Review – Beyond a Steel Sky
Beyond a Steel Sky is the long awaited sequel to the cult classic 1994 game, Beneath a Steel Sky. Fans have been clamoring for a sequel for nearly three decades, and Revolution Studios did not want to disappoint. They once again brought back the collaborative efforts of Charles Cecil, creator of the Broken Sword series, and Dave Gibbons, the artist behind the legendary comic book series, Watchmen. Now fans just want to know if it was worth the wait.
Our hero is Robert Foster, a rugged man living on the outskirts of civilization known as “the Gap”. He is in fact the same protagonist from Beneath a Steel Sky, but no need to worry about not understanding the plot if you haven’t played that one. This is very much its own standalone game, although it does a nice concise breakdown of the major points of the first game in the very beginning, presented in comic book fashion.
In Beyond a Steel Sky, Foster is readying to leave the small village where he has been staying, when a young boy is kidnapped in front of him. Hot on the trail of the captors, he finds himself once again at the doors of Union City, one of the last remaining cities in this post-apocalyptic world. Now it’s up to Foster to find out what has happened to the missing boy and uncover the dark truths hidden within the seemingly perfect utopia. Always wear a smile!
Right from the get-go, this game hooks you and doesn’t let go. It starts off with a kidnapping and chase, then takes you to the edge of Union City where you’ll encounter quite a few interesting people (and robots). From there it’s a string of puzzles, questions, exploration, and even more crazy characters. Beyond a Steel Sky does a phenomenal job of balancing suspense, intrigue, and humor throughout its entirety.
This is, for the most part, a point-and-click style game. However, you are fully able to venture around the different areas of Union City and speak with the multitude of citizens within. You’re even equipped with a hacking device that can be used for getting past obstacles or wreaking havoc on the AI systems. I can’t tell you how much fun I had just hacking into random devices like doors or vending machines and altering their settings, then standing back and watching the pandemonium unfold.
Unfortunately, it’s not all a blissful experience. While the writing and world building are great, Beyond a Steel Sky suffers from a lot of technical issues. Being a point-and-click style game, there isn’t too much in the way of complex gameplay. It is however, a 3D fully explorable adventure game, so that leads to certain complications. Not just with the camera either, although that certainly creates its fair share of headaches. No, the biggest hindrance to this otherwise amazing game is just how buggy it is.
In the very beginning, there’s a part where I needed to push a young boy on an old roundabout a few times to encourage him to give me some information. I pushed him once with no problem, then he somehow shifted to standing right in the middle of it and I was unable to push him anymore. I couldn’t get to my next objective without his info, so I had to reload my game. It worked, but that was only a few minutes into the game and it wasn’t the only time I had problems.
There were numerous times throughout my playthrough where I needed to interact with something and it wouldn’t highlight properly. Luckily, reloading worked nearly every time, but it still takes you out of the moment. Then there was one instance in which I was stuck inside an apartment, unable to progress because it wouldn’t register that I had collected all the necessary information. The only way to salvage that was to reload from an earlier save outside the apartment, but none of my autosaves went that far back and I had to restart my entire game. If the story and characters weren’t so compelling, I would have given up right then and there.
Not only is the story strong, but so is the art design. The whole game has a cel-shaded look that makes it feel like a comic book come to life. There are some occasions where the cel-shading filter seems to have been forgotten, though. During a few conversations it’s particularly noticeable that Foster looks like a moving comic book character, while the other person almost appears to have been made of clay. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often and you’re mostly able to feel like you’re inside a visual novel.
The sound design is another strong point. The soundtrack fits the game well, with tunes that reinforce the cyberpunk theme, as well as add the appropriate tone for what is playing out in front of you. All of the voice actors deliver solid performances, with just the right amount of camp and absurdity when needed. Many of the robots and AI’s had me cracking up, and Foster’s performer was just the right blend of serious and sarcastic.
Beyond a Steel Sky managed to exceed my expectations, especially for a sequel. For anyone who has already played Beneath a Steel Sky, then playing this game should be a no-brainer, but that’s not a requirement to understand this one if you haven’t. This game does an incredible job of blending point-and-click gameplay with adventure, mystery, levity, and puzzles, all within one cohesive package. My only suggestion would be to perhaps wait a bit for some patches to come out to fix the numerous bugs. Other than those, this game has the makings of becoming another cult classic.
A fantastic cel-shaded art style that makes it feel like a comic book come to life. Some of the character models don’t have the same cel-shaded filter at times and look more like they’re made from clay.
A point-and-click style adventure game with a cyberpunk setting. The controls are responsive, but there are fairly frequent bugs were an object you need to interact with won’t highlight.
The soundtrack fits the game well and the voice acting is wonderful.
This game has a lot of bugs. I had to reload my game several times in order to interact with something important and even had to restart my game once. That being said, it’s so fun I couldn’t stop playing it.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Beyond a Steel Sky is available now on PC and Apple Arcade.
Reviewed on PC with i7-9700k, RTX 2070, 16gb RAM.
A copy of Beyond a Steel Sky was provided by the publisher.