April 16, 2024
Review: Steelrising [PS5]

Review: Steelrising [PS5]

Paris 1789. A widespread discontent among the French people has exploded in a cavalcade of chaos, violence and confusion. The lavish lifestyle of the upper class has become a red flag for the working class and a revolution is initiated with major consequences as a result.

You may recognize this description of the French Revolution from your elementary school history lessons, but was there any mention of the French king deploying his robot army to quell the rebellion? Didn’t think so. In Steelrising I get to experience an alternative retelling of this historical event seasoned with steampunk elements.

A noted actor, or perhaps above all a symbolic person for the French Revolution, was Queen Marie Antoinette. It’s in the role of her private dancing robot Aegis that I take my first steps in this alternate universe, and it’s not long before I’m crushing other robots on behalf of the Queen. Her son has gone missing and she suspects that her husband, the power-mad king, is the perpetrator. To find them, I therefore set out on the messy streets of Paris.

That Cagliostro is not only evil, he also happens to be the king’s closest man.

As mentioned, Aegis is the Queen’s personal robot, and thus not a cheap little budget machine but a high-tech all-in-one. At the start of the game, I thus have to choose between a number of different classes, each with their pros and cons and starting equipment. I chose a slightly heavier class with access to coolly designed metal scrolls. The scrolls quickly transform into a sledgehammer (to hammer home the message so to speak) but can also take the form of an effective shield when needed. Even here, I’m hooked on the modest but stylish design that the game offers, and I really like how the developers have managed to combine the futuristic robot theme with Enlightenment France.

Soon I encounter my first enemies and also the first boss. The combat system is similar to that of other soulslike games and focuses on tight maneuvers, quick reflexes and a sense of when to squeeze in an attack or avoid getting hit yourself. It’s a satisfying setup that makes even simpler enemies exciting to face regardless of how many times I’ve defeated them before, especially when they’re mixed up in other constellations of enemies. At times I feel that some opponents could have alternated their movement and attack patterns a bit, but aside from that, the battles are an engaging experience.

If you don’t want a serious short circuit, it’s best to keep your distance.

In addition to the starting equipment and abilities I start with, I find or unlock more and more of these as the game progresses. Weapons have different movement patterns and in some cases also have chemical attributes (alchemy was popular during the Enlightenment) that give them everything from fire, ice and electricity damage that can be effective against different opponents. I really like how they have given the various elements a depth that goes beyond just doing damage. For example, fire continuously affects my health, but if I manage to disconnect from the enemy and can roll a few times in quick succession, it goes out.

After playing for a few hours, I feel like it’s getting tricky to keep track of all the characters whose names keep popping up every quarter as I explore the game’s main track. The characters mentioned do not have simple, generic names that game characters so often have without, first and last names supplemented with the occasional title here and there. It occurs to me that there might be a point to that, and with a little internet sleuthing, it turns out that pretty much every single character is based on a real model that was active during the French Revolution. It’s an interesting design choice that, despite being on the verge of being a bit information-heavy, is still a bit brave in my eyes. Unfortunately, the weight of the character gallery spills over into the missions a bit,

Can Aegis row? You can believe that!

One of the things I appreciate most about Steelrising is the different and somewhat unique way they have chosen to tackle the different themes found in the game. It’s an interesting mix of fiction and history and I feel that a lot of care has been taken to ensure that neither of these two take up too much space from each other. The end result is an exciting adventure that, despite some repetition, manages to entertain through intense battles, beautiful environments and a different story.

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