|Amusing genre with animated machines|
| Graphics could be sharper
Quests are lack-luster
The grind, oh the grind!
Quests, Combat, Skills & Pets
So what is Neo Steam about? It is a hack and slash game. You start off in your underoos with a newbie weapon in hand and are immediately sent off to hunt down ten
My Elerd machinist though, was asked to repair a machine by obtaining five
Quests are the usual kill quests and FedEx quests, and they are sparse in Chrysalis. Quest keepers in most towns will list quests by level, area and name the NPC that gives it out. Quests open up to your character by level and in a different twist, NPCs send you a tell/whisper when you run by to ask you if you would do a quest for them. Personally, I like the feature as it does seem a little more immersive than just simply running around looking for NPCs with exclamation marks above their heads. Once you receive that tell though, the exclamation mark does appear above their heads. The harvesting quests need to be tuned. It takes more than 30 seconds to harvest or gather an item during which time you can be attacked by a hostile mob and the harvest fails.
Combat is auto-attack and if you like, auto-target and run to the mob and attack as well although skills have to be manually activated. Skills are raised through SP (skill points) and TP (training points). Although the first skill point in any skill in your skill tree only requires SP. Skill points are awarded each time you level and Training points from playing the game and killing things. Some combat skills are weapon associated. A skill named "Swift Blade" will not work if you are using a bludgeon. Skills do an insane amount of damage so progression, especially in the early stages of the game, is quick and I had more skill points than enough training points to progress my skills. A few health potions, gather up all the mobs you can aggro, fire off an AoE skill and you're golden.
I found in the normal course of combat even after level 20, that you gain skill points faster than training points to level a skill, but Neo Steam has a nifty feature - the Trainer. At the cities, you can find a trainer, initiate a training session and go AFK for dinner. You cannot do anything else but buy and sell anyway when you are in training mode and according to the game guide, you gain 300 TP every five minutes. That should get you enough TP for the next step up in skill as inflation in TP steps is exponential.
All players start off with a pet. At inception, they are a little balloon like object which also acts as your help-desk in the early tutorial, chirping up as you level with a new tip. They must be fed and trained at the pet trainer for them to evolve, level and develop skills that will assist you, such as healing during combat. They provide you with the town portal spell and we're told that we need to keep them happy or they just might not respond when we require that town portal. Some newbie area mobs drop pet-milk, but not all areas seem to drop them. They eat junk as well, so you can feed them that 20th weapon you looted that you can't use.
Crafting & Itemization
Crafting in Chrysalis also uses Neo Steam and all classes can craft using the Refiner and the Steamforge in town, but the Machinist has two additional skills. In the Refining Machine, raw materials are made into usable components. For example, ores can be refined into ingots, and animal skins into leather. The Refiner can also make potions from raw materials and flight routes can be organized into a book. The Machinist can use the Refiner for dismantling a finished item to its component state. In the Steamforge, players can alter the state of armor and equipment. This effectively randomly re-assigns stats on the piece, and yes, it can get worse than what you started out with. The other use for the Steamforge is to enhance items by sticking a core machine into a socket or adding a stat boost to armor and equipment. The Machinist further uses the Steamforge to craft items such as armor, equipment and machine cores.
Raw materials drop from mobs - no, do not ask where that frog is hiding an iron ingot - and ore can also be mined, with a machine of course, that uses Neo Steam. Crafting can be started at a very low character level as raw materials drop off mobs. Items that drop off mobs are myriad but mostly for the weapon and accessory slots, rings, pendants and the like. Rewards from quests can give you treasure chests that you can only open when level appropriate.
Looting mob body loot is not automatic but gold is. The same right click to target/attack a mob or the ~ key will also loot. As mentioned, gold is easy to obtain. There is only one coin denomination, with no exchange of silver or copper but even basic low level armor costs 2,000 gold and above, and your first subway ride on quest is free, but subsequent rides cost upwards of 5,000 gold depending on your destination. One annoying thing about travel is that it strips your buffs.
The banking system is world wide and accessed through an NPC in any town, there is a cost of 500 gold each time you access your bank but you have 50 inventory slots, most things stack and by the time you want to store things in your bank, gold really isn't an issue.
Neo Steam: The Shattered Lands is free to play and Atlus monetizes by allowing players to buy convenience items. A player can buy health potions, skill and XP gain items and such things as increased inventory, mounts and vanity costumes - in three slots, the face, head and back, so if a player so chooses, he could have a fancy hat, eye-patch and dashing cloak. Examples of some of these items are: increase XP gain by 30% for 4 hours, 10% additional gold gain for 2 hours, etc. Usable items included warp scrolls to warp players to various towns in the game, summoning scrolls with which to summon other players to you, and health, mana and stamina replenishment potions. The currently popular item is one that allows you to change your race. That is to say, you can play a race/class combination that was not available at character creation.
Social & Community
Grouping in Neo Steam is not as easy as it could be. Parties have to be created through the UI, named and a password set, or you could get gate-crashers. They can accommodate up to eight members, XP and gold are automatically split, but looting is set at party set-up and can be set to free for all, sequential and random. Most groups I have joined are just players who happen to be hunting in the same area. Random invite and free for all, with everyone hunting individually but believing that with the sharing of XP, leveling goes faster.
Guilds in Neo Steam get access to quests that are guild only and they also grow in level and rank. Guilds also earn guild points that are used to for various guild actions, such as a Guild Workout, which increases the number of Training Points gained during training.
There are only two servers online at time of this review, Voltspire and Runeshaper. Players can log into either with their characters. They seem to have slightly different feels depending on the nation you are playing. Chatter is mostly about game features and players asking for information. Events are also run often, with worldwide messages encouraging players to join in the fun. Since launch in June, different player guides have been published on the forums, which are a generally friendly if quiet place.
PvP and the End Game
The nations of Elerd and Rogwel are at war, as such, much of the end game is PvP-centric, starting at about 41. PvP is open, however towns are always safe zones, and there are also neutral zones for players who prefer not to play PvP. Many high level quests do require players to travel to the enemy nation to take out their guards, which opens them to attack from players of the opposing nation. No noobie ganking allowed. PvP zones are level limited, which is to say, players above a certain level will not be able to play in those zones.
In the open PvP zones, there are also Dimensional Rifts which also provide safe areas. MOBs can cross them, and still attack you, but once players are in the rift, PvP is disabled. There are also arenas and battlefields that provide anything from one on one PvP to nation vs nation battles using siege engines, scheduled hour on the hour in level brackets.
PvP rank has its privileges and there are NPCs in towns that will only sell to players who have attained a certain PvP rank. Some of these items include fancy mounts and fancier armor.
In this reviewer's opinion, Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent does not stand out in the field. Steampunk elements are not enough to make it a Steampunk game and the classes are really just generic fantasy stock - even the Machinist can be compared to a Tinker / Armor / Equipment Smith and uses guns. That said, players that enjoy playing in guilds and team based PvP may certainly enjoy the battlefields in Neo Steam. It is attractive enough in and of itself if you take it for what it is: a fantasy hack and slash, free to play MMO with visual hallmarks of the Steampunk genre and an RvR end game. The machines are certainly cool looking. Very cool if you ask me, especially the animated ones.