The latest creation by the masterminds at Intelligent Systems is not your typical strategy game. The game shares some some similarities to previous titles developed by the studio, but at the same time, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is in a whole different league, and to a greater extent a niche game. A turn-based strategy game with third-person-shooter elements set in a steampunk alternate universe where Abraham Lincoln dodged that bullet and decided to set up a task force reserved for special occasions like… an Alien invasion!
Oh, and did I mention that the members of said special forces are composed of literature and folklore inspired characters?
I’m not here to convince you to buy the game, I mean if the premise did not entice you then nothing will, but if for some strange coincidence of the universe you’re willing to throw your money at your favorite video game distributor, then there are some things you should keep in mind before playing Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
In the Fire Emblem and the Advance Wars series, once a unit makes a move, there’s no way to undo it. S.T.E.A.M. doesn’t follow the same principles. You see, as long as the gauge at the bottom of the screen shows that you have steam available in your tank, you’re free to move around and scout for enemies or pick up certain collectibles like gears or coins.
Now, there are certain things that might lock-in your steam usage, like health pick ups, steam recharges, falling from a platform; basically any action that directly affects your character will count as steam used.
Another action that can directly affect your character status is being caught in an enemy’s line of sight, which will activate their Overwatch. Lucky for you, this technique is also available for you to ambush a marauding enemy unit.
Overwatch raises the dilemma: “Should I use all my steam and take as many enemy units in my turn or should I save some so I can ruin their attack plan?” The answer is simple: use it as needed. An effective use of it can make or break the game. Bear in mind certain weapons cannot trigger any kind Overwatch.
No other game I’ve played in recent memory has proven these proverbs so true. In Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., you may spend as much time moving your units as watching the enemy do the same. It’s a slow paced game, but it’s a game that will reward your dedication and patience.
The Select button is your best friend! The guys at GameXplain already covered this feature, but what they failed to discover is that you can press the button every time a new enemy makes its move. In Layman’s terms, press the Select button whenever the “Enemy’s Turn” bar stops.
But please, for the love of Abe, always keep an eye on how the enemy moves!
Enemies in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. have a vast array of behavior. From a not-so-bright-berserker that destroys everything in its path, to enemies that use mortar-like weapons to spread your formation in a single swipe. It’s up to the player to learn how to best counter their behavior.
Such is the case of the Ripper, the bat-like alien that moves aimlessly around the map minding its own business, waiting for its prey to make the slightest of sounds. But since they are blind, you can use this to exploit their weaknesses in multiple ways, such as tiptoeing by slightly pushing the circle pad, or in the case you’re feeling adventurous, making them pursue you through a field full of land mines, bombs and/or banana peels (preferably all of them combined).
Some enemies have a interesting way of telling their current status, like the Hound whose eyes will switch colors similar to how a traffic light functions. Green means go, as in they are not aware of the presence of an agent of .S.T.E.A.M., yellow means they have either caught a glimpse or heard an agent is near, and red means that they will definitely go after you in their turn. Red also means that if you get close enough you’ll trigger their Overwatch.
Sometimes not attacking your enemy is the key to winning the battle. Setting up traps, luring the enemy to your position and ambushing using a variety of zany and bizarre weapons, like the Bananapult, or the Rattle Cannon.
One of my favorite strategies involves Tom Sawyer, and the Mine Launcher sub-weapon. Setting up this plan is easy: approach an alien (preferably one who cannot use the Overwatch technique), set up a mine behind it and then use Tom’s trademark Punch Gun to shove the enemy into the mine. It never fails to make me laugh as I watch the alien fly to its impending doom.
There’s no better feeling than watching your plan unfold perfectly. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. rewards you for being creative, and creativity has no limits in this game.
Save points are few and far between. In addition to saving the progress of the mission, you can exchange some of the coins you have collected throughout the mission to restore the HP and Steam of either a single agent or all agents. Additionally, any downed unit will be brought back to life. Plus, having the HP and Steam of your units restored gives you the chance to attack twice in the same turn. This functionality adds a strategic value to the save points.
Besides having save points spread around the maps, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. also offers a temporary quick save function in case you want to resume your adventure later in the day. Simply by pressing the Start button in your turn and selecting the “Return to Title Screen” option, the game will ask you about using the quick save feature.
Most maps in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will offer you a way to reach a higher level and get a better view of the area, thus eliminating the fog-of-war effect created by the over-the-shoulder perspective. Furthermore, there are characters and weapons that are more effective when on a higher platform.
Henry Flemming can push obstacles and shove your units one extra space in the grid. Tom Sawyer can hop on to a higher level without wasting any steam. Randolph Carter can improve the chances of a landing a critical hit. These are some of the abilities that can give you the edge in battle. Each agent comes with their own attributes; some have high mobility, others can take a lot of hits, and some are immune to be stunned by an enemy attack. It’s up to you to make the best of these abilities and turn the tables in your favor.
If for some strange reason the 12 agents of S.T.E.A.M. fail to meet your expectations, then maybe the heroes of Fire Emblem will help you conquer the alien invasion. If you have a N3DS and one of those fancy FE Amiibos, then give them a try. Maybe their play style is what you’re missing in your squad.
In your quest to save the Earth from the alien menace, you may have to leave some troops behind and some enemies alive. Rarely does a mission asks you to eliminate all the enemies. Instead, your objective will be most likely to reach a certain part of the map or in some other cases kill the leader of the aliens.
Thanks to Neryl for proofreading this mess, and to GBD and Zarnyx for helping me with the content. I’m planning to post the review for the game tomorrow. If you’re eager to know whether you should buy the game or not, then you should check this review. Long answer short is: Yes, despite its design flaws, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a game everyone should give it a try.
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