City of Steam marches closer to final release with the launch of its alpha test. Developer Mechanist Games has made serious revisions to the game since the closed preview earlier this year. So much so, that I hardly recognized the game. I recently had the chance to sit down with General Manager/Lead Designer David Lindsay and preview the changes made.
City of Steam is a bold vision. Mechanist Games imagines the future of gaming through browsers. A world of gaming without local clients. Currently the game runs smoothly on a variety of browsers and typically runs on a streaming 3mb connection. Running on my modest system, I was able to play on the best settings and get a solid 20-30fps while playing.
The alpha test will run in three phases. July 20-22 is the human debut with the Heartlander, Aven, Ostenian, and Stoigmari available for play. July 27-29 is the Elven Elite preview with the Riven and Draug taking center stage. August 3-5 is the Greenskin Incursion. This final weekend has players taking control of the Goblins, Hobbes, and Orcs.
My return to the majestic city of Nexus started the same way my original adventure did. I was on a train en route to Nexus. My character was accompanied by a family this time. I found it a nice touch which added a sense of personal investment early on. This was one of many changes found during my time in City of Steam. There was an incredible amount of detail added with more characters and design elements to the interior of the cars. Villages now dotted the rolling hills along the elevated train tracks instead of the original dreary fog covered landscape. This incredible increase in world and character design was to become a theme during my time in Nexus.
The train still functions as a tutorial with the basics of gameplay explained through a short series of quests. It’s the standard affair of picking up quests, breaking boxes, killing low level enemies, and then getting your butt handed to you by a large angry demon. It’s a harsh lesson, but one that serves the player well. City of Steam is not a game that holds hands. It will push players of all skill levels.
Within short order I was back in Nexus. However, this wasn’t the Nexus that I remembered. The entire layout had completely changed. Instead of a city crowded with buildings and winding streets, this revised Nexus was a mechanical wonder. Players and NPCs filled the streets. Steam ships filled the sky overhead. The city was filled with the hustle and bustle of life. It was such a dramatic and startling change that I could scarcely believe I was playing the same game.
Nexus still functions as a hub for players in between dungeon runs. Since the game has been completely redesigned, it’s much easier to get around. There are signs scattered throughout the city with the many different points of interest depicted as icons. Clicking on any of the icons sends characters to the selected destination automatically. This makes it incredibly easy to stock up on essentials and visit the many points of interest in Nexus.
When it comes time to get down to business and crawl through the many sprawling dungeons Nexus has to offer, it couldn’t be any simpler. Dungeons are listed on the very same boards as the many shops and specialty areas. After arriving at the entrance through manual or automatic means, players have the options to enter in a party or solo. During my time, there was no choice available. Entering alone allowed players to go solo, but pre-formed parties would automatically enter together.
Combat hasn’t evolved since my first foray into the seemingly endless dungeons. Players have three combat stances available to them at all times. Playing as the gunner, I could switch from dual wielding pistols to a single pistol and shield to a powerful, two-handed rifle. Each stance has its advantages and can be changed on the fly. It makes combat far more interesting and flexible. I was able to switch fluidly depending on my needs as combat would change.
What has changed significantly are how skills are acquired. Players now have a set of skills that are unlocked in different talent trees. New talent trees are unlocked at certain levels. Skills are obtained progressively as points are spent in the series of pipes and tubes that make up the trees.
Even though players may enter a dungeon by themselves, players can invite friends to help them in dungeon runs. This invite also includes the ability to teleport the new member of the team to the other already in the dungeon. This system is a god send to those familiar with the pains of finding replacement players and waiting several minutes for them to arrive.
What changes have been made are dramatic. City of Steam was impressive for being a browser based game before. However, these changes and additions have made me take notice of how impressive it is simply as a game. What I once thought would only be enjoyed by a niche audience, I’m sure will attract a much broader audience thanks to its breath-taking world, engaging gameplay, accessibility, and free-to-play model. Sign up to take part in the alpha test; you won’t regret your visit to the City of Steam.
GamingClimax.com Writer and Author of ZeroAnd09 Blog