During the first Summer Games Fest showcase of 2021, Geoff Keighly announced that Xbox would be hosting yet another ID@Xbox Demo event. Starting on June 15th, gamers everywhere would have the option to download up to 40 indie demos for a limited time and there were many awesome games in the lineup. Due to the busy nature of being a stay-at-home parent and my freelance work as a writer, I only had so much time to delve into the vast library of games and there were three titles that managed to catch my eye. 

tunic

Source: Photoshopped – Kyle Simcox

The first demo is the long-awaited Tunic, by Andrew Shouldice. In Tunic, you play an adorable little fox who is on an adventure in what is clearly an intimate love letter to the Legend of Zelda. You’ll explore a mysterious wilderness full of dungeons, secret and ancient enemies. The demo that was available during the event was simply a mashup of areas featured in the main game. At the beginning of the demo, players are presented with a letter from the developer. It states that the goal was to offer players a small taste of what Tunic will be like, where players could experience a couple of the areas and find a few treasures. 

 

In the demo, you wake up on a beach, and without any context to your situation, you head out on your adventure in Tunic’s isometric world. The fox is an adorable little guy and despite its simple appearance, you can feel the love that went into crafting the world. I quickly came across my first weapon, a mighty stick, and proceeded to explore my surroundings to the best of my abilities. The small demo felt like it contained quite a bit, while wielding the stick however, I simply couldn’t go very far. Upon finding the sword, I was able to start cutting down larger trees that blocked my progression and open new paths. One small detail I really appreciated was that when I cut down bigger trees, they could roll into the water with a satisfying splash. 

 

Combat is simple, yet challenging enough that the ancient fox statues that work as checkpoints come in handy. Your weaponry can be assigned to X, Y, and B with your shield being assigned to the right trigger and A as your dodge. Enemies can be stunned by your attacks but button mashing will only bring you pain. When you die, you lose your resources and you’re taken back to the last statue you’ve visited. If you make it back to the place you were felled, you can recover your lost resources. I found one dungeon during my time with the demo and died quite a few times. You keep your gear and it was easy to learn from my mistakes. That could very well change in the final version however. Tunic is the only game demo on this list that doesn’t have a solid release date, so fingers crossed it releases this year! You can find an 8 minute gameplay trailer on IGN’s youtube channel right here. 

lake

Source: LAKE PRESS KIT

As for the second demo, I never realized how much I wanted to play a game based on being a mailman until I played Lake. Set in 1987, you play Meredith Weiss, an exhausted programmer, revisiting her roots by returning to the small lakeside town of Providence Oaks, her childhood home. Though the demo never mentions why, upon her arrival, she takes up work as the local mailman. Being the small town that it is, you’re almost immediately introduced to the quirky neighbors and Meredith begins to reconnect with her past and how she does so is up to the players. 

 

One of the things that I loved about the demo is that it takes us back to a time when everyone knew the mailman. Meredith meets all these familiar faces she left behind twenty-two years ago. The way you interact with them is up to you and it can have some humorous results. I didn’t need to engage in conversation with the crazy cat lady but I did. In another instance, I interacted with a lumberjack just outside of town. When I delivered his letter, he immediately tore into it and expressed to me in a way it was bad news. My response you ask? “That’s too bad. Okay, bye!” That was an accident on my part but it was a response that made me laugh in embarrassment. He seemed like a nice guy and I intended to be nicer but there we were. 

 

Lake was the only demo that showed off any issues. The framerate dropped frequently and there was a lot of pop in. Despite that though, I have been going through a stressful time recently and the simple gameplay mechanics of Lake really helped me relax. I did not like Death Stranding however, I really enjoyed the aspect of walking around this apocalyptic landscape delivering packages to remote destinations, especially when Low Roar kicked in. Lake is what I loved about Death Stranding, minus the parts where I throw my own weaponized urine at ghosts in the rain. Simply driving house to house, listening to the radio, and delivering the mail put me in a serene state of mind. I’m really looking forward to going back to Providence Oaks when it releases on September 1st. You can watch the trailer for Lake over at the ID@Xbox channel located here. 

Sable

Source: Sable Press Kit

The final demo I would love to talk about is Sable. This is easily the demo I was most enthralled by. In Sable, you play as Sable, a young girl preparing to begin her “Gliding”, a rite of passage performed by her people which will take her across the land discovering the wonders it has to offer. In the demo, you’re restricted to a place that can only be considered the tutorial area. Sable is almost ready to set off on her Gliding, yet the problem remains in that she doesn’t have a bike. So, using a rinky-dink Sandcutter and a “fuzzy stone”, it is up to Sable to find the parts she’ll need and build her own bike to begin her adventure. 

 

From the moment Sable was given the Sandcutter, I took off into the horizon, never to look back. My objective was to merely drive through a nearby ring and come back to Dis, the man who gave me the bike. However, as I drove toward the ring I noticed a ruined structure just behind my objective on a small cliff. Well, obviously I just couldn’t ignore this structure so I flew past the ring and proceeded to utilize the game’s stamina-based climbing system. Despite the demo’s small stamina meter, I was able to make the climb with ease and found a creature that rewarded me with an egg. Then, I noticed the crashed spaceship and made my way towards it, leading me away from the ring and I just kept going after that. Sable’s world drew me in with ease. Just about everything I accomplished in the demo, I did before I knew it was actually a part of Sable’s story. 

 

Storytelling is another aspect I fell in love with. The game is narrated from Sable’s point of view and she refers to herself in the first person. Upon meeting Jadi, an elder among the Ibex clan, Sable states, “I can feel Jadi smiling behind her mask, just as I know she can feel the teeth-baring little grimace behind mine.” Sable then goes on to relay her feelings to the player and how she knows that Jadi is amused by that. It is a narrative technique that isn’t often used in video games today and it really lends itself to building the world as players learn about the lore through Sable’s eyes and experiences. 

 

Lake and Tunic were great experiences but Sable is the game I knew would steal my heart the moment I saw it. The trailers showcased the game’s beautiful artwork and when I learned it was going to be a part of the demo event, I had to play it. After having played the demo, it only solidified how I felt, quickly becoming my favorite demo of the three. It was the only moment where I was actually disappointed upon completing the demo. I had reached the end of my journey and was simply left wanting more. So for now, I’ll wait as patiently as I can until the game is released on September 23rd. If you’re interested in listening to some beautiful music and seeing the game at work, publisher Raw Fury has you covered. 

 

One thing I know for certain is that Sable will be coming to Game Pass on day one. As for Lake or Tunic coming to the service, I have not been able to dig up any confirmation. That being said, whether or not they do come to Game Pass, these demos are amazing and do a great job at showcasing their final products’ full potential. These are day one buys for me and if you love ZeldaJourney, or just the idea of delivering packages to nosy old cat ladies, you won’t regret playing any of these games when they come out. 

Kyle Simcox

Kyle Simcox

Article Team

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