Neo Steam:Shattered Continent Review: Adventures in Outdated Technology!
By Briana Williams, aka Columbae, OnRPG Journalist
Too often in the MMO genre we see the standard fantasy medieval setting recycled and repackaged for mass consumption. In this respect, Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent delivers a welcome breath of fresh air. Set in a unique steampunk backdrop of Victorian-era technology and ancient magic, this is a free-to-play 3D MMO that is strongly story driven, surprisingly expansive, and sports a grand PVP system.
The storyline takes place in the world of Chrysalis, in which many races once happily co-existed, supporting their technological advancements on the back of a precious resource called "Neo Steam." The golden age came to an abrupt halt when a massive earthquake split Chrysalis into three separate continents, and in the shattered remains of civilization, three societies arose: the Kingdom of Elerd, the Republic of Rogwel, and the Taxn Alliance. Now, the secrets of Neo Steam are being rediscovered, and the nations are going to war for dominance of Chrysalis. Your role is to train hard, stand tall, and fight bravely for your nation.
Character Creation: I Just Want to be Pretty!
There is a fun assortment of races, from the obligatory Humans and Elves to more exotic Pom and Tarune, but the rub is in the gender restrictions; all but the Pom are restricted to male only or female only. No elfmen here, I am afraid. Customization is also a problem, with only three hairstyles or faces available per race. The classes are a different story, though. There are four base classes: warriors, mystics, machinists and scouts. At level ten, you chose one of two available advance classes, meaning there are eight in all. Advance classes are nation-specific, so while each faction has a complimentary class, there are distinct differences that add a sense of definition to the separate factions.
Creating a character
Gameplay: I Hotkey What Again?
The controls are jerky and unintuitive; though it uses a standard WASD configuration, it is often difficult to get wherever you mean to get, and harder still to talk the camera into cooperating. Targeting can be a serious concern. The skill trees are expansive and nicely done, however, allowing for a great amount of skill customization. Skills themselves are leveled up through a peculiar combination of skill points and talent points - the former being earned when you level, the latter being earned through a variety of accomplishments, such as using your skills and training. While this can be an interesting system, permitting a high level of personalization in your character's strengths and weaknesses, the combined gameplay effect is an awkward one. It can be difficult to lose yourself in the identity of your newly minted steampunk warrior when moving, targeting and fighting require constant attention.
Person Versus Environment: A Crash Course in Grinding
This is not Neo Steam's strong point. Quests are not laid out as neatly from level to level as they could be which results in some inevitable level grinding. There are some neat transportation options available, from balloon to subway to submarine, but it is never really explained how to effectively use these options. After getting the hang of it, though, getting around is fast and easy. Once you manage to make it wherever you've mind to go, you may find the spawn rate of whatever you've mind to kill less than satisfactory. It should not take 45 minutes to locate and slay ten baby crabs. The quests often fail to tie into the larger storyline as well, making the experience seem manufactured and unnatural. Another concern is that much of the early questing is similar to what you would find in a run-of-the-mill medieval MMO; it's all too easy, running through grassy fields and over rickety rope bridges, swinging that shiny new staff, to forget that this game is set in a universe where steam power rules.
Chatting to an NPC
Person versus Person: Ganking as an Art Form
By contrast to the PvE system, Neo Steam's PvP options are interesting, challenging, and very well executed. Right off the bat, you can join a free-for-all PVP zone appropriate for your level, complete with a safe zone for necessary recuperation. At level 41, you can engage in Battlefields - large battle royales pitting factions against each other and permitting generous bonuses to stats and exp rates to the winning nation. This is where the game's steampunk themes become more apparent through liberal use of personal steam engines. PvP also adds the strongest element of story to the game. As you rush onto the battlefield among your comrades at arms, this is where you develop a sense of identity and loyalty to your nation. The community is generally respectful and happy to help a newbie, but you learn by doing - or, in this case, by dying. Combat is fast-paced and a lot of fun but does rely heavily on skills and can be awkward at times, given the unintuitive nature of the controls. Regardless, Neo Steam's approach to PvP is the most engaging part of the game, and if you enjoy bonking heads, possibly the best reason to keep logging in.
Graphics and Sound: Looming Mountain, Tiny Avatar
The animations in Neo Steam are sometimes jerky and uncertain, and skill displays are often recycled, making for a homogenous visual experience. The world and architecture are expansive and well done, even beautiful, but there are few subtle details. The display could prove problematic in inventory and shop display, as the icons are sometimes so small and generic as to be difficult to differentiate. The steampunk influences do make for something different to look at, though. Sound, on the other hand, is limited and repetitive. Most spells and skills draw from a small bank of sound effects, and the soundtrack ranges from pleasant to obnoxious to contrary depending on the mood the game is trying to set. While not a poorly constructed game regarding graphics and sound, nothing in this department stands out.
Give it to Me Straight
Neo Steam's great strength is that it operates on an unusual premise. By giving its players the opportunity to engage in something new and different, it separates itself from hundreds of other free to play MMOs and secures itself a small niche of dedicated players. Though it suffers from numerous technical weak points, the worst of which is its poorly crafted and poorly executed quest system, the dynamic PvP system balances it out pretty well. Ultimately, it is a fun game that doesn't require a huge commitment. Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent should appeal to role-players looking for a new environment to explore and anyone looking for a fast-paced, straightforward PvP experience.
- Unusual setting and genre
- Excellent PvP system
- Wide array of classes
- Poorly conceived PvE system
- Outdated graphics and repetitive sound
- Limited character creation