Codename S.T.E.A.M. Asks Strategy Fans to Think in Totally New Ways

Soooooo, sorry about this. I haven't written a thing about Codename S.T.E.A.M. and the damn game is only months away from release now! Bad game "journalist"! Every quotation mark is a slap to my own sense of ethics and integrity.

I guess I should be thankful, right? I mean, by now there's no way I'm getting away without writing something at least half-entertaining about Intelligent Systems and the take they've embarked upon with strategy gaming influenced by the likes of America's greatest heroes and the most dominant form of machinery in, what, Downton Abbey?

Well, last week I had quite the trip to the center of Nintendo's upcoming 2015 lineup mostly focused on "New" Nintendo 3DS Hardware which we've now written quite a bit about. Still, last summer's reveal of Codename S.T.E.A.M. threw me for a loop and now that I've had hands-on time, I'm still impressed.

I'm impressed by how…

  1. Weird. Codename S.T.E.A.M. is impressively strange for a video game. It doesn't feature the same kind of action you'd think to explore in a shooter and it doesn't present strategy gameplay from the perspective you'd probably expect.
  2. Colorful. Codename S.T.E.A.M. has a wide ranging color palette that doesn't seem to waste itself in drab or monochromatic environments when opportunity exists in wild decorations.
  3. Intense. Codename S.T.E.A.M. turns the strategy perspective from top-down as expected from the likes of Fire Emblem (created by the same developers) or Civilization (and its tile-based gameplay). In fact, the perspective allows for a little lack in oversight as you can run out of steam (literally) and end your move prematurely if you aren't at least aware of the space-by-space cost.
  4. Creative. Codename S.T.E.A.M. relies on a lot of creative forces, mostly thanks to the way it blends extraterrestrial and out-of-the-cast-iron-frying pan political theory.
  5. Action-oriented. Codename S.T.E.A.M. goes out of its way to create meaningful tension out of strategy gameplay that almost requires double-think tactics.

While I loved Fire Emblem: Awakening and we gave the title a Game of the Year award for the 3DS system that year, I didn't expect to even play Codename S.T.E.A.M. It could have been, pun warning levels critically maximum, vaporware for all I knew. The premise seemed odd, but the execution seems to have come together at least for the two missions I played (more on these later).

While Abraham Lincoln's fighting force blended man, lion, and healer lady at this early stage, the character selection screen suggests Intelligent Systems will get to flex that incredible character-writing talent to fill the roster. Only four guest-starring Fire Emblem characters were featured in the pre-release video thus far, so I'm hoping America's 50-state 50-quarter initiative lends inspiration.

Stick with GameRevolution for more on Codename S.T.E.A.M. in the coming weeks.