporting an early access title, but it cannot be held accountable if a title fails to deliver.

We see a lot of strategy titles enter and leave Early Access, and we know it can be hard to separate the the good from the bad. In order to help you make an informed decision, we will play & preview any noteworthy early access strategy titles we can, so check back here often.

ATTRITION: TACTICAL FRONTS

8

Early Access Title Since: 14 Jul, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 End of 2017 

"Through and through, we're looking at a war game that keeps its boots firmly on the ground - a line we're all learning to loathe this year. Being a World War themed turn-based tactics game, it certainly isn't as graphically intensive as Steel Battalion nor as narratively focused either. It flaunts its ability to have a match finish in as little as 5 minutes - but that doesn't always play into its favour." 

GENESIA LEGACY: ULTIMATE DOMAIN

GLUD01

Early Access Title Since: 9 May, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 TBA 

"Genesia, a spiritual sequel to the old and much-revered Amiga game from which Thomas Zighem’s title draws its name, is a duality of zen and mania. And very good. Players begin encamped on an island in the New World. Shades of Plymouth Rock, there’s nay but a scattering of huts, fields and a population of three. Though not the best showcase of colonial planning, this tiny clutch of pioneers form the cogs of Genesia’s gameplay quandary. This is, at heart, a worker placement game. A turn-based seasonal strategy, the colony must prosper in sync with the elements. Expand thoughtfully, the island will sustain its hosts. Overextend, or fail to adhere to reasonable consumption, and there will be no centenary celebrations." 

FOXHOLE

1

Early Access Title Since: 27 July, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 Fall 201

"A persistent online strategy title in which rather than controlling a battalion or entire army, you're just one tiny cog in a much bigger picture. You're not controlling dozens of individual units - you are one of those units. But there also isn't a singular entity feeding you instructions in the hopes of winning the war; you're all in it together.

With the bigger picture viewed through the in-game Campaign view offered up on the main menu, you're free to click into one of these sought-after areas to fight for whichever one of the two teams you decide to join. Each map stretches a good distance out in front of you, and it's up to your team to annex each town, village and outpost. Claim them all, and you'll win the game - but it's much easier said than done." 

INTERSTELLAR TRANSPORT COMPANY

115

Early Access Title Since: 16 August, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 Summer 2018 

"Infrastructure development and transport are those noble endeavours that aren't as flashy military conquests, but are the really mature part of empire building. Any random warlord can be greedy and tax peasants to build golden loos. But it takes a visionary to make roads and bridges. Space transport sorta works like that, too. Much like such seminal classics like Transport TycoonInterstellar Transport Company barely has a setting. You get a randomly generated galaxy... but you start in your little solar system, representing something like our own little solar system circa 2050. You and zero-to-some AI (or human, if you go multiplayer) opponents start as competing space transport companies, shipping food and water to famished colonies." 

IRON TIDES

51

Early Access Title Since: July, 2017 

Final Version Launch Date: Winter 2017 

"Between your grand strategy sims and fast-paced RTS titles, there's any number of titles willing to tempt your brain. Fighting for the return of the turn-based strategy genre, Iron Tides is here to pillage, plunder and feed its Viking army back into the halls of legend.

In development for the last two years with a small team with great ambitions, Iron Tides struck many as being dead in the water following its Steam Greenlight success and subsequent silence. But after coming so close to a prestigious award as a finalist in the SxSW 'Game Pitch' competition, why would the team pass up the praise? The achievement already sits there in its Steam Store page even before release." 

KENSHI

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Early Access Title Since: 20 Mar, 2013 
Final Version Launch Date:
 TBA 

"Much like real life, the open-ended, squad-based world of Kenshi is filled with friendly faces and devious criminals. It's all about survival of the fittest out here. The world and its people just want to live. If they achieve that by pillaging your corpse or charging 3000 coins per day for the privilege of accompanying you on your adventures then that's what they'll do. You're out to make a life for yourself in a harsh world and you'll need to play your cards right every step of the way if you're to stand any chance of surviving for more than 10 minutes at a time. The experience can stretch on for a lifetime or end just as quickly as it began."

LONGSWORD – TABLETOP TACTICS

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Early Access Title Since: 20 July, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 Early 2018 

"Longsword is similar to Wartile, but the idea here is to make a Trading Card Game-inspired platform that would handle all the measuring and rolling stuff. The game is free to play on purpose: if you test it out and like it, you'll only need to pay for thematic expansions. You will then be able to build your armies from decks of unit cards and take them to the field of battle to fight other players, do some compstomp or try out narrative campaigns. You will also be able to build the field of battle yourself. The game works with hexes, and terrain editor is built on that, too. It's quite easy to use! And the hex map idea isn't foreign to actual miniature games, either – Tiny Tanks blog has even made a version of the venerable A Fistfull of TOWs ruleset that uses hexes instead of regular measurements." 

NORTHGARD

Northgard 8

Early Access Title Since: 22 Feb, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 Mid-2017 

"If you hadn't heard of Shiro Games before Northgard, you've likely heard their name now. Previously known for blending every era of RPG together for Evoland and its sequel, Northgard  has managed to top Steam's 'Best Sellers' chart from the moment it was released. Continuing in their quest to make the best use of that blender they bought years ago, this latest endeavour blends two other well-known genres – TBS & RTS. They're not the first to try, but they're already doing better than some."

SPACE TYRANT

tyrant

Early Access Title Since: 19 July, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 TBA 

"Space Tyrant is probably the most campaign oriented of 4X games, yet it‘s a very light game. You can choose from three races to command in the campaign (representing Space Tyrant reaching out to seduce power hungry warlords). Then you‘ll have to finish five increasingly difficult missions for sectors controlled by one of these races (so 15 missions in total) before you‘ll be able to face off against the Senate. After all, just because you control the Hoplite Clan, that doesn't mean all the Space Bunny Marines are under your control!

VEIL OF CROWS

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Early Access Title Since: 28 Apr, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 TBA 

"There have been a few incredible solo developer efforts that’ve crossed my path over the years. The likes of Warshift and Salvation Prophecy come to mind, ambition fueling these one man bands to the point of boggling the mind. While they might not deliver on every promise, I certainly can’t help but be energized by these massive undertakings."

WARTILE

War Header

Early Access Title Since: 17 Mar, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 TBA 

"Boardgames as a past-time are having a bit of a comeback right now, and so it's of no surprise that the digital landscape for boardgames is also improving. We're seeing more and more ports of existing physical games making their way to PC and Mobile, but we're also seeing more and more titles that aim to be truly 'Digital' boardgames in their own right."

WIN THAT WAR!

0 Main win that war header

Early Access Title Since: 7 Apr, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 TBA 

"One of the stranger recent little trends is the renewed interest in Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander-type games, which are way better than MOBAs (looking at you, Dawn of War III). Planetary Annihilation and Ashes of the Singularity have been the big names in the genre of “industrial warfare TO THE EXTREME”, and Win That War! wants to join them by bringing a multiplayer galactic campaign to the table."

 

Released Games (Out of Early Access)

ARMORED FREEDOM

Armored Freedom 01

Early Access Title Since: 24 Mar, 2017 
Final Version Launch Date:
 TBA 

"As much as I love the idea of pushing the likes of Ral Patha's pewter about the tabletop, and have even been known to paint a few Battletech miniatures in my time, I never actually did any physical tabletop gaming. As such, any chance to roam the hexes and pretend I'm feeling the felt beneath the fingertips is readily welcomed. Armored Freedom touts a touch of that, so when it dropped into Early Access the other week, I had to give it a go and see if its blend of capital-M mechanised action is heading in a fine direction."

ORIENTAL EMPIRES

Dingling

Early Access Title Since: 20 Sep, 2016 
Final Version Launch Date:
 Early-2017 

"One might be tempted to dismiss Oriental Empires (OE), the upcoming release from Iceberg Interactive, as a Total War™/Civilization™ clone – or a morph – but in my opinion, doing so would be to a strategy gamer’s detriment.  Especially if one is a fan of those venerable franchises, since OE has a fresh and interesting take on much of what is good about those games, and little of the bad.  At least, it has thus far managed to keep my interest for some 50-ish hours, and I’ve barely finished one of two campaigns begun, with every intention of coming back to try again (I lost, but at least I came in second, though it wasn’t that close)."

This article is up to date as of June 27th, 2017. Games will be added as we cover them, and removed as they leave Early Access and get a formal review. If you have any questions or comments, or would like us to look at a specific title for you, please let us know in the comments.

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