City of Steam Beta Impressions

We put on our favorite top hat and goggles and ventured into City of Steam, the browser-based, free-to-play steam punk fantasy MMO, to bring you our first impressions on the closed beta.

I've long been a fan of steam punk so when the opportunity arose to check out a steam punk-themed MMO, I put on my top hat and goggles and ventured into the world of City of Steam by Mechanist Games. City of Steam has just started their closed beta and I spent the weekend tooling around the city-state of Nexus gathering my first impressions of the state of the game so far.

Overview

City of Steam is a browser-based free-to-play. Its hub city of Nexus is broken into multiple zones where players pick up quests that take them into specific dungeons. There is no common adventuring area and all your quests will be instanced, with the exception of those that require you to meet a specific NPC.

Starting off, there are four classes--Arcanist, Warder, Gunner, and Channeler--and ten races to choose from. Each class also has three combat specialties that you determine at character creation. The amount of character customization is pretty limited to some choices for hair style and an accessory (goggles or various hats).

city of steam beta impressions
You can almost taste the soot in the air.

Once you're in the game, you'll pick up quests and venture into various dungeons to complete them. Most of the dungeons have an isometric view and movement is the standard WASD. While moving around is pretty easy, there is no jumping and the paths in the game can be pretty linear. If there is a chasm dividing a room, you can't jump across; you'll have to find an alternate path around. You can't alter the UI and there is no way to change key bindings. I found myself accidentally using my healing potion (called a health jab) from time to time because it's locked to the [E] key, which I normally use to sidestep in other games.

Combat is straightforward and the game gets you into the action quickly. You'll use your class's auto-attack and eventually other abilities that you'll unlock. As you level, you can spend points on skills associated with your specialty and also on talents. Talents can increase your stats, ability with weapons and armor, or impact your inventory space.

city of steam beta impressions
An example of some dungeon challenges.

In addition to exploring, there are some different challenges that players can undergo in dungeons. They vary from killing a number of specific creatures in a certain time (such as killing 10 corsairs in 3 minutes) to surviving for a specific time to breaking a number of objects within a time limit. These challenges will alter the contents of the dungeon and can make for a fun mini-game.

If you want to engage in PvP, you can easily do so in City of Steam. Access a terminal and you can queue up for a fight ranging from 1 on 1 to 5 on 5. Once you've finished the fight, you'll be sent back to the city.

city of steam beta impressions
Throwin' down in the underground.

What I Liked

The thing I enjoyed most in City of Steam was that they got the look and feel of steam punk down. While the graphics won't stress your processor and the character customization is limited, the landscape and creatures are a damn good mix of fantasy and steam technology thrown together. You can even get a cool motorcycle in the cash shop to run around the city on.

Getting quests and finding your way around is easy. You can check on a quest board to see what quests are available in your zone. When you click on one, you will automatically run to the NPC that offers the quest. There are also road signs that have all the various locations (shops, dungeons, PvP terminals, etc.) in the zone on them. Click on their icon and you'll run to that location. While you can sometimes get hung up, overall auto-run is a pretty nifty little feature.

Combat is quick and easy and there is some complexity to your character due to your specific abilities and talents. While there is cash shop, City of Steam doesn't squeeze you to buy healing potions like Asian grinders because your character naturally regenerates. There are locked chests in the game that offer lots of loot if you unlock them. You can buy keys from the cash shop (like in Guild Wars 2) but you can also get keys from drops and a daily supply quest. The fact that you can get a number of keys every day is a good sign and shows that Mechanist isn't trying to nickel and dime you to death.

Quests are usually finished in ten to fifteen minutes, while challenges only require two to three minutes on the average. The challenges are enjoyable mini-games that keep the dungeons from getting stale, but....

city of steam beta impressions
Goblins look extra awesome in a top hat.

What Needs Work

The biggest issue with challenges is that they require a certain number of people, usually two. If you're playing with friends, then it's no big deal. If not, then you have to wait for someone else to queue up for the challenge (and hope they're good) or start asking for help. I also wish you could continue playing PvP matches when you're finished as opposed to being forced out and having to re-queue.

I've already mentioned that you can't adjust the UI and there is no key binding in the game currently. I hope Mechanist will consider addressing the UI customization issues, but I can live with a fixed UI if I have to. Movement can be linear in that you have to follow paths in the game, but this is fairly standard with action-style F2P MMOs.

The sound in the game could definitely use some beefing up. Right now, most of the sounds are ambient background noise. There are some voices, such as at the train station in the first zone, but the game could use some more talking in it to really help immerse players into the fantasy steam punk atmosphere.

I'm also hoping for more character customization in the future. Since many F2P games use costumes as a source of revenue, I hope that City of Steam follows suit. I really want to deck out my character in some sweet steam punk duds to look the part. Every player wants their character to look as unique as possible, and the possibilities for fantasy mixed with steam punk are endless. My goblin gunner needs a bowler hat with goggles and an exoskeleton frame on his arm!

Certain abilities need to be more fully explained. My racial ability has no in-game explanation (it's a chain that pulls my enemies to me). In fact, the nature of your racial ability, or the fact that you have a racial ability, isn't mentioned at all during character creation.

city of steam beta impressions
Some of the motley people you'll rub elbows with.

Lastly, the game needs more quests. Playing in the first beta weekend, I had to grind out xp to gain the level needed to hit the next zone. There were a number of quests that I couldn't fulfill because they were all dungeon challenges and I usually couldn't find anyone to help me out. I got some help on a few occasions, but we were unable to fully complete the challenge most of the time. The challenges really require you to work efficiently, which is good, but trusting that requirement to the whims of random grouping is not ideal. The devs have posted that they'll be beefing up the content in future beta weekends, so I'm looking forward to that.


While there are areas that need polishing, City of Steam is an enjoyable and fun game. It's easy to get into and you can do a few dungeon runs in a short amount of time. Plus, as a steam punk junkie, I like the look and feel. I thoroughly expect to be listening to a steam punk music stream while I play the game in the future. While it won't make me cancel my subscription to my primary MMO, City of Steam provides a nice alternative when I want to do something different to do.

If you want to give the game a try, Mechanist will be doing additional beta testing this December. Grab a beta key from Ten Ton Hammer and give the game a whirl.

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