The Technomancer, Greedfall… the French studio Spiders has always more or less espoused the RPG genre in all its forms by serving us honest AA games, sometimes even very interesting, but always weakened by finishing concerns or a technique a notch below standards of the same caliber. But with Steelrising, the studio could well be a game-changer.
Thanks to a demo of about 2/3 hours covering the first two levels of the software, we were able to try our hand at Steelrising, an action RPG, another one, but which eyeing this time towards Souls-likea genre that has frankly been popular in recent years.
The main particularity of this new jet of Spiders undoubtedly remains the period in which it poses its universe. No more fantasy worlds or Victorian fantasy eras, here we dive into the heart of Paris, during the French Revolution. An important part of our history which will however, in this case, be imprinted with steampunk fantasy since, if mention is made of several historical figures of the time such as Louis XVI, Robespierre or Marie-Antoinette and her children, this Paris of yesteryear is also marked by the appearance of totally autonomous automatons and endowed with conscience.
The scenario then takes a turn a la I, Robot or Terminator since these machines of sheet metal and oil supposed to serve, finally rise up against their creatorsthus creating chaos in a Paris already in the grip of the flames.
It is in this parallel historical context that we will embody Aegis, an automaton in the service of Marie-Antoinette herself. The latter, condemned to remain locked up in her quarters, asks us to be her eyes and ears in town, to find her son and to stop this madness. Just that.
Makes me really want to go back
After a short passage in the character creator to change the color, the face and the wig of our automaton, we choose a class which will determine the equipment automatically integrated into our mechanisms. We find here very classic archetypes focused on raw power, defense, agility or utility. The equipment also follows the same operation with heavy weapons (mallet, heavy shield, etc.) or light weapons (tonfa, fans, etc.). Spiders also promises us about forty different weapons divided into no less than 8 different categories, which is not nothing. On the other hand, we will wait for the final version to see it more closely, the demo made available being quite limited in terms of content on this side.
It is therefore at the controls of our automaton endowed with conscience and speech that we go to wander in the heart of Paris. Our metal heroine, despite her design, moves perfectly fluid and agile, even if her animations seem mechanical. This is obviously normal given the nature of our avatar, but I would be surprised if it was totally done on purpose. Never mind, it totally makes the coffee and fights can even be particularly choreographic.
Once the pad is in your hands, the feeling is very similar to a Souls (locking, dodging, stamina management, light and powerful blow…). The recipe, we are starting to know it inside out, but Spiders adds a few neat little things, such as the cooling system. When our stamina gauge is empty, our automaton indeed begins to overheat, neutralizing its cogs and therefore certain actions such as dodging, sprinting, jumping… It then becomes possible to activate an integrated cooling system which restores our entire stamina gauge at the cost of some damage and an elemental affliction of ice. It is therefore up to the players to see if the “overclocking” is worth the effort, and that may be the case during certain tough confrontations.
Steelrising looks particularly tense
Souls-like requires, the difficulty is there. During the presentation of the software, the studio explained to us that, like the functioning of automatons, the fights are precise and require well-oiled mechanics. They won’t lie to us.
Yes, Steelrising looks particularly tense and the few robots crossed on the way gave me a hard time. Even the most fragile enemies cause enough damage to knock you down. You will therefore have to be particularly careful. We will also have been able to face some particularly powerful opponents, sort of mid-bosses that have to be fought for several minutes, and I must admit that the fights were exhilarating even if the camera tended to spoil the party.
At the end of the session, it was even a boss who stood straight in my way, sporting a frankly successful steampunk design. Here, the fight was rather complicated (I got washed, I’m not going to lie to you), and forced me to start over several times while learning to read its patterns to get out of it, and it’s exactly what you expect from a Souls. It’s hard to say if all the bosses will be of equal quality, but this one (and this is valid for all the enemies encountered in the demo) had clearly legible moves and smooth animations. Steelrising therefore promises to be difficult, but we can fortunately count on the RPG aspect of the title to improve our automaton and make the task easier. So here, I’ll be clear, I haven’t seen much except a skill tree that seems rather complete (and different from one class to another) in which we can spend our collected experience in combat to gain new abilities. However, we will wait for the final version to see the system in depth. It will be the same for equipment that can visibly be changed from A to Z (body, weapons, etc.) since in the demo I was not particularly able to dive into it or collect enough items to see their impact and their difference. But, here again, we are promised to make many changes.
Steelrising brings a fresh note to the Souls-like genre
One thing is sure, even though Steelrising is an AA, Spiders are looking to sit at the big table and while he certainly won’t hold up against an Elden Ring, or a Bloodborne, it may well go neck and neck with other solid exponents of the genre like The Surge for example. It must be said that the French studio does everything for it, already with its combat mechanics, its RPG aspect and its bosses, but also with its level design. I couldn’t tell you if this one will be particularly sprawling or not insofar as, in 2 hours, I have only seen the first two sectors, but it will still be possible to find here and there hidden objects in side paths or concealed areas. The software will also play a lot on verticality and you can also find several gadgets along the way (ram, grappling hook, etc.) to free yourself from new passages. The app therefore promises a lot of casual exploration, even if it will certainly be more corridor than the apps from which it is inspired.
Visually, however, Steelrising is unlike any other. The chosen period is already in itself sufficiently original to offer architectures that we are not particularly used to seeing. The addition of a conspiracy of steampunk automata is also the perfect excuse that allows the studio to have a field day with singular structures and above all a character design of the most successful. The automata indeed mix elements of tools or period objects (clock, lamppost, guillotine, etc.) with appearances that are sometimes human, sometimes animal, or completely atypical. The result clashes on the screen especially since each unit (like our avatar) is full of details.
The software also runs in 4K 30 fps without flinching on PC (it will take good material to go above) and use ray tracing to embellish the whole. It is announced that it will also have a 4K 30fps and 1080p 60fps mode on PS5 and Xbox Series.
Even if we have some bugs on this trial version (which is not definitive), the experience nevertheless remained perfectly fluid, even during fights loaded with animation and other effects. For the rest, like pure and hard technique, we will wait for the final version here too. In any case, it promises.