Developed by Spiders and published by Nacon, Steelrising is another game following the Souls-like template in a time of year that has so many already. Granted, you would be mad to miss out on this popular genre especially considering the popularity of Elden Ring. But does it do enough to stand out from the crowd? I am afraid I have to give the fence-sitting answer of both yes and no.
The story is wonderfully wild as it takes place during a much different French Revolution where you play as an automaton at the service of Marie Antoniette. It seems the King has lost his mind and replaced his army with automatons and other robotic beings. Whilst Marie Antoinette is under house arrest she tasks you with finding out the truth about what is happening and putting an end to the King’s madness.
But as an automaton, you come with limitations which coincidentally fall into the Souls-like template. You have a stamina bar to prevent you from unleashing a barrage of attacks and a health bar which requires oil to replenish. You collect experience in the form of anima essence from fallen enemies and breakables which can be used to upgrade your automaton or your weaponry. Of course, you can only upgrade yourself at the sporadically spaced-out beacons in the form of chairs that double as an automaton workbench which are called Vestals. Also of course, once you have upgraded and saved, expect to see some of the enemies reappear.
Just because it follows the Souls-like template, doesn’t make it a complete clone as there are elements which do set it apart from the others. The location and reimaging of some areas of France are actually very graphically pleasing. The costumes of the human characters are probably partially accurate but it does help you immerse yourself into the French revolution timeline. They have also added in some platforming elements which is not too common with Souls-like games. I wouldn’t say they are particularly amazing as the delivery is darn clunky with the camera angles really not helping at times. But I cannot fault the attempt to try something different. I also wish they did a bit more with the music as at most times it’s so subtle you think you are hearing background noise and areas feel a bit lifeless without some music binding things together.
The combat, of course, is where Steelrising could really stand out but unfortunately, there is nothing groundbreakingly new here, though it’s not terrible either. There is a decent variety of weapons on offer and you can quickly switch between two which is neat. I started with an aggressively large hammer and shield combo called the Body of Work. This weapon set is extremely slow but powerful with a superior defence and it never left my side. There are also weapons like a chain, a wheel, duel blades, sharp claws and even a musket to choose from.
The enemies have some interesting designs, from humanoid robots with specific weapons to giant robots that swing massive ball and chain weapons. There are floating automatons that breathe fire and others that take a vantage point and try to shoot you from a distance. As with Souls-like games, there is a degree of pattern learning here and you can either take the hit-and-run approach or, if you have great timing, you can use the parry approach. They can take some time to understand their attack patterns but once you have memorised them they never really trouble you again. They can sometimes catch you off guard as some enemies hide in trees or breakables but even then you kind of sense when that’s about to happen.
The boss fights are mostly trickier as they hit harder but if you evade them well enough you can easily work out their attack patterns and make light work of them. It’s wise to take on as many enemies as you can to keep upgrading your automaton and your favourite weapon. It seems a lot of effort has gone into the upgrade section as there is a lot to take in. You can choose to upgrade one of six attributes which affect either the health-based Aegis area, the attack area or the defence area. You can insert Modules which can improve some stats of your automaton, and amend your Burette, which is your delivery system of oil and how you replenish your health. You can choose to upgrade your favourite weapons to do more damage. You can even choose to wear different clothes on your automaton which also offer various stat boosts.
Steelrising isn’t amazingly long, with a campaign that can take 10-20 hours to complete depending on your skill level. Should you want to take it easier there is an assist mode on offer. This allows you to play with sliders to reduce the damage you receive, allow you to keep the experience should you fall and speed up your stamina regeneration. I feel all Souls-like games should offer this kind of help to those who want to experience the story without constantly failing. But I am not a Souls-like expert and I managed to cope with the standard difficulty which is a change for me, though don’t expect the game to be just a breeze.
Steelrising is a Souls-like game based on automatons which tries its best not to be a clone drone. The historical setting, outfits and graphics are very immersive and interesting. The combat is challenging and given enough time quite easy to master. The bosses could have done with being a bit harder and the platforming elements need more work. But it’s still a very sizeable game with plenty to enjoy. I do wish they had some stronger background music to help with the historical immersion.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.