While this may come as a shock to my adoring pawns, there are things I love. I love the distant screams of the tormented. I love duct taping small animals to ceiling fans. And I love when independent game companies come to me to write a review of their game alpha or beta. Why? Because they need me to make their crappy game look good. And nothing is more satisfying than a grown man groveling. So when I was asked to review the browser based game City of Steam I came with a contract for their souls. I figured I would probably find one nice thing to say about their game if they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. And I could feel their need drip like a leaky faucet into my basin of acceptance as I logged into the alpha version of their game. And as the game opened I began to chuckle with demented glee, dreaming of all the hoops they were going to have to jump through for me. But my laugh was cut short as the world they created was opened up to me and everything I was thinking vanished. I was in awe with the depth of beauty that sparkled into my eyes and as I took my first few steps into the wondrous world Mechanist Games offered to me, I felt myself sliding out of reality and into a world that very quickly I realized I never wanted to leave.
City of Steam is based on the tabletop RPG of a game called "The New Epoch" that puts all of your favorite RPG characters into a vast and sprawling world ripe with amazing steampunk technology and highly advanced magic melded together to form a landscape that bathes the eyes with an environment that intoxicates the soul and grips you with an eagerness to explore. But this was just an alpha version. Sure, the graphics may be among the best I had ever seen in games of this sort, but surely I would find a loss in how the game actually ran. I mean, it was obvious that they spent all their time on how it looked, so I would get them on how it played. To further this endeavor I also made sure I was on my oldest computer. That would teach them to impress me!
And again they impressed me. The movements of my character slid like warm silk on an infants bottom as I glissaded from one part of the city to the next, eager for what lay beyond what I could see. And it wasn't hard to know where to go. The minimap in the upper right hand corner, which somehow managed to both blend in and not distract from the scenery and yet was clearly easy to read offered me several options. That is when my personal guide, Mechanist Games marketing editor Gabriel, asked if I wanted to get out of the city and see something of the really cool stuff they had in the game. I blinked. This wasn't the cool part yet? Drool formed at the corners of my lips as I eagerly agreed. And then his character was gone. I looked for him but he was nowhere to be found. Most likely laughing at my confusion, he told me to click a little icon near his character's picture. I did and something crazy happened. I was instantly taken to where he was even though he was no longer in the city. Since when did games allow that? MMORPGs made you work to find your companions. But this one treated me like a king, dashing me across time and space to be part of the fun he was already having.
Together we killed giant scorpions with glowing green eyes and huge, black winged demons eager to suck the spirit from your corpse. We slaughtered corsair mercenaries and their hulking battle hounds and lavished in the crunches and whines of battered robotic monstrosities. Coins and treasures burst from our enemies as they fell and I greedily grabbed it up and stuffed it into my inventory leaving my generous host with nothing but my fleeing shadow as I raced towards my next victim. But monsters were only a part of what was out there awaiting me. Secret doors opened into huge rooms filled with treasure and mayhem galore. I grunted with delight as I hacked up my enemies and I winced when they retaliated. And I realized that I was so deeply engrossed with what was going on that I was no longer a man at the computer looking at a game. My character and I had become one being and I dreaded the thought of separating from him.
Then Gabriel separated me from him by asking me if I had leveled up yet. I tilted my head and said no. So I opened up the skill window and found three tabs worth of abilities I could learn. And each tab had a pipeline tree with skills you could not only take and use, but improve on as you leveled up, leaving an enormous number of personal combinations that made you unique among the other players.
I was amazed not only at how much time and care they put into making the game but also with their meticulous desire to make the game more user friendly than any other MMORPG out on the market. I could tell they had put in a great deal of time, sweat and energy in making this. And my god did it pay off. So I asked Gabriel how much it cost to be part of this when it was released to the public. I had made up my mind that I would die playing this game, and I was ready to fork over in advance whatever subscription fee they demanded of me. Gabriel was quiet for a moment.
"Pay?" he asked. "You don't pay to play this game. It's free for everyone." I nearly fainted in disbelief.
"But...you..." I stammered. "You could be filthy stinking rich from this mind-blowing game you have made, fool! You could own the FREAKING WORLD, man! I have never seen anything like this, and you are just going to GIVE IT AWAY?!?!?"
"Yup. We just want to see people happy and having fun here."
"I...how do you...GAH!" My mind reeled as this concept of being good to your fans and I ran away from him, hoping that last part was just a bad dream. And then my wife walked by and slapped me in the back of my head and I knew that what he said was real. I had found heaven in this game, and the kind and merciful gods of it opened the gates of it to all. And as I envisioned the future of City of Steam I knew I had just become part of something that history would sing praises to for centuries to come.
I felt a tear dance down my face as I finally brought this delightful experience to a close. In such a short amount of time City of Steam had won me over, taken me to bed and loved me like a virgin princess. And as the screen went blank and my fingertips lightly pawed at the screen where my newest love had just been, Gabriel spoke once more to me.
"I hope you enjoyed what we had to offer. I will let you know when we are done making improvements and let you come back and check out what we have added."
I am curious as to how they will be able to improve on perfection, but my heart throbs with need for the moment I will once again be able to embrace that which has touched me so. And my minions, I am a heartless, wicked thing. When City of Steam is released to the public, you will lose yourself and never come back and you won't care because you've finally found Shangri la. And I will be there waiting for you. Because I want to mangle you into tiny chunks in the immense PvP areas they created. Yes, you can even pound the tar out of your friends here. But that is an awesomeness all to itself. But just to torment you all that little bit more, I'm going to save that for part 2 of this blog. After all, a game this great cannot be summed up so easily, and this is only the tip of the iceberg of what they are going to give you. This is just the alpha of the game. When it comes time for you to play, City of Steam is going to blow you away.