It’s been a while since we’ve played Bloodborne, and it will be a while longer until we finally experience Lies of P. In terms of scratching that steampunk Souslike itch, we looked no further than the recently released game from Nacon and Spiders, Steelrising.
Steelrising is set in a fully re-imagined France during the 1789 French Revolution. With the aid of his nefarious alchemist, Cagliostro, King Louis XVI–The Clockwork King–has quelled the insurrection caused by his ministry by unleashing “timeless automatons,” clockwork machinations that massacre the common folk.
Queen Marie Antoinette sends her personal automaton, Aegis, on a mission to put an end to the Clockwork King’s madness.
Because we’re reviewing Steelrising after the Day One patch, we’re obviously playing at an advantage of certain fixes being patched in. To mix things up a bit more, we’re checking out the “Assist Mode” that comes with the game, which we feel is going to be a game changer, especially in the discourse regarding Soulslike difficulty debates.
The Revolution Will be Played
Steelrising offers the backdrop of the French Revolution seen in similar games like Assassin’s Creed Unity, giving off that baroque feel that we seldomly see. Add the element of clockwork automatons, and what you have is a unique experience that sets up quite the experience.
The world of Steelrising really captures you from the get-go, and you are rewarded with story beats as you clear the levels. It is quite refreshing to be rewarded with a competently written story, especially for games of this type, making you want to stay for the dialogue rather than skip it entirely. The plot is simple but elaborate enough to motivate you to work towards the next event.
What really brings the game to life are the side missions, ranging from simple fetch quests to investigations of previously explored areas. You run into other characters or even expand these side characters’ stories, and while they don’t capture the same feeling of immersion as some side quests from other titles, they elevate these uniform NPCs into their own unique characters.
Gameplay-wise, for the most part, it dances to the rhythm of Bloodborne. Despite my disdain for Soulsborne titles, Bloodborne will always have a soft spot in my heart, and Steelrising successfully captures what I loved about it. Aegis has superior mobility (limited by her stamina) compared to the clunky movement in other similar titles, and even her heavy weapons still move quite fast.
Elemental afflictions are the biggest feature added to the game that elevates Steelrising. Aegis can inflict and take these afflictions that affect performance for both herself and her automaton foes, which makes for some strategic layers that players will have to consider. These can all be improved upon with the modules you can add to Aegis later in the game.
Singing the Songs of Angry Men
One interesting feature of Steelrising is its Assist Mode, and before it gets dismissed as an “easy” or “journalist” mode, it bears quite a resemblance to Disciple mode in Sifu. You are able to experience the game how you want to experience it without losing momentum or rage quitting because of the frustration of continuously dying.
Steelrising takes quite a different approach to the difficulty by fiddling with toggles such as faster stamina recovery or even keeping Anima (Souls) upon death. You can go on full training wheels or you can toggle it so you can have continuous momentum to your skill level so you can appreciate the story without getting stuck with an annoying enemy.
This feels like something that could catch on for future soulslike games, especially for players that want to finally dip their toes into the genre. The game still demands precision and skill, but these toggles lower the barrier of entry while still finding a good balance with the difficulty levels that define the experience.
That being said, trophies will be locked on Assist mode, which makes it a fair compromise for achievement hunters who feel cheated when players on easy mode unlock the same trophies. If you just want to experience the game, you don’t need the “bragging rights” for the trophies you’ve unlocked, and veteran players can bask in the glory of their efforts.
The debate over difficulty will persist, but it’s nice to see developers taking steps to figure out a good compromise for all players.
Steelrising‘s main campaign runs between 8 and 12 hours, depending on how many of the side quests you plan to take on. There are many little districts around 1789 steampunk France to explore, unstable automatons to defeat, and fearsome Titans to vanquish.
As mentioned earlier, our playthrough of the game was mostly issue-free, or at least nothing too game-breaking. Framerate issues still persist, especially during boss fights, and some cut scenes look a bit rough.
However, when Steelrising functions well, you get a wonderfully frenetic Soulslike that takes advantage of Aegis’ mobility. She has many weapons to choose from that range from classic Soulslike heavy attacks to a combo-centric arsenal that takes advantage of the counterattacks and stealth gameplay. Once you unlock more exploration tools, they also can be applied to combat allowing for a deeper strategy.
There are a few nitpicks, especially if you’re a veteran Soulslike player who might find the game a bit too basic like the boss battles (Titans) being more straightforward compared to the two-tier battles seen in the likes of Sekiro and Elden Ring. However, if you’re a Soulslike tourist, this would be a fantastic experience and entry point that would hopefully encourage you to try out other similar titles.
What We Liked:
- A frenetic steampunk Soulslike to the rhythm of similar games like Bloodborne.
- Engaging main campaign with intriguing side quests that captures the re-envisioned French Revolution.
- Assist mode is a game changer to allow Soulslike tourists to experience the game without the crushing difficulty.
What We Didn’t Like:
- The Day One patch has fixed most bugs, but still has framerate issues and rough visuals especially with story cut scenes.
- Soulslike veterans may find this a bit too basic in some aspects
Verdict: Buy It!
Steelrising is a game changer for more casual players that want to experience the genre. The Assist mode is truly a gift, offering a good compromise for both sides of the difficulty conversation while alienating none of them, allowing both newbies and veterans to easily jump right in.
What awaits players is a game with a frenetic pace and fun combat, topped off with a serviceable story to keep you interested and motivated to keep going.
Despite some issues still persisting, the day one patch really puts Steelrising in a more positive light, and where many have failed, it is one title that succeeds in giving an above-average soulslike experience.
*Steelrising was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.