Review: Codename Steam (Nintendo 3DS)

Codename Steam: Official GBAtemp Review

Nintendo 3DS 3,413 views 5 likes 9 comments
Reviewed by Krista Noren, posted Apr 11, 2015
Apr 11, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): March 13, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): May 15, 2015
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Intelligent Systems
  • Genres: Turn-Based Strategy
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
A new game for the 3DS developed by Intelligent Systems, a developer known for their outstanding games in the strategy genre. Have they created another hit game? Or did this title run out of steam?
Krista Noren
Classic literary figures join together to form a ragtag army in a steampunk version of America, so that they can serve President Abraham Lincoln and fight against an alien invasion, using dark arts and steam powered guns. You'll also see a giant mech. With all those wacky factors combined, Codename Steam’s premise is hilarious and enticing. Which is a shame, because while Codename Steam has many good ideas, the game doesn’t manage to take full advantage of them.

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While the concept of the game is great, the story is bland and there isn’t much more to it than, “find alien, destroy alien, move on, and repeat." There was a ton of potential in using such a diverse roster of characters from so many well-known literary works, such as the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz, Tiger Lily from Peter Pan, and Tom Sawyer, but outside of one-liner quips and signature weapons, none of the cast really get any time for development.

Gameplay

There are so many botched gameplay elements that stop Codename Steam from being something fully enjoyable. Maps are grating and tedious, sometimes taking well over 25 minutes to clear, which is just abhorrent. You’ll also be encouraged to explore the area and take your time, but endless enemy reinforcements will stop you in your tracks and proceed to take out all your units, forcing you to restart the level.

Battles allow you to pick up to four characters to take into a fight, each with their own special primary weapon. Sub-weapons can be unlocked and equipped as well, and exist in lieu of an experience point based system, although only a scarce amount of the guns are actually useful. The combat is similar to the likes of Valkyria Chronicles, in that you are given 3rd person control of your units to try and tactically take down your enemies on the map.

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Each unit is given steam each turn, which determines how many actions you can perform. Moving across each grid on the map takes up 1 steam point, and firing your weapon ranges from 1-4 points. To use your weapon, you manually aim using either the touchscreen or the c-stick, and fire with L. In theory, it sounds simple. However, enemies will constantly bounce and twitch as you try to aim, causing you to occasionally miss your attacks. There’s also a bird-like alien that will occasionally appear on a map and proceed to wreck your day. It stays far above your characters, and will only stay in your sights for less than half of a second. Once you miss, and trust me, you will, the bird will hit you with a weak attack that will cause you to take double damage from the next attack that hits you. You’ll wind up wasting all your steam during your turns trying to take these annoyances out, if you yourself aren’t taken out first.

If you end your turn, but still have enough steam leftover to fire your weapon, you’ll go into overwatch mode. While in overwatch, you’ll be able to surprise attack enemies that walk into your range of fire (Denoted by a red line of sight). In theory, this element is great; you can plan all sorts of strategic attacks on the opposing team. The problem is, it doesn’t always work how it should. Sometimes an enemy will walk right up to you and fire before your overwatch attack can activate, and then end its turn. That’s not the worst of it either, because enemies can perform unlimited overwatch attacks, and they get much better range than you could ever hope to have. Codename Steam also has no overhead view or map. You’re forced to scout around and look for the enemies scattered about and plan your attacks based around your lack of vision of the battlefield. As you traverse about the field, you will constantly be caught by impossible to detect overwatch attacks from the enemy. Placement and aiming is so terrible, you’ll be able to clearly see the enemy, but will be unable to shoot. You can try to get into range, but that will just lead to the opponent launching an overwatch attack, while you’re still unable to attack the enemy. If you so much as twitch or try to get back under cover that’s just a mere hair away, you’ll be hit again. Once that happens, you’ve lost enough HP to the point the enemy is free to take your unit out on the next turn. It’s an aggravating mechanic that’s unfair to the player, and creates somewhat of an artificial difficulty to the game. Terrible design choices like this make Codename Steam feel like a train wreck in the gameplay department.

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There’s also the issue of load times between turns. It takes an insane amount of time for the game to process the enemy’s turn, making the wait feel like an eternity. Luckily, there’s been a patch released that addresses this issue and fixes the problem.

On the flip side, the game has a few really great levels that lack the above criticisms I have. These maps are enjoyable and fun to play, the terrain gives you a good view of the area, and the land is varied enough visually, so you won’t get lost or go in circles. There’s a good balance of fair enemies in these handful of levels, and it’s a blast to take them down. It’s just a shame the rest of the single-player game didn’t have this quality to it.

There is also a multiplayer option. You can make a team and fight against others online or locally, in either Death Match or Medal Battle. Multiplayer mode is where Codename Steam gets to really shine. When playing against other human players, the irksome enemy AI and their bothersome mechanics no longer plague you. Each player’s turn lasts 60 seconds, as you move across the map, trying to either take down your opponent, or collect the most amount of medals on a map. While these modes are entertaining in small doses, there's not enough variety to keep me coming back to play for extended amounts of time. Had Codename Steam played like this in the campaign mode, it would have been a stellar game.

Certain Amiibo such as Marth, Ike, Lucina, and Robin of Fire Emblem fame are supported. Scan the respective character, and they join your roster of playable characters. Should they fall in battle, you won’t be able to revive them until you scan them again after the fight is over.

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Codename Steam provided just less than 20 hours of gameplay for the main campaign. Should you be inclined to unlock all the weapons, you’ll have a few more hours of content to go through.
Verdict
Pros
+ Really cool premise
+ Great visual style
+ Multiplayer modes
Cons
- The aiming system
- Artificial difficulty
- Lack of an ability to see your surroundings/No map
7 Presentation
There’s a charm to the steampunk comic book-esque style of the game. The visuals look great, especially with the 3D turned on. Character models stand out, and look fantastic.
5 Gameplay
It’s a shame the gameplay mechanics of Codename Steam feel like a chore. There’s a ton of lost potential, because there’s something great here, but the developer just missed the mark.
5 Lasting Appeal
Once you beat the game, there’s really nothing to keep you coming back to it, unless you like fully collecting every item in the game. The levels occasionally have different pathways to take, but aren’t rewarding enough to warrant replaying an area for. The online modes are fun to play, and are worth coming back to every once in a while, but they will quickly become repetitive.
5.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Codename Steam managed to set expectations high, but ultimately was not able to deliver a captivating game. There are so many great ideas here, but most of them go without being fully utilized. Bland and annoying gameplay mechanics keep this game from being something truly enjoyable.
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