Elden Ring and other Soulslike titles by FromSoftware have long held the top spot for the best Soulslike games ever made. However, Soldiers, the French developer, has recently made its bid with Steelrising, joining a slew of other titles wanting to vie for the top spot in the genre. Of course, some of these titles are decent enough to warrant putting in the hours of playtime. Others, not so much. So, where exactly does Steelrising fall? Let's find out in our Steelrising review.
The Premise Is Everything
Steelrising lets you sink your teeth into the game, drawing you in closer and closer until you’re dying to stay in. In Steelrising, gamers are propelled into 1789 during the French Revolution, where things may not exactly play out as you might expect. The Steampunk Soldiers create an alternate history where King Louis the XVI halts the French revolution in its tracks by essentially committing mass murder using his steampunk robotic soldiers. So, naturally, the world you’re thrown into is a devastating Paris that’s nothing short of awful – which is just about all we live for in Soulslike games.
Your character is Aegis, an entertaining, feminine, murder doll sworn to protect Queen Marie Antoinette. Yes. That same Queen of France before the French revolution. In fact, you’ll meet more than a bunch of popular real-life French revolutionaries from the same era. Safe outside Paris, Queen Marie charges you with saving France from King Louis’ army of robots. It seems like too tough a mission to take on, but you’re Aegis, a lone sleek AI with unexpected ruthlessness and the speed of a dancing robot.
Steelrising’s premise is “everything” when the entire game should be “everything”. Once you’re past awning over how unique and different a setting Steelrising employs, the starstruckness of it slowly fades out as the story fails to build up further than the expectations it sets for itself. Sure, a French revolution-themed game is cool, different…interesting even. But beyond the premise, what’s there to keep me glued to it? If anything, if you’re unfamiliar with the events preceding the French Revolution, you might get lost trying to piece together the characters and politics that come up.
Down with the King
To be fair, there is some flesh to Steelrising’s story. So, the King has taken control of an army of old-school clockwork robots, except you, of course, and all you have to do is turn them into scrap. Not to worry, though. It’s not that hard. A bit too easy, even, but we’ll come to that later. The most exciting things are the side missions that help you along the way. At some point, you’ll meet a fellow French revolutionary, who tasks you with fighting slavery. Later, you’ll steal the king’s treasury and have to decide which political agenda to further with those funds. Keep in mind that whatever you decide will impact the story's outcome (which we’ve got to give props to.)
Further along, you’ll explore lots of in-depth themes like dictatorships and much, much more, which keeps you on your game and reminds you that this is no child’s play. So, overall, we’ll say it’s not too straightforward to get boring. But there is still so much potential that could be explored with the peculiar characters and storyline for this particular setting. That same rush you get from the premise is what we want (and more) from the meat of the story, which just never comes up to par. The voice acting could also do more to engage just about anyone, whether you’re familiar with their real-life personas or not.
A Desolate and Weird World
As you might expect, Paris isn’t looking all fancy. It’s the complete opposite, looking war-torn, desolate, and weird in a great, fantastic way. There are eight levels intertwined in and around Paris. The levels are pretty extensive, with some areas sealed off or some doors you can only access from the other side. Thankfully, you have a compass to actively point you in the right direction for the main quest and side quests. To discover special items, though, you’ll have to do so on your own.
You’ll run into burning carriages, demolished barricades, and, of course, lots and lots of clunky robots. We’ve got to talk a little about the robots because they’re all around you, inducing much of the fun. It’s a nice touch how they’re all iconic 18th-century designs of all forms, whether it’s a trumpet clown, a feline scout, a sword-swinging guard, or a bulbous giant.
With time, though, the once appealing desolate streets of Paris, the hedge gardens, and a few interiors looking rather similar become redundant and boring. They’re almost entirely flat, with no one zone having a distinct quality from the other. Sure, we’ve got ourselves a state of fun quashed revolution, but they don’t do much to keep the distorted take on the French Revolution era more interesting than the facts themselves. But hey, you’ll spot some popular Parisian tourist hits like the Louver Palace, so that’s something.
Soulslike to the Core
Steelrising is all things, Soulslike to the core. You may even spot a few familiar combat trends that you may have seen in other Soulslike games.
Let’s start from the top, though. So, Aegis is sent out to defeat the king’s robotic army in a roughly 20-hour campaign, which should hold the most glue to me as a Soulslike game’s most valued recipe: the gruesome challenge of staying alive.
From stockpiling grenades to mastering a slew of deadly robot moves, to eventually reaching the save point before defeating the final ruthless, big, scary boss. If you happen to die, you lose your most valued resource, the animal essence, which you can recover if you once again endure the same path. Aegis is in third-person and mostly uses hack-and-slash and lots of dodging to take down his enemies. Oh, you do have access to consumables to restore health, and the stamina bar has a quick refresh to cool your system, provided it’s used wisely to avoid freezing yourself solid.
So, apart from stockpiling grenades, everything else is pretty much by the book. There is little innovation to be different or stand out. And the few attempts to spice things up, like special moves and weapon types, don’t do much to set Steelrising apart from its competitors.
Let’s Talk About Gameplay
The weapon varieties are an impressive bunch. Simply go through the catalog, and you’ll find yourself unconventional types amped up with special abilities like ‘Flame’ from the fire chain to set your enemies on fire from a distance and ‘Frost’ from the glass-core batons to freeze your enemies for a few seconds for that devastating attack.
There’s also “electricity” that deals electrical damage. Just note that if the enemy or the boss has the same elemental power, then it won’t work. Oh, and if used too often, the power runs out too, so maybe save them for the boss fights.
Navigation-wise, you do learn a grappling hook, an airdash, and a kick. They have a caveat, though. They don’t add much spice to the feel of the game and only work on specific walls and gates. Once you’ve defeated the first few robots, it’s sad to say there isn’t much more interesting stuff to look forward to. Sure. The enemies come in all shapes and forms, and you’ll definitely need to master their special moves and tricks. But once you’re all through the first few fights, the rest comes easily.
Yes. Even the meant-to-be big, bad, scary boss fights at the end of each level. Aside from looking buffed up, they’re pretty much easy to defeat and don’t make you want to have another go at them just for the fun of it.
There are a few bugs here and there. You might get stuck in the worst of places or have an obscured camera view. Some weapons might feel slow, stiff, or clunky, and their swings imprecise.
However, it’s only been a short moment since we got our hands on this gem. So we certainly hope future updates amp things up into a nicely knit package.
Right, so let’s bring it all in for the final verdict. Steelrising is unarguably different because it dares to portray a world unexplored by others. However, it’s afraid to push the boundaries of the all-too-common Soulslike experience. So, even though you come in with high expectations of a world unseen, Steelrising ultimately underwhelms the experience by simply avoiding confrontation.
In terms of being an everyday Soulslike action adventure, Steelrising is a fun game to play. There are a variety of weapons, skills, and story modes to explore. However, it’s clear Steelrising isn’t a boundary-breaking experience in the Soulslike sphere, which, frankly, is a lost opportunity given the uniqueness and steampunk fantasy that could have made an absolutely incredible contender against the giants, Elden Ring and Dark Souls.
If you’re looking for an alternative new venture into the gruesome world of Soulslike games, you should definitely give it a go. However, don’t expect Steelrising to match up to Elden Ring or Dark Souls. It won’t. Bloodborne, perhaps.
Steelrising Review (Xbox Series X|S, PS5 & PC)
French Steampunk Meets Souls
Steelrising is unarguably different for daring to portray a world unexplored by others. If you’re looking for an alternative venture into the gruesome world of Soulslike games, you should definitely give it a go.