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Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent: Steamy Fantasy

Company: Atlus

A person high up in the game industry once told me that "steampunk doesn't sell," which is why the setting rarely shows up in games. Apparently, this individual hasn't been in contact with Atlus, who is close to releasing their steampunk-meets-fantasy themed MMO Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent.

For those not familiar with the concept, steampunk generally refers to an era where steam is widely used as the sole means of power. In Neo Steam, this concept meets high-fantasy. You'll see a number of fantasy standby elements like warriors, elves and magic, but also come across steam-powered machines like zeppelins and subways as well as a mechanically-inclined class, the Machinist. The two elements work hand-in-hand to create an interesting area to explore. Towns and surrounding areas have a familiar "medieval" fantasy setting, but are also dotted with gears, smokestacks and other unique touches that give Neo Steam a look that is different from most MMOs on the market.

I particularly liked how the style reflected on the characters. I'll admit that I'm not a major MMO player, but the minute I saw artwork for the game, I wanted to play. It's a small thing and probably casts doubt on my constant calls for gameplay over graphics, but when something looks cool, it looks cool. Warriors have neat Tron-like red outlines on their armor, while machinists wear a creepy mask that is a combination of Metal Gear's Psycho Mantis and Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher. Even mundane weapons like swords and bows have an appealing, high-tech look.

Neo Steam features two factions: the Elerd Kingdom and Republic of Rogwel. Each of the game's races is aligned with each side, though you are free to assign any class to any race. However, your allegiance will have an impact on how your class evolves. For instance, a Warrior in the Elerd Kingdom can eventually become a Crusader or Templar. But, if he were a member of the Republic of Rogwel, he would instead become either a Vanguard or Justicar. My short time with the game didn't offer a whole lot of insight into how each differs from the other, but it's an interesting approach.

The overall story places the two kingdoms in a basic magic versus machines struggle. Each side is trying to gain control of Neo Steam, the world's primary source of power. Neo Steam isn't just some nebulous entity you're fighting over; it plays a big role in gameplay. Your character can use Neo Steam to power ranged weapons, as well as summon pets and perform other in-game functions.

Characters can also use magic and skills, which pull from the Mana and Stamina bars, respectfully. Skills cost points, which drain their respective meters, introducing a slight element of strategy, particularly in PvP. Neo Steam features a robust player-vs-player system involving individual arenas keyed to certain player levels. Although PvP isn't something players need to engage in to have fun, doing so will allow for better loot drops and leveling opportunities.

Neo Steam is currently in closed beta and on-track for its debut this Summer.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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