Steam Summer Sale 2021: Our Picks

As the Steam Summer Sale 2021 is coming to an end (you still have a couple of days to grab something still), here’s a quick recap of what we have decided to pick up, and why! By the way, while we don’t always publish long form reviews on Boiling Steam, we do from time to time update our game recommendations on our Steam Curator Page, so you’d better subscribe to it if you are on Steam!

Eki

Here’s how I usually buy games during sales like that: I keep a list the games I am typically interested in, and check if they are at their lowest point yet at at least a point where I would consider it cheap enough (less than 10 USD). I almost never buy super recent games, it’s a lot cheaper to play games that are one or a few years old overall, and there’s no harm in doing that if you don’t really care about following the latest trend. A game good will be just as good 2 years from now, and in the meantime I anyway have a huge backlog to work through if I need to.

Command and Conquer Remastered – Proton (2020)

I had good memories of the series back in the 90s (after absolutely loving Dune 2 from the same studio), and Command and Conquer Remastered is just a good package with 2 games: the original C&C followed by Red Alert. I wish I could say that these games have not aged, but they have! While the soundtrack and graphics have received a nice fresh coat of paint, the cutscenes are absolutely horrible and look like a pile of pixel garbage on your nice LCD screen.

command and conquer remastered linux

They should really have remade everything that was CGI in one way or another, there’s no way doing some cheap upscaling would do the trick. The missions could not be more simple either, it’s typically build and survive and destroy stuff – you can clearly see this came before Warcraft 3 which introduced some in-mission events to spice things up.

Spyro Trilogy – Proton (2019)

If you were alive and gaming in the early 90s, you have probably aware of the series of Playstation 1 games with the little dragon called Spyro. Well they made a remaster not too long ago, and you can now grab it at a very reasonable price (3 games in 1).

spyro reignited - works fine on Linux with Proton

It’s quite cheap considering the amount of gameplay contained in such games! It’s also a proper remaster with massive enhancement over the graphics of the first series both in modeling and animation (and cutscenes). And it’s a genre we barely see much these days (3d platformer), so it’s a welcome addition to my collection.

Pyre – Native (2017)

I have not tried this one yet, but it’s rated as one of the best games from SuperGiant Games with proper choices during the storyline and a nice blend of strategy in the action scenes.

Pyre on Linux - it has a native version

Looking forward to it. As usual, production-wise, it seems like they killed it once again.

Far Cry 3 – Proton (2012)

Often hailed as one the best episodes of the series, I have long waited to give it a try. Now well under 5 dollars, I have absolutely no reason not to pick it up anymore.

far cry 3 - works fine on Linux with Proton

cow_killer

Horizon: Zero Dawn (Proton)

I debated for a long time whether to buy this or not, and waited until now. Originally a PlayStation exclusive, Horizon: Zero Dawn focuses on a girl named Aloy who explores the vast open-world environment she’s in, filled with Machines who are ready to kill anyone they see. Based on the seven or so hours I’ve played so far, it feels very similar to the Tomb Raider series — a female protagonist set in third-person perspective, where she’s equipped with a bow, a spear, and other weapons. There’s a lot of climbing and other dangerous obstacles to overcome.

HZD screenshot on Linux with Proton

As for Proton compatibility, I noticed the game seemed to play in slow motion with Proton 6.3-5. Switching to Proton Experimental fixed this — now the game plays at the speed it was meant to be.

Patola

Don’t be startled by the volume of stuff I bought on these sales, please. I am an enthusiastic fan of Valve (notwithstanding Steam being proprietary and riddled with DRM — nobody is perfect) and appreciate all the progress and software they have been bringing to Linux, and I put my money where my mouth is.

As with most sales, I rely on the refund mechanism of Valve to experiment in two fronts:

  • I buy games with a proton rate of “borked” or with no reports at all to create my own reports and help people run it on Linux. Occasionally I even find some way to run that game.
  • I buy well reviewed games from genres I don’t like, and yes, you read that right. Although, like everyone else, I have my preferences in terms of gaming, I deeply admire the diversity, creativity and richness of today, specially coming from the 80’s when almost every title was some twitch-based game with some degree of violence. As such, I assume that at least some of my “dispreferences” in genres are wrong as a way of continually challenging myself and keeping an open mind, and sometimes when I do that, my sensibilities are positively rewarded with an appreciation of a whole new universe. On these particular sales I bought lots of games in this fashion. When reading my descriptions, try and see if you find out which are these genres, if you post a comment I promise to respond.

And of course, I also buy titles I was eager to acquire and which fit my tastes. Being a happy VR user, as I value biological immersion in a game (senses being deceived in a subconscious level and all that), the majority of titles will be like that. I like to buy games which explore new frontiers in virtual reality, like having original controls or exploring a genre which wasn’t deemed adequate for the setting (turn-based strategy anyone?).

Note that many of the games run under proton. Don’t take this as a lack of commitment to Linux, please; it is quite the contrary, I have more customizability and flexibility with games on proton that native games; I can change behavior, fine-tune what is exposed to the game, and improve its performance with little effort, in a way that I can’t do natively. I fully embrace proton, and wine to me is still the best solution for preserving Windows games that slowly become incompatible with the official Operational System.

All of the proton games have had their corners tested when possible (e.g. multiplayer support) and the reports were sent to protondb. Two of the games have not worked properly, and bug reports were sent to the proton bugtracker.

So, without further ado, let’s get a listing of my purchases, shall we?

GangV Battle Royale (Proton, optional VR) (2021)

As you might be hinted from the name, it’s a game that’s heavily inspired from Grand Theft Auto V not only in gameplay but also aesthetics, only it’s a multiplayer-only Battle Royale game instead of a single player adventure. And it supports crossplay between VR and non-VR! This one makes me particularly proud because not only it’s from a genre I previously did not appreciate, at first it was not working in Linux; so, with a hint of Kisak from Valve that the problem was caused by unimplemented bluetooth functions in wine, a talented friend developed the stubs (“empty entries”) for these functions, and in my turn I applied the patch to proton, rebuilt it and tested, and it worked. You can see the bug report here and until this patch comes to proton, you can use my personal build of proton for this game.

GangV

Ion Fury (Native) (2019)

You might have known the game for its former title, Ion Maiden. And in a demonstration of how deeply messed up the “intellectual property” crowd is today, the Iron Maiden band sued the developers for 2 million dollars forcing them to change the name. This one is a boomer shooter that looks and feels very much like Duke Nukem 3D, made by 3DRealms (Duke’s original developers), only with a female character. I bought this game not only due to having played a lot of Duke3D in its time but also due to the dignifying attitude of the publisher, protecting the developers from the cancellation crowd after some of them expressed some slightly politically sensitive opinions in an informal chat.

Hobo: Tough Life (Native) (2021)

This one is hysterical! A first-person survival game where you are a homeless person which must thrive on the streets. The concept is great and the execution is good, with lots of improvements coming with patches. The subject is sensitive, no doubt, which makes the game even more appealing to me. So far, the only complaint I had was that the “dishonest” way of succeeding in the game (by robbing, mugging and bullying others) seems much easier and consequence-free than the honest way.

Obduction (Proton in VR, Native in pancake) (2016)

I bought this one for the VR, of course. It is a spiritual sequel for Myst, the cult puzzle-adventure from 1993. Although it is from 2016, its VR execution is ok, with smooth turning and locomotion possible. The proton version suffers from the mfplat (“Microsoft Foundation Platform libraries”) illness, where some in-game animations/movies will present a test pattern instead of the actual content, but that’s fine for now because it has been the single most improved part of the development branch of wine and proton-wine in the last few months, and future versions of proton will handle it perfectly.

Meta Retro Games: Pixel Ripped 1989, Pixel Ripped 1995 and Duck Season (Proton, VR)

These games have to be considered together to make sense. Duck Season is from 2017, Pixel Ripped 1989 from 2018 and Pixel Ripped 1995 from 2020. They are all exploration of nostalgia from old classics in a very creative and expansive way. They also have the original game played within the game by your character, the reason for the classification as “meta” games. And although the inner game requires real skills to beat, the outer game also needs thought and interaction to be resolved successfully. The Pixel Ripped games have all the distractions of the outside world where you should deal with your parents and their prejudice against games and school bullies, and the Duck Season game starts with an innocent rental of a game cartridge only to evolve in a horror story of all things — to be frank, I always found that Duck Hunt dog creepy! Pixel Ripped 1995 only runs through Proton Experimental, not current Proton 6.3-5. Pixel Ripper 1995 is so sophisticated that it even has a spectator camera for streaming. Duck Season has a cheaper Non-VR version.

Pixel Ripped 1995

Downward Spiral: Horus Station (Proton, optional VR)(2018)

This is a story-based adventure in a zero-G setting. It follows a kind of mini-genre with other games like it, like Star Shelter and Detached, and could be very disorienting for new VR players due to the weird locomotion and lack of reference for up and down. But this one is nowhere as nauseating as Detached, its story seems very enticing, and the execution so far (1h of gameplay) seems excellent and balanced, with good weapon and grapple mechanics.

Gal*Gun VR (proton, VR) (2017)

Don’t judge me, please. I know this game is stupid and sploitative. It is eerily out of place, with you being the single male boy in a school full of pretty young females, and you must shoot them with “euphoria” before they reach you in order to “survive”. You die by being overwhelmed with kisses and fondling. It’s a naïve anime male fantasy but it is nevertheless very well executed and oddly addictive. I like its weirdness.

Ven VR adventure (Proton, VR) (2021)

It’s a platform game. In VR. In third person. Go figure! But it works, and it is hard as nails! It has great mechanics, but I admit I got some frustration due to lack of skills or familiarity with this type of game. Hopefully I will improve with time. Wonderful, convincing graphics and settings.

Dyson Sphere Program (Proton) (2021)

This is a new entry on the city-building/strategy genre that has been all the rage. For me personally having the words “dyson sphere” on the title would be enough motive for the purchase, but it even rates as “overwhelmingly positive”? I just HAD to have it! If you don’t know what a dyson sphere is, it is a theoretical structure that would be built by very advanced civilizations that would surround their system’s sun to harness all the energy. It is said that if we find out a star that is mostly occluded from view it could be a sign of an advanced civilization using this structure. So, the developers found this reasoning useful and built a game around the hype to harness all the money… Which is fine by me!

I started playing the game and I already feel the addiction when mining for resources. I already feel the itch of “one more thing” to do that will entertain me for hours in the gameplay.

Falcon Age (Proton, optional VR) (2020)

What a breathtaking game! The most surprising thing about this title is having a flat screen mode, because its controls in Virtual Reality are so vivid you can almost feel the weight of the titular Falcon when it rests on your hand. In the game you are a native american enslaved by some robot race which escapes with the help of your new pet, and must liberate your fellows. The art style is simple but convincing and the story is intriguing. The falcon responses are really impressive, in the way that it feels like a real, living creature.

Dreadhalls (Proton, VR) (2021)

It’s incredible how some indie developers can achieve a perfect balance in gameplay, atmosphere and difficult that even big AAA powerhouses struggle to achieve, and this is certainly the case with Dreadhalls, a claustrophobic survival horror game where you must explore catacombs, solve puzzles, avoid the monsters and escape the facility. I already had some terrifying moments with this game.

Tales of Glory (proton, VR) (2020)

This game (still) doesn’t have full body support like Blade and Sorcery, but it’s a much more complete game with lots of stuff to do, a story and a 30+h single player campaign. It aims to be the Mount & Blade: Warband of the VR world.

XING: The land beyond (Proton, optional VR) (2017)

Relaxing, atmospheric puzzle-adventure like Obduction.

Karton – Death by Cardboard! (Proton, optional VR) (2018)

An adventure with stealth sections where you are miniaturized and must escape the cardboard city.

Timelock VR (Proton, VR) (2017)

An “escape room” game involving time manipulation.

Blaston (Proton, VR) (2020)

This is one of these games that is much, much better than it appears when you actually play it instead of just watching some gameplay. It’s a shooter with slow bullets and different kinds of weapons and defenses, and you can use your whole room to dodge your enemy attacks.

Shadow Uprising (Proton, VR) (2018)

A very climatic stealth game that feels like a mix between Aragami and Shadwen.

Naked Sun (Proton, VR) (2018)

I wouldn’t have bought this one, but it’s so cheap that I ended up doing it. It’s an on-rail wave shooter with gorgeous visuals, competent narration, decent weapons and a good story, so the “very positive” rating is justified and I was thrilled when I completed its first level.

Swords of Gurrah (Proton, VR) (2020)

Melee fighting game with an original approach to one of the biggest shortcomings of VR: you don’t feel the backlash when you strike or are struck, so you fight with weapons which immediately break when you hit something, taking some moments to regenerate. Another one of these games that is much more fun to play than seeing a gameplay. Its community is small and tight and when I started multiplayer I was greeted by some people who told me some tricks but then we were interrupted by a crash. It’s still in early access, so this is prone to happen. Voice chat works well, though.

Sports and Dancing games

I like to put these in a special category because these are exclusive to VR: games that aim to make you tired and have fun while doing it! Thus they usually have a casual, short style.

Well, you will not always become tired. Some sports are less energetic, it’s not always about fitness. So let’s start with the least tiresome and go upwards in the scale of fitness:

Golf Pool VR (Proton, VR) (2020)

This is one of these obscure games which is nevertheless very well done and it bizarrely mixes two apparently irreconciliable sports, golf and pool. But the combination works surprisingly well and scratches an itch I did not even knew I had. The sceneries are gorgeous and realistic and the game is very well executed. Its visual indications of the trajectory of the balls before I even hit them are a great way to give me a sense of the kinetics and improve my real-life aiming skills. Being a virtually unknown title (at this time it has only 9 users reviews), it’s impossible to find a multiplayer partner.

Premium Bowling (Proton, optional VR) (2019)

The name says it all in a very accurate manner. It’s a relatively simple game that tries as hard as it can to excel in its simulation of physics and environment. It has everything you could ask for, from an optional online presence (integrated to Steam) to tournaments, leaderboards, many types of balls and circuits, matchmaking, AI competitors. You won’t sweat a lot with this game, but you’ll surely have your load of fun with it.

V-Racer Hoverbike (Proton, VR) (2018)

I have been exploring motorcycle games in VR to see if they can actually approximate the feeling of being in a real motorcycle. This is the third game I tried so far — the other two being Bike Rush and Hell Road VR — and the only one focused solely on racing (no physical combat). As such, it has the most realistic controls, with steering by leaning and handling the motorbike bars. Although it is mostly for multiplayer, it has decent AI with a well-integrated single player mode. It’s not exactly a fitness game, but the constant leaning and motion required might burn a few calories in due time.

VR Regatta – The Sailing Game (Proton, VR) (2018)

Yes, a game that requires you to lean, turn and steer with your body as if you were in a sailboat. You just have to take care to not be so immersed that you fall to the floor… Provides a mild workout too. This game is exactly like you imagine it is and I will even mention that I have another nautical game called Downstream: VR Whitewater Kayaking that is worth a glance.

OhShape (Proton, VR) (2019)

It’s incredible how a single idea can be diversified and explored to exhaustion, and that idea is that “something coming in your direction in a straight line and you must hit/match in time”. A whole lots of VR games explore this for exercise, and this one does so by throwing body shapes that you must match with your arms and head, like putting the arms up or stretched to the sides while listening to music. Works well and it is a decent exercise.

Ragnaröck (Proton, VR) (2020)

The same basic idea as OhShape, but a completely different execution. And it’s more of a rhythm game, that is, dependent on matching the music and notes, a la Guitar Hero with drums. Has a good variety of sceneries (where you are actually making a boat go faster) and interesting gameplay elements like a side drum which can boost the speed when charged. In theory OhShape should be more exhausting because of the ample arm movements it requires, but this game requires much faster movements and sustained synchronization for succeeding.

The disappointments

Of all of the games I bought, two of them (both VR games) did not work properly, and surprisingly enough it was not due to some big issue like anticheat or graphics initialization but, of all things, input issues. The most egregious case is that of the adventure game Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son, based on the Bill Murray movie with a similar name. The game starts, the steam overlay pops up and says that it can’t find a binding for “OpenXR Test Instance”. Buttons like “Choose Another” and “Create Binding” from the overlay have no effect. Returning to the game shows the title screen and your virtual hands, but you cannot interact with anything. So… it seems like a simple input binding problem, right? Easily fixable?

A bug report for this issue was open a little more than a year ago. The bug report sits idle. No new comments, no explanations as to why the overlay buttons don’t work, no workaround offered, nothing. It’s weird, specially because Valve support on the issues is usually so fast, responsive and thorough.

The other troublemaker also has some input problem; the game is a mix of First-Person Shooter and Real-Time Strategy called Guardians VR and has crossplay between PC and Quest. For some odd reason, the elements of the game which should be attached to the hands are instead fixated on the headset for me. So, the menus open at the sides of my eyes in a manner that I can’t see all of them. The aim is done by looking around. And the teleport beam and even the weapon emanate from the center of my head like if they were big noses.

I’ll follow the bug report for that one closely. This game just seems too interesting for me to refund. I hope it’s a simple fix.

podiki

It finally happened, I got my hands on a new GPU, namely an AMD 6700 XT! Though I really want the 6800 XT for maximum VR goodness, I’ll take anything I can get, and anything I can get is a huge jump from my aging Nvidia GTX 970. I’m especially happy that I got it direct from AMD, meaning no giant markup on the price. More on my experience on the jump to AMD very soon.

So that means I’ve been feeling a bit of a game buying spree coming on, though I still want to upgrade the rest of my desktop later this summer. Here are some things I’ve bought either during the Summer Sale or recently, for you to check out:

Horizon: Zero Dawn (Proton)

Like cow_killer, I just picked up this game and am impressed so far. It runs very smoothly on Proton, though in addition to using Proton Experimental, I added PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60 to my launch options, as suggested on the ProtonDB page which solved audio sync issues in the frequent cutscenes. (Note that the game asks you what level of mandatory data collection you want without an option to turn it off; not sure if this is different from what a lot of games do without telling you, likely buried in an EULA.)

There’s a lot that’s been said about Horizon already, but let me just point out that it has a very sophisticated, and fun, photo mode. Since the game is gorgeous to look at, it is a great feature. I can’t wait to play with that more.

Griftlands (Native)

A new story-heavy deckbuilder from Klei that’s been getting some good attention (as does all their games it seems). And of course, it has a native version that works perfectly. This is a bit of a different spin on the genre, with two decks, one for conversation battles (non-violent, trying to convince someone) and another for battles. Griftlands is built more like a longer campaign rather than a quick run, with lots of story, some factions, and 3 different characters to play as with very different styles. The artwork and sci-fi setting is well done and a nice change from the usual deckbuilder. I’ve only played a bit with two of the characters so far, but enjoying the different approach here.

Griftlands, showing a conversation battle.

Crusader Kings 3 (Native)

I’ve been feeling like some conquest/drama/grand strategy, something I haven’t played before. I’ve heard great things about Crusader Kings 3 from Paradox, and with their great support for native games, it was on my list. Still just starting out in a campaign in CK3, but already it has impressed me with the emergent stories, plots, and living world. As a quick example, when my heir (who you take over as once your character dies) was stricken with leprosy, things were looking grim for my Italian kingdom. I re-inherited an illegitimate older son to restore a healthy line. Soon after the poor leper was murdered! Only many years later, playing as my heir, did I see he had a secret…he had had his brother killed! And after he was already in line to inherit before him. That’s the world of Crusader Kings.

Star Wars: Squadrons (Proton)

Had my eye on some Star Wars flight action in VR since it came out. Works well with Proton, especially in my brief trial in pancake (flat) mode, more sluggish in VR. While I could still use some more horsepower, it is already fun to fly around as an X-Wing or TIE Fighter, all pewpewpew with lasers in space. No multiplayer due to the anti-cheat, but that’s okay with me as it has a single player story as well as battles you can set up offline.

Valheim (Native)

The big Linux developed hit! I’ve been playing this recently co-op with my brother, and we’ve been having a great time. Took a while to figure out how to build things straight, but now we’re well on our way. I really like its art style, and lighting especially.

Monster Train: The Last Divinity (DLC) (Proton)

Back to my origins here on Boiling Steam, I reviewed Monster Train. I still love the game and come back to it now and again, and they recently came out with a DLC adding yet another faction to play with. Since you pick two factions for each run in this deckbuilder, it adds a lot more strategy and choice. A great one to pick up if you like deckbuilders, or are interested in trying out the genre.

And… that’s it!

What about you? Did you pick up anything cool, surprising or unusual this time around? Please let us know in the comments!


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Frans

Dreadhalls links to Falcon age, btw. 😉

m m

Metro Exodus
native and really good

Ekianjo

Agree, good recommendation too