Steel Storm Indie Game Review

As the indie game market continues to grow, we thought it would be timely to kick off 2011 with another game review. Steel Storm, a game produced by a small company called Kot in Action Creative Artel, is a top-down arcade shooter that puts you in control of a small futuristic aircraft. Like the addictive space shooters of the past, Steel Storm keeps the action and explosions coming.

Steel Storm: Episode I is available for free download for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Episode II is still in beta, but those who pre-order at a reduced price can play the beta version now. This review will cover Episode I.

Visual Presentation

Steel Storm is very pleasing to the eyes. Do not let the words “top down” fool you. Although it functions like a 2D top-down shooter, the game is actually rendered in 3D, giving you the full depth of each level, ship, and obstacle. Weapons fire and explosions are as bright and colorful as you would expect from a modern 3D shooter.

Steel Storm includes advanced graphics features like dynamic lighting and anti-aliasing, which make the game look stunning, compared to others in its genre. With moderate graphics settings, it worked well on both my 2.6Ghz quad core desktop and my Intel Atom/Nvidia Ion-based netbook.

You can choose different camera positions for your ship, which is particularly useful if you prefer a slightly angular view rather than straight top down.

Steel Storm Episode I screenshot

Features

The Linux version of the game came with both 32-bit and 64-bit executables, making it easy to install and run. To begin the game, you create a player profile and are immediately given options to start the action. The game supports multiple graphics resolutions and fit my 1440×900 precisely.

Episode I includes single-player campaigns, where the player must fight enemies, collect power-ups, and complete specified mission objectives. It also has the type of multi-player functionality you would expect in a first-person shooter, with death match and cooperative play. You can join currently running servers or host your own public or private death matches or campaigns. Do not expect to find a lot people in active matches, but that may change over time.

For even more extensibility, Steel Storm also has a level editor, allowing you to create your own campaigns and death matches. The editor is easy to use and builds upon already established level designs.

Gameplay

The default control scheme uses the mouse and keyboard, but the control system is customizable and supports the use of a gamepad. I found the gamepad to be more appropriate for this type of game, using one analog stick to control movement, and the other to aim.

Steel storm ship with teleporter

The average enemy ship is pretty easy to defeat, although it will still require dodging and hiding behind safe objects. Stationary guns also pose a threat, particularly if ships are also attacking at the same time. Some larger ships are more intelligent and require a bit more strategy, but you should not have much trouble defeating them one-on-one. The real challenge is taking on multiple ships at once. The most enjoyable weaponry are the missiles, and once you have them, you will definitely want to make use of them to quickly take out nearby enemies with one clustered shot.

Unlike some retro top-down shooters, Steel Storm actually requires you to do other things besides just shooting. You must find ways to open force fields, destroy enemy installations, and escape certain areas within a given amount of time. All of this adds a little more thought to the game, which is good if you like that type of gameplay and bad if you only wanted to blow things up.

Finding your way through a level to complete tasks can be confusing at times, but fortunately, there is a map to help you figure out where you have been and where you need to go.

Losing, blowing up in Steel Storm

Overall Impressions

Steel Storm is fun, and the added features make it a game you could potentially enjoy for hours. For multi-player fun, you may need to schedule matches with friends, but it should be easy to pick up, even for casual gamers. Considering it is free of charge, you get quite a lot, including the source code. Steel Storm’s gaming engine is licensed under the GNU General Public License, meaning you could conceivably create your own maps and enemies for it.

This game will not revolutionize shooters, and the strategy will not keep you up at night, but the gameplay is addictive enough to warrant the purchase. I give Steel Storm a perfect 5 out of 5.

3 comments

  1. While I’d like to boast about the many great features of this game, i’d
    like to point out some bad things while this game is getting “perfect”
    star reviews… which I think is silly. Steel Storm’s “mission 2” will
    claim you will need stealth and other “strategy”, but I found myself
    just shooting more things and watching enemies spawn right in-front of me
    and fire missiles point blank and then enemies flank me and then I die,
    only to re-spawn with no weapons, no power-ups, no anything.

    This game would be more fun if you didn’t lose your shit when you died
    so you can progress through the missions in a more entertaining and
    destructive way.. since you have 3 lives to 1 mission and everything in
    the world stays the same after you died (ships you killed from your
    other life are still dead etc). So ultimately there’s no point for losing
    weapons in the game, I might as well restart the whole mission the
    moment I die once, just to ensure I can beat the whole mission without
    the dinky mini-gun. The guns in the mission also carry over to the next
    level, so really.. there’s no point in dying when you have a 3 life
    stock. Very un-insightful forgiving game mechanic that not alot of
    developers see as a problem but rather a quick-fix solution. This whole
    crisis could of been avoided by having my guns drop from my burning
    wreckage so I can re-spawn, run past enemy gunfire while I pick up my power-ups to then fight back. That sounds more fun eh?

    I have yet to back attack or detonate any bombs in the second mission,
    as I cannot seem to progress through it entirely trying to figure out
    where to be solid snake or Rambo. On top of that the missions are
    repetitive, you’ll find yourself taking down the same cooling tower over
    and over while enemies spawn right on top of you pretty much. 3 kinds
    of enemies, the fast kind, the normal kind, and the strong kind. Some
    turrets shoot, others zap the dead ones back to life, and shoots
    missiles. That in itself is a wholesome enemy fighting experience, if
    only the spawn points for the enemies was better though. I know there’s a
    level editor but c’mon, make your official missions a baseline for
    quality or else i’m scared to try any user submitted levels of enemies
    spawning RIGHT front and behind me.

    The AI in the enemies are boasted well, they will shoot where you will move, but at times they tend to shoot randomly to try and trick you. On top of that they are dodging your gunfire while trying to get around corners and gain a line of sight to you. It’s hard for a game to have good AI path finding with flexibility, especially considering there’s a level editor that the AI shouldn’t have a problem with (ie: people making almost-inaccessible areas).

    The soundtrack is amazing, the gun noises are not hard to listen to, so
    that is good there. For a game thats 700 mb however, I was expecting
    more sound like ambiance, voice acting for missions so it doesn’t feel
    like the developers made the missions in the mission editor, where did
    that 700 mb go? Da graphics!

    I’m not much of a reviewer but I am picky when it comes to core gameplay mechanics and presentation.
    PS: Did they really have to rip off the DOS version of wolfenstien and add an insulting message whenever you quit the game, something like “You kiss your mother with that mouth?” feels like the game doesn’t like me or anyone very much. Direct line from wolfenstien: “Are you a weenie? Y/N”

    +Graphics
    +Sound
    -Gameplay
    -Presentation

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