Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: NACON
Developer: Spiders
Release Date: Sept. 8, 2022


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS5 Review - 'Steelrising'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 7, 2022 @ 1:28 a.m. PDT

Steelrising is an action RPG that places you in the heart of an alternate Paris during the French Revolution, where the automaton army of King Louis XVI is terrorizing and suppressing the French people.

Buy Steelrising

Steelrising is set during the height of the French Revolution — but it's different from the one in history books. In this timeline, Louis XIV has access to an army of tireless automaton soldiers that have gone on what can kindly be referred to as a killing spree against everyone who opposes him. Marie Antoinette, sequestered far away from Paris, can no longer be part of what her husband is doing. She sends her personal automaton, Aegis, to Paris to find the key to defeating the machines to stop the clockwork king.

It's a bit surreal that Steelrising tosses an army of robots into a historical setting. You'll run into loads of historical figures and help them with troubles; some are historically accurate, and some are not. The core plot is reasonably engaging, but it foreshadows several plot points so bluntly and so far in advance that when the twist actually comes, you've probably guessed it hours ago. Playing as Marie Antoinette's personal dancer robot-turned-killing machine is about as unique of a premise as you can get.

Combat in Steelrising follows Souls-style combat. You have quick and strong attacks and a heat meter (stamina) that fills up as you complete attacks. Dodging and striking enemies during their weak moments is key. The usual elements are here, including save points that replenish your health but respawn enemies, a limited system of healing, and having to return to where you died to recover the souls lost upon death.

What separates heat from stamina is a Nioh-style system that allows you to quickly replenish your endurance. Once you reach zero stamina, you'll overheat. After a moment, your heat begins to drain slowly. If you tap Triangle at the correct moment, your stamina instantly replenishes, with the replenished amount determined by how quickly you tap the button after the initial "overheat" bar flashes. Do so too quickly, and you'll overheat for longer; if you're too slow, you'll regain far less stamina. Cooling yourself also causes frost buildup, but this isn't a huge concern unless you're going wild or facing a frost-dealing enemy.

There's a nice variety of weapons in Steelrising, but it takes a while to see some of the better ones. You can hold two weapons at once, and they include spears with an attached gun, flaming balls and chains, and vicious tearing claws. Each weapon has a special action, but certain weapons have different variations. For example, one weapon may cause your weapon to be enflamed, so you can set enemies ablaze. Another may have a shield or a parry, while a third might having a high-damage special move.

Your ability to use most of these moves is governed by how many alchemy capsules are in your possession. Using a special skill uses one or more capsules. You can hold hundreds of them, but they need a brief period to reload if you use multiple ones in a row. Defeat enemies to replenish capsules. Almost every foe in the game drops at least one capsule, so as long as you're cautious with resources, you'll never be at risk of running out. It's a system that works pretty well. The constant flow of resources from enemies makes using skills feel less restrictive, while providing just enough tension so you don't treat them as disposable.

In addition to weapons and armor, you can gain upgrades for Aegis that unlock new abilities, such as a grappling hook, air dash, or wall-breaking kick. Once you get these abilities, you can return to earlier parts of the game to unlock new areas and items, à la a Metroidvania-style game. You can also use them in combat, such as using the grappling hook to shock enemies from a distance, but special moves cost alchemy capsules that are probably better used elsewhere.

This brings us to the most frustrating part of Steelrising, which is how restrictive it is. It's a very linear game that disguises itself as being more open. This isn't necessarily a terrible thing on its own, but the game is not very good at signposting where you can go. Once you get the air dash ability, it becomes bluntly clear how much of the game is blocked by invisible walls. You usually don't have much mobility in Souls-type games, but here, it's tremendously easy to attempt a feasible jump only to hit a wall, or alternately to think a path isn't viable because it looks blocked.

That's probably the biggest thing that worked against Steelrising. It was such a cool feeling to get air dashes and grappling hooks, only to realize how limited they are. Instead of feeling like a natural part of exploration, they felt like something you used at specific spots and ignore the rest of the time. It's a shame because at first blush, it feels pretty cool to get the skills, but bashing my face against invisible walls quickly took away the shine.

Other than that, Steelrising's core problem is that it doesn't do anything particularly noteworthy. It's a familiar game to an almost excessive degree and feels like a general mishmash of Souls-type games, but it doesn't stand out among them. At this point, Soulsborne titles are a dime a dozen and it's hard for me to say that Steelrising stands out among the many, many, many other genres that use similar mechanics.

One element that may be nice for more casual players is an addition of an accessibility menu, which offers a number of tweaks to make the game easier, including reducing damage, making it easier to land the cooling mechanic, and a few other little tweaks that help the game play smoother if you're having trouble. Some may argue this "defeats the point" of a rock-hard Soulslike, but it's a nice feature that is entirely optional and helps make the often-difficult genre feel a bit more friendly.

The visual style is neat. The Versailles-era robots are a nifty aesthetic, and Aegis is a neat mix of interesting and creepy. Her movement style caught me off guard at first, but it quickly grew on me, especially when she uses unnatural movements in combos and attacks. The enemy design is a bit bland, with a lot of interchangeable designs that are differentiated by the element color, but some of the bosses are intriguing. The voice acting is quite good, and Aegis's stilted dictation and repetition of phrases make her feel robotic without falling into "beep boop" clichés.

Steelrising is sort of an average Soulsborne game. The fascinating aesthetic doesn't hide the fact that it's repeating the same sort of things we've seen in a lot of other games, and it can't manage to carve out its own identity. That doesn't mean it is a bad title; the combat is largely fun, and there are enough little things to discover to keep you moving forward. Steelrising might help to scratch the post-Elden Ring itch, but otherwise, it's best for those who are looking for another Soulsborne to play.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about Steelrising
blog comments powered by Disqus