All for Lady Liberty…
With all those interesting mechanics, it seems like this would end up being a pretty decent strategy game. Unfortunately, just like the cast of characters in Code Name S.T.E.A.M., it seems like a lot of unlike elements meshed into one doesn’t always turn out great.
For one, it’s nearly impossible to come up with any real strategy on your first attempt at any map. In spite of having an airship hovering above the battlefield, you never get an overhead map of anything, even pre-mission, and have to explore the field and remember it as you go along. Oftentimes I’d think there was a hiding place up ahead, or a ledge I could jump up on, only to find that this wasn’t the case and I was stuck in an exposed position for the next turn. Also, you can only ever see what’s immediately in front of your agents. On the aliens’ turns, if they’re not in your visual range, you can’t see them. This leads to some long, awkward periods of staring at nothing while aliens halfway across the battlefield…pace, or whatever it is they’re doing.
Also, it doesn’t help that all the aliens look about the same–like weird blue scorpions. Sometimes they get grenade launchers or look like elephants (this is not a joke), but when you’re halfway across the field and can’t get a good view, it’s hard to tell whether something isn’t going to notice you unless you make a lot of noise, or has already noticed you and is going to wreck you next turn. With the exception of boss monsters and some of the later creatures, I found it basically impossible to keep track of which alien was which and what it did.
Because of the difficulty in strategizing, it actually made the game feel less complex than more.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. attempts to add new mechanics to deal with on a regular basis–some levels have ledges you can climb on, or vantage points. Some have tanks you can drive around, or explosive barrels. There are items scattered around the battlefield–healing items, coins and gears for upgrades, steam canisters, and big hourglass looking things where you can save your game mid-mission and either heal one, or all your party for some coins…though they can only be used once.
Yet I never felt I was able to adequately strategize–I couldn’t see what was going on half the time, the fields are often narrows and full of stuff you can’t see past, and there are so many aliens. You’re constantly outnumbered, and if you do manage to clear most of the aliens out and try to go back and collect gears or coins, more start flooding in because you took too long to clear the level. This game gets hard. If you’re not already pretty good at strategy games, then by the fifth or sixth chapter this game might be a struggle. I constantly had to restart levels. There isn’t a difficulty setting, though there are additional challenge modes where you can collect more coins and gears.
Because of the difficulty in strategizing, it actually made the game feel less complex than more. I was so worried about losing half my team to the next round of aliens, that I was forced to play cautiously all the time. The basic structure of every round was about the same. Slowly move the agents up to the next good hiding spot, shoot any aliens in your way, and save some overwatch attacks for the aliens’ turn. If I died and restarted the level with an idea of what the map looked like and what to expect, I was able to plan accordingly and actually use my environment in a useful way. But by the end, I was restarting levels so frequently that I was just frustrated and unmotivated to continue.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. does feature amiibo functionality, but with there being no Fire Emblem amiibos anywhere, I wasn’t able to test it. It looks like using any of the Fire Emblem amiibos adds that figure as a playable character. The game also features Street Pass functions, which lets you share your high scores on missions and earn additional coins and gears.
Finally, there’s the Versus mode, a multiplayer function that pits you against your friends locally or wirelessly. It looks like both players choose their teams, sub-weapons, and everything else just like a regular mission, and then duke it out on a particular field against one another, though like the previous options, I was unable to test this.
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Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a quirky game. A really quirky game, with some interesting ideas for gameplay. Such a strange concept promised to be new and exciting, but it ended up just being kind of weird, really hokey, and a bit too challenging. The game is certainly functional and pretty, and can be interesting at times, but it fails to live up to its own expectations. It is long, and you’ll get plenty of play out of it with all the challenge modes added to the campaign missions. Because I spent so much time dying it’s hard to give an accurate time estimate. Each map after the introductory areas, played straight through, lasts about 45 minutes to an hour, so perhaps 30 hours is a good ballpark estimate.
If you like strategy games, or mostly-American history or literature, or are just looking for something really bizarre, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. might be for you. It’s not a bad game, but it’s certainly not a great one, and not worth the forty or so dollars if you’re casually looking for something new to play.
A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.
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