Steelrising review: Clunky Soulslike saved by its setting

Steelrising protagonistSpiders

Steelrising reimagines the French Revolution – but as a robot uprising! Here’s what we thought of the latest game to adapt the Soulslike formula.

Developed by Spiders, the studio behind The Technomancer and Greedfall, Steelrising is a Soulslike adventure game in which you play as a robot trying to protect the people of eighteenth-century Paris from your own metallic kind.

Steelrising is set in a universe where advances in steam and clockwork technology have allowed robots to live and work alongside people. However, this has done little to quell the political issues of the time period and the people of France are ready to rebel, the problem is that in this universe, the robots beat them to it.

It’s an interesting premise but does Steelrising manage to stand out among an increasing sea of Soulslike games, or does it run out of steam before it gets going?

Steelrising key details

  • Price: £49.99/$49.99
  • Developer: Spiders
  • Release Date: September 8, 2022
  • Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Steelrising trailer

Robo Souls

Anyone who’s played Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or Elden Ring will be instantly at home with Steelrising. The game wears its inspiration so brazenly on its sleeve that it’s almost hard to call it derivative, so to be charitable, we’d call it a love letter to FromSoftware’s titles. The combat is very similar and seemingly every gameplay loop and mechanic from those games is included here in its own unique way.

Take the stamina bar, for example, something that largely regulates the combat of games like this, but in Steelrising, is known as steam power. Aegis, the well-wigged robot dancer we control isn’t human, so she doesn’t need to worry about stamina. However, as she’s powered by steam, overheating can become an issue. If the stamina/steam bar runs out, Aegis will get too hot and will need to get out of combat and cool down.

This can be done by rolling, running away from your enemy, and letting your stamina/steam power build back up. As in Souls games, failure to do this will leave you open to attack, but in Steelrising, overheating also damages your health. This makes your reliance on the steam bar even more important as not paying attention adds another layer of danger.

The good news is, that you can also cool down mid-combat by taking advantage of a nifty little steam cooling feature the game (and Aegis’s creators) have added. This creates a risk vs. reward system in combat that reminded us of a similar feature in Bloodborne. Do you risk overheating against this boss? Or do you take your chances with your cooldown mechanism and keep attacking? It’s up to you to weigh up the benefits or potential costs.

Aegis SteelrisingSpiders
Aegis is a dancer turned bodyguard for Queen Marie Antoinette.

Signs of rust

While the game is a competent and original take on the SoulsBorne formula, combat never really flows as smoothly as other titles in the subgenre. Battles often feel clunky and rigid with the robot-on-robot action feeling unsatisfying some of the time. It’s fun, to be sure, but combat doesn’t have the same rhythm or compulsively thrilling element that games like Elden Ring have.

You may tell yourself that this is because you’re playing as an automaton, therefore a little clunkiness and rigidity are to be expected, but we’re still not sure this works as an explanation. The good news is, as Aegis learns more skills and the level designs become less linear, there are a lot of good times to be had. You’ll need to progress past the early stages of the game though to really see what it has to offer.

steelrising aegisSpiders
Aegis can be customized with new gear and weapons.

Taking the easy road

As with most titles in the Soulslike subgenre, Steelrising is difficult. It takes practice and skill to master and the thrill is in overcoming a challenge. However, the game offers a variety of difficulty and accessibility adjustments that allow the player to tailor the experience to their liking.

For example, if you’d rather not engage in the steam recovery mechanic, this can be automated, as can a range of other features that help turn Steelrising into a more casual hack and slash game. You can also give yourself a 1% to 100% health boost that can either make you slightly tougher or essentially enable god mode. Many of these will disable trophies, understandably, but they allow players to experiment with some fun overpowered builds, letting them pump all their level-up points into offensive stats and ignoring health and defense. After all, what’s the point in leveling health when you’re invincible?

This way, players can create some pretty deadly builds that become incredibly OP very early on. We’d advise you to play the game through properly first, adjusting the difficulty to your preference but without making it too easy. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on Steelrising’s main selling points and features, but should you try a playthrough with an OP killer robot in god mode after this? Go nuts.

Of course, Souls purists will recoil at such features, but it’s important to point out that Steelrising isn’t Dark Souls or Elden Ring, it’s its own thing (as much as it’ll feel familiar to ‘git gud’ types). The game could also serve as a nice gateway drug into other Soulslike games.

steelrising enemiesSpiders
The enemies in Steelrising are robots – just like Aegis.

Let them eat cake

When it comes to Steelrising’s setting, the game does exactly what Assassin’s Creed Unity did and simply uses the French Revolution as a backdrop. History buffs looking for a chilling window into one of humanity’s most terrifying time periods won’t find that here. This is a sci-fi story with robots in wigs set in pre-modern France.

However, the game does make good use of the setting by scattering notes for the player to find. Each one is written by a historical figure or in-game character and gives some nice exposition about this game’s universe and lore, such as the ongoing political strife or the robot technology. Just don’t expect Les Misérables.

Steelrising settingSpiders
The French Revolution is a war between robots and humans in Steelrising.

Verdict 6.5/10

If you enjoy the Soulslike style then it’s easy to recommend Steelrising, as the game is one of the most original takes on the subgenre we’ve seen in terms of its setting, character, and time period. Those who’ve always wanted a game to combine elements of Souls with Bayonetta will also find a lot to like in Steelrising, particularly after tweaking the settings.

Anyone who’s not a fan of Soulslikes but is keen to try one may find the flexible difficulty a great way to get started. It’s no Elden Ring, but it’s certainly got something about it that makes it worth a look. After all, where else can you storm the Bastille with razor-tipped Parisian fans?

For more of the latest releases, be sure to check out some of our other reviews:

Diablo Immortal | V Rising Early Access | Card Shark | Sniper Elite 5 | Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course | Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review | The Sims 4 Werewolves Game Pack review | Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak review | As Dusk Falls

loading...