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Beyond A Steel Sky Review

Updated: Oct 12, 2023


 

  • Developer: Revolution Software

  • Publisher: Revolution Software / Microids (console)

  • Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

  • Also available on: PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, macOS, iOS and tvOS.

  • Release: 2020 (original) 2021 (next gen versions)

 

Most memorable quote; ‘Do you have, COFF-EE’ Science-Fiction? Check. Futuristic, Australian backdrop? Check. Mini K’s (think mini bunnings snags) and a can of Spankles that sounds like it’s wizz fizz and fanta fizzled together? Check! Revolution Software’s Beyond a Steel Sky is set ten years after the events of the first game, Beneath a Steel Sky, and once again players are put into Robert Foster’s boots as he unravels the disturbing secret lurking behind Union City’s walls, when a child from his village is kidnapped by a robot monster that leads him to the city. Jumping into this single player series game for the first time, I had no idea what to expect, and have no fear if you haven’t played the first game - you’ll get caught up in the game’s prologue. I’m glad to report back after completing the game in about 9 and a halfish hours, I was incredibly impressed with the narrative and visual aesthetic design in particular. So grab your Mini K’s, open that can of Spankles, and let’s Kangaroo jump into this Aussie based Sci-Fi adventure. Also, no key spoilers will be spilled. This is a game that I believe is worth sifting through and experiencing with no implications or knowledge if possible.

Story

The story opens with protagonist Foster recapping his backstory and narrating the events leading up to the catalyst event at the beginning of Beyond a Steel Sky. This is visually shown using graphic novel panels, where you quickly grasp the futuristic world and atmosphere you’re about to leap into. Soon you see a child, Milo, from Foster’s village get kidnapped from what’s known as ‘The Gap’ which is essentially an outback wasteland which has seen a fair share of nuclear war and disasters. Milo has been taken by a giant robot monster figure, and soon after this Foster begins his hunt to get back the kidnapped child. His leads eventually run him back to a busting Union City, which is an advanced mammoth-city that Foster himself used to inhabit in before living out in the wasteland. Throughout the story, you meet a variation of different people (and robots! Can’t forget the robots!) that you can interact with. Some will shrug you off, while others may help you on your journey.


Admittedly, the game starts off a bit slow – but once it gets going once you finally enter Union City, you won’t want to put your controller down. There are a lot of strange things that slowly unravel during your investigation, and it becomes apparent that it is much more sinister than you can imagine – and buried with a twist that will become evident towards the end. While the story does have a dark undertone and ends on a bittersweet note, it also manages to perfectly balance humour, alongside dialogue references ranging from Monty Python and inspiration from Australia’s iconic Mad Max series. The way the narrative untangles the mysteries, conspiracies and plot it is interwoven perfectly within this story’s 9 and a half-10ish hour campaign. If you’re looking for a fulfilling story that doesn’t stretch out the narrative or distract you from the main goal, this will be a game for you.



Gameplay

The game is playable only in third person (which makes sense in the story and style the game is going for). You have an inventory that you can use when you interact with something, and you’ll have access to a crow bar (the ultimate weapon!), Mini K’s, Spankles and a variation of other objects you collect and leave at the appropriate time of the game. Should you incorrectly click the wrong item to place on the thing you’re interacting with, Foster comments on your actions. If you get stuck on any section of the game, there’s a hint button at the pause menu for when or if you get stuck. It’ll tell you in a short sentence where to look or what to do. The clues can be useful and are thankfully easy to understand, which makes the game for all different types of players more accessible, and understandable (which is always a good thing when more people can play something!).


While most of the gameplay is looking around and interacting with objects and people, you also have a hacking tool. This hacking tool becomes your new best friend with a click of R1, as you use it to progress to the next area and advance the story; but you can also cause havoc and chaos and it is a lot of fun to change things around and watch NPC’s reactions. I highly recommend to hacking anything and everything you come across and watch the chaos ensue – from alarms and switching commands- if you fancy of course (but do it. Worth it even just once). Without diving into spoilers, you will also have the opportunity to play in a different setting that works well, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome in the story. It’s just enough to give you something a little bit different, without dragging on while still maintaining the story’s flow.


Visual Design | Graphics

Leading into the next section of this review; with the visual design being solely in cel-shaded 3D graphics, the game has a similar design to the looks of Borderlands and The Telltale games. It looks crisp on the PlayStation 5, and runs smoothly with no glaring issues, choppiness or loading problems. The colour palette distinguishes itself with using orange, red and yellows in the outback with some greenery, while mammoth Union City has strokes of blues and darker colours contrast to The Gap.



Soundtrack

What you’re hearing as you play and delve deeper in this futuristic world, is a beautifully composed soundtrack by Alistair Kerley. With the use of violins, flutes and saxophones the soundtrack (at least to me) gave off a bit of a The Mummy and Indiana Jones sound to it in some sections. The soundtrack is carefully constructed to match the game’s tone and atmosphere, with an adventurous glimmer of hope sound, mixed with a mysterious and almost Bioshock-y sounding utopian city vibe. The entire soundtrack is on Spotify - I’ve added a few tracks to my video game soundtrack playlist myself.


Replay value

For me I don’t believe I will play this again anytime soon (my backlog is already growing ever so rapidly). However, given how many trophies I had left after checking at the end of the game, sometime down the line I’ll nab the rest and secure another platinum.


Trophies/Achievements

Ah leading right into the next section; trophies/achievements. It takes around 10 or so hours according to user polls via Howlongtobeat, and with a fairly easy 2/10 difficulty to obtain every trophy according to users polled via Playstationtrophies.org. Most trophies are obtainable in one go, while some will require a load save. While this game doesn’t delve into interactive storytelling on a big scale like Detroit Become Human or Until Dawn, there are still some minor differences depending on a particular set of your actions that can impact a character’s attitude, depending on some of your actions. So, if you’re willing to spend around 10 hours to complete the entire story and spend a little bit more time exploring, you’ll have no problem adding yet another sweet, sweet platinum to your fine collection.


Conclusion

Wrapping up this review, Beyond a Steel Sky has enough fascinating storytelling elements to keep you engaged to find out the mysteries behind Union City, finding out what happened after the events of the first game all those years ago, and discovering why Milo was kidnapped from the Gap. Thankfully, the game can still be enjoyed even if you haven’t played the first game - which was my situation – and you are pretty much given a recap during the games prologue anyway to fill in the context. With a proficient story, slick gameplay that is easy and fun to grasp, with an impressive visual spectacle with an Australian backdrop, Beyond a Steel Sky is worth playing on new gen consoles and experiencing this well constructed narrative that poses interesting questions within the games themes.








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