This Year In Early Access Games

As a rule, I don’t include early access games on my Game of the Year List. If I did, Hardspace: Shipbreaker may have been my Game of the Year in 2020, 2021, and 2022, and there’s a good chance Baldur’s Gate 3 would have ended up on four lists in a row. I love following along with the development of a game and seeing it evolve over time, but as a critic, I only want to judge the game once the developer has completed their vision and delivered a final product.

That being said, it feels strange not to acknowledge early access at all. In-development games took up a lot of my free time in 2022 and I’d be remiss not to give them a spotlight here at the end of the year when we spend a lot of time giving the spotlight to things. This isn’t a formal, ranked list, but if I were you, I’d keep an eye on these games in 2023.


Moonbreaker is the video game version of skirmish-style tabletop war game. Think Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team or Marvel Crisis Protocol but set in a light-hearted sci-fi universe crafted by Mistborn’s Brandon Sanderson. Moonbreaker has gone through some major changes in the few months since it launched and it still has a long way to go, but it shows a ton of promise. This is my favorite PvP turn-based strategy game right now, and now I’m thinking about becoming a miniatures guy. Check out my preview here.


This is also a turn-based game, but that’s the only thing it has in common with Moonbreaker. Terraformers is a miniature version of Civilization – a non-grand strategy game, if you will – but instead of competing against other factions for territory and resources, you’re competing against the disillusionment of your citizens. Colonizing Mars is an arduous and deadly endeavor, and as your modest empire expands, your tiny society is constantly on the brink of revolt. Like Civ, Terraformers has a ton of gameplay variety and different objectives to keep each playthrough fresh and surprising. For an early access game, this one feels particularly robust. Here’s my preview.


New Blood Inetractive’s take on the classic immersive-sim is unbelievably successful, even in its relatively short runtime. Thief fans will feel right at home with its sneaky first-person gameplay, but what really did it for me was the joy of exploring its complex, interconnected world. As a huge fan of Arkane’s Arx Fatalis and all the great ImSims it inspired, Gloomwood definitely scratched my clever level design itch. Check out Andrew King’s thoughtful preview.

The Planet Crafter

I have a condition I call number-go-up-itis, and the only treatment is watching big numbers become even bigger. Anyone that has gotten really deep into idle games knows what I mean, and while I’ve managed to avoid the siren song of clicker games for years, The Planet Crafter managed to sneak up on me where I least expected – a survival/crafting game. This is basically Cookie Clicker meets Subnautica. You explore a dangerous alien world, build bases, and craft machines that terraform the environment. Every machine increases pressure, heat, and oxygen at a constant rate, and the more machines you build, the faster it increases. I thought this game might have been made specifically for me, but 16,000 overwhelmingly positive Steam reviews suggest otherwise. Check out my preview of the free version, The Planet Crafter: Prologue.

V Rising

If you’ve heard of anything on this list, it’s probably V Rising. This survival/crafting and action-RPG hybrid was a huge phenomenon for about two weeks when it launched back in May, and though the buzz has died down, development has continued on a steady pace. I find there isn’t quite enough to do yet to hold my attention for more than a weekend, but overtime I can see V Rising becoming a massive MMO. Check out my preview.


The final survival/crafting game worth mentioning this year is the one that surprised me the most. Craftopia is one of those games that seems to be way overpromising on scope, and while I’m still not convinced it will end up being the ultimate farming, exploring, factory-building, survival, hack-and-slash, Breath of the Wild experience it purports to be, I’ve already had a lot of fun with it and I’m excited to see how much bigger it gets.

Against The Storm

I’ve only spent a few hours with Against the Storm but that’s all it takes to know it’s something special. This traditional strategy city builder sees you micromanage every facet of a town by collecting resources, constructing buildings, and leading your villagers (and beavers and lizards) to reclaim the wilderness, but the hook is that no matter what you do, the storm will eventually come for you and destroy everything you’ve built. This is a roguelike city builder that teaches you to learn from your mistakes and make the most of the opportunities you have in front of you. I’m almost afraid to get any deeper into this one because I know I’ll never be able to put it down.

Dark and Darker

This is a bit of a non-traditional early access game because the developers run semi-frequent playtests, then take it offline for long periods of time. Still, the sooner you can get your hands on Dark and Darker the better, because it’s a fascinating game. Part dungeon crawler, part battle royale, and part Escape from Tarkov, Dark and Darker is a genre bender that feels greater than the sum of its parts. The premise is simple: you and your party explore a dungeon, fight other parties, and try to escape before the circle closes in on you. It’s strategic, tense, and often hilarious. A great game for fans of classics like Ultima or Legends of Grimrock with a modern battle royale twist.

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