Dead humans and livestock litter the muddy cobblestone streets of Paris, their corpses left discarded in rotting piles or with muskets in hand where they took a final stand. Scattered fires burn bright across the city, each one sending suffocating black smoke billowing into the night sky. The only living residents are hunkered down in barricaded houses and shops, cowering from the clockwork automatons now prowling the ruins of the French capital. It’s 1789, and in Steelrising’s alternative history, the tyrannical King Louis XVI has suppressed the French Revolution by unleashing a mechanical army that massacres the populace, reinforcing his rule with literal iron fists.
This unique dark fantasy setting helps Steelrising stand apart from its many contemporaries. 2022 has already seen a slew of Souls-likes, with games such as Tunic, Salt and Sacrifice, and Thymesia each offering a different perspective on the genre. The latest game from French developer Spiders–a studio known for creating action-RPGs such as Greedfall–is derivative in its design, featuring all of the familiar elements we’ve come to expect of the genre. But Steelrising impresses with the way it’s able to combine so many disparate elements together and make them all work.
You play as Aegis, a mechanical masterpiece and bodyguard to Queen Marie Antoinette. Unlike the mindless automatons roaming the streets, Aegis has a conscience and a form of free will, so you’re sent into the heart of Paris to find your creator and fight fire with fire to put an end to the king’s despotic bloodshed. From the outset, you choose from one of three classes that dictate your starting weapon and attributes, opting to be a powerful bodyguard, a quick and lethal dancer, or an alchemist who shoots enemies from afar. Aegis is malleable enough that it’s fairly easy to switch playstyles after this initial choice, although it’s difficult to experiment with different weapons, particularly once you’re a few hours in, because upgrade resources are so pricey and base-level weapons aren’t feasible later in the game. This is a shame, since it’s the variety of weapons at your disposal that have the most significant impact on combat.