Review: "Steelrising" is delightful for what it is
It isn't "Dark Souls." It's "soulslike." Let's just leave it at that.
“Steelrising” does one of my favorite things a game can do: throws you into an alternative history featuring well-done characters and visually stunning environments. Throw in some fluid-but-not-overly-complex combat and I’m hooked.
Published by Nacon and developed by Spiders Studio, “Steelrising” offers a spin on the French Revolution in 1789 and another perspective on the soulslike genre.
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Soulslike games are defined by their similarity to the “Dark Souls” (by From Software) series, games with a high level of difficulty and an emphasis on environmental storytelling. “Steelrising” falls into this subgenre, with the exception that it also contains settings that make it more accessible to players seeking less of a challenge. And with the exception that anyone who is a die-hard fan of “Dark Souls” or “Elden Ring” will be invariably let down.
Players assume the role of Aegis, an intelligent, feminine-stylized automaton battling the robotic armies of the mad King Louis XVI in order to save the people of France. Introduced to Parisian society as mechanical improvements, Aegis encounters delicate automatons bearing violins and trumpets to chain censers, all bearing a new directive to kill for the Clockwork King. (As a Catholic, there’s something extra terrifying about a mechanical altar boy spinning censers at high speed on a chain of death.)
Originally designed to be a dancer herself, Aegis was repurposed to be a bodyguard for Queen Marie-Antoinette until the queen orders her to put an end to the cold, ruthless machines propping up the king's regime. Aegis and the other automatons look and function similarly to the ornate clockwork machines of the 18th century. Like these real-world clockwork creations, their movement and combat are fluid and beautiful to watch.
In her adventures, Aegis encounters historical revolutionary figures such as the Marquis de Lafayette, Maximilien de Robespierre, Bishop Anne-Louis Henri de la Fare and many more. She also discovers the secrets behind the automatons as well as why she is the only one capable of sentience and limited free will. The story is compelling and lures the player deeper into the web of conspiracies woven throughout Paris.
Faced with choices to make and sides to take, Aegis leads the story to its conclusion in one of three possible endings. For when a mad king falls, someone else must rise to take his place.
The standard soulslike requirements are all present, such as fighting to reach save points and losing the primary resource, known as anima essence, required to level up and gain new weapons and armor. Some weapons come with elemental buffs such as electricity or fire that provide bonus damage against certain enemies.
There are four unique classes players can choose for Aegis that will define the combat style: Dancer, Soldier, Bodyguard and Alchemist. These provide minor statistic bonuses at the start of the game, such as increased movement speed or increased armor.
Aegis only fights against other automatons but there are depictions of corpses and pools of blood, as well as a cut scene of a human being executed via a guillotine. There is no other concerning material such as nudity, sex, or language.
There is also a stress on philosophy and politics as it pertains to the soul, slavery, free will, and the consequences of bloody insurrections. This is especially well done likely due in no small part to the developing studio being French.
Maybe not the best of choices for pre-teen gamers, but it’s perfectly acceptable for adolescents and adults.
History buffs will enjoy meeting real-world figures and exploring the world of 18th-century Paris and visiting well-known locales like the Bastille or Versailles. While "Steelrising" may not hold up against the extreme challenge of other soulslike games on the market, it is bolstered by beautiful settings, excellent writing, and fascinating character design that make the roughly 15 hours of gameplay more than worthwhile.
There is also at least one DLC available in “Cagliostro’s Secrets.”