Once the gears click into place, there’s more to Steelrising than Bloodborne on PC: hands-on preview

The main character, Aegis, surveys the dark urban landscape of Paris in Steelrising.

It was my fault that the mechanical tiger maimed me.

No wonder the muddy streets of these abandoned Paris suburbs are deserted, not even safe for me, Aegis, Marie Antoinette’s personal mechanical bodyguard, and I have a bag full of swords and a pistol that fires ice bullets.

So when I naively turned the grimy corner into a head-on ambush by a rope lancer with limbs like Jack Skellington but no sense of humor, I was quite surprised when a pair of mechanized big cats appeared behind me to complete the trap. ? That’s the modus operandi of this type of ‘punishing’ game, isn’t it? Invite you to a trial, then laugh at your mistake.

caught in a net

French studio Spiders is a bit like the game company we’d all make if given the chance, churning out both dense, lore-based RPGs and ambitious, feature-packed homages to your favorite games without a hint of cynicism. .

Following Bioware-like Greedfall, next on the plate is the much-loved Souls series, and more specifically in the case of Steelrising, Bloodborne.

It’s become a memory cliché to say that something ‘is the Dark Souls’ of something else, but Spiders has taken the unusual step of officially placing the “soul-like” genre label on Steelrising, something that mid-tier studios and larger ones tend not to. do.

Whether it’s for fear of being compared unfavorably and overshadowed by Real McCoy, or to avoid alienating more casual gamers who may have never even heard of the series, it’s a matter of opinion. But for those in the know, it pretty much sums up everything you can expect from Steelrising; dark fantasy, tough, upbeat enemies with powerful yet rigidly exploitable attack patterns, and a dense, interconnected world dotted with checkpoints that cause bad guys to respawn.

But while much of the gameplay is derivative by design, Spiders always offers a place in the background setting and world building. Steelrising takes place in an alternate version of the French Revolution, where the Clockwork King’s army of automata controls the populace with a literal iron fist.

You play as a masterpiece of the same oppressive technology, a Swatch watch battle robot in a French maid outfit, initially sent to find your creator and find out what’s really going on.

Aegis engages an enemy mechanical machine in Steelrising.

The ‘clockpunk’ setting works on many levels, giving you a solid idea for an almost infinitely upgradable and customizable character, but mostly it allows the Spiders developers to go crazy with the visual and mechanical (no pun intended) design of the enemy.

Mechanical masterpieces or monstrosities?

In-universe, not all of Steelrising’s roving army of machines was initially designed for combat. For every bipedal robot that wields a conventional weapon, there may be what is supposed to be essentially a stomping utility pole, ready to slam its solid metal braziers against anything foolish enough to walk past.

In a relatively short space of time, I’ve encountered quite a few different (and differently horrible) machines, and the intricate gears and almost magical contraptions are sure to lend themselves to some truly great Souls-esque bosses.

However, despite the enemies themselves having a unique flourish, the way he reduces them to scrap feels instantly familiar. The relatively slow-paced third-person action draws from not just the main Souls series, but the entire pantheon, including other notable Souls-like games.

Aegis using the grappling hook in Steelrising

In addition to the more typical hallmarks, there’s Sekiro’s grappling hook and expanding shield, mid-air combos as well, as well as a mechanic where timed button presses when your energy runs out refreshes the entire bar. , similar to what they do. have in Team Ninja’s Nioh series.

Lest you think I’m being unfair, the obvious inspirations extend to the world and quest design as well. As you make your way through the deserted, Yarnham-esque streets of a fallen Paris, you’re constantly unlocking doors and shortcuts that lead to your checkpoints. Also, you can even find side quests where you talk to the citizens hiding behind a locked door and deliver items to them.

This is one of the dumbest examples of where things slide completely into homage territory, the only reason it’s there is because it was in Bloodborne, and it seems like it was completely removed with no context.

parisian potpourri

However, that said, despite the lack of originality in many of its constituent parts, you could easily make a compelling argument that the innovation of Steelrising is in bringing all these disparate elements together.

As you unlock more powers, collect more weapons, and more of the game’s systems become available to you, the supermarket’s own brand “Bloodborne we have at home” meme quickly disappears, and Steelrising finds its place as an intense, tactical strategy game. . action game in its own right.

An electrical attack against a mechanical lantern launcher in Steelrising

Once you accept the similarities as fact and stop obsessing over the differences, you can come to appreciate why Spiders is even doing anything in this genre: the gritty, engaging combat cycle is so compellingly rewarding once you get the hang of it. gears start up. which is the kind of game you could play, engrossed, long after the clock is stuck at 12.

However, at launch, balance will be absolutely key to extending the core ideas of Steelrising for a full runtime without falling into capricious and frustrating trial and error. But with the battle-tested fundamentals already pretty much talked about, it’s all about the execution, and whether bugs and other goofy gremlins grind too many gears.

Steelrising will be released on September 8, 2022 on PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC. It is the first Spiders game since it was acquired by French publisher Nacon (formerly Bigben Interactive).


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