Beyond a Steel Sky is the latest Cyberpunk-esq adventure to have fewer bugs than actual Cyberpunk. Set 10 years after its predecessor Beneath a Steel Sky, you’ll follow the events that have taken place since. The game opens with both your current objective, a young boy named Milo stolen from Machines and taken from your village, as well as a small recap of the goings on from Beneath a Steel Sky.
The game follows a comic book-like design where text is in a bolded box with still images to follow. At first it exudes the impression of games similar to TellTale’s The Walking Dead series. It’s clear you are in some sort of wasteland as Robert Foster, the protagonist, needs to head back to Union City where it looks like his friend was taken to.
The Velvet Cloak
The game will explain to players who have not played Beneath the Steel Sky, (obvious spoilers ahead, but this game was released in 1994 – so I think the statute of limitations can be relieved on this one!) that you left your companion Joey here, to build up and look after the City. However, Joey disappeared and walked into the desert once the City was thriving, and nobody has seen him since.
Since his disappearance the City has idolised him, making statues and living by ‘Joey’ as if he was a God. However you remained in your location called ‘The Gap’. Citizens from The Gap are not treated the same, looked upon as less than those in the City. They are poorer but get by as a community. Foster takes it upon himself to follow the vehicle that looks as if it returns through the solid steel wall of Union City, to save Milo and thus your adventure starts here.
The tutorial begins in sand dunes as you approach the city gates you see a body. Controls are simple enough, as you approach anything you can interact with it will give you the option to examine this, which usually leads to a comment from Foster’s musings about said object. Or it may give you a chance to use an item from your inventory to interact with it in some way. It won’t always be clear, but the tutorial is easy to follow and very quickly shows that the game will not convolute what you need to do when exploring. You can pick certain items and keep them in your pocket, there doesn’t appear to have been a limit on the inventory which is great.
At the heart of it, Beneath a Steel Sky is an adventure puzzle mystery. The game doesn’t hand this to you by any means, however. For example, before entering the City, you will need access. To access, you will need to not be a gaplander, which means changing your identity, in a deserted wasteland. You will need to speak with characters, find out as much as you can, find out what they need and how you will obtain it.
As you speak with characters, points of interest in the conversation will flag up in your upper left corner. Reminding players of the key elements of the conversation that may help you get to your next destination. It will take thought, strategy and exploration to access more information from characters. This is a great little tutorial area that set the precedent for the rest of the game. There is no shiny arrow pointing to your next tip, or hint at what you need to do, you will need to thoroughly go through the area and use logic as well as a bit of creativity.
The Concrete Jungle
This first area took me quite a bit of time, and initially felt really slow getting into the game. There were times where it felt I knew what everyone needed, but I didn’t know how to get the ball rolling and I was at an impass. However, when I eventually did it, everything clicked and it felt so satisfying that I knew my exact next steps.
Do not fear though, as should players get really stuck the pause menu offers a hint section. If the hint isn’t enough players can wait 30 seconds for a more detailed hint that will point you in the right direction. I think this is a great addition, making the game accessible for everybody, even if you know what to do next via the hints, it is still fun exploring and getting to that next bit of the adventure. It also reduces the likelihood of anyone rage quitting, thinking they are just going around in circles.
Once in the City, your objectives start to move from location to location, the answer may not just be where you are currently standing. There is a lot to guide you by though and it is really important to try and talk to everyone as much as you can. However, this can slow the game down a lot, and at times, they’ll repeat things. In other times, if you didn’t pick another prompt before a certain other prompt, the game will assume you know some information you actually had no idea about. It at times feels like exhausting everything and hearing some things over and over again just to make sure you absolutely won’t miss any key information.
The city almost feels like the Hunger Games city district; the key is happiness and luxury. If you’ve ever seen the Black Mirror episode on social standing then it very much ‘mirrors’ this. Every citizen has a Qdos score based on how happy they are, their good deeds, their work ethic and so on. The higher marked the score, the more prestigious you are considered within the city. The city is run by bots to make sure everyone has everything they need. Since Joey’s disappearance the city is run by a council of figures, such as the Council Member of Wellbeing or the Council member of Comfort. However, something just feels off about the whole set up, and you will unravel what is going on as the game progresses.
The game is a linear set up, it offers an autosave feature as well as a manual save if you need it. This game runs at around 10+ hours and there is no going back. Although the areas feels open world, there is no map or collectible items, more just a narrative to follow. This is a solid feature that does allow you to keep on track of your objective at all times. Allowing you to know you won’t have missed anything along the way, however the game could have benefitted from a chapter select, or being in parts.
At times it did feel as if you were just going through the motions of the game, and although the story is incredibly engaging and thought out, it did feel that Beyond A Steel Sky could have gone more daring with it’s consequences. There are few times within the game where your decisions matter, but even so it won’t massively impact the story. I certainly missed an element of wondering what consequence my choice would have.
There are times in the game where you are hinted that your choice is important, and will lead to perhaps the next step, but it feels as if you can pick any of them as long as you eventually pick the right one. With an inventory, alongside creative puzzles, it would have added so much more if there were multiple ways to do each puzzle. Saying that, what the game is, is still very enjoyable and is much less stressful if it had been a choice and consequence matter. This feels more like a detective mystery game unlocking clues and solving puzzles as you go along. Puzzles include luring birds, finding clues, and most importantly hacking devices, which is a huge part of the game dynamic. This is never boring but will get sufficiently harder as you progress through the game.
As previously stipulated, the story is very engaging throughout and there won’t be a time where you will forget what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Equally, the story is not shoved down your throat via many different ways. It has a good balance. In fact, there is a huge turn of objective that even made my mouth drop. I won’t spoil it because it is one to be discovered and is why this review hasn’t spoken about happenings throughout. A complete delight were some elements from the very beginning coming back right at the end you had simply forgotten about. As well as twists and turns, the game holds some really heartwarming moments that are unexpected.
The characters are diverse and there is someone for everyone in here, to smelly old greasy truck men to the underground tech guy. Most actors do a marvellous job of the well written script, and some of the accents from the actors themselves make the game feel very wholesome. No character is hollow or static in their role and everyone has their own place among the bots and game.
There were a couple of visual colliding glitches, for example I would have a conversation with someone and someone would just be walking at me. It was more humorous than distracting. I did find myself having to reload a checkpoint once because what I was trying to do just wasn’t working on one of the puzzles but again, this isn’t game breaking.
The game will run for around 10 hours depending on how long you spend on the puzzles which will progress you to your next objective. It is hard to believe this first was released on IOS because this game would be quite a shock to the system playing on IOS as it truly does feel as if it belongs on console.
Beyond A Steel Sky is easy to recommend to anyone who would like a low stress mystery puzzle narrative adventure game. Although a sequel, the game does an excellent job of catching you up on previous events and you won’t feel out of the loop of the storylines. I hope this is a series that continues on. Although sometimes a bit slow in places with minor bugs, it’s an engaging world and story to be a part of, with creative puzzles and fun throughout.
Beyond A Steel Sky is due for release soon on PlayStation 5 (review platform), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC, IOS and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Revolution Software
Publisher: Revolution Software / Microids
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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