One of my favourite things about modern PC gaming is when the bubbling microbial soup of Steam unexpectedly spits out a preposterously successful game. It happened this summer with BattleBit Remastered. It happened with Phasmophobia a couple of years back. It arguably happened with Baldur’s Gate 3, although that one has a fair amount more pedigree behind it.
Lethal Company is the most recent contender to leap up the Steam sales charts like a cross between a gazelle and a mountain goat. Released last month into Steam Early Access, it currently sits in third place on Steam’s global top sellers list, with over 20,000 “overwhelmingly positive” Steam reviews, and almost 30,000 people playing it right now. It’s beating out Baldur’s Gate 3, PUBG, and even Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to claim that position on the top sellers list (which is sorted by total revenue), and the only products higher than it are the Steam Deck and Counter-Strike 2.
What’s behind Lethal Company’s sudden stardom? Well, it taps into a lot of trends that are popular in PC gaming at the moment. It’s a four-player cooperative horror game about scavenging resources from abandoned moons on behalf of a Weyland-Yutani-style corporation, moons that may or may not have things living on them. It also has an eerie retro-futurist vibe that’s very much in-vogue, all chunky 20th century technology, video-tape distortion, and CRT-style typefaces. Think Phasmophobia crossed with Deep Rock Galactic.
Lethal Company is run based, with your corporate overlords pressuring you to meet a certain quota within three days, and that time limit makes it faster-paced than Phasmophobia, another recent co-op horror hit. Teamwork is also essential, as players can only take what they can hold into a round with them, so you have to plan your roles within your team carefully. Steam reviews also praise Lethal Company’s proximity voice chat: It contributes to both teamwork and terror, cutting off suddenly when one of your friends is gobbled up in the dark.
In short, it’s hit on the right ideas at the right time, but does them in a way that’s either better than its competitors, or different enough to make it interesting. According to its creator, a solo dev named Zeekers, Lethal Company will be in early access for another six months, though I doubt they expected the game to be quite so successful when that was written.