_hojo:a relaxing, non-linear adventure; Steambot Chronicles!

July 1, 2009

hojo.artcore_we all buy games on different basis. maybe you read a positive review, maybe you trust the developer’s track record, maybe you just like everything in the genre. when i bought Steambot Chronicles, i hadn’t read any actual reviews of the game, the developer, Irem, hasn’t made anything in the past 15 years that i’ve purchased outside of R-Type, and i didn’t actually know what genre the game fell under. i bought it because 1) someone told me it was alright, and 2) it was cheap as shit. so really, i didn’t know what i was getting myself into when i started to play it. for all i knew, i would control a series of nanomachines that take the form of steam and would have to keep people toasty in steam rooms. sounds like it’d be some kind of actual eroge game, actually. well, whatever, Steambot Chronicles isn’t like that at all.

_Steambot Chronicles starts off with a personality quiz. riveting way to start a game, i know. but it does give the player a good idea on what to expect throughout the game. every time something major (or even minor) happens in the game, you’re always given a choice on how to react. it doesn’t all have a direct effect on the story, but it does effect how others view your character. as unexciting as it sounds on paper [writtencomputerscreentext], this is the most enjoyable and charming aspect of Steambot Chronicles. where many RPG’s give you control of the mute main character with the fake ass idea of “he’s not not speaking…he’s saying whatever you want him to say,” and lots of sandbox games give you tons of “freedom” without giving you any actual control over the way the main character interacts with others, SC actually let’s you choose what the main character says. you actually feel like you’re dictating the way the main character acts…because you are. want to take things superseriouzly? want to act oblivious to what’s going on around you? want to be a nice guy to everyone? want to be a total dick? more than any other game i’ve played in recent memory, partway through the game, i couldn’t help but look forward to finishing so i could start a new game and interact with everyone differently. THAT’S what i call “replay value.”

_one of the main aspects of “sandbox” games, is the sandbox aspect, as in “doing what you feel like.” SC doesn’t offer the kind of freedom that a GTA or an Elder Scrolls. offers, but there is plenty to do outside of the main story. from arena battling, to dungeon crawling, to exploring the dungeon’s of the fairer sex *winkwinknudgenudge*, to “you interested in the band?”, to customizing your abode, to trading goods between shop-keeps and more. as i said, this doesn’t offer the “kill every person in town” freedom of an Elder Scrolls game, but there is plenty to do outside of the main story.

_battling takes place in semi-person shaped mechs called Trotmobiles. Trotmobile sequences are give and take. you can customize your Trot with different parts, but there isn’t a whole lot of different parts available in the game. you go through the same areas many times throughout the game, and the enemies stay the same throughout the game, and i found myself getting tired of fighting the same guys all the time. i found myself just running past them a lot. there were a couple rather memorable boss battles near the end of the game, but before the last 3 hours of gameplay, a lot of boss battles were just “oh look, a big machine showed up, kill it,” and weren’t very exciting. the controls take some getting used to as well. Trotmobiles control like a clunkier Katamari, and is often annoying due to on-foot controls being standard “left thumbstick to move, right thumbstick controls camera.” i often found myself using the wrong scheme for a minute when going back and forth between them, which you do a lot in the game.

_the soundtrack to the game is fairly good. town themes are nice and uppity, battle themes convey danger, and the band songs [ballads, anyways] are a bit sappy, but decent enough. the voice acting isn’t great, but isn’t bad. the only thing i really don’t like with the sound is that when traveling from town to town…it’s hardly there. is some games, the absence of music adds to the mood and enhances the game…this was not one of those times. half the game takes place on the road between towns on Trotmobiles, and there’s no music ever. most games where the lack of music works has music kick in during battles. the hum of machinery in dungeons of Xenosaga, broken by battle themes during battles. the silence while roaming hallways the hallways in Halo, Marty O’Donnell score accompanies the Covenant. the ambient sounds of the earth accompany traveling the lands in Shadow of the Colossus, but a sweeping orchestral score builds up as you grab on Colossi fur. there’s silence as you roam from town to town in Steambot Chronicles, and with battles come…no music and the clink-clank of Trotmobiles you’ve been hearing throughout the whole game. it just didn’t work for me.

_Steambot Chronicles strikes me as somebody’s wishlist game. it’s like an “i hate shooters” gamer said “i wish i could play GTA, but i can’t, because i hate shootin’ gamez,” so somebody made a GTA-ish sandbox game with a JRPG skin on it. that whole sentence is just an oversimplification with a bunch of overplayed stereotypes that really isn’t a great description, but it gets the general point across. the game is not without its flaws, to be sure, but the unique blend of sandbox gameplay with a japanese flair is extremely charming and kept me coming back for more.

_i give Steambot Chronicles woot 2 thumbs up. it’s a very unique experience and it’s cheap, so check it out.


One comment

  1. I have to agree with pretty much everything you said here, Hojo. I bought this game when it first came out, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much freedom you get in terms of your interactions with others, and how much your choices determine the overall outcome of things. It’s something you wouldn’t expect from a JRPG-esque game like this.

    Anyway, great review!

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