12/01/2022

๐ŸŒ†Beyond a Steel Sky | Xbox Series X | Review | 8/10 | “A few technical problems don't dampen the wonderful story and charming characters” ๐ŸŒ† @RevSoftGames #IndieGames #GameDev

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To talk about Beyond a Steel Sky, I have to talk about its prequel - Beneath a Steel Sky - and how important it is to me. One of my earliest gaming memories was sitting next to my big brother, watching him play this strange but quirky point and click game. 

It looked like nothing I had ever seen before, I was 5 years old - so pretty much everything looked new to me - but this game was so visually different from the games that we usually played, as an adult; I now know this was my first experience of cyberpunk - a genre and style I would come to love. 

Beneath a Steel Sky was a game I had never revisited, the childlike wonder was still my only impression, that was until I got this to review; and after 26 years, I finally replayed it and boy did it stand up to my first impression, it’s simply amazing. So now after so many years, a sequel has arrived, could it capture the wonder of my youth or should it have stayed in the ‘90s?

I think it’s a very worthy sequel, it has a few rough edges, but the story and charm override the niggling technical issues. The most important ingredient of this game is the story, if an adventure game has a weak narrative, it renders every other aspect meaningless as no one is really playing point and click games for the gameplay.

The story starts with a recap of the first game, it is a very thorough retelling so if you have never played the first game you will be well up to speed. Robert Foster is now roaming The Gap, going from village to village and helping out the citizens. He is fishing with a farmer and his child when suddenly, a giant robot attacks and abducts the child, Foster vows to find the child and bring him back and the trail he follows leads to a very familiar place… Union City. 

While playing the game my biggest worry was that it was going to lack the charm and wit of the original. My fears were extinguished very early on, the characters are charming and quirky, the dialogue sharp and funny, everything the original did so well is retained here. As the game progressed, seeing familiar faces was a joy, finding out where they had ended up and where this new Union City had taken them. I had a smile on my face with every interaction, it was a combination of being both intriguing and heart-warming.

The change from 2D to 3D has a massive benefit, whilst I would have personally been happy with 2D, the change does make Union city more impactful as it has now become a utopia, everything is grand and luscious - it’s a time of prosperity. Thus, going through the city in 3D definitely helps bring out its grandeur, everything is bright and eye-catching, the city is a visual delight.

The gameplay is good, but it does have some slight niggles, you get a hacker tool early on and effectively most puzzles revolve around you using your hacker tool on certain machines, at first it felt fun and new but by the 25th use, it felt beyond repetitive. The one thing the game gets massively right is the hint system, which is one of the best I've ever seen, you pop into the hint screen it gives you a few clues to figure it out for yourself but if you are still perplexed it gives you the answer, so you can finish the puzzle and move on. 

It's great, as wandering around an adventure game and having no clue as to what to do is one of the most boring things in gaming, so anything that alleviates that is a bonus in my eyes, I know these days you can just look up a guide, but it saves time and I'm glad these games understand that the fun doesn't come from being stuck and trying to combine all your items - or ‘is that speck in the corner something I've missed?’ no… it’s just a speck.

Now, it appears to be a personal tradition for some reason that I end most of my reviews with the game's biggest negative, I don’t know why, but I do. So, what is Beyond a Steel Sky’s biggest issue? 

Framerate and glitches, of course. I'm not going to generalise and say that most mobile ports suffer from these problems, but the ones I've played - boy do they all suffer from these problems. The framerate dipped a bit in a few different places, and I did talk to an empty chair where I'm assuming the woman floating in the air next to it, was meant to be sat. She could have had magical powers that the dialogue just didn’t indicate, but I'm pretty sure she was meant to be in the chair.

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