Steelrising Review – Buggy automaton

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Thinking back, the hardcore action RPG formula introduced in Demon’s Souls and further refined in the Dark Souls series Bloodborne and Elden Ring was truly unique. The combination of challenging and deep combat, ambient storytelling, and amazing atmosphere has always been very difficult to reproduce, and only a handful of developers have managed to create games that rival From Software’s excellent games, like Team Ninja with the Nioh series. Getting all of these elements right while still providing a fun gaming experience is a real achievement, as the many failed attempts to create a proper Soulslike over the last few months have shown us.

Developed by French studio Spiders, Steelrising on paper, with its unique 17th-century setting and alternate portrayal of the French Revolution, felt like it could make a decent-to-good soulslike, but even in beta it was ahead of one few months some problems were evident. However, being a few months away from release, I was hoping the developer would fix some of these. And while Spiders has fixed some of the most notable issues, the game still doesn’t go beyond being just passable.

As mentioned above, Steelrising is set in France in the days when the French Revolution was about to take place. In the game’s world, however, the revolution is crushed before it even begins when King Louis XVI. used the automatons built by Eugène de Vaucanson, his favorite engineer, to terrorize the city of Paris. The Engineer soon realizes how his creations were being used and attempts to stop the King, only to end up being imprisoned and protecting his finest creation, the Aegis, with orders to protect Queen Marie-Antoinette.

The queen, imprisoned in a palace in Saint Cloud with the Aegis for her own protection, knows something is wrong and orders the Aegis to travel to Paris in search of people who would join Louis XVI’s reign of terror End can put , like its creator Eugène de Vaucanson. Of course, even for an exceptional automaton like the Aegis, it won’t be easy carving your way through the legions of automatons, and you’ll have to battle not only regular automatons, but also the mysterious Titans, whose discovery underscores the true madness Paris got it.

If there’s one thing Steelrising does well, it’s the setting and the story. Far from being particularly original, they still manage to be somewhat interesting and give players a decent incentive to explore some iconic locations of 17th-century Paris. Those invested in the story can also complete some optional side quests that provide more detail and paint a clearer picture. But even without completing optional content, the story offers enough entertainment to keep the player going.

Unfortunately, the story and setting are the only things that will keep most players engaged in Steelrising, as the game’s clunky gameplay doesn’t make it as enjoyable. At first glance, the RPG developed by Spiders offers all the gameplay elements that make a Soulslike what it is: character creation, different starting classes, stamina-based combat, multiple combat options, a large selection of melee and ranged weapons, intricately designed locations with many unlockable shortcuts leading back to save points, extensive customization options, and a variety of challenging enemies to defeat. However, once the game begins, the problems hit the player as hard as the Aegis. Or rather would have said.

The main problem with Steelrising is that it just isn’t that much fun to play. The Aegis is said to be one of the strongest automatons, but its attacks hardly make all enemies react. While this is one of the quirks that define Soulslikes, the best ones make it clear which enemies stagger under the player’s blows and which don’t. In Steelrising, enemies react to the player’s attacks depending on the enemy’s aegis impact stat and balance, the game’s version of the Souls series poise stat. The problem is that even with powerful heavy weapons, it’s difficult to break the enemy’s balance with a single hit, often resulting in the enemy being able to attack the Aegis while it’s recovering from an attack. To make matters worse, everything feels clunky: the controls aren’t very responsive, leaps and leap attacks are floating, and combat lacks weight, making using the twenty-plus different melee weapons very unsatisfying. Although many of them have unique special abilities, some of which don’t even require additional resources to unlock, there are only a handful of viable options that are truly effective, such as: B. the shield and counterattack abilities and any weapon that can deal ice elemental damage. The latter in particular is extremely broken, as once enough ice elemental damage has been dealt the enemy will be frozen in place and subjected to a fully charged heavy attack that can deal a lot of damage. This also works against most big bosses and essentially trivializes every challenge even when not using Assist Mode, a special mode with some difficulty modifiers designed to make the game more accessible.

Sure, all elemental special moves require additional resources, but these can be bought from the boutique, which can be accessed from all save points, so each challenge can be won by grinding, buying the necessary resources, and throwing an icy hell on every enemy lets go. Few enemies have decent resistance to Ice elements, so this strategy can take players extremely far. Other confusing design choices exacerbate balance issues, such as B. Enemies that aren’t particularly varied or well designed and have some attacks with prolonged and sustained hitboxes that hit the player unexpectedly even after the enemy attack has completed and should recover. Enemies with ranged attacks have an unfair advantage with no UI display and no sound for their attacks when not in close range. All of this leads to a game that gets very frustrating at times.

It’s a shame that Steelrising is so frustrating and unbalanced as some of the game’s mechanics had a lot of potential on paper, such as lighter weapons being able to fill some sort of fatigue meter which, once full, Leaves enemies exposed to guaranteed critical hits. In order to fully explore Paris, players must acquire three different tools by defeating the main story bosses, which allow the Aegis to latch onto certain points, perform a sprint acceleration that can be used to fly greater distances with one jump and one ramming maneuver Destroy certain walls and give the whole experience a Metroidvania Lite feel. Unfortunately, exploration isn’t all that rewarding, as the items you get by checking every nook and cranny of this immersive version of Paris are, in most cases, nothing valuable. It even gets a little frustrating at times, as some forced platforms don’t work particularly well with the Aegis’ floating jump, and a host of other issues, such as the forthcoming. The locations also look a bit the same throughout the game, so it’s not like players will miss out on some amazing views if they don’t fully explore Paris. The fast stamina recovery mechanics, clearly inspired by Nioh, are also among the things that could make Steelrising more fun, but they are not implemented very well as they can only be used when stamina is depleted after using certain actions, but not all, such as after using the all-important Shield ability.

While Steelrising doesn’t exactly excel in gameplay but can still be fun for those willing to overlook its many issues, it definitely doesn’t fare much better when it comes to graphics and performance. The game’s graphics are far from the absolute best we’ve seen in years, they get the job done. However, character models and locations scream low-budget, and the limited facial expressions and low detail spoil the immersion a bit. On the other hand, the filming locations fare a little better, thanks in part to the ray tracing capabilities that greatly enhance the immersive atmosphere.

Since the graphics aren’t particularly modern, it’s confusing to see Steelrising running on a system that’s more than capable of running all the latest AAA games at 4K resolution, 60 FPS and more with some tweaks (i7- 10700 CPU, RTX 3070, 16GB RAM). What completely detracts from performance are the extremely unoptimized textures – even at the lowest quality, 4K resolution, they require almost 8GB of VRAM, which is the capacity of my GPU. This forced me to use NVIDIA DLSS with the Performance preset. However, even with DLSS enabled, performance is far from solid, as the game’s framerate remained erratic in many situations, going from a somewhat constant 90, 100 FPS during no-enemy exploration to under 60 FPS in combat. A day-one update is planned to go live when the game releases to fix various issues, but it wasn’t available during the review period, so we’ll update this segment if there are any significant visual or performance changes.

In a year that has seen the release of some excellent games like Elden Ring and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, a Soulslike has to be of extremely high quality to stand out. Steelrising definitely had the potential to be a very good game, but some design issues make it little more than a passable game that only hardcore fans of the genre will enjoy. With more time in the oven, the Spiders-developed game may have fared much better, but as things stand it ends up being just another Soulslike with no notable features outside of its setting.

PC version tested. Check the code provided by the publisher.

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With its setting and story, Steelrising could have been the Bloodborne-inspired soulslike that many have been waiting for since the release of From Software’s masterpiece. Unfortunately, the game developed by Spiders doesn’t manage to be anything more than a mediocre game, with its gameplay issues that make it hard to recommend it to those who aren’t die-hard fans of the genre.

advantages
  • Good atmosphere
  • Interesting historical story
  • Decent amount of combat options…
Disadvantages
  • …which are largely ineffective due to the odd balancing and combat design
  • Sluggish and floating movement
  • Mediocre enemy and level design
  • optimization problems

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