Early Access Review
by Emily Tofanelli
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]team Squad is a turn-based strategy game set in a steampunk style World War 1 era. I have only played the single player mode, I haven’t tried the multiplayer level. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am not very good at these types of games, but while this game is still Early Access, I think there is quite a bit of room for improvement. Recent updates claim to have smoothed out UI and camera panning issues, but my main issues with Steam Squad are how it is formatted for the player.
The instructions on how to play load first, which was surprising and caused a bit of a “wait, slow down!!” moment. After you accept the instructions, the quest page loads up. The initial quest list is laid out in a series of letters, which in and of itself is a cool concept, as I love narrative heavy games. However, you have access to all of the quest “papers” at once, which is a bit confusing as you don’t really have anything to go off so far. After starting up the first quest I was met with quite possibly the most unclear explanation of what to do I have ever seen. The game loads to a map with your side and the opposing sides NPCs…and you are set loose into the wild.
As someone who is horribly unskilled at strategy games, I don’t like being set into the wild! Help me, please, I’ll die out here without a tutorial! After figuring out how to switch between available characters (you apparently do not control your entire squad, but they will attack targets near them), I realized I couldn’t move close enough to hit any of the enemy NPCs. Cool, I’ll just move a bit closer and then fire! Nope, you can’t do that, you can only make the initial move, and fire from there if you can. That was a bit frustrating. Another issue that needs to be addressed is that if you tab out of the game while in a mission, you’ll be taken back to the initial quest page, and you progress will be wiped. That was super frustrating as it took me two times to notice that, though one of those is probably my own fault.
On the supposedly resolved issues with the UI and camera panning, I found the UI fairly unclear, though not unmanageable. The map is very large and the panning drove me a bit insane. The NPCs are all the same dull mustard color yet blend in awfully well into the terrain, and it took quite a bit of panning back and forth until I was able to determine if I was even close to one. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s necessarily the camera’s fault, I just think the maps are too expansive to be easily navigable without panning.
Overall, once I got the hang of it, Steam Squad is actually fairly entertaining. However, the UI is very unfriendly, and the game could really benefit from a tutorial. I’m not the kind of person to open up the enclosed game guide for a console game, but I usually trust that there will be some sort of “hey, here is how you do this!” bit towards the beginning of a game. As I said in the beginning, Steam Squad is still Early Access, so I certainly hope they consider making it a bit more user friendly, as I think it has potential.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/emily.jpg” ] Emily Tofanelli is a freelance writer native to the Bay Area. She is a lover of RPGs, french fries, and terrible ghost-hunting shows. Her favorite games include Golden Sun, all versions of Animal Crossing, and Persona 4. She currently works in the free-to-play games industry, and can’t get enough of it. While not playing or writing about games, she can be found attempting to make her cat a YouTube star, and being incredibly inactive on Twitter. [/author]