A while ago, I played a game called Laser League. It was the first game I did a video review on, and genuinely, I loved it. It was a slightly different sport style game, with a lot of action, tense moments and fun gameplay, but sadly it never took off. Ever since then, I had been looking for a game that scratched the same itch. Fortunately for me, Steel Circus was highlighted and I was given the opportunity to play and review it.
All The Fun Of The Fair
Steel Circus is a game not unlike Laser League, in that you play in teams of three each, set in a futuristic setting on a small ‘pitch’ or ‘arena’. The difference is that instead of solely trying to eliminate your opponents, in Steel Circus, you have to score goals. The quickest way I can think to describe it is that it’s sort of what you’d expect handball to be like, if they added in rugby tackles. There are six heroes to play as – although at the start you only have access to three – each with their own abilities that can shape how a match is played. This way, you can try to specialise with a certain character and get used to how they play, to really benefit the team. As you play, you basically just have to try to outscore your opponents. The first to ten is the winner, or whoever is in the lead at the end of a five minute period. It can lead to some really fast, frenetic play where you really have to be able to think quickly in order to get beyond your opponents.
One thing the developers clearly worked on is the in-game play. It’s clear to see as you play that the developers put a lot of time, effort and love into ensuring everything works. And it works so well. Everything feels incredibly balanced and polished, so when you’re playing, the only time you’ll get frustrated is when the other team nabs the ball off you. I gave it a good amount of time over the span of a week and I never found myself wanting to break my controller due to frustration with how the game played. Each character slotted in to the team really well, and learning their abilities and where best to use them was extremely fun, especially when you build a wall on the line to stop a point blank goal. The action in Steel Circus is tremendous, and I love actually getting into a decent match where I have to try my best to both defend and attack, and try to show my teammates that I’m not crap at the game.
There’s no two ways about it, Steel Circus is a very good looking game. It’s got some very well rendered cartoony characters that each have brilliant, detailed designs with a lot of personality and character to them. The stadia in which you play are also pretty spectacular, as you’ll be playing in some gorgeous alien worlds that truly do look incredible. The sound effects as well go together really well, but I would say that I was extremely disappointed with the background music. When you’re playing a game, there isn’t really any, and given every game these days has some sort of background music to prevent the endless silence, it was a little odd.
When Circus Acts Go Wrong
There are two major, major flaws that I’ve found in Steel Circus. The first one is the matchmaking – it doesn’t seem to take anything into consideration when it comes to setting up a match, which takes it’s toll. Too frequently was I put onto a team that was either seriously good at the game, or one where we were up against a team that had significantly more experience than us. While I can understand the difficulties in trying to match players up, especially without a proper ranking system, it would be a prudent move from the developers to at least put players who have low levels – meaning only played a few games – together.
Building onto this, the other issue – ragequitters. I definitely understand it, especially when you combine it with the troubles of matchmaking. Nobody wants to be up against a team that have clocked forty or more hours into it, when you’re only just starting out. No-one wants to suffer the ignominy of losing ten nil in a somewhat public setting. However, for the good of the team, you have to just push through it. Chalk it up to experience and move on. Or at least that’s what I try to do anyway. I know that none of my teammates would be pleased if I left them in a two-on-three, so I would always elect to stay, even if it did mean having a heavy loss on my statistics. I do get that the developers can’t really dissuade people from ragequitting too much, but there isn’t any provision in the game for it whatsoever. If you leave, you can just re-start straight away, no questions asked. There’s no cool down period, no warning message, just straight back to the title screen. The more seasoned players were usually alright, sticking around until the bitter end, but players that were under level ten just saw us go to three or four down and quit, which did make it slightly less appetising to return for another round.
The other thing that made it less appetising to play Steel Circus again was the time taken to find a game. By no means is it empty, but it does have a very small audience currently. Again, this isn’t necessarily the fault of the developer, but it’s something that did start to get a little grating. Also, as I was playing I left the game open on the title screen for around half an hour or so, and when I returned, I tried to play again, only to be told I had to log back in. It did try to do this through the game, but sadly nothing happened and it was actually quicker for me to exit out of the game and restart it, IT Crowd style. This was probably the weirdest thing I found with Steel Circus actually, as I saw no reason why I had to log in, in the first place, and absolutely no reason for it to log me back out.
The Final Word
Steel Circus is a tough one for me to grade. The actual gameplay is terrific, but the surrounding components leave a lot to be desired. I think if the devs put a bit more effort into polishing the rest of the game, and making it as fantastic as the actual match-play is, then they’ve got a game. I genuinely hope they do as well, because I thoroughly enjoy playing it.