At first glance, there’s a lot to like about Spiders’ action-RPG Steelrise. With an exciting and rarely used setting in 18th century France and a great narrative angle to engage players from the start, it initially feels like it’s going to be a memorable experience. Peeling back the layers of the game and progressing through the levels, however, begins to expose larger issues that prevent the release from realizing its full potential.
SteelriseThe greatest strength of is undoubtedly its narrative arc. Set in an alternative revolutionary France, much like Assassin’s Creed: Unity, King Louis XVI succeeded in suppressing the rebellious citizens of Paris by sending murderous automatons created by the mysterious real-life inventor Jacques de Vaucanson. Although he succeeded in his goal of killing the citizens of the capital, the Mad King also trapped Marie Antoinette in a palace guarded by his robotic creations. The only automaton friendly to him is known as Aegis, and it is him that the player takes control of. The task of tracking down de Vaucanson and stopping King Louis before things get worse is sufficient for the initial premise, with later layers of the story adding more depth to an initial hook that feels genuinely original.
The Aegis can be customized and upgraded in several ways at save points known as Vestals. Six upgradable stats enhance various aspects of the playable character. Additionally, four unlockable mod slots provide additional wins. Meanwhile, the Oil Burette (a refillable canister that heals the player in or out of combat) can also be upgraded to increase the maximum number of uses or the amount of health it restores with each activation. It all adds to the immersion without offering as deep a customization system as many stat-based RPGs.
A quick look at the game’s combat and movement is enough to make the more Soulslike elements of this game abundantly clear. While nothing here feels genuinely groundbreaking, it’s an enjoyable, if often repetitive, system that offers a rewarding sense of accomplishment as you progress past a difficult boss. There’s enough variety in weapon types, their special abilities, and unique items (like grenades) to keep things relatively fresh, but the combat mechanics themselves aren’t varied enough to really give the impression. impression that the player builds a unique character.
The threat of automatons the player faces is, for the most part, a refreshing take on the old trope of a robotic, unfeeling enemy. The most basic enemy type is a slow, easily avoidable fighter with a standard melee weapon. Going deeper into the game reveals that there are many more variations, ranging from fast bird-like creatures that eventually launch into a suicidal dive-bomb attack, to extremely heavy and clumsy creations that wield two hard-hitting maces . Learning about these creatures and how their mechanics work is a big part of what makes leveling up an exciting experience. Any of them can and will kill the player, all before they get to the overly difficult boss fights.
Visually, Steelrise definitely has a lot going for it. The models available to customize The Aegis are relatively limited, but what’s available is stunning, with the faces on offer resembling porcelain masks and the rest of the automaton a mix of steampunk and regency attire. Cutscenes continue in the same vein, providing the best look at what the game has to offer graphically. The environments are also deeply immersive and capture the nature of late 18th century Paris, with the eerie addition of near total destruction. The composition of the game settings can make the game stunning, but the increase in graphical fidelity took almost everything out of an RTX 3060, and low-end PCs would no doubt struggle even at low settings. A look at the recommended specs for the game shows that perhaps more work could have been done on optimization and inclusion for players on lower-powered systems. The developer recommends an RTX 2060 6GB to run the game, but even that seems like a bit of a stretch for those looking for 60fps or more.
For those who have been looking for a game that can fill the Ring of Elden–shaped hole in their lives, Steelrise isn’t quite the game to do so. What it does do, however, is deliver an enjoyable and immersive pseudo-historical experience that delivers on its promises without crossing any particularly noticeable boundaries. The difficulty level is similar to Souls games and their many derivatives, but regular players of the genre may find the combat lacking in responsiveness and polish. Anyway, with a PC good enough to run it, there’s a far worse way to spend a few hours than exploring the ruins of revolutionary Paris.
Steelrising is available now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and Windows.