Among all the space game demos currently available as part of Steam's summer Game Festival, Rift Frigate is probably the one that doesn't introduce itself with quite as much confidence as it should. Despite being an early alpha, however, it's worth taking some time to get to know as there's a likeable core that betrays the awkward exterior.
It's hard to overlook the graphics, which, in spite of the basic textures, are crisp and vibrant with an unmistakable Homeworld vibe. Also, whilst first impressions convey standard third-person space shooter gameplay, there are a few nice ideas that might help it to stand out, such as a ship customisation feature that promises an impressive level of versatility. Best of all is the nifty tractor beam that you can use to fling obstacles out of the way to get to the resources you need to upgrade your vessel.
Regrettably, the weapons seem feeble and the user interface is as basic as they come. Ship movement is reminiscent of Descent, but is a bit flighty, making it easy to get disorientated or trapped, which isn't helped by a camera that doesn't always stay where it should. Get too close to another object, for example, and a placeholder first-person view takes over, which is even less helpful than the wayward third-person effort.
It's a shame that there isn't a bit more information about the backstory, that pits you as a member of a sentient machine race infamous for wiping out its creators' planet. I'd certainly like to know more about the "eldritch space monsters and gargantuan World Eaters" that'll supposedly exist alongside shadowy in-game factions that we'll no doubt have to work with.
While we await further revelations on that front (which may or may not come in today's planned dev stream), hopefully at some point an updated demo will appear that fixes the current issues - which you can experience for yourself by downloading the Rift Frigate alpha demo from Steam.