City of Steam is a browser-based adventure RPG from Mechanist Games and published by R2Games, widely known to publish Wartune, Dragon Pals and a few titles. With stunning 3D visuals, a gripping storyline, tons of quests and multiple choices for heroes in terms of race, class and appearance, the game has surprisingly surpassed everything I have been expecting from an online role-playing adventure. It is easy to play, entertaining and sometimes challenging, and I’ve got myself completely hooked.
Honestly, I am not really into role-playing games from China-based developers. Most of the games, including Yitien and Lunaria Story, tend to bury gamers in long-winded and piecemeal stories in a world delineated with bare-bones details. The result was, even though the environments stroke me as sorta exotic at the outset, and the music sounded pretty oriental, I somehow winded up eating away all those favorable initial impressions after a few recycled quests. Naturally you can imagine how amazed I was to find City of Steam was anything but the drab prototype I had formed in my mind. It sports a really deep and extensive storyline, and niftily throws in a plethora of absorbing quests to let players grow along an enjoyable and rewarding progression curve.
If City of Steam is trying to cultivate a large steampunk fan base, it has already had a steadfast one in me, I must admit. The engines, ships, machines, gears and even the bestiary all look so uniquely authentic for a mysterious industrial age. Lit by a glowing setting sun, the sky with numerous stretches of dark clouds looks as if ablaze. Chimneys, rotating machines, roaring airboats and other sophisticated engines add to this bedlam by emitting waves of scorching heat that threatens to burn this gray city alive. These scenes cannot fail to send you wondering if there is any human being alive here at all. Your doubt will surely grow when you see dozens of types of ghastly monsters roaming the land in hordes. There are Bolt Grinders capable of carrying immense electrical charges over distances. The Broods are ferocious carnivores that must constantly feed on living things to ease their hunger and pain. Over a dozen more deadly things like Chemroach, Bladeroach and Cloud Ray are all pictured with minutest detail to send freezing chills up your spine. Every structure, every living thing and even every monster make the world so believable.
But when you see there are actually 10 tough races inhabiting this land, your doubt will dissipate instantly and you may set you heart at rest for a little while. Hearlanders are a race residing in the Heartland composed of six city states, boasting larger vital points than any other race. Avens are a very intelligent race, loyal and adventurous. Other races include Ostenians, Stoigmari, Draug and more, each of which having distinctive characteristics. The racial diversity even extends to the story. As you choose a race, you also select a unique story, which is really an ingenious and innovative touch showing how far the developer goes to ensure a rich and distinctive playing experience.
Again, after choosing a race, you have to choose a class. You can be an Arcanist who can masterfully manipulate elements like fire, ice and lighting, a Gunner who is capable of turning normal firearms into siege engines, a Warder specializing in melee combat, or a Channeler who is able to wield music to heal allies and smite enemies. This classification resembles what we usually see in other role-playing titles – warriors, magicians, healers, and priests, but additional and varied abilities on the part of each class make the game seem very appealing to me.
Then you start to customize your character by choosing hairstyles, selecting a headwear and entering a name. You may create up to 5 characters, which the game considerately build in just in case you are curious about other races’ and classes’ stories. Unfortunately, there are no choices at all about costumes and weapons. It kind of disappointed me when I found out this, but you really mustn’t ask for too much, can you?
Your quests start right there. Divided in the several chapters, the story waits for you to unveil through hundreds of quests. You may go and look for a lost family member in your destructed city, head for an asylum, search for stolen or hidden coal, and go on a treasure hunt, as your race determines. During those quests, you gain experience, items, equipments and skills. Skills that you will gain are class-specific and equipments’ power are nuanced by colors. For example an Arcanist may access to Caustic Splash and Suppression Fire and more which are blocked and useless for other classes. When you have gain enough points to fill the experience bar, you level up, unlocking new instances. This is more or less the same as the overall gameplay in many other similar titles, like Tales of Laputa and Chrono Tales, but City of Steam has done a much better job in embedding diverse quests into a believable and wholistic storyline, so I am still having great fun after being hours into it.
There is not much to say about the controls, which are pretty easy to master. You can either left click your mouse or use the “W, A, S, D” keys to move your hero. Hold the right button and drag it allows you to rotate your view. Click a target, and you will select it. And press the number keys will launch skills automatically. It is all that easy, but personally I wish the game could allow me to define my own hotkeys according to my preference. Also, if the game allowed us to quick group targets, it would definitely be more player-friendly.
City of Steam is a blast, a feast for the eyes and a pleasure to play. It has entertained me for hours without bringing anything like boredom. But I do hope for more customization options for characters and controls.