City of Steam: Arkadia
6.7 Overall Score
Unique steampunk setting | The graphics are better than most browser games out there
Generic gameplay | The energy system could be annoying | Ridiculous monsters respawn rate
When you read the word "MMORPG", the first thing that pops up in your mind is probably the typical fantasy game with strongholds, monsters, swords and magic; that's because actually the 90% of the MMORPGs out there are stuck with the safe route of the fantasy theme which has always been the mainstream and most loved setting. However, with time several software houses tried to offer something new in terms of setting and theme with their games, such as the sci-fi of EVE Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Anarchy Online and SWTOR. Now, Mechanist's Games is trying to homage the strangely underrated steampunk setting with City of Steam: Arkadia, a 3D browser game which aims to offer a new experience that mix Diablo-style Hack&Slash elements with a full featured themepark MMORPG.
You can play City of Steam either by downloading a micro-client or directly through your browser. No matter what, we weren't able to make the client work as it kept giving us an unknown error so we were forced to play through our loyal browser; not really a good start, right? Well, anyway, the game was designed as a browser game, so let's start our adventure.
The game is extremely accessible, as the only thing you have to do is to register or log-in through Facebook, click on "Play" and wait for a very quick loading bar to complete.
The game offers 4 classes: Arcanist (the steampunk version of the classic sorcerer), Gunner (ranged physical DPS with pistols and rifle), Warder (melee tank) and Channeler (magic support), as well as 10 (TEN!) races. Well, actually 4 of them are different kinds of humans, but each one has its very own background and style; besides the human races there are a kind of evil-looking pale elves called Draug, classic elves called Riven, three kind of greenskins (Goblins, Hobbes and Orcs), and Dwarves. Just from each race's starting clothes and each class's base equipment you will already take a glimpse of the importance of the steampunk in this game and we are sure that a lot of steampunk gamers looking for a new virtual home will be really happy about that.
You will be welcomed by a nice, dubbed cut-scene with animated drawings which will tell the beginning of the game's main storyline. There are more of these cut-scenes later on in the game, highlighting the important elements, and with their storytelling really help with immersion.
Another factor which contributes with immersion is the personal storyline of your character which, quest after quest, features interesting NPCs, different possible choices for the dialogs and a variety of situations like in the beginning, when something happens (no spoiler) and you have to go through a running train from a car to the other, freeing it from monsters.
The steampunk setting is polished and extremely well designed, with copper and bronze steam machines, smokestacks, locomotives, jetpacks, motorbikes and robots everywhere; even typically fantasy elements like swords and staves have a strong steampunk flavour!
Graphics-wise, the game makes use of the powerful Unity engine to boost a fully 3D world right in your browser. Textures and details of a lot of characters, armors and item models are enjoyable but nothing surprising (we've seen much better results with the Unity), while a lot of the closed spaces such as dungeons are just uninspiring and boring. On the other hand, open spaces such as cities are amazing, rich of details and characters, and give you the chance to enjoy an impressive depth of field. Sadly, the character animations are a little stiff and could definitely get some love.
Talking about gameplay, this is where things start to go south. The controls are the exact same ones that years and years of themepark MMORPGS got you used to: WASD or mouse click to move, mouse to interact/attack/move camera and number keys for your skills. That's all, really. The responsiveness is not the best we've ever seen and combat felt a little clumsy and laggy. A nice addition is the chance to equip 3 different weapon sets on your character, such as dual wield, 2 handed, one hand and shield and change them with just a click when you are not in combat; the fun thing is that each weapon will always be displayed on your character, so with just 2 pistols and a rifle our character looked like a moving armoury. As usual, by leveling up you will have the chance to develop your character by advancing in different skill trees.
The game's progression is extremely linear and based on the classic chain of quests. However, from what we've seen, in City of Steam quests are all based on the same concept; enter a combat area and fulfill all the quest requirements, which usually involve a certain number of monsters, collecting a certain number of money and slaying a boss. After you are done, you will be rewarded and you can go to the next area or back to town. While this could be fun for a while, we can easily imagine that after a while a lot of players could find it grindy and monotonous. There are other activities such as fishing, mining, crafting, and at certain point you will receive a cool steampunk motorbike which can be upgraded to be faster and more fancy, but we're not sure about for how long this could keep the MMORPGs crowd entertained, as the entire experience feels just... old. It's not a BAD game, let's clarify this, but there aren't true innovations or truly unique features besides the steampunk setting, and if you are a veteran MMO player you will have the constant subtle feeling of having already played the game and already seen everything.
There are also a couple of aspects in the game's design that we didn't like at all; first of all, you have certain amount of "energy" and entering the quest areas requires you to spend some of this energy, which regenerates with time, exactly like in Facebook games. While during the first levels this wasn't a problem at all, it could become frustrating later on for a player who plays a lot, forcing him to pull out the wallet to keep playing.
The second thing is that the monsters' respawn rate is ridiculous. Let's say that you are in a dungeon and there are two groups of monsters in front of you. You kill the first, go to fight the second and while finishing it off, the first group pops out again behind you and comes to attack you. Luckily the normal monsters were usually weak and we managed to kill them all every time, but sometimes it was really annoying.
City of Steam: Arkadia is a full featured, browser based 3D themepark MMORPG. Its pretty unique setting will probably make the steampunk fans which were waiting for a real steampunk MMORPG happy; however besides that, the game has nothing truly innovative or original to offer, and the whole experience suffers from a bad case of "more of the same", a disease which affects a lot of modern MMORPGs. Moreover, while being technically good for a browser game, there are some strange design choices which could annoy some players.