A Few Final Thoughts On #JustOnePercent (By Way of Steam’s Year In Review)

This was a very atypical year for me, as far as how I played games. So, of course, this is also the first year that Steam dropped their end of the year replay wrap up! While it’s not 100% representative of how I spent my gaming time, at least quantity-wise, I do play most game via Steam. This year, because of the Just One Percent Project, I might have branched out a bit more, playing a handful of titles on Itch.io*, through XBox Game Pass for PC, and even a handful on the Epic launcher and on Utomik. So while the numbers don’t quite reflect everything, it looks kind of like how I felt to play – which is to say, a bit chaotic.

*I really would like to play more of the stuff that I have picked up on Itch.io, but those games tend to be a casualty of the size of my Steam library and the fact that when I don’t know what to play, Steam is always my first stop.

If you’re curious about all the details of my Steam Replay for 2022, clicking on the image above will take you there.

Just on Steam, I played 198 different games this year, when you include the 48 demos I tried out. Even taking those out of the equation, that’s still 149 different titles. Now, I am a dabbler, true, but I’m not normally that much of a dabbler. But between February and November of this year, I made 105 posts for the #JustOnePercent project. Assuming a 10% fail rate (where I at least launched the game, but didn’t write about it for one reason or another), and – just a guesstimate – assuming that 25% of what I played for the project was on another platform, when we fudge the numbers just smidgen, we can guess that about 87 of those titles I played specifically as part of the project.

That leaves me with what feels like a far more manageable number of 62 games that I played this year just because they struck my fancy, which is a little more than 5 a month. That feels about right to me. The ranking by playtime seems to reflect that as well – it’s not until you reach the third dozen that games I chose for the project start regularly appearing, with Cozy Grove being the only title to make an appearance in my top two dozen, by playtime.

(Although I suspect a couple of the titles I played outside of Steam – notably The Wild At Heart and The Forgotten City would have showed up in my top 25, easily.)

What isn’t particular surprising is the very low number of games (which is to say, one?) in the top third of my list of titles played for the year that were not indie titles. When I say I mostly play indie games, I guess I really mean it, and now I have the stats to back it up.

I’ve been putting off writing about the project a bit, partially because – oh dear lord – I needed a break from it after 10 long months, but also because I hadn’t yet figured out the answer to a key question.

Was it successful?

I mean, I know it was in that I did what I set out to do. I played more than 100 games that came out on Steam in full release during 2021. For the majority of those titles, that means I spent at least an hour with each game, and there were a handful I really enjoyed that I would maybe never have gotten around to trying out. While I didn’t go spelunking too far outside of my comfort zone, I feel like I stretched a little, and that’s always a good thing.

But I don’t think the project necessarily made the statement I thought it would when I started out.

I’ll admit it – a few of the titles that I played probably never should have seen the light of day, never mind an active store front. But for the most part, I could see the merit in each of the titles, even when I was very clearly not the target audience. Some of the games I picked – in large part because they were at least in the same orbit as my taste – were immensely popular and successful indie titles. Some of the games I thought were great, however, only managed a handful of sales.

It’s not easy to pull a top twelve from a big old mess of over 100 titles, but the games that I feel were probably the best of the bunch – at least for my taste – were Cozy Grove, The Forgotten City, The Wild at Heart, Wildermyth, Gamedec, Lacuna, At Eve’s Wake, Wytchwood, Before We Leave, Overboard, To The Rescue, and The List. Order of preference is – at best – approximate.

I really don’t envy the people who need to come up with the titles to put on the “Best of…” lists we always see at this time of year, and I really struggled picking my “Top Twelve” from the 105 games I played for the project. Even in doing so, I kind of felt like it was a bit unfair – a full two-thirds of the titles I felt like I got the most out of were already on my wish list (or were games I had Kickstarted) before the idea for the project even existed.

Putting those aside for a moment, the four biggest happy surprises for me were the following titles: The Forgotten City, The Wild at Heart, At Eve’s Wake, and The List. None of these were on my radar at all, and I would probably not have played any of them outside the boundaries of this project, and I loved every one of them.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy any of the other games I played – in fact, I enjoyed most of them. They just weren’t necessarily the exact game I would have picked to play when I did if I had not been so tightly focused on 2021 releases from indie game developers.

Which I guess just leaves one final question: Would I do it again?

Sorry for anyone who was a big fan of the project, but I don’t think that I would. It’s not that I don’t think I play a hundred or so different games in the course of an average year – I have no doubt that I do – but I definitely skipped out on more than a few things I would have really preferred to be playing at any given time.

I’ve built a big library precisely so I can go where my whims take me. I like my whims. I’m pretty damn attached to my whims.

This is well reflected by my Steam Replay, as well as by those silly charts I post in my In Review posts – I tend to spend the most time playing the games that I want to play at any given time. Revolutionary, right? It’s also why this is my hobby, and not my job.

I had toyed around with some different project ideas for 2023, but I think – just now – I’ve realized that what I would really like to do is play whatever strikes my fancy, at least for awhile.

Quick Look – Aspire: Ina’s Tale (#JustOnePercent 105/100)

Developer: Wondernaut Studio
Release Date: December 17, 2021
MSRP: $12.99

If you’ve been following along with the #JustOnePercent project over past 10 months, I’m sure it won’t be a huge surprise that I’m wrapping it up with a game I hadn’t even considered until a couple of days ago. Although I don’t usually go for platforming games, I do like to dabble in non-combat puzzle-platformers from time to time, and I picked up Aspire: Ina’s Tale in a Fanatical build-your-own-bundle back in August. By that point, however, I felt like I’d already gone so far over my goal schedule-wise. Since then, I’ve dropped a handful of games I planned to write about for one reason or another, and I decided to squeeze this one last game in before wrapping up the project.

Aspire: Ina’s Tale is not a very long game – HowLongToBeat lists an average playtime of about two and half hours for the main story, and there’s at least one walkthrough that professes to be the entire game with all achievements completed that clocks in at under two hours. If I continued playing, I expect it would take me at least twice that – my puzzle-platformer skills aren’t very well developed, and during the hour I played I was stumped a handful of times and needed to consult a walkthrough. For people more conversant in the genre, however, the game probably borders on being too easy.

On the upside, it’s absolutely beautiful, with impeccable sound design. You play as Ina, a girl who somehow became the Heart of the Tower, who awakens after a knight breached the Tower. She seems to have no memory of where she is, or why she’s there, or even what it means to be the Heart of the Tower, and she has decided that she wants to return home to her village. In order to do that, she must make her way through the tower’s ruins.

Like most puzzle platformers, this game leans heavily into the puzzling half, and the platforming, at least in the first quarter or so of the game, is really pretty simple. Things react in much the ways you would expect, which is good because you won’t get a whole lot of instruction. Like most platforming titles, it probably plays far smoother with a controller (although the store page lists only “partial controller support”). I found some of the keybinds a bit awkward, but not awkward enough to attempt to change them, but holding down Z to push or carry an object while moving was a bit uncomfortable.

Although there is no actual combat, there are some sections where you will be confronted with an enemy you need to outmaneuver, either by running away to a place where they are unable to follow or by confronting them with something that they cannot stand. In the case of the creepy spider monster you encounter early on, it is unable to go into any sort of illumination, so it can be blocked or pushed back with a light source.

Aspire: Ina’s Tale is far from my perfect game, but I found a lot here to be appreciated. It’s a beautiful, if somewhat melancholy experience in an intriguing setting. I have yet to encounter anything too mechanically difficult to keep me from progressing, and someone more conversant in puzzle platformer logic likely wouldn’t even need a walkthrough. Still, it’s a little pricey for such a short game, but if the aesthetic is appealing, it might be worth an evening if you’re able to pick it up on sale or in a bundle.

SteamDB estimates that Aspire: Ina’s Tale has sold between 3,000 and 8,300 copies on Steam. It’s gotten very positive reviews, with the handful of folks who didn’t care for it citing abstract story telling, lack of variation in its puzzles, and the short length as points against it. It is ranked 1641 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Wytchwood (#JustOnePercent 104/100)

Developer: Alientrap
Release Date: December 9, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

I was pretty excited about Wytchwood after playing the demo back in October of 2021, and I ended up picking it up pretty near full price shortly after it released. I do this thing pretty often where I buy something, and then forget all about it until months or years have gone by because my attention span is nearly non-existent, but this time, I deliberately decided to wait so I could play it for this project. In a way, I guess the joke was on me – I could have played this months ago since I’m now four full games past my goal!

The main gameplay loop of Wytchwood is heavily crafting focused. You used to have a Grimoire, full of crafting recipes, but a goat (who isn’t actually a goat) has chewed up most of the pages, so as you explore the world, you’re going to need to use your Witch Eye to inspect things you find and figure out how everything works all over again. This is part of a pretty lengthy and epic quest you’re on, but it’s how you’re going to be spending most of your time – collecting reagents, combining them from your Grimoire, and using the things you make to – you guessed it – collect more reagents to make more things.

In order to really get into Wytchwood, you’re going to need to like exploring, and be really okay with backtracking. After a short questline that serves as a tutorial for the rest of the game, the world really starts to open up, and no matter which part of the main story you choose to pursue first, you’re going to need stuff from everywhere you have access to. The maps aren’t overly large, and you’ll probably unlock the fast travel option between them fairly early on, but you will be running from one end of the world to the other trying to nab that last ingredient.

Because of the way the learning functions, you may not realize you needed something from the area you were just in until after you’ve already gone somewhere else. You may know you need something that comes from the fields to make something you need in the swamp, but until you use your Witch Eye on the target in the fields, you may not realize that in order to gather the thing you need, you need to have already crafted something to make it possible to gather it, and that thing – most likely – will need an ingredient from back in the swamp.

You do have a handful of basic, reusable gathering tools, but a lot of the time you need crafted items to get something you need to craft something else. On the upside, there seems to be no inventory limits, so there’s no reason not to grab absolutely everything when you have the chance. This won’t completely mitigate the need-to-backtrack-constantly problem, but it will certainly help.

As long as you enjoy the main loop, everything else about the game is pretty great. The quest texts and dialogs are well written (and frequently amusing), and the art style is quirky but fantastic. Even the music is pretty chill and soothing. The controls are simple, in fact, the game could easily be played with just the mouse, although you can absolutely move with the keyboard and Wytchwood has full controller support, if that’s your preferred way to play.

The game does have a clear ending, and HowLongToBeat estimates it’ll take a little more than 10 hours to get there. From what I’ve seen so far, there doesn’t seem to be any meaningful choices to add replay value either. That could be either a pro or a con depending on what you like to get out of your gaming purchases.

SteamDB estimates that Wytchwood has sold between 28,000 and 77,000 copies on Steam. Review have mostly been positive, with the negative reviews mostly focusing on the tedium of running back and forth and the lack of excitement in the crafting system. It is ranked 224 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Huntress: The Cursed Village (#JustOnePercent 103/100)

Developer: Makivision
Release Date: November 26, 2021
MSRP: $5.99

You would think, based on the sheer quantity of match-3 titles out there, that match-3 was a very popular genre, but as they fall under the umbrella of “casual” gaming, I find that most people who consider themselves to be into video games barely consider these to be video games at all. I’ve always had a soft spot for these types of games, though.

It’s rare, however, to find match-3 titles where the gameplay loop itself isn’t pretty much the only thing to recommend them, and Huntress: The Cursed Village doesn’t have much else going for it. The gameplay is interesting enough, but the story is threadbare and the writing is absolutely painful.

You play as the Huntress, who returns home to find that her village (with her father inside of it) has been cursed, and she will have to puzzle fight her way through many levels to lift the curse and save the village. Not exactly a new or interesting story. However, the mechanics are just varied enough to keep you on your toes – depending on the type of curse on the level, you’re going to need a somewhat different strategy to clear enough obstacles to proceed.

Making a match of four grants you a bomb tile, and making a five match gives you a chain tile. On certainly levels, like ones that have ghosts as pictured above, you will need those special tiles, as those are one of only two ways of removing the obstacles from the board. Other hazards will just require you matching on or next to the affected tiles, like the bats, pictured below.

The other method of clearing these problem tiles is by using your spells, which charge automatically as you make matches. The first spell will eliminate any single tile on the board (triggering a bomb or chain tile, if that’s the one you choose). The second clears a horizontal line of your choice, and the third will randomly take out a whole bunch of tiles. The more destruction a spell provides, the longer it takes to recharge.

As you proceed through the levels, each building you need to de-curse will culminate in a level that requires you to deal with all of the obstacle-types you’ve seen individually, while trying to make matches on pink colored tiles. If you run out of viable moves, have no charged spells, or the entire screen becomes pink colored tiles, you will lose the level. However, as soon as you clear the requisite number of afflicted tiles, the level will end with a prompt to banish the monster, but these monsters just won’t stay gone.

Huntress: The Cursed Village seems to be a competent match-3 title, with interesting and varied mechanics. It’s somewhat challenging, and has 77 levels which rotate between the five monster types. It also is pretty reasonably priced, and is a decent value for fans of the genre, as long as they’re okay with the weak framework.

SteamDB estimates that Huntress: The Cursed Village has sold between 120 and 330 copies on Steam. There have been almost no reviews, but the few it has gotten have recommended it. It is ranked 3804 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – French Crime (#JustOnePercent 102/100)

Developer: French Crime
Release Date: November 25, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

Note: Up until a few days ago, this game was called PCI: Public Crime Investigation. Earlier this month, it was temporarily made unavailable for purchase on Steam, but purchasing was re-enabled with the game’s title changed to French Crime. I was unable to find any information about the reason for the change after the game had been out for most of a year.

Choosing to cover French Crime for this project was a no-brainer, and was one of the more expensive titles I picked up with that in mind. Sure, I probably would have grabbed it eventually anyway, but I’ve been a pretty big fan of crime-solving FMV titles in the past, and this one includes six different cases at two difficulty levels.

Well, I guess technically it includes four cases, as the first two cases can be played for free via their website or their app, but if you want to be able to save your progress and have your score appear on the rankings board, you’ll need to create an account to do so.

I’ve now played through the first case – Phantasm – which is estimated to take about 90 minutes, but I finished it in just over an hour with only a single error towards the end of the game. Unfortunately, mistakes – especially in the later parts of a case – will drastically impact your score. The first question you answer correctly nets you 5 points, and the second 10, and so on. However, missing a question will not only cause you to lose points for a wrong answer, but will reset your cumulative answer score to 5 points again. It seems like getting right answers is the only thing that effects your score – if there’s a component related to time, or the questions you ask in interrogations, it’s not clear.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Although all the text of the game is in English (and there does not seem to be anywhere to change that), all of the dialogue in the FMV segments is in French, with English subtitles. Now, my French is super rusty but – at least as far as words I recognized – the translation seemed to be very solid.

The concept, of course, is borderline absurd. Budget cuts have led to police understaffing, so they are just letting anyone sign up to solve crimes. I honestly would probably have preferred if they didn’t go for the easy excuse and just let the game be a game. You’ll be dropped right into Phantasm via text message.

A few notes: there is realistic gore when you’re looking at crime scene photos, and again, there doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid it. I suppose they figure it’s to be expected if you’re trying to solve a murder. The first case has some fairly explicit elements to it – at the risk of being spoilery, the woman whose murder you’re investigating worked for an escort service, and while there’s certainly nothing here that’s pornographic, there’s definitely some images and evidence that is very sexual in nature.

What was a bit disappointed, however, is that you really don’t have to figure anything out for yourself. At least in the first case, the game gives you all of the information you need, right up until it’s time to send the file to court for sentencing. Then you have an abundance of evidence, some of which is critical to making your case, but most of which is extraneous. Choose your culprit, make sure to include the evidence that implicates them, and request a sentence that fits the crime.

If this sounds like something you might enjoy, I would highly recommend trying out the first case (provided you’re ok with a bit of blood & that it gets a bit racy). It is an appealing package for me, as a big fan of crime fiction & police procedural media, but if you’re looking for something that’s really going to strain your brain, you’re likely to find it a bit dull, and it does require an online connection at all times.

SteamDB estimates that French Crime has sold between 620 and 1,700 copies on Steam. Reviews have been almost entirely positive, with the few negative reviews mostly complaining about the third party account requirement, which is no longer true of the steam release. Still, those dire sales means that it is ranked 2603 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Toy Tinker Simulator (#JustOnePercent 101/100)

Ok, I know I could technically be done, but I’m going to finish out the month since I still have a handful of really cool looking games already in my library that fit the project!

Developer: Turquoise Revival Games
Release Date: November 20, 2021
MSRP: $12.99

Some genres just seem to be especially attractive to indie developers, and it feels like [Mundane Activity] Simulator has been really gaining popularity over the past couple of years. If there’s something you think you might like to try your hand at, there’s probably a simulation game for it! Unfortunately, the playability of these simulation titles varies wildly, which is why you get a handful of breakout hits, and the rest kind seem to be pretty much doomed to obscurity.

I feel like Toy Tinker Simulator missed that spark of originality that tips this kind of game from niche to mainstream, but it definitely sticks the landing for playability. The gameplay loop of taking on the job, disassembling the toy, working on the individual parts, and then putting the whole thing back together is very chill. There is money (which is needed to buy supplies & equipment), and experience (which opens up more advanced jobs), but neither one matter very much. Once you have picked up a few pieces of equipment, which your start up cash will more than cover, most beginner toys only need a few dollars worth of supplies, and each job will pay far more than you’re spending.

In fact, Toy Tinker Simulator feels positively un-fail-able. If you like your simulation games challenging, this one won’t be at all satisfying. The game won’t allow you to make mistakes – a toy that has not been completely disassembled cannot leave the workbench. You can’t choose the wrong color paint or use the wrong tools. The game will give you the proper steps for each job you take on, and you won’t be able to deviate from those in any way.

While this makes playing a completely stress-free experience, it also disallows any sort of creativity. Maybe there will come a time in the game play loop where you’re required to use your best judgement, but it isn’t in the first hour or so of game play. This makes a game that while, not completely unsatisfying to play, isn’t particularly exciting either. I personally don’t mind this sort of simulator, but I can see how a lot of folks would find it tedious and boring.

I didn’t encounter anything that felt like a bug, and although the controls are a little floaty, no precision is ever required so it doesn’t actually matter. The sound effects are fine, but don’t really add anything to the experience, and I wasn’t impressed with the music. After my first short play session, I played without sound – this game would be a good candidate for something to keep your hands busy while listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or even watching a show on a second monitor. I didn’t fall madly in love with Toy Tinker Simulator, but I really can’t find much to complain about either.

SteamDB estimates that Toy Tinker Simulator has sold between 4,300 and 11,900 copies on Steam. Reviews are mixed, as many players wanted more realistic gameplay and a whole lot less tedium. It is ranked 6963 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Factory Town (#JustOnePercent 100/100)

Developer: Erik Asmussen
Release Date: November 17, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

If you like city builders with automation, super cute graphics, and have almost infinite patience & time, well, then Factory Town might just be your new favorite game. Ok, so I may be going a little harsh here, but as someone who does really like city builders with automation, and is fine with all my workers looking like Weebles, I found that this game tried my patience. Not solely because there appears to only be two settings (paused or unpaused) for the passage of time, I played for well over an hour on the first introductory campaign scenario. See, I built myself into a corner, as it were, and needed to restart because I couldn’t figure out how to unbuild something.

When I did it again, I was bound and determined to find a way to get rid of the part that was mucking everything up, and if you go into the build menu under tools, there’s a “remove block” button, which will take out a section of path or conveyor belt. There’s also a different option to remove a resource, allowing you to get rid of anything in your way that you didn’t put there. I feel like these are very basic things in this genre, and they should not be hard to find.

Which is to say, there may also be speed settings, but those I did not find.

The tutorial is actually pretty solid, but it takes quite a bit before you can get to the “factory” part of Factory Town. You have to grow your town big enough to unlock your first research level, and you have quite a few steps of research to do before you can build the most basic wooden conveyor belt. Everything prior to this point requires you to have a little worker weeble to harvest resources, and bring them either to a production building, storage area, or shop. If you are, say, turning wood into planks, you’re then going to want another worker weeble to pick up the planks, and then take those where you need them to be. If, like me, you tend to build in tight little clusters to minimize walking time, you are going to be screwed when it comes time to build those automated stuff movers. You just won’t have any space for them.

In the end, I did manage to complete the first scenario with a single, sad conveyor belt. It was a frustrating start for me, who wouldn’t have minded if workers were all I had, so I can’t imagine how annoyed an factory-focused player would have been. The fact that it’s pretty economically simplistic might be either a pro or a con, depending on a player’s taste, but the absolute density of the menus is not doing this game any favors.

This probably isn’t a city builder game I’ll be returning to, although I’m a big fan of the genre. I have many far more user friendly city building games sitting unplayed in my library, and without the ability to (easily?) increase the game speed, I found myself bored pretty much any time I wasn’t frustrated. This is a game that should have been for me, but there are some quality of life features I’m not willing to do without in this type of game, and the obtuseness of the build menus was a big turn off as well.

SteamDB estimates that Factory Town has sold between 73,000 and 200,600 copies on Steam. From looking at the reviews, I’m clearly in the minority here – it’s gotten almost no negative reviews. It is ranked 357 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Next Space Rebels (#JustOnePercent 99/100)

Developer: Studio Floris Kaayk
Release Date: November 17, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

I honestly didn’t know what to expect going in to Next Space Rebels. Sure, I knew I was going to be building rockets (which – as expected – I’m not all that good at). I knew there was a social media component to it. What I didn’t realize is that I would be spending far more time answering social media messages than I would be doing … well, anything else.

Because you’ll be spending so much time networking, the game can feel like it drags, a little bit. Do you want more parts to build rockets to make rocket launch videos? Better get networking. Want some challenges to unlock the potential to build more complex rockets? Yep, those also come from messages. In Next Space Rebels, clout is the only currency. You’ll need to post more videos to gain more followers to get more comments, and find more people to talk to to get more stuff and more unlocks.

The actual rocket building is done via a – rather clumsy – 2D interface. Initially, you have only very basic rocket parts, but before long, you’ll be adding a bunch of toys and trash items, which don’t make particularly aerodynamic rockets, but they do make some for some absolutely ridiculous ones. The first couple of challenges are pretty simple, and serve mainly to acquaint you with the mechanics of building rockets, launching them, and posting videos.

For me, the gameplay element balance was tilted far too far in the direction of learning how to become a social media success story. If what you’re looking for is a social media simulator (complete with a side of commentary about how algorithms are bad, mmkay?), then this game might really work for you. If you just want to play with model rockets, you’ll likely find yourself frustrated by all the filler.

Although I didn’t get very far into the story (at least, I don’t think that I did), I can see the potential for a good – if somewhat unbalanced – game. Towards the end of my playtime, I found myself really struggling with the challenges I had, and assumed that further progression was locked behind that, but I realize now I could have also tried just making more videos, increasing my follower count, and continuing to network my way to more parts and more challenges. I’m honestly not sure how rigid the progression path is.

Although Next Space Rebels will be disappearing from XBox Game Pass for PC in a matter of days, it is available through the Humble Trove if you have an active Humble Choice subscription. I’m not sure yet if I plan to revisit it, but I found myself continuing to rethink my strategies after closing the game.

SteamDB estimates that Next Space Rebels has sold between 4,300 and 11,900 copies on Steam. Reviews have been mostly positive, with the negative reviews mostly focusing on lack of satisfying rocket building game play. It is ranked 2066 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Hammerting (#JustOnePercent 98/100)

Developer: Warpzone Studios
Release Date: November 16, 2021
MSRP: $24.99

There is little I find more frustrating than a game that is almost good. Mind you, I’m not talking about games that, while completely playable, lack a certain something that makes them great. No, rather, I’m talking about games where you can clearly see that the concept is good, that the bones of the thing are quite all right, but somewhere along the way, something was skipped or overlooked, and what you end up with is actually a pretty big mess.

Hammerting – at least for me – should be a good game. I love the loop of dig, explore, gather resources, craft, research, and then go right back to digging. I can’t explain why that loop is something I find satisfying, but usually when I bounce off one of these games, it is because the game just cannot seem to get out of its own way.

It feels like the developers really wanted to take this loop – which at its core is pretty damn simple – and complicate it until it resembled denser “colony builder” games. I can’t tell you if I kept failing because I’m impatient, because the game is buggy, because the game is poorly balanced, or just because the overly dense tutorial just leaves out some pretty critical steps for success. My first trio of hard working dwarves died of thirst because I didn’t realize I had to both find and produce water. Ok, that one is on me. My second trio? Also thirst. Not because I didn’t know, but because I could not find any water, and the trading post also didn’t sell any.

In fact, you won’t receive a quest to produce either food or water until you build a farm. Now, if you’re the type to follow the quest path while learning the ropes of a game, you might have the same problem, since although you can unlock farm tech fairly early, you’re never actually told to build a cave farm. Even once you can build it, it doesn’t actually seem to produce food (although weirdly enough, you can produce water even if there’s no body of water anywhere on the map) – rather, you just use it to store mushrooms you’ve harvested. Or do you? It’s not clear, but it didn’t seem to be making any new food, and once I ran out of wild mushrooms, I was well on the path to starvation again.

It’s rare that I’ve played a game where it wants to dump so much information on you, and yet, makes so little logical sense. Usually, when I start out in a more complex colony management style game, although I fail a lot, I learn from every single failure, and the next time, it goes better. Hammerting felt more like trying to learn a skill from a manual that had never been fact checked.

And it’s possible that’s exactly what happened. Hammerting was available in an Early Access state for just over a year before hitting full release in November 2021. During the Early Access period, updates came fairly regularly, but there have only been a handful of updates since then, and the general consensus is that the game is still quite unfinished, and will probably never be given the attention it needs to be more than just barely playable. Which is a shame, because in its current state, it’s nothing but a whole lot of wasted potential.

SteamDB estimates that Hammerting has sold between 42,100 and 115,900 copies on Steam. Reviews are currently sitting at Mixed, with recent reviews trending heavily negative due to the perception that the game is abandoned. It is ranked 6809 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – DYSMANTLE (#JustOnePercent 97/100)

Developer: 10tons Ltd
Release Date: November 16, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

If you’ve ever been playing a zombie survival game, and found yourself thinking that the game would be so much better if only there was more stuff that you needed to smash with a crowbar, well, then DYSMANTLE might just be right up your alley. Years after the fall of civilization, you emerge from your no longer so well-supplied shelter to see what the world has become, and find a zombie-infested disaster. Obviously, there’s nothing else to be done than to smash absolutely everything that seems like it might be smashable, including the aforementioned zombies.

I may sound like I’m being unnecessarily hard on the game, but I really want to make sure to convey how critical to absolutely everything else that breaking things will be. You will want to upgrade your crowbar, sure, for more damage as it’s also your primary weapon, but mainly so you can smash up stronger items of furniture to collect more and different materials. In fact, you’ll likely want to avoid zombies as much as possible early on – even the most basic enemy will take multiple hits to kill, and you have so very little health.

But death is merely a setback – you will lose any materials you were carrying (although not any crafted items or anything you’d previously stashed away in your camp storage), but if you manage to make it back to your corpse, you can just loot them again. No, the most annoying thing about dying early on is this – all the enemies you previously killed will respawn. This is also true every time you use a campfire to replenish health, upgrade gear, or craft new gear. It’s tremendously annoying, and the game realizes this. In fact, one of the first quests you get it to craft an item to make sure the undead stay dead this time.

Sounds like a plan, except you need to be level 7 in order to craft the item, and the two main methods of gaining XP are smashing zombies and, well, breaking stuff. Now, while the zombies come back, the items you’ve broken will not. Before hitting the requisite level to craft the item that makes the dead stop coming back to life, I managed to kill the first mini-boss, and move onto the next area.

At which point – over 90 minutes into the game – the opening credits started rolling. The opening credits. This has to be a new record.

I personally found the pace of DYSMANTLE ping-pong-ed between being tedious and frenetic. It took me far longer than I want to admit to start to get a handle on the attack patterns of the most basic zombies, which meant I did an awful lot of corpse runs. Material costs for upgrades and new equipment seemed almost prohibitively high, presumably to keep you moving forward through the game rather that turtling for 90 minutes in the opening tutorial-esque area. That first mini boss looked terrifying ok?

Since I’m not normally a huge fan of zombie survival, I’m not sure what intrigued me enough to purchase this in the first place. This has been in my library since February of 2021, when it was still in early access. In fact, I recall being very frustrated by it when I played it then, and I’m glad I took the time to give it another whirl – while it’s still not exactly my cup of tea, there was something about it that kept me playing, wanting to see what I was going to unlock next.

SteamDB estimates that DYSMANTLE has sold between 155,800 and 425,500 copies on Steam. It clearly has done well, both in sales and reviews, and sits at Very Positive. Clearly, it’s a hit with its target audience, and it is ranked 232 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.