In an alternative version of the French Revolution, King Louis XVI took power thanks to his army of clockwork. These mechanical monsters roam the streets of Paris, destroying any citizen or soldier in their way.
It’s up to you, the player, to stop the king’s steel army and save the French capital from destruction. However, rather than playing the role of a human soldier as normally expected in this type of game, you actually take on the role of a battle-ready automaton. Your character, Aegis, is a robot bodyguard for Marie Antoinette and the Queen herself, who has tasked you with stopping her maniacal husband and foiling his plans to rule Paris.
Unlike other clockwork robots roaming the city streets, Aegis has free will and a mind of its own. The reason for this becomes clear later in the game, although we won’t spoil the main plot twist in this review.
With its fantasy setting, arcade-ish combat, and traditional character class system, the game was reminiscent of early Bioware games like Dragon Age: Inquisition. It was quite enjoyable to play, although the long loading times and constant need to backtrack took away some of the enjoyment while playing.
Spiders’ latest title ditches the role-playing mechanics of its previous games (which also include The Technomancer and Bound By Flame) in favor of a Soulslike experience. So, this is more difficult than other titles they have developed so far, so you won’t be able to beat this title easily. That being said, the game isn’t as difficult as some other titles in the genre, so you won’t have to hit the restart button too regularly. But since it’s a bit easier than games like Demon Souls and Bloodborne, the downside is that it’s not as satisfying to play.
At the beginning of the game, you can choose from 4 character classes: Bodyguard, Soldier, Alchemist and Dancer. If you only intend to play the game once, you should choose a build that suits your preferred play style.
I chose Dancer for my game. He doesn’t have the strongest or most powerful build in the early game, but he’s the most agile, so I was able to easily hit my opponents a few times before he got hit. This character class uses armored fans that I can quickly transform into a shield, so I could easily defend myself with the touch of a button when the enemy was about to attack.
If you want to start the game with a stronger build, you can choose a heavier character class like the Bodyguard, which uses a massive hammer that has the highest damage per hit of any starting weapon. But no matter which build you choose, each class is upgradeable, so you can change your playstyle and weapons as you progress through the game’s story.
There are dozens of enemy types in the game, from music machines that can quickly destroy you with armed brass instruments, to robotic dogs that can easily defeat Aegis when attacking in a pack. Each enemy has its own attack patterns, so some strategy is necessary, although you don’t need to destroy every automaton that gets in your way. If you prefer not to fight, you can hide your way through certain parts of the game or simply run away when the odds are against you. Some automatons will chase you, so if you don’t take out one or two of them early, you could be outnumbered and face a quick death.
Smaller enemies get harder to take down, but if you plan your attack and dodge at the right time, you should be able to get through most of these fights with ease. Larger enemies – the Titans – pose a bigger problem. These aren’t as hard to defeat as the bosses you’ll find in the Out of the Box, but they’ll still quickly destroy you unless you’ve leveled up Aegis’s character and upgraded your weapons.
These bosses are upgraded versions of the enemies you’ll encounter on the street level, and of course they’re bigger. These include The Centaur, a robot riding a lion-headed mechanical horse, and The Iron Queen, a ruthless steel monster who uses an intimidating mix of ranged and melee attacks as she tries to crush the player.
Thankfully, if you’re having trouble getting through the game in one piece, you can take advantage of the game’s Assist mode. You can increase your stamina regeneration rate, meaning you won’t be able to suddenly stop in the middle of a fight. And you can reduce the amount of damage Aegis takes in battle. These tweaks can make the game much easier, especially if you max out your damage reduction, which makes you invincible.
However, there are two major downsides to these assistance options. First, you’ll be cutting the game’s runtime (about 15 hours), so you won’t get much value for money. The game will be less satisfying to play as you will rely more on button mashing than on your ability to destroy the mechanical beasts you encounter. Still, if you’ve ever dropped your joypad in frustration while playing Demon Souls and the like, you might be glad of the options that make the game easier.
The game isn’t as good as some of the other Soulslike titles, but this might be Spiders’ best game yet. Visually, it’s very interesting with detailed Parisian locations and impressive robot designs, and the story offers an interesting look at real-life historical events.
However, Steel Rising has its flaws. Combat feels floaty at times, and it can be difficult to lock down enemies when multiple enemies are on the screen at once. Invisible obstacles get in the way of passing through each area, thus unfairly restricting movement from each location. And during the game, I got stuck in a landscape one too many times and was required to restart at the last checkpoint.