Saturday
Dec082012

City of Steam Preview

Some MMORPGS seem much less accessible than others, which is why MOBAs and other strategy games currently dominate the multiplayer world. One studio, however, wants to revitalize the connection between in-game lore and player interest that used to make MMOs among the greatest online role-playing experiences.

City of Steam not only opens the MMO to everyone with its mechanics, but also incorporates an abundant amount of lore for fans to absorb. Created by Mechanist Games, the browser-based Unity game focuses on a synthetic world that’s constantly dealing with change.

A few weeks back, Mechanist Games marketing manager Andrew Woodruff provided me with a tour before the first closed beta debut. We explored some of the first dungeons and main gathering areas as he described what makes City of Steam unique as an MMORPG. For starters, it offers players an easily accessible approach to the MMO, and without sacrificing the depth and story-driven environments we adore in other titles.

Players have the option of selecting from four different classes and eight different races. In our play test I selected the Draug, a blue-purple skinned race with poor social skills, poor eyesight, and excellent hearing to compensate for the former. Their visual appeal (which also makes up for crappy eyesight) played a part in my selection, though Woodruff said they used to be much less “pretty” and more “bat like.” After making my race and class (the melee Warder) selection, I had the option of customizing my character’s specific features. Of course, I named him “Seandood” because I’m so original and impulsive. After playing around with facial features, and even giving my character a tiny steampunk pipe, we started exploring.

The mechanical-styled settings separate the game from more medieval experiences like Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft, but the overall atmosphere of the first few dungeons still feels similar depending on your camera settings. When zooming out far enough, it even felt somewhat reminiscent of games like Diablo and Torchlight. Amazing backdrop visuals surrounded the first few landscapes, regardless of the fact that I had some of my own graphics on the lowest settings.

Following the first dungeon, Woodruff took me to The Refuge, an open-ended city zone. While there he showed me many other game mechanics including mountable steam bikes, special pets, timed treasure gathering modes, and add-ons for weapons. When asked about one of his favorite aspects in the game, Woodruff described how the weapon modding system actually changes the appearance of your equipped items. He gave me some pieces to place on the hilt of my sword and, sure enough, I had a better looking sword hilt.

Woodruff also described how character roles and races tied into the story, and allowed players to expand on their experience through the game’s lore. Oh, and they make goblins look sexy.

“We wanted you to choose the background of your character,” said Woodruff.

One of the best aspects involved with City of Steam is how it allows players with all types of different machines to participate. You’ll have options when it comes to performance settings, even if your computer’s an unfortunate piece of junk (like my current desktop thanks to a recent graphics card failure).

City of Steam's next closed beta test, titled Autumnwane, goes live on Friday, Dec. 14. City of Steam also features collaborator pack deals for folks interested in helping with the beta tests and obtaining some extra loot before the game's official launch.

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