Developer Tomas Sala's upcoming Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles has a proof-of-concept demo out now, letting you get a taste of the combination of city-builder and open-world exploration it promises to be. The demo is billed as an "evolving demo", a kind of open development intended to update over time as new features are added to Bulwark during its development.
Bulwark's hook is that it's a freeform node-based construction system, letting you plop down new buildings easily over a 3D environment while the paths between them are automatically constructed. As you click, rambling wooden paths of decking form between your towers. When towers are later upgraded to stone you can upgrade the paths to ever-sturdier constructions.
At the same time you can explore the world around your base via airship. As you explore further you meet new people to recruit, from colonists who want to relocate to ship captains, pirates, and dragon-riding wizards who want to either work with or against you, depending on your reaction. These new characters provide units that defend your airship, settlement—or upgrade your towers, or help you set up trade routes to bring in resources over long distances.
Developer Tomas Sala's first outing was The Falconeer, an aerial combat game that got a lot of attention for its combination of stylish action, pretty visuals, and indie credentials—Sala is a solo developer. It was an open-world game that PC Gamer quite relished, with reviewer (opens in new tab) Luke Kemp giving it some fairly high praise: "This is a flight you should take if you get the chance," he said. (As a side note, The Falconeer is extremely on sale at the moment, a complete edition only $9.36 off on Steam (opens in new tab).)
I was quite taken with the Bulwark demo. Sala's Falconeer world is just as charming from a new perspective—arguably more so for someone like me, who loves strategy and management games much more than an aerial dogfight. On top of that the building tools, while definitely early in development, are pretty impressively easy to use once you get a handle on them.
You can find Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles on Steam (opens in new tab).