SteamCraft is billed as a game where there are no rules. And for the most part that is true of this steampunk themed world full of total vehicular destruction.
Right off from the start people familiar with the multiplayer vehicle shooter and builder genre will see similarities to other games on the market such as Crossout and Robocraft. The similarities are in the fact that they use vehicles that are customizable and players can go shoot each other. Beyond that SteamCraft heads in its own direction ditching the often crisp clean futuristic or grimy post-apocalyptic styling of other games for a very raw steampunk look and feel.
For example the starting material for body design pine boxes that look like old early 20th century shipping crates. The wheel mechanism along with light fixtures also appear to come from the same era.
One really interesting and often very entertaining feature are the flipover mechanisms. These are effectively brass horns that are attached to the vehicle. Players are immediately introduced to this ability in the tutorial as their first action. Pressing F allows the vehicle to do a little steam bunny hop with a few second cooldown.
In combat utilizing the flipover hop can allow one to peek above terrain and take quick shots at enemies who would otherwise be obscured from view. Additionally the ability can be used to get to various locations on the map’s terrain giving a player various advantages such as higher group or more protection. Lastly the ability can prove to be very useful in moving around when one has their wheels destroyed, but can still fire away.
Speaking of vehicle damage, once a vehicle becomes damaged to a certain point players have the option of holding down the Q key to activate the vehicles spider ability. Once activated the surrounding vehicle is blow away and a mechanical spider is deployed. Players can then run up to an enemy vehicle and detonate the spider. However, quick enemy players will try to shoot and stop the low armor unit before it gets near them. Holding down the shift key activates the spider’s turbo. From there all it takes is a quick sprint and a left mouse click near an enemy to score another frag.
Several game modes are available to help quench one’s thirst for steampunk vehicular carnage. Capture the base is a version of capture the flag where players must sit upon the base filling up bar segments. Enemy players will be alerted that they are losing their base with a huge text notification across the middle of the screen.
Other game modes include a team death match, regular death match, skirmish, king of the mountain, and attack/defense.
During our gameplay we tested all three of the default starting vehicles. Each are equipped with their own unique guns, machine gun, tesla, and railgun. The machine gun vehicle is the fastest and lightest while the tesla vehicle was the slowest yet it provided more armor. The rail gun vehicle was a tiny bit slower than the machine gun vehicle and provided a slight armor increase as well.
All of the starting vehicles are designed very well for their fighting styles. Machine guns are meant to come in blazing while being highly maneuverable to avoid enemy fire. Just don’t overheat those guns forcing them to shutdown for a brief cool-off. The railgun vehicle is equally as agile, but for a different reason being such that the rail gun can only be fired once every few seconds. Players will need to always be moving avoiding enemy fire as they wait for a recharge.
Lastly is the tesla default vehicle that is mean to be a beefy tank. All that extra armor is needed as the tesla has a limited range. Players really need to get up in their enemies grill and then fire away doing continuous high-damage lightning beams of death. Unlike the railgun and machine gun, the tesla will hit all targets within the weapon’s range dishing out some serious damage fast. All that extra armor will prove useful as enemies will try to rid this vehicle from the play field fast.
If all those weapons were not enough as players earn experience to level up and earn silver coins they can eventually unlock rocket launchers. These things to high damage and have a very reasonable explosive radius. One thing to note that vehicles can only fire one type of weapon and only one weapon will fire. However, players will want to have several of a given weapon type on their vehicle as other players may try to shoot off their weapons.
Earning experience and leveling up is a critical component to SteamCraft. Each level grants for steam pressure measured in bars. Bars are the one rule in the game players must adhere to as it defines how much stuff or the quality of stuff they can put on their vehicle. Armor components have a fixed bar cost and better armor only sees an increased weight. Weapons and movement components see an ever increasing bar cost as their class and quality goes up. Players can also opt to upgrade their vehicle core as they level up for better spiders and increased armor.
Vehicle design and customization is at the mercy of a players imagination. There are over 600 construction components and 40 weapons. Don’t forget to add one of the several decals logos or other various flair such as lights and hatches. Once a player is done with their build, they can choose to paint it a wide array of colors and various camouflage patterns.
The game was previously set for a an April 18, 2019 release. Last Level, SteamCraft’s developer, pushed the release back a full week allowing more time to add additional polish and bug fixes to the game.
There are a few issues we would like to see Last Level address going forward. First is the lack of a reporting tool or feature. If there is one, we could not find it. There were a few noticeable occasions in the few hours we played where players would AFK in a match. Not cool, nor fun when they are the difference between a victory and a defeat.
Another is that spiders are sometimes nearly impossible to see. While they are a blast, pun intended, just changing the color shading ever so slightly lighter would greatly increase their visibility and give players a slightly better chance of shooting them before they detonate.
Going forward we hope Last Level plans to add additional maps and even more customization options for vehicles as more options to expand players creativity is always a plus. More maps also helps to force players into not having a one vehicle fits all situation. We are extremely glad there are enough different terrain types where there is not a default camouflage paint that works for all maps.
Ultimately we have to say that SteamCraft is a game worth picking up. Even more so with friends as the group can form a platoon. We barely scratched the surface of designing vehicles are can see many countless hours making all sorts of epic looking vehicles that would only be found in the deepest of nightmarish sleep to destroy ones enemies.
SteamCraft is available on Steam for Windows PC at a price of $12.99 USD. A special promotion runs until May 2, 2019 at a price of $9.74.