I’m Suddenly Interested In Steelrising

I’ve been less than convinced by Steelrising for a while now. The trailers looked okay, but I think my bad experience with Greedfall was putting me off. I tried to forgive the bugs and experience the heart and soul of Spiders’ classical RPG, but ultimately the jank proved too much. This is an unpopular opinion, I understand, but my first and only experience of Spiders’ RPG wasn’t great. Maybe I’ll give it another go now I’ve upgraded my PC, but first impressions and all that.

As such, I was eyeing Steelrising with caution. The designs, the clockpunk 18th century aesthetic, and the world all look fantastic. But how would it play, and how janky would it be? Would the pitfalls of Greedfall spell doom for Spiders’ successor?

Everything changed for me at Bigben Week in Paris, where I saw a hands-off demo of the game. Obviously the section I watched was a curated section of the game, and it was the developer playing rather than me, but it ran smoothly and was completely bug-free. The polished experience sold me on Steelrising more than any of the clockwork tigers or mechanical fan-shields, but that alone would not be enough to write an entire article now, would it?

I will write another paragraph on Steelrising’s performance, however. It didn’t just seem smooth, it felt seamless. It’s hard to explain exactly how a game felt so good when I didn’t even play it myself, but there wasn’t a single bump or wrinkle as I watched – a rarity even for hands-off previews at media events. My biggest problem with Greedfall looks to have been addressed, and I was immediately twice as interested in Steelrising as I had been before the preview.

The movement of our protagonist, an automaton named Aegis and the personal protector of none other than Marie Antoinette, was perhaps the most striking part of the presentation. She runs, grapples, and generally parkours her way across Paris in a breathtaking manner, her movements fluid and fast but still maintaining that robotic stiffness. How can movement be stiff and fluid? I don’t know, but it is, and in the best way. I think the only way to describe it is that everything feels intentional. Despite her mechanical limbs stuttering as cogs whir and mechanisms spin, Aegis leaps with grace balletic poise. And she draws me in.

The city of Paris is equally beautiful, albeit mostly on fire. I loved exploring it in Assassin’s Creed Unity, and Steelrising’s more stylised approach to the city is even more exciting, if less free. Much like my hands-off demo, Steelrising is a curated game that funnels you where it wants you to go, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Clocking in at around 15 hours for the main story, the developers are focusing on delivering a quality experience rather than pumping in subpar content for the sake of inflating that playtime.

Paris has an excellent verticality in Steelrising, and Aegis’ combination of grappling hook and abilities like double jumps and mid-air forward boosts give you a wide variety of traversal methods. The city feels dense and populated (mainly by automatons), and if it felt good to watch someone make their way through it, I can’t wait to do so myself.

The Souls-like combat looks snappy and demanding – the developer told me he “expects” players to die in some parts. However, unlike Souls games, there are a host of difficulty sliders to customise every possible setting. I wouldn’t worry about it being easy, though, as the achievement hunters out there will want to take on challenges such as completing the game without taking a hit to get that Platinum trophy.

Steelrising is set for a September 8 release, and that can’t come quickly enough. Cut open my chest and fill me with cogs: I’m converted, and Steelrising is fast becoming my most anticipated game of 2022.

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