by Chris Priestman
previewed on PC
We All Scream For Steampunk
MMO's in any shape, size or form are always a risky business. Add in a little bit of steampunk though, and you're sure to cause a few more heads to turn, at least with the current popularity of the quirk. City of Steam is mostly like any other MMORPG; there is an abundance of quests, locations and customisation options. But it is steampunk and for some reason that makes it a little bit more...special. Doesn't it?
First Things First
Right from the get-go you can tell that City of Steam is impressive, at least in scale. The eponymous city is rather huge, as seen from the opening shot which swoops between the steam airships, the crooked alleyways and the sun-stroked rooftops. It's a detailed, scale model of a living city, one you soon become very acquainted with.
Before that though, you'll have to make your character of course. You have a few of the typical races to choose from, but more important are the classes: Archanist, Gunner, Warder or Channeler - take your pick. That's it for the preview version thus far, but each does dramatically change how you will play the game. Depending on your choice you’ll play the game more aggressively, in the interest of healing others, or tactically from a distance.
Character customisation is an option, but it feels a little pointless outside of your name, gender and distinctive hairstyle. Luckily, you can make your character feel a little more unique by purchasing different armour (which will be necessary for survival anyway).
The Ride In
So off you trot with your character into the game, but first a tutorial. This is set upon the train that takes you to the city. The most important lesson learned here is the interface, which I am very happy to say is extremely user-friendly. Everything can be managed with just the mouse (if you so choose). While I did initially want WASD controls in the tight vicinity of the train's carriages, the mouse controlled click-and-travel-to style made sense later in the spacious city and further into the quest zones.
Most impressively, the whole inventory system, including the assigning of potions and steam-based magic, is arranged via a click-and-drag method. It proved to be very quick and easy to use. The only real problem I did have with the interface was easily sorted out and was largely due to human error. Stupidly, I assigned one of my potions next to my favourite magic spell, but as I was using the numbers to cast attacks I was sometimes accidentally spamming my potions rather than the spells, meaning they were being wasted. As said though, this was my own fault and was sorted out with a quick hotkey reconfiguration.
After having learned the basics of the game, most of which were obvious, it was then on to the big city where I would finally join up with my friend, where we would set off on some form of adventure. If anything, this was a test for the game's party options, which once again proved remarkably easy to set up. In about two clicks we were partied up and ready to go. Considering that the game is browser-based, there was neither lag nor sense of disconnection between each other. Later, amongst a load of enemies the game would occasionally prevent one of us from running away from a certain spot, but it passed in seconds. Otherwise, it was a fairly adequate co-op experience for the both of us with barely a complaint to sniff at, especially as this is very early alpha stage stuff too.