Honestly, I never expected to be so overwhelmed by City of Steam as I was on Saturday. Because, when you start to play an alpha, what can you expect? Glitchy graphics, bad animations, functions missing altogether. What I got was smooth, funny and impressive.
But, before I go deeper, let's start with a correction: in my first post I said that
"My first impressions were: This is not Steampunk, and it's very action oriented."
Although that was indeed my first impression from the video, I was mistaken: it is indeed steampunk.
So, let's analyse it a bit.
The big picture:
This is a steampunk dungeon dwelling game flavoured with magic and fantastical races.
When you play a post-apocalyptic game, you expect lot's of browns, dust, ruins, trash and mutants. When you play Steampunk, you expect cogs, gauges, brass, steam, machinery. This is exactly what you get, and maybe a bit more. As I didn't expect much, the game easily impressed me with its already production quality graphics. I love that they didn't make it cartoonish - there are bits and bobs which look like something from a cartoon, like the big robots, but altogether it is pretty serious. They captured quite a lot of the atmosphere of the Victorian era, which helps the get immersed.
From the technical perspective, on my 3 year old machine I've had about 30-40 fps almost constantly (except when loading a level), which is sufficient. Sometimes there are issues with the camera placing - there are a lot of confined spaces where you have to manually find an angle from which you can actually see what you are doing, but I expect this to change for the better.
Movement is done with WASD and/or click-to-move movement. This is good, yet I hope they plan to allow me to turn of the mouse click one - it is really annoying when I click on a click-through window, and the character immediately starts running there. Other than that, it's the usual stuff, except for the guide boards.
Guide boards (I don't know the official term for them) are big boards around the town (obviously not in the dungeons) which give you the ability to click on a goal, and automatically move there. This movement is not instantaneous though; your character runs there on foot. Strangely, you are not able to jump, but in this case it is not as bad as with other games.
Combat: As of now, this is a bit confusing for me. The controls seem to be a mixture of the static and the dynamic style, where you have to pick a target first, but you do the attacking yourself (either with the keyboard or the mouse) instead of using auto attack and spamming 123 constantly. I think it would be better to allow the player to simply shoot, and pick the target automatically (in a wide shooting line). Obviously, as I only played a ranged (dual pistol) character, I don't know what it is like with a close combat character.
It is kind of like the normal advancement path in dungeon dweller games, where you have 3 ability trees, and you need to spend certain amount of points to buy the abilities, and there are level and previous ability requirements for unlocking new abilities. Also, abilities are multi level ones.
But there is a tiny bit about this I wanted to mention: The ability window looks like a big steam engine with pipes, taps and gauges and you can unlock an ability (gauge) by opening a tap on a pipe. It looks great, and the requirements are easier to understand too.
Your character obviously have weapons, armour and trinkets, including in this latter the belt, necklace, rings, etc. All items have an upgradeable quality level. The lowest quality items will have serious negative bonuses, so it worth to replace/upgrade them as soon as possible. Upgrading is a tricky business though - you will need a lot of money and materials for this, so you have to find a balance between selling and disassembling items.
Pretty much the standard "collect this", "kill that" kind, with a few gems here and there (Ie. find all hidden clockroach models in the area) (yes, that is CLOCKroach..) The story is interesting, though.
One particularly interesting "quest" was the tutorial itself. I think it is a work of a genius, because they found a place where it is totally logical to have a linear advancement without any chance to get lost, and it is a perfect prologue for the actual game.
I am very satisfied with the UI, didn't even feel the need to reorder or resize anything. The only thing that worries me is that a lot of windows are attached to the border. Sometimes this is great, but to move stuff from the left border to the right border and back is a bit wasteful - in other games I have the habit of ordering my craft/bank/whatever window next to my inventory, so the moving is easy and quick. I know I am lazy :D On the other hand, attached windows look much better than the unattached ones.
Hopefully my alpha key will let me play on the next two alpha weekends, and I can get around to play with other classes as well. I'd also like to try grouping, and - if there is any - PvP. Expect further posts.
To get the feel...
...here is a short example what it is like to play:
After logging in yesterday, I checked my abilities first, because I forgot to spend points on them for a few levels. After that I went to the quest bulletin - it is an object close to the "main square", where there is a list of questgivers, with a few words about their quests. I've noticed one that I saw earlier, but didn't work on, and I was curious - it was about a special dungeon.
So I clicked on the name of the questgiver, which is the same as clicking on the guide board. The character ran there, I talked to the NPC, and was teleported to the dungeon with the clockroaches.
The most basic type of clockroach - small and flat - has an annoying property: they explode after being killed. Of course, as a ranged character, I see this as a tactical opportunity to kill them from afar, and hurt the others standing around. This was a good advantage, although sometimes, because of having problems with targetting, I ended up shooting them when they were close, thus being caught by their explosions. Probably because this was a special dungeon, there was a lot of loot around, my inventory filled up with potions and items. Luckily, I dropped almost everything from my inventory into the storage before I went down, but I still had to trash a few items while I was in the dungeon - the drop rate was incredible.
After killing armies of clockroaches, chemical roaches and clockroach soldiers, opening a lot of boxes, looting wagonloads of items, I've arrived to the last room. This was the first time I died - even after drinking a health potion, there were too much enemies. Luckily I was able to revive on the spot, and kill everything that was left. The whole dungeon run took about an hour, earned me a lot of stuff, and helped to upgrade the quality of a weapon three times.
I'll post some screenshots, when I get back to my home computer.