The term ‘SoulsLike’ came into being due to the impact left by the Dark Souls Franchise. This series, developed by FromSoftware, became notorious for its highly challenging boss fights and mechanical gameplay. And over time, there have been a number of other games that feature these aspects as their main gameplay loops One of the newest ones is Steelrising, an Action RPG with a heavy emphasis on similar combat systems, which we are going to discuss and review for you today.
There are multiple Soulslike titles that feature their own unique twists to set themselves apart from one another, such as the third-person looter shooter aspect of Remnant From The Ashes, or Thymesia’s aggressive but graceful melee combat. Steelrising aims to provide a challenging but robust experience along the same lines, which will test your focus and perseverance as the game peels away at your endurance with its fast-paced combat and its unforgiving exploration.
It does a great job of emulating the Souls-type gameplay, but misses the mark in some other parts. So without further delay, let’s dive into all of the nitty-gritty of what Steelrising has to offer in our detailed review of the game.
Story And Setting
The setting of the game takes place during a fictional French Revolution in the late 1700s. It is here that we are introduced to Louis XVI, the last King of the French Dynasty before his inevitable collapse, who creates and commands an entire robot army to eliminate anyone who intends to question his rulership.
You play as Aegis, another robot that seemingly resembles a marionette in design, who is commanded by her superior, Marie Antoinette, to fight back and exterminate this rogue army of androids. Marie is based on her real-life counterpart, who was the last Queen of France when the French Revolution took place. She orders you to end Louis XVI’s corruption and is the quest giver of the game. So you must now hunt down and destroy every single bolt-blasted creature and automaton in order to strike a balance between peace and serenity in this ongoing war filled with bloodshed and brutality.
On the road to completing your objectives, you will come across an assortment of historical figures, such as Lafayette, a famous aristocrat, and even Maximilien Robespierre, a lawyer who became one of the most prominent figures during the revolution. These NPCs will widely interact with Aegis, who will shed tidbits of information and lore about the ongoing events of the game while you are battling the twisted scrapheaps.
In my personal experience with Steelrising so far, I wasn’t able to stay invested with its fairly predictable storytelling, where in the end you must end the reign of an evil monarch. It sort of feels bland when compared to the storytelling of actual Souls games, where the world-building and narrative feel unique and awe inspiring. Not to mention, Aegis is, of course, meant to be depicted as a puppet, following her master’s will. But ultimately, it isn’t really intriguing to see our heroine feel more or less like a ‘Placeholder’ for a protagonist, instead of an actual character.
The setting of Steelrising is pretty interesting though, as the game tries to hook players in with an alternate reality of the French Revolution and its infamous incidents. Thankfully that helps to uplift some of the dullness and repetitiveness of the central storytelling. The side missions are filled with some brilliantly written scenarios, such as where you will pull off a heist to steal the King’s treasure. After which, you will have to make an important decision on where you want to use the funds.
Unlike most games of the modern era, Steelrising tackles some controversial topics such as the cause and effects behind ruthless mutinies, the philosophical ethics behind freedom and brutality, and much more during the endgame events, which will make players question their moral ambiguities. The game’s worldbuilding doesn’t shy away from immersing you in its political debates either, which will provide a much-needed change of pace from the grueling and intense combat sections.
In terms of gameplay, Steelrising doesn’t have as much variety as one might expect from a Soulslike. It is a dreadful copy and paste of the same unoriginal ideas of a generic hack-n-slash video game. However, there are some aspects that make it worthwhile and caught me by surprise during my time with it, from the different weapon types to the leveling system, enemies, and much more.
The weapon variety in this game is quite the handful, in that you are given the option to use ranged or melee attacks to take out your enemies. These arms are classified into Flails, which you can swing to inflict damage from a distance, Mallets and Hammers which can stagger even the strongest of enemies, and agility-based weapons like Claws. Each of these weapons has its own special moves, which can provide an edge during combat. Additionally, you can level them up to enhance their properties as well.
Speaking of enhancing, the leveling system of Aegis plays a pivotal role in what sort of playstyles players can create for themselves, which is one of the few aspects I found really likable about the game. You can opt to level up six different traits; Power, Durability, Vigour, Engineering, Elemental Alchemy, and Agility. In order to invest in them, you will require Anima Essence, which is essentially this game’s currency and can be found mostly by defeating enemies.
Furthermore, at every one of the checkpoint statues, or bonfires of this game, you can also purchase helpful items, weapon upgrade materials, modules, etc.
Modules act as modifications or attachments that players can equip on Aegis to apply passive status buffs or grant a boost to a specific trait. You will gradually need to unlock all of her gear slots in order to equip different types of modules at a time. You don’t necessarily have to purchase any items in the game, hence why I would strongly recommend saving your Anima for character and weapon leveling instead. Most of the weapon materials like bronze ingots, among other useful materials, can be easily found in chests while exploring.
The exploration isn’t anything special either, as the primary locations of each level are mainly the palace courtyards and the narrow streets of France. The enemies occupying the levels will mainly consist of humanoid soldiers, but a significant amount of them are also robotic abominations. From large metal-plated bosses to annoying enemies such as the flaming scythe swing androids and electric dispensing panthers. You will have to tread carefully throughout each encounter as enemies can overwhelm you quite easily without the correct positioning, plus they all have their own pattern of attacks which can easily ruin your day.
However, the developers have done an amazing job of implementing a dedicated accessibility menu which basically lets you customize the difficulty parameters alongside modifying your health and stamina consumption. You can fine-tune the experience to your personal liking, which makes the game all the more feasible for newcomers to the genre. These settings can be adjusted at any time during the game so if you find yourself struggling against a Boss and would really like to get it over with, then there is no harm in heading into the settings and adjusting the settings for some help.
Personally, the combat might be a hit-or-miss with many players as it’s slow yet aggressive in its approach. The connecting attacks just feel too cumbersome even if you mix in the light attacks with charged attacks. There is no consistency whatsoever. Furthermore, enemies do not present too many opportunities where they stagger or feel the weight of any incoming attacks. The most viable option to take down crowds of enemies will be using the Area-Of-Effect artillery like the Chains, which can be effectively used at mid-range to take out most tedious enemies quickly.
The saving grace is that some of the level design, since being able to explore some of the hub areas in the mid-game locations was a treat. Unfortunately, while you do have access to the grappling hook and an air-dash ability, they mostly fall flat due to the clunky gameplay, but even more so due to the restrictions, as some levels and fences are blocked by an invisible barrier. So on certain occasions, you’ll feel like you can skip over a section of the level, but you will instead be restricted to normal traversal. It really was one of the most disappointing things whilst exploring the world.
Visuals And Performance
There are a number of historical locations that you can explore while traveling and executing the rogue automatons of the French Revolution. Famous locations such as Versailles are lavishly recreated in the game, but with a much more dystopian nature to befit the themes and setting of Steelrising. The levels are all intricately designed so that they fit the gritty atmosphere. The countryside levels consist of lush fields accompanied by passageways and bunkers to explore, where enemies can surprise you with ambushes The cobblestone-embedded streets of 1700s Paris on the other hand, are all topped off with castles and gorgeous vistas.
The only downside is that there isn’t too much variety in the enemy design, as I continuously found myself stumbling upon reskinned enemies with slightly different movesets. Some even only had new weapons attached to them, but with the same tricks to throw you off your guard. This is a minor gripe that some Souls fans might really dislike.
The art direction team spared no expense in making the visuals and scenery look rich and detailed. The game ran on my RX 580 and Ryzen 5 3600 system with most of the graphical settings tuned up to high, while some were set at medium to maintain the framerate. There were also some barely noticeable issues, such as shadows not loading properly.
I also faced an issue where the game crashed on me once, and on rare occasions, Aegis would get stuck in an invisible object or asset during combat, leaving me baffled and prone to incoming attacks from foes. These problems do not hinder the greater experience too much, but they will generally be annoying for most people.
This game is the newest entry in the extremely popular Soulslike genre, but Steelrising simply doesn’t feel all that fun to play. There is no impact or weight to any of the enemies, and they feel completely shallow in diversity, just like their lifeless automaton cores.
The weapon system and progression are great, as it allows you to freely mix up your playstyle and strategize, meaning you won’t ever feel burnt out by using each armament. The mini-bosses as well as the major boss fights can definitely put up a challenge for Aegis, but sadly they end up being forgettable when looking at the game in the grand scheme of things.
The main storytelling feels sloppy and repetitive, as the game takes a while before you can get to the more fast-paced parts and know what’s going on in the world. Thankfully it is all tied together by the characters, world-building, and side quests, which should hopefully keep you immersed in the game for a while.
If you can pace yourself with the combat and ignore its flaws, then the game can easily be entertaining even for players. But overall, fans simply have higher standards and Steelrising doesn’t meet them.
We hope you enjoyed reading our Steelrising Review. The game is available across all platforms such as the Xbox Consoles, PS4, PS5, and PC via Steam.
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