Accustomed to Action-RPGs, the French studio Spiders is tackling another rather perilous genre this year: Souls-like. It is true that the saga at the origin of the term generates more or less successful proposals each year. In this flood, we will retain only a handful, only a few titles (foreign to From Software) which manage to mark by dodging the label of the pale copy. But one thing is certain: the genre currently shines in the hearts of players, always more fond of the idea of rubbing shoulders with death up close. And it is not the colossal success of Elden Ring which will say the opposite.
But let’s come back to our Parisian studio, far from being at its first attempt. We cannot say that his activity is paved with solid successes: who remembers Bound by Flame or The Technomancies? However, Spiders has the merit of putting heart into its creations, a passion recently rewarded by the success of Greed fall published in 2019 and whose sequel is currently in preparation.
Steel rising reveals itself as an ambitious Souls-like taking as a backdrop a fantasized Paris at the time of the French Revolution. The sans-culottes give way to automatons: soulless articulated puppets with the sole objective of instilling terror in the streets of the capital. History is revisited to better immerse us. Take out the forks, it’s time to take back the Bastille with elbow grease.
Rectify history notebooks
The French revolution was not made by the uprising of the people. No, it’s a decoy to hide the inconvenient truth. Another damned conspiracy, because in reality, the past events are much darker. Wishing to keep his full authority, King Louis XVI let himself be seduced by a royal adviser telling him to use his automata as a weapon. Revolt rumbles outside and chaos begins to flood the streets of the capital, the King sends his army of automatons to maintain order. All automata respond as one. All ? Not quite, Aegis, close guard of Queen Marie-Antoinette, seems to evade this command to develop his own will: that of freeing the country from the yoke of the monarch.
Drawing its inspiration directly from the time of the French Revolution (end of the 18th century), Steelrising shines with its depicted universe. All the places and great personalities from our history books are skillfully reinjected into this alternative past, all served by a successful artistic direction. Spiders has unearthed a most interesting vein to unfold its scenario for us. Because, come to think of it, apart from Assassin’s Creed Unity, no other big production has really drawn on this context (we don’t forget you, We. The Revolution).
On the other hand, we ask ourselves a question: French studio, background in France, so why on earth did you leave English as the original language of the game? Especially since in addition, the protagonists drop a few words in French at times, which leaves us with a sigh of exasperation. In truth, we suspect that it is for international sales, but still, it denotes.
Dark Souls Hegemony
Yes, Steelrising is Souls-like (a label we’re a bit weary of). The development team has clearly displayed its inspirations from Dark Souls, Blooborne or even Sekiro (for the vertical aspect of the gameplay, we will come back to this later). But are we dealing with a tasteless copy for all that? It must be said that the fairly lazy attempts to copy the holy recipe have been legion in recent years, so the question is legitimate. Let’s get straight to the point: Steelrising avoids the pitfall of pointless duplicates to develop a real identity.
The cogs of the gameplay are seen and reviewed: a bar of life, endurance, fast attack, heavy attack, you know the refrain. Let’s focus mainly on the specific additions. First, the elements: depending on the weapon used and especially its imbued element, you can inflict special effects. Thus, frost can paralyze opponents, fire ignite them (continuous damage) and electricity slows them down in their movements. It will be necessary to juggle between these effects depending on the type of enemy in front.
Real work has been done on the available arsenal. Each weapon has its own combos and above all a special attack ranging from a formidable counter to a thunder dome. Light, heavy, ranged weapon, it’s up to you to find your style of play. Moreover, the game begins with a completely dispensable character creation phase as the customization options are slim, but you can predetermine the class of your heroine .
Unfortunately, as welcome as these ideas are, Steelrising struggles to fully convince in its fights , the fault of two elements. The first, the most formidable: redundancy. The clashes are too similar, we link them without much conviction and strategy, and it is not the average difficulty of the title that will make us review our posture. Let it be said, bringing accessibility to the game is not a problem, far from it (we also welcome the assist mode). Nevertheless, the difficulty does not push us to think seriously about our actions, we roll on the game without blocking, same observation for the bosses.
Second reason: the camera, oh great enemy of the player. This problem mainly occurs during fights with several opponents. The lock system is catastrophic, poorly thought out, to the point of changing targets without really knowing why. We tap towards who knows who, the camera gets carried away, and during this time, the enemies are having a field day.The more enemies you succeed in slaying, the more experience points you will recover to improve weapons and abilities (attack, defense, endurance, etc.). We realize very quickly that Steelrising does not have a wide enough field of evolution to really specialize its character. Everything is window dressing, and the gaming experience is essentially the same, despite the class choice at the start of the game.
Paris as you’ve never seen it
As we said above, Steelrising offers a very pleasant playground, taking up all the major places in the capital: Chatelet, the Montmartre quarries and, of course, the Bastille fort. We see the country and the result is more than successful. The level design is impressive. Whether in its content or its form, we feel a real desire to lose the player in these labyrinthine streets and tunnels. Exploration is the key word, and it will often be rewarded for the most daring.
Another praise: the levels are also designed vertically. It will therefore often look in the air to find valuable rewards. No open world, but large enough areas to inspect with gadgets like the grappling hook that will force you to backtrack to access new passages.
We must end on the biggest weak point of the game: its narration. Yes, the sets are sumptuous, yes, the gameplay holds up, but the scenario stands on a post-it. Worse still, his storytelling is poor. However, Spiders had accustomed us to better, especially with Greed fall. Here, it is difficult to understand the events as the exchanges are sanitized, without any depth. Over the course of the adventure, we glean various documented objects, but unlike Dark Souls in which we like to decipher the clues, there, it does not take.