REVIEW: Steam Squad


Steam Squad is a turn-based RPG, set in an alternate history of World War I that puts heavy emphasis on role and AP management. With it’s beautiful steampunk aesthetic and intriguing “What if?” scenario, this little game is able to caught my attention. It’s a fun little game (albeit a little too light) with an active development. With that in mind, I have to change my review to be a more feedback-like than usual.

Status: Released

Developer:  Bretwalda Games

Publisher: Bretwalda Games

Genre:  Turn-based RPG

Release date: 28 Jul, 2016

Type: Single-player

Graphics

Steam Squad is one of the most visually pleasant turn-based strategy game I’ve ever played for quite some time, it might not have the highest model poly count, but the beautiful steampunk aesthetic, and clean and user friendly UI is really nice to look at. It’s a perfect balance of realism and a steampunk universe, which fits perfectly with its plot and theme. UI puts emphasize on Action Point-related info, and most if not all important info shows on various cursor metadata, like remaining AP, accuracy, and cover (only in beta branch, for the time being).

There’s one noticeable flaw in term of graphic, and that will be the animation, it’s weird, robotic, and clunky. It’s fine when you look it from its standard tactical view, but things got funny when it switch to close-up action cam.

Story

Interesting and intriguing so far. What if the British never lose control of the U.S? What if the Holly Roman Empire is still standing until World War I? Narrative told through letters, news articles, and operation map, which is a really good choice.

Sound

While it’s kinda lacking in quantity when it comes to sound and music, it sounds pretty good when there is one. Great music, fitting ambient, and the highlight are the sound of weapons and vehicles. They really nail the chosen universe with this one, well. How do I put it? If you’re familiar with a steampunk fiction, the loud machinery and guns that doesn’t sound too powerful, but at the same time sound like they are giving a really good punch.

Now the flaw, sort of.. While I don’t mind the quantity of voice in this game, it will be nice to have more of it, especially the soldiers. Like XCOM where it feels like they communicate with each other in battle, getting fired, suppressing, moving, or they are not in an optimal cover, it helps brings the battle livelier.

Gameplay

Steam Squad, like its name implies, is a squad/role-based strategy game rather than stats based. Simple yet solid mechanic that works pretty well. It focused on role assignment, AP management, and unit positioning. Accuracy is based on viewing angle and the optimal weapon range. AP plays a big part where your accuracy (and perhaps damage) is based on how much you put an AP on your attack, and you will be put on overwatch mode if you still have a sufficient amount of AP. Steam Squad offers a freedom of movement, unlike most turn based game that use tile-based mechanic, that works well with the accuracy and damage modifier of this game.

The map layout is pretty well thought, you will be sent into a bunch of missions with various style, terrain, landscape, and overall feel. The size of the map is “just right”, not insanely huge, and not too small and cramped either, making every battle feels tight and intense. And the maps itself are filled with tanks, Anti-tank guns, and machine gun bunkers, which add some depth to the core gameplay.

The mechanic is not without a flaw though. First thing is the lack of unit variety. There is only 3 units, infantry, machine gunner, and mortar gunner, while it works just fine at the current state, it’ll be nice to have some more units like scout/recon, medic, and sniper for instance, to compensate for the absence of perks system. And the second one is… *drum roll* … RNG.. that somehow managed to be more infuriating than XCOM. Well.. do I need to explain more? Eh, I don’t think so. And do I mention it’s built on top of unpredictable AI? Well, at least the AI is seeing a noticeable improvement in this version. While this thing did contribute on tactical and careful play it can be frustrating and somewhat unfair at times.

Conclusion

Steam Squad is an “easy to learn, hard to master” kind of game with a really pleasing and defining art style, and intriguing story. With a simple yet solid mechanic and user friendly UI, its tutorial mission and the official manual is enough to learn the core and logic of the gameplay, while the real challenge is from the tactical gameplay, emphasizing on AP, role, and positioning that demands careful planning. The unpredictable AI should be a plus with a game, but coupled with the RNG, it can be frustrating at times. As for replay value, it’s yet unseen for me, Steam Squad do have a really varied maps, with its own carefully crafted layout, but the lack of unit type somewhat dampens the experience. If you like games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Silent Storm, and to an extent Valkyria Chronicles, I say give this game a go, it has a lot of potential, and the fact that it’s still on active development, it’ll get better as time goes.

RATING: 78/100

This game was reviewed by Raven.

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