Do you know of one Souls-like game that has taken the genre far enough? Excuse me, did you think I was talking about Lords of the Fallen or Mortal Shell? Or Remnant: From the Ashes, or Timesia earlier this month? It’s chock-full of creepy robots, emotionally unstable aristocrats in powdered wigs, and death screens that let you know you’re dead. The immeasurably bizarre setting is fun, but the simplistic combat and overwhelming boss fights don’t make the most of it. So, in a long list of recent no-nonsense soul-likes with a lot of rough edges, Steelrising is…well, another one of them.
You play as Aegis in a bizarre alternate history version of the French Revolution in which Louis XVI used giant robots to crush his predators. Everything about the settings is incredibly bizarre in the best possible way. All Lobo tribes take design cues from the old-school clockwork machines of the time. I spend a lot of time with real French revolutionaries like Lafayette, Robespierre and Marie. Antoinette herself is your boss and serves as the main quest giver. The roughly 15-hour campaign tells a fairly predictable “Down with the King” story that turns increasingly dangerous metal machinations into scrap, but the unique setting and characters make that journey worthwhile. It helps you have the most fun.
Steelrising – 20 Screenshots
As you assemble a group of rebels to help fight the King, the hit-or-miss voice acting for that historical figure is underpinned by some great writing and interesting side missions. A charismatic revolutionary asks you to help him in the fight to end slavery, and in subsequent sidequests, rob the king’s treasury and support which of two opposing political causes. You can decide what to use those funds for. Complete with dialog options to choose from. Some of these decisions have a big impact on the outcome of the story. This was a welcome surprise in a genre that relies heavily on cryptic environmental storytelling. Don’t be afraid to touch the topic. Cutting robots is fun, but I really enjoyed taking a break from the action once in a while to discuss politics with my French compatriots.
In between those moments, Steelrising is a tried-and-tested slog through an area full of deadly enemies in hopes of reaching the next save point before finally killing a big, terrifying boss. It focuses on recipes. Enemy respawn when save points are reached, loss of key resources on death (in this case called “Anima Essence”), evasion and use of third-person hack-and-slash combat etc., all the expected code is struck here. Limited consumables to restore health. It’s an all-too-familiar formula and I’m a Soullike fan, but how amazingly small is this iteration to do to set it apart from all the other options we have today? I’m still frowning a bit as to what I’m doing.
Even unoriginal ideas can be executed in exciting ways, but Steelrising doesn’t quite break some of the game mechanics it’s trying to recreate. Combat is quite a one-note contest of dodging and slicing, with some conditions, special moves, and weapon types thrown in to spice things up. Many of them have special abilities associated with them that let you block or fire your weapon from afar in addition to melee attacks. These include the nimble glass-core batons that they widely relied on. However, swinging these weapons is often inaccurate, and as a result combat can feel downright awkward. Feels responsive in , but enemies often stagger and let you kill them easily. Additionally, the old problem of dreaded cameras hovering over objects and blocking your view can cause problems on a regular basis.
The robotic enemies you fight along the way come in several creative varieties, from small, weak humanoids to giant foes that build support columns as weapons. There’s also a cool robot dog, a freakish snake-like creature, and even a murderous musician with brass instruments who will kill you the way you’ve always dreamed. Each of these enemies has its own tricks to learn, and facing off against them first illustrates some of Steelrising’s best moments.
Unfortunately, after battling these motorized bad guys a few times, you don’t find many surprises around the bend. , are slight variations on each other that have little impact on how you approach various combat scenarios. Bosses add variety, but are laughably easy to defeat, so one might wipe the floor… And don’t think about it again.
Steelrising never really goes completely flat in any of these attempts. won’t Trying to do is what makes it from reasonably fun to overwhelming. That alternate history theme is very creative, but it seems to be so afraid to step out of other games’ Souls-like scripts that it actually started to recognize sections of other games. There were times when I instinctively knew that an enemy was trying to poke me through the ceiling when I stepped into a building, or I found an item hidden in a hanging bag and had to attack . Its familiarity means you won’t find any real surprises, and the adventure feels like you’re trying to parrot what I’ve already played rather than charting your own course.
These levels also try their hand at platforming a bit, as they unlock aerial dashes and grappling hooks that you’ll need to use from time to time to get through levels, but unfortunately this addition isn’t very well executed either. For one, camera issues make it difficult to turn while dashing through tight gaps or look up at grappling points hoping to lock onto where you’re trying to jump. means Gets annoyed when nearby enemies are attacking you. However, Steelrising doesn’t seem to actually want to trust you with these abilities, as they sometimes lock you out of areas you should theoretically be able to access using these abilities. If a developer arbitrarily decides that the location is not yet accessible when finding a place to dash with, they encounter an invisible barrier. This made things feel unnecessarily linear, so the steam was completely removed from the engine every time it happened to me.
It’s a shame, because it’s otherwise a lot of fun to explore the world of hubs. You can meet cool sights. Even if Steelrising’s rough edges hampered the experience, the vast historical setting remained impressive. I had to fight through the dilapidated cobbled streets of his 1789 Paris and kill the stupid faces of giant robots in the courtyards of opulent castles. It’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Of course, it wouldn’t be as soul-like as it looks by the numbers if it weren’t for the fact that it’s prone to a few bugs.Steelrising has a lot to share with you. I got stuck on invisible objects, couldn’t see enemy health bars for hours at a time, and even crashed to the Xbox dashboard (probably because I couldn’t handle my fighting prowess). . None of these issues are so pervasive that I’d be outraged and want to quit, but they do no favors for a game that at times already feels unpolished.
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