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City of Steam continues to simmer away, as the steampunk game slowly comes to a boil, and I've used my allotted number of lame puns. [When it's stewed a bit longer and is ready to serve in open beta, we'll be there.—Ed., using editorial allotment of lame puns.]
Playing in the closed beta was interesting. In some ways, it was a slight step back from the alpha in terms of stability—but that's partially because there are many more features in place, and because I spent my time free-roving, instead of being delicately guided only to the working parts. I want to be clear that a game at this stage is expected to have bugs, a lot of them, and I don't just mean the clockroaches you squash during various quests.
Almost everything about the City of Steam closed beta shows signs of polish and improvement on top of the core mechanics I already experienced in the alpha.. The starter quest is more complete and offers more context. There are more options for character customization, both visually and mechanically. The world is becoming richer and more detailed, as the broad strokes of the design are filled in. Crafting, scavenging, and a kind of steam-powered slot machine that can spit out rare items (but rarely does) are all active now, in various states of completion.
I experienced a few issues all interface-related, that can't be excused by the beta state. Although you can turn off click-to-move (virtually a necessity in combat, as you can end up with your back to a monster when you try to click an enemy who has zipped away), the keyboard movement is still "WASD Jim, but not as we know it." I won't say it's not something you can't adapt to, but, sometimes, time-worn conventions remain that way because they work, not because of a lack of imagination. The "speech on top, replies on bottom" conversation mode, while not likely to get you accidentally killed, is still annoying. Basic ergonomics is at play here: It's a pain to have to shift your eyes from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen, while ignoring the middle of the screen, which is where your attention is naturally focused. I'd hate to see a game with as much fun potential as City of Steam flounder because they decided that the UI was the best place to be different for difference's sake.
Monsters in City of Steam are getting smarter; ranged attackers constantly move out of range, forcing you to chase them while they're blasting you, if you lack ranged attacks yourself.
Instances in City of Steam often have multiple modes, selected on entry: You can go in just to explore or do quests, or you can take on various challenges, such as killing a certain number of foes, or kicking open a number of boxes, in a limited time. You'll do a lot of kicking in City of Steam, including knocking down sections of wall or other barricades (they highlight, so you don't need to kick every wall) to get to the monsters who are blasting you.
I look forward to being able to participate in the next cycle of beta tests, even if the current state of the game means each short beta ends with a character wipe. It's fascinating to see a world being built around you. The closed beta is now, ah, closed, and the open beta (as of this writing) does not yet have a finalized date, but is "soon". Go to cityofsteam.comto sign up.
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