Greedfall, an expansive RPG by the French studio Spiders, offers players lush, opportunity-filled environments that are enhanced by a variety of customization options. Although a Greedfall sequel is in the works, Spiders does not intend to depart from that offering shortly, and the upcoming Steelrising is an action RPG instead, thus it will be more challenging and linear than Spiders’ past productions. As part of a preview opportunity, we had the chance to play parts of Steelrising, and based on what we saw, this game certainly draws inspiration from Soulslikes and NieR: Automata.
What do we mean by this, though? The plot and scenario, which are in late 18th-century France, specifically during the French Revolution, are how NieR is influenced. Steelrising, however, takes place in a different period where Louis XVI, also known as the Clockwork King, has decided that humans alone won’t be able to put an end to the French people’s rising rebellion. Instead, the French king enlisted the help of Eugene de Vaucanson, an engineer who has built an entire army of ruthless mechanical automatons. In the story, players assume the position of Aegis, an automaton created specifically to serve Queen Marie-Antoinette. It is around this time that we learn the Queen has questions about the King and thinks he has fallen into madness and was responsible for the death of her son, the Dauphin. You are dispatched to Paris as Aegis to uncover the King’s plot and look for any clues as to what happened to the French heir to determine whether she is correct in her assumptions.
You play as an automaton who must battle through swarms of lethal other automatons in the spirit of what is just and good, as you can see, there is a definite NeiR influence here. However, unlike NieR, Steelrising is set in Paris at this momentous juncture in history rather than in a dismal future. This means that the city is shown as being filthy, cramped, and marred by war; it is not the same regal, cultural hotspot that we are familiar with today. Since everyone is cooped up inside their hovels and homes due to the fear that King Louis and his robot troops strike into the minds of the populace, the earth itself is quite desolate. Instead, the area is littered and given life by the mechanical beings that patrol it. The world is made up of both linear lines to travel and some alternative side paths.
This is where the similarities to Soulslike start to stand out. Steelrising is a game close to Dark Souls and is semi-open, whereas Elden Ring attempted to recreate the model for this subgenre with an open environment. However, to complete a level and move on to the next location, you will need to follow a predetermined path because, more often than not, gates to the locations you want to go to will be locked until you figure out a way to take a long way around and open them from the other side. You do have the freedom to explore each location as you see fit, to check alleyways and hidden paths that are open to you.
But considering how close the gameplay is to Souls, the analogies don’t end there. Combat is difficult and demands that you take your time to understand the attacks of enemies and the most dangerous bosses, to block or parry approaching attacks, or dodge to avoid them entirely. Additionally, enemies are frequently tough opponents who will demand that you attack them for a while. Additionally, there is a wide variety of weapons that may be used, each with its special attack, along with elemental damage that, for example, can freeze and immobilize enemies. All of this is in addition to the sophisticated RPG system you would expect from Spiders, a system that enables you to tailor your Aegis to your preferred play style by upgrading its attributes with Anima Essence currency (which raises its health, damage, stamina, and other stats) and by unlocking Module slots that can be used to activate additional enhancements, like a bonus to total health. Of course, there are also clothing items to take into account, with better items likewise improving numbers.
If none of this sounds familiar to you, perhaps the fact that lootable items in the world (such as throwable grenades, resistance vials, or crafting materials) are displayed as glowing blue orbs, which are strikingly similar to the glowing white orbs of Dark Souls, or the idea that you lose all of your Anima Essence upon death, will suffice.
But that doesn’t mean Steelrising isn’t fascinating just because there’s a genuine sense of familiarity. The gameplay of this game is rather fluid, it’s not overly difficult (even though it is still challenging), and the customization and upgrading systems are handled in such a way that they feel intuitive and easy to understand – rather than being viciously complicated. For one thing, we generally don’t get along with Soulslike games because we find them sluggish, slow, and far too punishing to feel rewarding and entertaining. However, from what we played of this title, the customization and upgrading systems are handled in.
In Steelrising, the player must make choices since friends can turn into enemies at the touch of a button and vice versa. This promises to provide for an intriguing tale. Even though the cutscenes weren’t very good, the graphics didn’t exactly wow us. However, given that the version we played was a preview, we anticipate seeing a tonne of polish and upgrades before the game is officially released.