While Spiders Studio used to launch a new title every year, they’ve changed things up a bit and it’s been three years since the launch of GreedFall. As we enjoyed that one quite a bit, we were looking forward to Steelrising, which we’re reviewing on the PlayStation 5.
One of the biggest compliments we could give Steelrising is that, when we met with Neowiz for Lies of P recently, we thought “this looks a bit like Steelrising” – which isn’t too shabby a comparison for Spiders as Neowiz walked away with a bunch of awards Gamescom last month. But despite similarities in theme and look and feel, Steelrising feels much more like a Soulslike title than Lies of P does.
That’s a bit of a departure for the developer as well, as they’ve mostly been making action-driven RPGs in the past decade or so. On the bright side, for fans of their previous work, they’ve infused the formula with plenty of their trademark storytelling elements, which is something that’s often lacking in Soulslikes, and even leads to several possible endings here.
The game is set during the French Revolution, but King Louis’ army consists of automatons this time around. They patrol the streets of iconic places like Paris and Versailles and brutally keep the peace, which is where the similarities with Lies of P are more apparent. The story’s quite different though, as you play as an automaton yourself, but you’re actually trying to put an end to all this oppression around you. It may be a familiar tale, but it’s told through such a unique and hauntingly different set of characters that it feels very fresh with an impressive display of worldbuilding.
This is a Soulslike game though, so combat is going to feel way more crucial than it did in previous Spiders games. Luckily, they get most of the basics right. Stamina’s a huge factor in dividing your attention between blocks and attacks, and the controls feel good while doing it. There’s also a wide array of weapons available in the game, which keeps things from ever feeling repetitive as you can also equip two weapons at once and play around with different styles. Ranged weapons are included if you’re not comfortable doing the entire battle up close, and mixing that up with melee attacks is a good way to approach boss fights – especially prior to the upgrades that you slowly work towards, and include options for traversal like a grappling hook.
As most locations in the game are quite spread out in real life, there’s no continuous open world to traverse here – cities and other locations act as their own hubs with side-quests and a mostly linear main path to follow. Not too unlike the level structure in Demons Souls, with various shortcuts that you can open up for future attempts.
What’s a shame is that, with so many boxes ticked and a wait period of three years since GreedFall, Steelrising doesn’t feel like it pushes the audiovisual boundary much higher than GreedFall did. Since this is a current gen-only release that can’t be played on a PS4, that’s a shame – and there’s also barely any support for what the DualSense controllers can bring to the table.
It feels like Steelrising has tons of potential but could have used a bit more time in the oven, both in terms of missing features like DualSense support and visual polish and in terms of fixing some of the bugs that kept popping up. Nothing game-breaking, but when audio cuts out you can’t help but feel that it should have been fixed prior to launch, and that Steelrising could have been excellent had it been released two months later.
Right now, it’s already a nice creative take on a genre that usually goes with dark fantasy as a setting. The combat’s solid as well, and the only thing keeping Steelrising from getting a considerably higher score is a lack of polish.