This past Thursday, Nintendo released a demo for their up coming game Codename Steam, a TRPG made by the same team that made Fire Emblem, Intelligent Systems. As an avid fan of this genre and well… already preordering the game because the Gamestop freebie and it looked interesting, I wanted to give you some of my initial impressions of the game.
If you couldn't already tell from the title, I came into this game with a completely wrong mindset in that I was treating my units like paper mache dolls with rocket launchers instead of the walking refrigerators that they are. This is due to the fact that I've been binge playing Tears to Tiara 2 where most of the units in that game could take only a few direct hits before going down. So, I spent way too much time trying to position my units in a way where they would take absolutely no damage, but the mechanics of Codename STEAM made this almost impossible. I couldn't utilize this hit and run strategy because Codename STEAM has a mechanic call overwatch, a mechanic that allows a unit to attack during the opposing side's turn. This defensive mechanic through me for quite a loop because the enemies in this game kept using it on me when I wasn't expecting it, which got me close to losing many times. Though once grasped how this mechanic interacted with the rest of the game, I started to notice the intricacies of the game.
One of my favorite mechanics in the game is how the overwatch system interacts with unit movement. Moving your units around in Codename STEAM is a bit different from most TRPGs because your movement is directly tied to your attacks. In the game, each character has a steam gauge, which determines how far they can move per turn, but if you want to attack, you will have to use some steam for attacking instead of moving. Though it seems like a bad idea to link attacking and movement to the same resource, it actually works out because you will not use any of your steam until you take an action. So each unit can freely move through a large area until they take an attack, pick up a health pack, jump down a ledge, shove a friendly unit forward or if they take overwatch fire.
By combining these two complex game mechanics, Codename STEAM becomes this very deep and strategic game that demands your attention even while moving units around. There are just so many options you can take to take down your foes. For example, you could move one unit to take overwatch fire from an enemy, then switch two another unit to shot the enemy from the back, which can do extra damage. Also, the way you can interact with the battlefield is incredibly interesting as well because you can destroy it with your weapons as well, which can greatly change the flow of battle as well. What I mean is by choosing to destroy obstacles on the battlefield, you can open a path for your units to attack the enemy and or gain a better position, but you also lose cover and the enemy can also use the path you just made. In essence, the mechanics of the game feel like they have a large number of checks and balances that makes gameplay feel deep and varied.
Codename STEAM is a tightly constructed game with incredibly well thought out mechanics, but it isn't without its faults. One of the biggest gripes I have with the game is that you can't alter the starting positions of your units. I found this incredibly annoying because it wouldn't let me act on some certain strategies, blitzkrieg, effectively. Essentially, the game doesn't allow you to manipulate the starting position of your units so that you can maximize the strengths of each unit on the first turn. The other gripe I have with the game is that the loading times on the enemy's turn are so freaking long. I swear I could have made a sandwich in the time it took for the enemy to finish its turn. It's just kind of annoying because in Intelligent System's Fire Emblem series, there are a few ways to reduce wait time, but none of those options are in this demo. I really hope that in the full version there's a way to speed up the time it takes for the enemy to take its turn. Overall, these gripes aren't game breaking, but they are still annoying to deal with.
As per every TRPG I cover, ie only one other, I'm going to go over my favorite units in the game or the only 4 in this case:
Henry Fleming: He's kind of you stereotypical starting unit in TRPG in that he's very balanced. He doesn't have any glaring flaws and he doesn't have any exceptional abilities except for his above average attack stat. Also, I'm enjoying his personality in the game because he gives off the air that despite being a serious commander, he has a good sense of humor. Evaluation: Apparently his character is based of a character from the Scarlet Letter :V
John Henry: The black cop in his and Henry's relationship. His laid back and glib attitude instantly made him endearing to me. I also really liked his relationship with Henry because they did work off each other very and made me laugh a few times despite the limited number of interactions between them. Also, the way he plays is just great because he has a grenade launcher that can clear many obstacles quickly, while also being able to damage groups of enemies if they are grouped up or at a lower altitude from him. Evaluation: One eye away from being a Scottish Cyclops cyborg.
Tiger Lily: Not much to really say about her in all honesty except for the fact that she's a healer. Well, she can also move far and her weapon is an aoe heal, but she doesn't really have much going for her. Evaluation: how can I fit this unit in my blitzkrieg?
Lion: Easily my favorite unit in the game because he uses the game's mechanics so effectively. Basically, Lion's special gun can launch him a set distance from his firing location and if he lands on an enemy unit, he will do a large amount of damage and knock the enemy back. What's so great about this skill is that besides being an awesome way to quickly get around the map is that if you angle the shot well, you can bounce off the enemy in such a way that knocks the enemy behind you. If you do that and the enemy doesn't die, you should be able to use his sub weapon on the alien's weak spot if you planned out your attack well. Also, Lion is a mother f*cking lion… with a gun that launches him at people… HOW IS THAT NOT AWESOME! Evaluation: Super Mario.
Overall, Codename STEAM gave me a taste of its intricate mechanics and it hooked me. I really want to see all the different enemies that game has to throw at me and what other tactics I can put together with the other characters in the game. Also, I'm fairly interested in the multiplayer aspect of the game because I want to see how these mechanics can be applied in a PvP environment. I'm looking forward to playing this full game so much!
Food for Thought:
- 1) Codename STEAM has a checkpoint like system during battles, which you can use to save in the middle of battle. I think this system will alleviate the "getting one unit killed at the end of a battle" problem a bit because the player can now reload from those checkpoints easily during battle.
- 2) You can transfer some of your progress from the demo to the full game to get some money and a unique weapon. I don't know what this means, but I got this message every time I gained a new rank in the demo and so I've played this demo for about 6 hours total…
Codename STEAM was created by Intelligent Systems and its demo is currently available for download on the Nintendo eshop.
You can read the rest of my articles on my Kinja based blog.