Mankind has always looked upwards, gazing beyond the clouds. Mankind wondered what was beyond the blue. It started sacred fires, sacrificed chickens, and built temples to please that found up there. If they only had known what really happens up there they would have eaten the chickens, and partied hard in the temples. Because up there duels are taking place between an eccentric Brit(not Nige) and angry Austrian.
Steam Wars is a duel game set on a 3d world. It is a fresh take on the formula originally seen in Scorched Earth and Worms. For the iPhone we have seen a lot of variants to this formula, and my personal favourite is Star Hogs from IUGO. Steam Wars is turn based, and you have a limited amount of energy for each turn. Should you move into a better position to use a weaker weapon or stand your ground taking a harder but more powerful shot? Having the game played on a sphere makes it quite punishing to miss a shot completely. I have managed to shoot myself in the back quite a few times. The AI is even worse than me, and I actually managed to kill an AI on normal difficulty without firing a round myself.
The world is full of barrels you can hide behind, fans that pushes you away, and different kinds of mines. Using the environment is key to getting a quick kill. Teleport holes give you the opportunity to ambush the opponent. Powerups show up when you hit the ground, and you have to move over to them to get them. At times it isn’t worth loosing an easy weak shot for a more powerful weapon the following turn.
Steam Wars lacks content, and one of the most key features any turn based shooter needs: customization. Putting your own touch on your personal killing machine is something I really enjoy in Star Hogs. There is only the duel mode available for mano o mano battles. Larger battles with more robots involved would make the game feel a bit more intense. Furthermore the game lacks both pass n play and online multiplayer. Still these are aspects that can be included in later updates if the developer sticks with Steam Wars.
The controls are quite awkward in my opinion. Touch based but clumsy, and most of all the actual interface should be overhauled. You select an action in the menu to the left. Moving, and firing is done with the controls to the right. You can’t do two things at the same time, and it is too easy to accidentally fire a round when you intend to move. The controls work but could be much tighter and refined.
Graphics are full 3d, and they could do with a bit of polish. Still I found it really pleasing to scroll around the world, and zoom in and out just looking at it. The colour palette associated with steam punk is a bit dark, and at times the game feels gloomy. Particle and steam effects are terrific, and motivate me to get really good shots in.
The music is ok techno/electronic stuff that doesn’t annoy, but doesn’t cling to memory either. The sound effects are good with nice thumps to missile impacts. The sparse voiceovers when a robot is hit is fun, and could be expanded upon. One-liners from angry people with accents are always appreciated.
The lack of content hurts Steam Wars. Just having single battles, with the option to continue winning streaks isn’t enough to keep me interested. If it is too hard to get a story mode going, at least a kind of cup/championship mode should be easy to include in future updates. Unlocking new robots, and new planets are the only ways to get some variation. Achievements and online score available through OpenFeint.
Steam Wars is fun in short sessions until I get annoyed by the poor Ai and wonky controls. I hope the developer sticks with it as it is a good foundation for a great game if updated properly. Robot customization, story or championship mode, polished graphics, more robots in a the battles, tweaked controls, smarter AI, multiplayer both offline and online are areas that need work. I can’t recommend Steam Wars in the current version at $2.99, but definitely try any of the lite versions.