There are times when you just can’t play every game. Sometimes, it’s a title that gets lost in the shuffle of big name titles. Or, you can only choose one game at the time, and then by the time you’re ready to get the game you didn’t before, there’s a new one you want to get. Finally, there are times you’re just not sure about a game, so you wait until it goes on sale or discount, and then you might consider trying it. I’ve had that happen to me a lot these last six months, and then in the course of a month I got five games in the span of two weeks. Yet of those five, the one I enjoyed the most was the one I wasn’t sure I would purchase. So allow me to do a review of a game you might have missed with Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is made by the same team who develops the Fire Emblem series, Intelligent Systems, and you can tell they input a lot of their Fire Emblem knowledge into the game. In addition, they added new bits of fun and flair that make this a totally unique experience. The game is set in a version of our world where aliens have invaded, and it’s up to a group of fighters both legendary and literary to save us all. Their weapons are made up of machines powered by steam itself, giving a cool futuristic look to the game. Your group is led by the one and only Abraham Lincoln, who foresaw the alien menace coming to Earth and prepped a team to stop them. Your mission is to lead your team through various missions to both disrupt the aliens, find and save key allies, and eventually save the planet.
One of the things I really liked about Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is that the story isn’t a typical one in regards to saving the world. It’s a simple, “get the team, save the day!” scenario. Your team comes naturally through level progression, and as for saving the day, it takes a very long time for that to happen. While some may think this is odd, it really helps sell the threat of the alien menace, and just how dangerous a threat they pose to our world. There are some really shocking moments in the story, and that proves that the team at Intelligent Systems knows what they’re doing.
The gameplay is what makes Code Name S.T.E.A.M. so special. The game fuses turn based strategy with free range movement to create an engaging and strategic experience. Each character you use has a certain amount of steam built up per turn. With that steam, you can either move around the field (via squared tiles), or attack your foes and/or objects in the field. Using the steam wisely will determine whether you succeed or fail.
Strategy truly is the name of the game here, as levels are broken up into maps that have different goals you need to complete. Sometimes you need to reach a certain point on the map. Other times you’ll need to kill a certain enemy, or destroy an object that is in your way. Using your four person team in the correct formation can determine how fast you win, or even if you win at all. In one scenario, I had to use a character who was light weight-wise in order to climb a couple ridges to use a weapon with a lot of firepower so that I could kill a boss monster. Without him, I lost twice before, so I swapped him in and then one. Another time, I needed two characters with enough firepower to destroy obstacles in our way, so I used a character that I knew had a powerful rocket launcher. With her (along with another character), I was able to divide up my team and conquer the level in no time.
The other true strength of Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is the diversity of characters. As I mentioned earlier, your team is comprised of both literary characters and legendary historical figures. From John Henry and Henry Fleming, to Queque, The Fox, and more, there’s a lot of characters to choose from. Each character has their own unique weapons, skills, abilities, and steam packs. You’ll quickly find out who you like the best, as you’ll be warned when a new character is coming, and thus you’ll have a level to test them out on to see if they’ll be on your team or not going forward. Each member has a main weapon that’s unique to them, but they also have a sub-weapon you can swap and make them customizable to your needs. If they’re a long range character that uses a lot of steam? You can give them a short range weapon that uses less. If you know your team takes a lot of damage? You can give them a healing tool so they don’t die.
These decisions are vital, as the aliens in Code Name S.T.E.A.M. are as diverse as your team. And much like your team, they each have strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that they also all have an exposed weakness. However, the bad news is that you can’t always get to them, so you have to be clever in order to kill them quickly. That is a key difference between Fire Emblem and Code Name S.T.E.A.M., where in the former you always know your opponents and what they’re equipped to do; while the latter doesn’t show all the enemies right at the start. You have to adapt on the fly, which makes the game even more compelling.
You may have heard that the enemies take a lot of time to do their turns. Thankfully, Nintendo has fixed that issue. By the time I got the game, you can fast forward the enemy turns so it takes seconds and not minutes like before.
You may be thinking this game is perfect, or pretty close, but sadly, it’s not. One feature really bogged down the overall experience, or more accurately, was a major source of frustration. In the game, there’s an ability called “Overwatch”, where you can save up steam in order to do attacks in a defensive strategy. In other words, if you have enough steam to attack, and you wait for the enemy to come to you, you can attack them. This causes enemies to stop temporarily, and possibly help yourself in the future. This, as a tactic, is brilliant because it adds another layer of strategy to the game. However, there are setbacks that cause me to question it. At times, my characters won’t lock on with the Overwatch ability, even though the enemy is in front of them. In addition, the enemy has this ability as well, and after their turns (where it always seems they use up all of their steam), they always seem to be able to use Overwatch. It’s mind-boggling because I don’t know how that’s possible. In one level, I was literally one square away from winning, but because one enemy still had the ability to use Overwatch, I was killed just short of it.
That being said, the game is still incredibly fun. The comic book style cutscenes are fun and unique, the story is deep and compelling, and the gameplay is near infinitely replayable with all the ways you can build your team and build them to your style of play. Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a game you might have missed, and hopefully this review will inspire you to try it out. If you time it right, you might get it a low cost! And if not? Well, you might want to try it out anyway. And I hope you do, cause Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is worth the time you put into ti.