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Advance Wars. Fire Emblem. Do those games ring a bell? They most certainly do for me. I personally prefer Advance Wars over the latter, but to each their own. Intelligent Systems has a new IP for the masses and it comes as another turn-based strategy game. Once I heard this and played the demo, I pre-ordered. How could I pass up?
Despite the game’s length, I could not tell you much about the story. I do know that London is under attack and the entire world runs on steam. The character you start off with is Henry who ends up being recruited by a group cleverly called, S.T.E.A.M. They are out to save the queen and fend off the alien attack that is threatening to kill them all. Abraham Lincoln is in charge of the group and apparently he never died. He says that it was all “just rumors” in regards to his death. I had to laugh at this. Which reminds me, the writing here is clever. Not overly clever, but enough to give you a few chuckles. Abraham Lincoln alone had me laughing.
I really felt like the story was a missed opportunity as Intelligent Systems has told great stories in the Fire Emblem series and silly stories in the Advance Wars series.
This game is rated T for teen. While I believe the game is clean, there may be a few things you need to be aware of if you are purchasing this for someone under the age of ten. This title has you shooting guns, launching grenades, and the like. It comes across as cartoony and not at all serious. You will mostly be shooting aliens, however online multiplayer will have you shooting at other members of S.T.E.A.M. When you blow up some of these aliens you may also see mild blood splatter. It is fast and if you blink then you may miss it. There was nothing in Code Name S.T.E.A.M. that I would deem you to be cautious about if you are over the age of ten.
As I stated in the opening, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a turn-based strategy game. What I failed to mention is how it is also a tactical shooter. You control a squad of four members of S.T.E.A.M. who each have their own unique set of weapons and special skills. You have the freedom to mix and match them as you please.
In all reality this is essentially an elaborate game of chess. Except you have four queens while they have a plentiful supply of pawns, bishops, knights, and rooks. Strategy is king here and you will find yourself restarting a match many times in an attempt to win the battle while retaining all of your units.
You may be wondering how a turn-based game can also be a third person tactical shooter. Simply put, you have a set amount of steam (energy) per turn per member. Moving a space on the battlefield will burn one steam point while firing a weapon may burn one to four points of steam. While you can retrace your steps and gain back that steam, there is no way to do that when firing your weapon. Keep your finger off the trigger until you intend to shoot, soldier.
Along the way you can break boxes on the battlefield that contain money, health, or extra steam. These are useful, however, you never know what you will get. This makes the risk of using steam to open a box even riskier.
Once you end your turn and let the computer move is when the worst aspect of Code Name S.T.E.A.M. comes into play. Unlike Advance Wars or Fire Emblem, Code Name S.T.E.A.M. does not have the computer make all of its moves instantly. Instead the computer can take from twenty seconds to upwards of a minute per turn. While this is not all that long, really, it seems like it when you just want to move your own units again.
The online multiplayer is a nice feature here that could have been more. Unfortunately, it suffers from small maps and straight forward strategy tactics. Had there been larger maps then most battles could actually be a game of chess. Instead we have a game of online checkers.
While Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is nothing to gawk over, the aesthetics of the steam world along with cel shading makes for a unique look. The art style will probably be the first thing that catches your eye and it is put to good use since the entire game is presented as one large comic book/graphic novel.
Wil Wheaton is the voice of Abraham Lincoln. Not that it really mattered to me as he sounded fine, however, there have been many complaints about him since some people have a personal grudge. I would link you to these forums except that the language is strong.
I want to explain how I was smiling like a goofball while listening to the theme song of Code Name S.T.E.A.M., but I will let you hear it for yourself.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is not perfect. It has a lot of promise and sets a lot of the ground work for a sequel. Intelligent Systems has done nothing but improve on Advance Wars and Fire Emblem since their initial launches and I expect the same here. As for the game we have, it is good. Not great and not bad. Just… good.
The Bottom Line
A solid turn-based game that was just a few steps short of greatness.