by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I’ve never been all that good at crafting awesome machines in any game I’ve ever played. I just don’t have the knack for engineering. Despite that, I was really excited to try SteamCraft, especially when I saw that you can purchase builds similar to what other people use in the in-game shop, without real money! You just have to use the Silver you get for winning matches to purchase and assemble a sound death-machine. That means even schlubs like me can get into the game and dive into combat. Thankfully, I had three pre-built machines ready to go in SteamCraft. It’s a very straight-forward game. SteamCraft is done in a Steampunk style, and whether your vehicle flies through the sky or rolling on the ground, you have to be ready for any situation, and anything goes. You build your vehicle with almost no restrictions. You can’t mix-and-match weapon types, and your only other limit is the Steam Power (which is increased with Account Level-ups). Anything else goes!
SteamCraft is a team-based game, with a few modes: Capture the Base and Team Deathmatch. These are very cut-and-dry. Capture the Base has no respawns, and the first team to either kill the other team or capture their base wins. These matches tend to be short, lasting no more than a few minutes at a time. Team Deathmatch is a first-to-25, but it feels like it respawns you very close to where you died, and a smart team is going to pick up on that and camp your side down for easy wins. Steam advertises a regular Deathmatch, but I’ve yet to see that one in all of my matches. There are two servers, EU and US, but here’s the main problem of the game: The actual servers are all but empty. It didn’t even occur to me immediately, but it should have – I was absolutely stomping my way through every game going on average 8/10-1 in Team Deathmatch. That’s when I realized that the names I saw were in every single match over the last week.
Perhaps it’s because the game has a price tag (even if it’s only 10 dollars). I’m fine with the game having a price, and the price tag on this game is reasonable. Had it gone free-to-play, it could have easily walked the pay-to-win path like other games in this genre. One of the major problems with the game could be solved simply by having more people taking a chance. Perhaps a demo? That might be one way to alleviate that. I’m grateful that there are bots, so you don’t have to wait for hours just to get a match, but they don’t offer a whole lot of challenge once you have your bearings in game. I will say that the enemy AI is pretty sharp, in that as soon as you round a corner or are in firing range, they will immediately turn to start taking you out. If you have the Tesla gun, that’s probably not an issue, because it does absolutely vile amounts of damage.
The Tesla Gun is one of five weapons you can use on your vehicles: Machine Gun, Tesla Gun, Railgun, Rocket Launcher, and Mortar. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but the weakest overall felt like the Railgun. It’s treated like a sniper rifle, but it has a horrific rate of fire, so if you miss, or don’t take out something critical (a tire, a weapon, et cetera), that time and shot are wasted. It deals great damage, but with how fast battle tends to be, it has a higher skill ceiling. The Tesla Gun is my favorite though. It doesn’t fire quite as far but you simply hold down the fire button, lightning fires from the cannon, and it unloads on anything in range. Conversely, you can run the Machine Gun, which seems to fire into infinity, and has no need to reload. If you’re visible on the screen, you can be shot by it. So ultimately, it’s up to you what guns you want to run. This does lead me to one of the cool things about this game. The real key to success is to target parts of your opponent’s vehicle. If you blast all of their guns off, they can’t fire back. Take out a few wheels? Now they can’t get away.
I’ve heard that once you get flight unlocked (level 9) that the game is incredibly easy, but I haven’t noticed that. Once I was able to take to the skies, as soon as an enemy saw me, I was being shot at. The first gyro isn’t very fast, and being in the air just felt like a liability. That’s why I kept the tires on my car with a gyro, so I can still drive around if needed. There’s a function that I really like about this game though, it’s a special part called “Flipover”. If you get stuck on terrain because you have run out of speed/have fallen over/any other problem, you can use Flipover to bounce your car back to a mobile position. This is also useful when you are short tires and want to try and at least move a tiny bit. The combat is pretty fast and furious, but it doesn’t really seem like it matters to have multiple guns on your vehicle. When I used three Railguns, I only saw one bullet get fired. They do look cool mounted up on your vehicle though, I’ll say that.
On that note, the actual vehicle building is pretty easy and fun. All vehicles require a Core, which can be purchased in the shop. Then you build the vehicle around that core. The defense of your vehicle depends a great deal on the blocks/parts you use. I’m still quite bad at building from scratch, but it’s fun to do anyway. As you level up, you gain access to new types of blocks to build with. While you do spend Silver on the building blocks for your creation, they’re pretty cheap (15-50s on average). If you don’t buy enough of a block type, you have to go back to the shop and buy more. What I think would improve this, is instead purchasing the block type, and having a “crafting fee” to make more of them. That way the player doesn’t have to constantly go back to the shop and guess at how many they need. Since this is a Steampunk game, you work with a lot of wood, like Oak, Pine, and Hazel.
As you grow in account level, you gain access to more parts you can purchase, which cannot be bought with any sort of microtransaction. The downside? Leveling is tedious and feels like it takes forever after you’ve leveled a few times. You get double exp for your first win of the day in both modes, but that’s not going to be enough. This is one of the other major faults, how long it takes to get anywhere. But at least, if you’re like me and want to buy a model off the in-game store, you can. You just have to grind up some ridiculous amounts of Silver for it. But it’s not real money!
Rollin’ with Sisyphus: 3/5 (Good)
The concept of SteamCraft is very good, but it’s lacking in a few key ways. The lack of people to play against makes the gameplay significantly less challenging. On top of that, there’s not a lot to seek out and try to achieve, other than getting new parts, weapons, and ways to build. This is a game that I feel could benefit from some kind of lore and single-player content. That way, when you’re tired of grinding the two types of matches, you can do something else in-game. You need something to chase other than more parts. I’d be okay with just chasing new parts if the game gave me an unlimited amount of them once I unlocked them, instead of having to chase and grind more silver to get more guns. For a retail price game, the grind for anything in game feels like it’s a mobile game. I still haven’t earned any cool paint jobs for my vehicles.
At least there is a ton of variety in what you can unlock, and there are so many creations you can make in this game. I’ve seen it all so far – I’ve even seen mobile bathtubs. The actual gameplay is sound though, and it’s so fun to blast vehicles to bits and pieces. The tedium of the grind and the lack of players is disappointing, but the rest of the stuff is genuinely fun. I can see fans of this style of game really sinking their teeth into the actual creation of vehicles. Despite the negatives, the game is still a fun physics-based vehicle shooter! It would be far more fun with more than bots to do battle with. So for fans of vehicle building and vehicular combat, I recommend giving this game a look.