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Finally learning more about Highwater

Since learning of their Serbian origins, I’ve been following the work of Demagog Studio. Back in 2021, I wrote about Golf Club Wasteland, their first game. Last year, I shared my thoughts on the demo for The Cub, which is still in development. Now, for this year’s Steam Next Fest, they’ve released a short demo for their third game, Highwater. I immediately downloaded it without knowing much. Thankfully, while the demo doesn’t give away too much, I do think there is something here that many could enjoy.

An early exploration section of Highwater. The character is riding a boat through a flooded part of the city

This time, it’s about turn-based combat

All three of Demagog Studio’s games incorporate different genres. Golf Club Wasteland was a simple golf game with strategy elements. The Cub is a platformer. As for Highwater, it’s an adventure game with turn-based combat. The exploration part of the game lets you wander around parts of the game’s location, Alphaville. Meanwhile, when you get into combat scenarios, it moves into an isometric viewpoint, similar to games like Triangle Strategy and Tactics Ogre.

The demo allows you to play three “fights” each getting progressively more difficult. The first is a simple 1 v 1 that you can’t mess up. The second one adds a few enemies, but they’re still easy to defeat. It’s the last battle where the difficulty really ramps up as more waves of enemies enter the fray. It’s in this last fight that you need to strategize your attack and use what’s around you to your advantage.

The battle environments use a grid system. Each character can move in a specific number of spots. Then, they have their own attack skills. For example, the main character uses the oar from his boat but can also provoke enemies to attack him by yelling at them. Another character has a shotgun but also can use a wrench for closer combat situations.

There are also environmental objects that come into play. In the demo’s final battle, two wind turbines on each side of the main area can push characters into a pool of water if they stand on a particular spot at the end of a turn. On top of that, there is also a Tesla Coil which does damage if characters are standing too close to it. For that last fight, using both of those is key to winning it.

A sample of the turn-based combat in Highwater

Short but sweet

Unlike some games where the demo is the first part of the game, Highwater jumps across a few sections of the story. You get a rough idea of what is going on, but there are still a lot of questions that remain. Like Golf Club Wasteland and The Cub, this takes place in the same in-game universe, with Alphaville making a return.

This isn’t the same apocalyptic region as it appears in Golf Club Wasteland, so this might serve as a prequel to that game. Don’t get me wrong, the city is in rough shape, but it’s habitable, unlike their earlier game. The developers love to use music to help with their storytelling. We get a sample of that in the demo, but I suspect there are many more interesting ways they incorporate their “Pirate Radio”. This isn’t Radio Nostalgia From Mars, but the same DJ hosts the radio broadcast.

At the moment, Highwater only has a “Coming Soon” on its Steam page, while its studio page says “very soon”. I was certain their second game, The Cub would release before Highwater, but that might not be the case. As someone who enjoys these kinds of games, I’ll definitely share more about it when given the opportunity.