Developer: Intelligent Systems
Review Context: This marks my second strategy game experience alongside Fire Emblem Awakening in the turn-based, strategy genre.
Date of Playthrough: March 30, 2015
Intelligent Systems’ first New Nintendo 3DS handheld game has been published in the form of a turn-based, third-person shooter known as Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. This marks one of the first games -aside from Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and other reverse compatible games- that has utilized one of the handheld’s new control capability, specifically the c-stick. Most notably renowned for developing one of the highest rated games for the 3DS –Fire Emblem Awakening– Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. functions much like Awakening with limited moves allowed for the players to choose from in the campaign as well as online multiplayer formats.
The game equips the player with zany characters who elude divergent assortments in both historical and fictional figures ranging from the brave lion in The Wizard of Oz to Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, players find themselves in the all-too familiar contemporary plot line: aliens plotting to destroy earth. In spite of this, the wacky story along with comic-like graphics translates decently on the 3DS. After logging a substantial amount of time around the vicinity of 25 hours, I found the gameplay to function decently, especially with the integrated c-stick control functionality, which allows players to aim at enemies during combat situations.
The game also has an Amiibo feature, specifically for Fire Emblem characters like Roy, Marth, Lucina and Ike. The former two characters have been released in the United States; however, the latter characters are slated for release sometime in April. I have yet to use this feature, as I do not own any amiibo figurines, but as with the initial lineup, Marth and Roy have certain abilities they are able to use in the game that serve to give the player an advantage over the enemy.
Before I ventured into the single player mode, I was given the choice to pick from different guns, party members and boilers—upgrades that allow the player to use different amounts of steam to move around the map as well as statistical upgrades they can utilize to boost defense, offensive and healing attributes. I found the different specialties of the characters to be extremely helpful, especially when I found myself in dire situations. For example, John Henry’s grenade, motor-like gun to eliminate foes, has an aoe (area of effect) move that can damage multiple enemies with a single hit.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. truly holds the player in a precarious position, as enemy whereabouts are constantly in question due to the absence of any maps throughout the different levels. This adds to the difficulty of the game as I had to replay the third level a few times before I could advance further in the campaign mode. I would say that this serves to complicate the player’s thinking. This is truly a lacking component that seems to permeate many different contemporary games. As a gamer who prefers to be challenged considerably, this was a welcomed addition.
The online aspect offers a generous variety of content, featuring three different game modes to choose from -death mode, medal and A.B.E. battles- along with tournaments hosted periodically by Nintendo. All gamers beware: If you plunge straight into the online multiplayer without sufficiently investing time in the single player mode, you may get obliterated by the competition. This is precisely what I experienced after electing to start the online mode before venturing into the campaign. Suffice to say, all progress made in the latter mode transfers into online play. In contrast, some aspects of the online quotient seemed rather bland; in spite of the plethora of maps to choose from, they lack in variety and all look visually similar.
S.T.E.A.M. takes advantage of the c-stick capabilities in both the aiming aspect and manipulating the camera during the player’s turn—as well as the enemy’s turn, but in a limited fashion. This allows for the element of surprise to be somewhat diluted, which helps considerably during the multiplayer as well. During one of my death matches, I used this strategy to gain an advantage on an albeit seemingly amateur player as I was able to look over one of the S.T.E.A.M. boxes on the first map option of the drop-down menu.
There are many strategies to be used in this game. Some methods, however, are either more effective than others, or can hinder the player entirely. During the beginning stages, I found that staying in one spot and covering all of my flanks worked effectively, especially given the ‘overwatch’ technique—this attribute varies on the gun equipped for each character, as it allows for players to defensively engage enemies during the latter’s turn. As one might expect, the levels increase dramatically in difficulty which forces the user to adopt different strategies to progress in the game. This is a result from the hordes of enemies the map throws at the player. After about five turns, a seemingly endless wave of reinforcements arrive on the map which forces the player to keep their units together as much as possible.
In addition to hosting periodic tournaments, players will soon be able to fast-forward enemy turns in the single-player campaign mode. This is a welcomed addition for me as the duration of enemy turns would often vary from five to forty seconds—this solely depends on the amount of aliens present during the level. During the most recent Nintendo Direct, Bill Trinen –Nintendo of America’s Director of Product Marketing- said there is no release date for this much needed upgrade, but elected to say that gamers should be checking Nintendo’s twitter feed for further information. [NOTE: The update mentioned above is now available in the Nintendo e-shop]
Overall, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. offers an experience that truly challenges players to think and exploit weaknesses in fun –and at times very stressful- combat situations. Despite the mundane content and generic alien apocalyptic storyline, S.T.E.A.M. is a great game for advocates of the strategy genre. It should be noted the level of difficulty is considerable, especially for first-time players who are not well accustomed to strategy games.
Similar Games Liked:
Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)
Valkyria Chronicles (PC)