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  • Writer's pictureJulie Cooper

E3 2021 Mini-Preview: Lake promises to be the full package

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

As part of our E3 coverage, we'll be providing a few mini-previews for games that we were compelled to check out further after they caught our attention at one of the events. Many of these games have free demos, so check them out yourselves and let us know what you think!

One of our main goals with the E3 2021 mini-preview series was to highlight games that may have been lost in the shuffle of the hundreds of games showcased during E3. And while Lake certainly hasn't been lacking in coverage, we wanted to give it a shoutout here on the final day of the Steam Next Fest.

The upcoming release, developed by Gamious and published by Whitethorn Games, is one of our most anticipated games here at VGG. And it's one of the few indies showcased at E3 with a specific — and relatively soon — release date, expected in September 2021.

Give the demo a try on Steam while it's available. And if you miss out, rest assured that your chance to sink into this highly anticipated indie will come again soon. In the meantime, read on to see what VGG Deputy Editor Julie thought of their hands-on time with Lake's demo!

A screenshot from Lake that shows a white mail truck parked next to a brown pickup truck near a dock that leads to a pink lakeside building.

Now, I'm not one to fawn over cars or to feel some kindred attachment to inanimate objects. But I tell ya, from the moment I hopped into the Lake demo, it was just me and my mail truck against the world.

In the demo for this slow-paced, story-rich adventure, you play as Meredith Weiss. It's 1986, and you're taking a two-week vacation to fill in for your dad as a mail carrier in your hometown.

Providence Oaks, Oregon, is filled with faces Meredith recognizes from her distant past, before her education and busy career with a software company pulled her away. She'll also meet some charming — and dare I say, downright romanceable — characters who I can't wait to see more of as the full story plays out later this year.

Meredith's new purpose is to deliver mail and packages across the rural town that wraps around a large lake. The demo includes the first four in-game days, with a whole lot of driving, delivering mail and dropping off packages.

Meredith Weiss, the protagonist in Lake, carries a square cardboard box from the back of the mail truck to Mo's Diner.

The scenery shines in this Pacific Northwest driving and mail-carrying sim. And although the developers, Gamious, are based out of the Netherlands, they manage to hit the PNW sweet spot with their idyllic small-town feel and forested scenery.

As someone who grew up in rural Southern Oregon, I had a great time speculating about potential influences and reference points for the design. Lake's Main Street strip reminded me of the historic downtown areas I grew up around. Mo's Diner brought to mind the well-known Mo's Seafood and Chowder restaurants sprinkled up and down the Oregon Coast.

In addition to its stunning atmosphere, the demo also showcased an intriguing cast of characters living in Providence Oaks. During my daily travels, the game allotted time to get to know a few of them, featuring sneak previews of storylines that will likely continue to develop.

There's Miss Jenkins, who sends you on a side quest to get her cat some help when it suddenly falls ill (don't worry, little Mortimer will be just fine). There's Robert, a loner lumberjack facing a tough situation as the town begins to change. There's your former best friend Kay, who's been through a lot since you left town and lost touch.

And there's Angie — an L.A. transplant who runs the video store and who is definitely, absolutely flirting with you.

For a game that was already nearing the peak of my hype level, the possibility of a burgeoning WLW romance between two 40-something women has skyrocketed Lake through the roof in my books.

The narrative's branching paths will allow players to control the way their friendships and potential romances develop in town.

I'm ready to fall in love with its 80s charm, unexpected humor, and of course, the unbreakable emotional bond between human and mail truck.
Meredith and Angie sit on a couch in front of a multi-shade grey brick wall, discussing how Meredith is adjusting to life in Providence Oaks.

In addition to all its high points, though, the demo shows there's still much work to be done before Lake comes our way for keeps.

My playthrough began and ended with bugs. Turning on a single option (continue button) in the settings thwarted the play session from the start, causing the game to get stuck on the very first screen. Turning off that setting resolved the issue.

Just before what would have been the end of the demo, the camera pulled away to the front of Meredith's house as she answered an evening phone call and it froze there, leaving me unable to continue the demo through to its end. It's an issue other players have experienced, with no solution from the devs quite yet.

Finally, testing out the autopilot feature at the end of my demo session was perhaps the most distressing, as it set the mail truck to shaking in a very unpleasant way. Beware if you're sensitive to flickering images.

Once the hitches are finally worked out, this is going to be an awesome feature for those who either want to speed up the driving process or aren't the strongest in video game driving controls (for my own sake I will not name names). There's also a fast travel option that will come in handy for those short on time — the game is very slow-paced, from Meredith's leisurely walking pace to the daily delivery drive 'round the big lake.

To their credit, the folks at Gamious have been incredibly responsive to bug reports on Steam's discussion forums for the demo and have acknowledged that all kinds of fixes are on the way.

All in all, Lake completely deserves the spotlight it's received. The upcoming release, featured at both the Wholesome Direct and the Future Games Show during E3 week, peels back a few of its layers in the demo, promising even more than the serene routine-based game we predicted.

I'm ready to fall in love with its 80s charm, unexpected humor, and of course, the unbreakable emotional bond between human and mail truck.


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