Spiders, the French development studio behind Greedfall and many others, is back, albeit this time with a souls-like twist with its alt historical RPG focus. Steelrising is set in the French Revolution, introducing characters from that period, albeit with a whole new backdrop and fictional story to follow along. In addition, Spiders has taken Steelrising into a Souls-like direction. More specifically, the game has more of a Bloodborne-esque gameplay experience, rather than the slower, methodical Dark Souls experience. There’s a lot going on with Steelrising, prompting it to be a rather interesting and unique game in 2022.
But the question for the Steelrising review is how does it fair in an ever increasingly saturated Souls-like genre, and has Spiders dropped the ball on its historical-themed storytelling?
Steelrising has a beautiful world, along with a solid storyline. Image via Spiders.
Let’s set the scene with what the game is all about. Firstly, Spiders introduces your character Aegis, a robotic dancer, now set on a path to aid the revolution against Louis XVI’s robotic army and stop the clockwork tyrant. Under the queen’s orders, you set off to find revolutionary figures, some real and fictional, and take down the crown.
As you make your way through the game, you will come across more and more historical figures, essentially bringing the revolution together. You will then do main story missions for them, explore secondary plot points, relate to revolutionary affairs and personal matters, and even explore deeper into the story’s background if you so wish to. As these side and main story missions play out, you get to see the conflict and division in the characters, including the tensions and political conflict you would expect in Revolutionary France. You also see the more human element in both your robotic self and the historical characters, which is an added touch.
Spiders has done an incredible job of making their alternate history world of the French Revolution feel like it respects the setting. The characters, character relations, human elements, and respect for the period’s religious and political affairs creep through, adding a nice personal and political blend. It’s one of the things that set the Assassins Creed franchise in motion over a decade ago, and it was great nostalgia getting a similar experience all over again. If you’re looking for a Souls-like where the story works and is a focal point of the game, Steelrising will appease that desire.
Combat works, with it being hit or miss in some areas.
Now for the most fundamental part of any Souls-like, the combat. One complaint from the beta is the movement looks a little janky. This is true, to an extent. The combat and movement in the game is rather janky, with sudden hits that packs a punch. This is by design; the robots are janky, including Aegis. But, when it comes to the actual fluidity of combat, you’ll soon realize the aggressive trading and dodging mechanics are all there and work fine. Players will need to get used to the weapon hitboxes are what they look like, and there are a few iframes you can abuse to avoid taking hits. It adds some more realism and skill in a way other Souls-like don’t, but at first glance, it can come across as janky.
It is also worth noting that Steelrising has gone down the Bloodborne route of action combat, with its focus on knowing how to be aggressive, tactical, and strategic with weapon usage. Not every weapon can block or parry, with certain weapons having special moves for that defensive and countering gameplay style. So, players will need to time themselves better and know how to be aggressive, especially with the added balance and impact that determine whether you get floored or can take a blow.
The game has four starting classes. These four classes hit at the archetypes in the game. You have the Bodyguard, which is the tank character; the Soldier, which is the heavy-hitting two-handed user, the Dancer, which is the fast attack critical hit focused dual wielder, and the Alchemist, who specializes in the game’s ‘magic’ system. These classes are largely just starting stats, which then relate to the plentiful weapons in the game. Some weapons have special moves, some launching a flurry of blows, others enchanting your weapons with the game’s elemental system, and more. Steelrising does offer players some degree of personalization and preference, which is a nice touch.
As metnioned, the game’s elemental system is a magic playstyle. Ranged and melee weapons can apply status effects to enemies, such as a long-lasting burn, causing damage over time. There’s a frost element, which will temporarily freeze the robot in place. Then, there’s fulmination, which causes bonus damage to the target.
While, in theory, this adds an extra layer of strategy to build upon, the reality is that some of the crowd control effects are too strong and can make some fights a little too easy than Souls-like players can expect. It’s also worth clarifying that enemies have higher resistances as you progress, so it becomes much harder to cheese a boss with frost’s crowd control effects, but most of the game is cheesable. In addition, it’s very easy to buy these grenades and collect them from loot around the game’s levels, so you could easily naturally scavenge enough explosive to kill a boss with ease. This is something that many complained about in the beta, and sadly, it doesn’t really get any better in the full game.
It says a lot when even I (and I am a complete Souls beginner) can beat most of the bosses in the game in one try, either through studying their moves, or because I had the right elemental grenades and explosive grenades on me. And no, that doesn’t mean I was just sitting there throwing grenades all the time, rather just weaving them in from time to time with my Dancer’s Claws, depending on what the boss was trying to do.
Souls-like veterans will find this disappointing, especially if you expect much more from the game’s combat. However, it means those looking for a casual experience can sit back and relax with Steelrising rather than leaving a controller-sized hole in their wall. It’s safe to say your satisfaction levels coming out of Steelrising will largely depend on what you’re looking for with this game. It is by far a more casual Souls-like meant for a narrative experience, with some degrees of difficulty here or there. It’s also another reason for the parallels with the Assassin’s Creed reference earlier.
Steampunk with a Baroque twist. Image via Spiders.
Steelrising’s visuals are incredible. It’s as simple as that. The costume design, the smog-filled Paris of its early industrial era, the Baroque style, the prop placements. It’s all fantastic. Add in the added robot looks that look like an artisan gilder has come along and used the era’s look to create some rather interesting-looking enemies helps to add to the piece. If you’ve seen Outlander Season 2, expect all of that and robots in video game format. People think this is some form of Steampunk-type game pulled off really well. But I would disagree with that. I want to call it Baroquepunk because of the Baroque historical period, but with some cross-over with the Steampunk aesthetic largely thanks to the robots. Is Baroquepunk even a thing? Spiders might be onto a new art style here.
It is worth us mentioning that we ran this game on medium settings, and the game still looked stunning. Consoles players and PC players with the minimum or recommended specs can enjoy the visual eye candy.
All the cogs in the machine move rather well. Image via Spiders.
Spiders and Nacon did a good job of telling the press and influencers who got their hands on a review copy what things were not working as intended. The main issue with the game was slow loading times, a few issues with prop placements in the later levels and a few other small things that should be addressed by the day one patch.
Outside of those already aware of issues, we found one or two other issues with the game. The main issue is when we were trying to explore a little bit or fell down something and got stuck. We did have to quit to the main menu on several occasions throughout the first playthrough, but you can count on one hand how often that happened through the entire 20+ hour save from start to finish. Overall, Steelrising shouldn’t have a problematic launch and is rather well put together ahead of its final release.
Steelrising is a story first, Souls-like second, with the player getting an alternative take on the French Revolution. The storyline, side quests and character development is pretty decent, but the combat does weigh it down since it is supposed to be more difficult than it is.
While Craig graduated from university in 2018 with a degree in History, he spent his uni downtime writing about esports and video games. It turns out a career in gaming journalism would come calling sooner, with Craig spending several years freelancing before moving into the full-time world as a Staff Writer and a Guides Editor. He now writes for Gamer Guides as an Editor, working on some of the biggest and best titles to launch every month and debunking everything there is to know about a game.