Code Name: STEAM Review: Full Steam Ahead

Code Name: STEAM comes from the team behind the Advance Wars and Fire Emblem series that offers both a unique story and gameplay mechanics to keep you playing for quite some time. Our review.

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Back in the 1860s, President Abraham Lincoln put together an elite fighting force known as “Unit S.T.E.A.M.”, which is short for Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace, in order to help protect the Earth from an alien invasion. The ragtag team that makes up Unit S.T.E.A.M. is comprised of characters from classic literature, such as Henry Fleming, John Henry, and Tom Sawyer, as Abe himself deems them worthy enough to help save the world.

Code Name: STEAM tells the classic tale that we all should be familiar with from our grammar school days of President Lincoln traveling the world in an airship to help save us all from the alien menace. And if you’re not familiar with this well-known moment in history, then you’re about to be introduced to quite the unique tale.

(Yes - I’m aware the events of Code Name: STEAM never actually occurred. Let me believe in something, will you?)

Steam up, soldier!

Code Name: STEAM is a turn-based strategy game at its core as players control a squad of four characters guiding them through each chapter of its story to hopefully rid the world of an ongoing alien invasion. Each chapter has a set objective, a number of maps to play across (which is typically two or three maps), and objectives within each map vary from reaching a certain goal point to proceed, destroy the enemy commander, or rescue survivors, among other objectives. I felt there were more "reaching the goal" missions than anything else, although other mission objectives were pretty varied.

When you first start Code Name: STEAM, you’ll be given access to Henry Fleming, but you’ll soon receive additional squad mates to help Lincoln rid the world of aliens. Each squad member has their own unique primary weapon, a sub-weapon that can be used by any member of the squad, a special attack that can only be used once per map, and an ability. Some abilities will affect the entire team, such as Lion’s Courageous ability, which raises the team’s defense, or Queequeg’s Warrior’s Spirit, which raises the team’s attack power. Other abilities will only be usable by its owner, like Henry’s ability to push crates or enemies, or Tom’s Hope ability, which allows him to jump on top of certain obstacles. Mixing and matching what squad members would help accentuate each other's abilities was one I felt I had to go through a lot of trial and error to figure out, but once I did, they worked together very well.

As you would expect, steam plays a huge role in Code Name: STEAM. Each characters’ movements and attacks run off steam generated from boilers worn on their backs. Each boiler has its own storage capacity and recharge rate. New boilers can be unlocked acquiring gears that are placed in various locations across the map. Players can obtain new sub-weapons in a similar fashion, but instead of collecting gears, it’s based off of the total amount of coins collected from either defeating enemies or collecting them across each map.

Extraterrestrial warfare

Prior to the start of each mission, you’ll need to choose your squad and their gear carefully depending on what your objectives will be. For example, if you’re simply attempting to reach a goal, you don’t have to spend your time killing enemies. Instead, you can just make a dash for the goal in order to complete the map. So for this kind of mission, I felt using characters that could move across the battlefield with great ease to be best. For missions that requires your squad to defeat a boss, then selecting from the biggest and baddest characters was my ideal way to approach it.

Each map will be littered with a variation of aliens to combat. The aliens are just as varied as your squad as they’ll be able to attack using melee, ranged weapons, and even futuristic grenade launchers. I felt I needed to take every interaction serious as my squad could easily be wiped out if I didn’t make sure they were behind some kind of cover. Even Lion, who has the best defense in the game, can be completely decimated if left out in the open with aliens surrounding him. The camera also didn't help in my attempt to shoot at an enemy's weak spot as it can be controlled on the 3DS' touch screen or through its face buttons. Since I don't own a New 3DS, I wasn't able to use the C-Stick, so this is based solely off of the interface of the 3DS version.

One aspect of the game I both enjoyed and caused much rage was the overwatch mode. Overwatch mode allows characters to be set to guard a particular area and attack any enemies that come across their line of sight. Unfortunately, this mode works both ways, leading me to get surprised by aliens whenever I wasn’t careful when walking around a corner. And no matter how careful I thought I was, I still found myself on the receiving end of overwatch attacks. What makes overwatch even more devastating is it can sap your squad member’s steam, often times leaving them to stand in the line of fire when it’s the enemy’s turn.

Let off steam

Aside from the main campaign, Code Name: STEAM allows you to play against other players both locally and online. Both players will be able to choose their squad members from the main campaign as well as all gear that’s been unlocked. There are three game modes available: Deathmatch, Medal Battle, and A.B.E. Battle. Deathmatch is a simple “kill the other team” game type, while Medal Battle tasks players with gaining the most medals in 5 turns. The last, which was my personal favorite, puts the player behind the mighty presidential robot, the A.B.E., in a no-holds barred battle. This mode plays out like a giant-mech boxing match, and it’s pretty darn fun.

A head of steam

The premise behind Code Name: STEAM is so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself the more I played it. It doesn’t go very far beyond a “there are aliens at this location, get rid of them” type of story, but its gameplay, as brutal as it can be at times, can be rewarding when you figure out just the right combination of squad members to use during missions. Its initial playthrough will take around 10 hours to complete, but collecting all of the sub-weapons and boilers will take players way longer to achieve. Throw in a multiplayer experience that offers three different game types to enjoy, and I could see players spending a lot of time with Code Name: Steam for a while.

Senior Editor
Review for
Code Name: STEAM
8
Pros
  • Unique and charming story
  • Multiple objectives to complete
  • A varied cast of characters
Cons
  • Difficulty can be brutal
  • Overwatch mode is dangerous in enemy hands
  • Camera controls
From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 11, 2015 10:00 AM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, Code Name: STEAM Review: Full Steam Ahead

    • reply
      March 11, 2015 10:24 AM

      I'm just not sold on the premise of this game. Is it actually fun or just tedious?

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        March 11, 2015 2:03 PM

        Play the demo if you aren't sure. It is awesome IMHO

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          March 11, 2015 2:35 PM

          Yeah I wasn't sold till I played the demo. The writing and visuals make it feel a little like Viewtiful Joe. Mixed with X-com, in mid 19th century steampunk New London York.

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          March 11, 2015 4:42 PM

          Yeah, I had a hard time imagining how the game would play until the demo. The demo totally sold me. The game is really fun. I'll definitely pick it up at some point.

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      March 11, 2015 2:22 PM

      So would you say the game is similar to Valkyria Chronicles? It sounds somewhat similar as it's turn-based but with direct character control.

      Which really, really makes me want to buy it.

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        March 11, 2015 11:53 PM

        Yes, although the character development and story are nowhere near the quality of Valkyria Chronicles. But it plays in a similar fashion.

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      March 11, 2015 2:26 PM

      Will this game be on Steam?

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      March 11, 2015 2:34 PM

      I liked the demo up to the point where it made me sit there and wait the enemies turn. Sad they didn't do something about that in the full version

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        March 11, 2015 3:36 PM

        Enemy turn length when there are lots of bad guys is my only problem with the game. Its especially bad when they're out of your line of sight so you have nothing to look at while their actions get crunched.

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          March 11, 2015 11:58 PM

          Waiting for the enemy AI to make their move can be a pain. There should be a fast-forward feature, especially when there's movement away from your squad.

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      March 11, 2015 4:37 PM

      Diving into it this weekend. The demo was pretty good! It was a lot longer than I thought it would be.

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      March 11, 2015 6:53 PM

      Seems good but no 3DS