5 Early Access games to watch

There's a lot of fantastic things happening in Early Access right now. Here's five of the best upcoming titles.

Early Access games have become a feature of the PC landscape. There have been success stories like Kerbal Space Program, but each of these has been tempered by notable, spectacular failures. We’ve got our eye on some success-stories-to-be below.

5. Besiege

Ah, 4chan’s darling. If you’ve had an internet connection at any point during this year, you’ve most likely seen videos of a dizzying array of medieval siege machines -- a curious amount of which are fire-spewing phalluses. Besiege taps into that same urge to build and create that Lego and Minecraft do, only pared down to focus on a single subject.

A barebones campaign mode is present in Besiege, but the sandbox testing ground for your machines is where it is at. Of all the entries on this list, Besiege is perhaps the thinnest in terms of content but is already renowned for its inventive player creations. Just look at this compilation video above!

I imagine the feeling I get watching it is not unlike what happens when somebody browses Pinterest for DIY projects.

When will it leave Early Access?


Very little has been said about its release date, but as its current alpha is in v 0.11, we're in for a wait. Thankfully, what's present appears to be the eminently playable core of the game. 

4. Clockwork Empires

Gaslamp Games engendered a lot of goodwill through their release and support of Dungeons of Dredmor, riding the then-ascending wave of rogue-lite games. They put it to good use by releasing Clockwork Empires, a strategy sim that casts the player in the role of bureaucracy itself, managing and running a small, new, Victorian-era colony.

Players contend with growing food and harvesting supplies, assigning workers and constructing buildings as well as stopping cannibals and cults from consuming the colony in a fireball of insanity… pretty standard fare.

The mix of supernatural and steampunk is inventively done and plays well into the game’s humor. Two bugs seem to spring up for every bug fixed, but the steady stream of patches and new features helps soothe that frustration.

When will it leave Early Access?

There isn’t an answer for that strictly, but Gaslamp Games are definitely on the downhill run towards release. They have a detailed Development Progress page with more information on the game’s overall completion.

3. Gnomoria

Have you ever heard of Dwarf Fortress? It’s an insanely complicated game with a steep, steep learning curve. Its motto is "losing is fun," which should tell you plenty. If you’re interested in the procedurally-generated sim but would like something a little more accessible and visual, Gnomoria is a solid choice.

There’s potential for the player to commit comical amounts of cruelty both to the gnomes they control and to the world around them. I’m normally a fairly mild-mannered person who picks the nicer routes and actions during games, but I found that it wasn’t long before I was butchering enemy combatants, processing them into meat and bones, and sending a convoy bearing goblin sausage sandwiches back to their kingdom, lead by a gnome wearing a goblin skull helmet.

Like Dwarf Fortress, Gnomoria’s development team is tiny -- in this case, it’s a team of one. Gnomoria answers the complaints of longtime DF fans by featuring sensible graphics and a UI with mouse support, for starters. Like DF, it features a learning curve, but one that is much less steep: Gnomoria can be picked up and played -- so long as you don’t mind periods of eight or more hours vanishing suddenly.

When will it leave Early Access?

We’re not clear on a full release date yet, but frequent updates through Steam are on available on an opt-in basis. The developer has stated in an FAQ the game will be released when it “reaches the level of quality expected from a finished game”, and updated for free thereafter.


This game has set some sort of record, I’m sure of it. SpeedRunners is already considered an endorsed eSport and it’s still in beta. Every accolade piled on it is richly deserved, however; it’s an incredibly fun multiplayer game.

The game’s premise is that you’re a superhero racing to be the first to arrive at the scene of a crime. Outpace your frienemies, keep your momentum, and time your grappling hook perfectly in order to come out on top. It sounds like Mario Kart on foot, and that’s a pretty apt summary both of what it is and how frenetic the gameplay can be.

SpeedRunners also has an active Steam Workshop scene, with plenty of player-made maps to try if you’re looking for a new challenge. The balance and quality of these maps varies, but that’s also part of the fun.

When will it leave Early Access?

Like other entries, it’s nearly done. The good news is that pretty much all of the originally promised features seem to be in place, and developers tinyBuild are currently in the process of polishing stages and assets.

The Long Dark

Lately, The Long Dark has been gathering steam, in part due to its Xbox One release. I don’t seem to be the only one who thinks that The Long Dark is one of the best things Early Access currently has to offer, and that’s fantastic.

The Long Dark is a very quiet, very beautiful, very cold sandbox game, set in the aftermath of a geomagnetic disaster. Visually and atmospherically, it's reminiscent of Telltale's The Walking Dead, with its stylized look, thoughtfully detailed scenery, and periods of great silence. 

A story mode is on its way to complement this, but the sandbox is more than enough to be a game on its own as things stand. Set in rural Canada, you have only one goal: survive. Something has made the wildlife around you much more aggressive than they’d otherwise be, complicating an already dangerous situation considerably.

I’m not afraid to admit that this game terrifies me. It can be played for hours in relative quiet, but one moment of carelessness could set off a chain of events that lead to your character fading quietly away. There’s a quiet horror in realizing this. Then there are those moments of peace -- ice-fishing in a small hut, for example -- that can be shattered suddenly by a snarl, throwing you into a life-or-death struggle with very little warning.

When will it leave Early Access?

The game is slated for a full release at the end of this year, after blowing through an initial release date of late 2014. As it’s October already, I’d be pleasantly surprised to see The Long Dark fully released. It does have the feel of a game that’s really starting to come together, though.


The majority of these titles seem ready to come into their own either before the end of this year or in the first half of 2016. Although, each game already offers rich experiences despite their developers considering them to be unfinished.

At its best, Early Access is a great way to communicate directly with developers and help shape a game that you already love to be even better. At its worst? Godus.

If you've given any of the games listed a try, share your experiences in the comments! We'd especially love to hear your stories from Gnomoria, Clockwork Empires, and any close encounters (of the Fluffy kind or otherwise) from The Long Dark!

Published Oct. 2nd 2015
View Comments
  • Destini Islands
    Featured Contributor
    Speed Runners! That game looks so fun and I have friends who are obsessed with it. I didn't even realize it was still in beta at all. I got an email the other day that it was on Steam sale so hopefully it's still there...

    HAH. It is! It's currently $4.94 (offer ending October 5th) and you can play for free currently for the next 29 hours. Guess I'm jumping in to confirm if I'll like it or not but..I probably will.
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Associate Editor
    I feel like I have to mention 2 games... not because I think they are better than the games here, but because I think they need some more exposure (maybe adding them as honourable mentions?)
    So they are
    Distance: http://store.steampowered.com/app/233610/
    Drive Any Track: http://store.steampowered.com/app/351990/
    I've written on why Distance is so great. And Drive Any Track was one of my games of EGX 2015.
  • Jay Ricciardi
    I'd never heard of Clockwork Empires, but that sounds like it is totally up my alley - I love management sim games :3

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