City of Steam | Hands-On

Published on November 16th, 2012

A free-to-play browser MMO unlike any other.

City of Steam | Hands On

There are a wealth of character creation options which mix fantasy archetypes with modern weaponry. Some of them event wear clothes too!

Browser games have a bad reputation, and you know what? For the most part they deserve it! For every one of them that tries something daring and different, for instance Might & Magic Heroes Kingdoms, you have a half a dozen sloppily put together efforts which are nothing more than thinly veiled money extractors.

Thankfully belongs in the former catagory not the latter, and for a game that you can play entirely in your browser it looks pretty solid. Boasting a fantasy world which has experienced an industrial revolution much like our own, with sleek Harleys and long trains which look as though they’ve stepped out of a substantially more bad-ass version of Back to the Future II,I means this online-only game is set to get a lot of attention. And best of all beneath this impressively different and sleek looking exterior is still a fully fledged MMORPG.

We had the pleasure of the being the first journalist on the planet to step foot in the town of Refuge and we have to admit it felt pretty good. From the start we created our a simple Goblin Gunner who specialised in chemical weaponry from a wealth of different race, class and combat specification options. As the product of just thirty developers, a bunch of ex-pats mostly located mostly in China, this hack-n-slash MMO follows a familiar structure.

City of Steam | Hands On

Modding weapons with components changes their capabilities and appearance as well.

There’s no need to download a client of any size or pre-load any software like most browser games (we’re looking at you F1 Online and Auto Club Revolution), instead you simply log into your account and the game’s main menu is waiting for you. All the content is streamed in, including cutscenes, gear choices, randomised dungeons, environments and everything else you can think of.

City of Steam follows a heavily instanced format, with all the commonly corridor-like dungeons entirely separate entities to the town locations which link them all together.

City of Steam | Hands On

Town environments are just as rich as any other MMO.

During the hands-on we didn’t really get a sense of the overarching story, which involves the titular city being invaded by a massive skyscraper-sized technological construct, but there was plenty of humour inherent in the game’s design with our NPC uncle telling us to rush into the next area while not addressing the army of Clockroaches amassing around our embattled avatar. Terrible puns aside it seems the story and the overall atmosphere doesn’t take itself too seriously.

City of Steam | Hands On

City of Steam looks a cut above other free-to-play browser games.

Every fantasy staple seems to have been given a Steampunk lick of paint with the skill tree resembling gears and piping and weapons which are able to be modded in real-time, with your in-world offering resembling exactly the same customisable construction that you’ve fiddled around with in menus.

Another cool feature was the ability for players to auto-pathfind their way around big settlements simply by clicking on interactive icons on city billboards, and before we forget there were also challenge quests for players to test themselves, with goals ranging from clearing a dungeon full of monsters to taking out liberally sprinkled boxes around an area.

It’s hard to judge the overall quality of City of Steam, as a lot of its core systems were still being tinkered with during our hands-on, but Machinist games certainly has big plans. Each race in the game will have their own storyline and with each update the ‘Epic Questline’ (not LOTRO-related before you ask) will be extended onwards with the developers taking feedback from players in accordance to judge where to stir the plot next. That kind of openness is brave and refreshing in the often closed off world of big budget MMO development, but then City of Steam isn’t your typical MMO and it certainly isn’t big budget.

City of Steam | Hands On

See we told you City of Steam has motorbikes!

This most impressive part of City of Steam is the browser-based technology behind it and how economical and efficient Mechanist have been when it comes to world design and data usage. The opening tutorial area only clocks in at a couple of megs, yet the environment still seems varied and welcoming. We suspect that this is the game’s most important strength at the moment, the rest is clearly still in development, but seeing as City of Steam is still just finding its feet – still months away from a proper launch – Mechanist has plenty of time to add more content and polish up their efforts.

If you’d like to try City of Steam for yourself, feel free to pick up a Closed Beta key by clicking on this link.


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