The great legends of the adventure genre of the 90s naturally include Lucas Arts classics like The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the tentacle, both of which are known and loved for miles beyond the borders of the video game medium. But the cult game Beneath a Steel Sky, published in 1994, also belongs to this top tier. The development studio Revolution Software, founded four years earlier by Charles Cecil, Tony Warriner, David Sykes and Noirin Carmody, is, in addition to the adventure pearl, decisive for the Baphomet's curse-Range and Lure of the Temptress known.
26 years after the release of the debut, Cecil kidnapped us together WatchmenDrawing artist Dave Gibbons – who was also responsible for the design of Beneath a Steel Sky – once again in the impressive mega-metropolis Union City.
Of course, we do not miss the opportunity to tell you in this test whether the extraordinarily long waiting time for the adventure was really worth it and how Beyond a Steel Sky contrasts with modern offshoots of the dusty genre.
The debut's great footsteps
The cyberpunk point and click adventure Beneath a Steel Sky for PC and Amiga was released in the mid-90s. The adventure tells the story of the charismatic wasteland Robert Foster, who leaves the so-called Gap, a poor desert in dystopian Australia. In Union City, he wants to put the all-controlling artificial intelligence LINC together with his partner Joey in their place. Joey is a robot built by Robert who acts as a sidekick and the protagonist's best friend. The city is protected by a dome from the dangers of the wasteland and air pollution and forms a strong contrast to the gap and Robert himself. After the victory over LINC, Robert Union City passes into the hands of Joey, who transform the city into a better place should.
The story of Beyond a Steel Sky starts ten years later and wants to pick up fans of the old days and newbies at the same time. The leap in time chosen by the team opens up many new opportunities for action in the well-known universe, and it also gives the finale of Beneath a Steel Sky enough space to develop properly. But how has Australia changed in the future? What events are forcing Robert out of his well-deserved retirement? And how sensibly is the predecessor continued by the sequel published 26 years later?
The return to Union City
Source: PC games
The story of Beyond a Steel Sky is told with the help of a hugely beautiful comic presentation. Many story passages are brought closer to us through appealing panels and beautiful drawings. So also the intro of the adventure, in which we learn that the little boy Milo is kidnapped in front of Robert by a so-called "stalker". The scary machines are huge four-legged robots. Of course, Robert wants to save the boy and thus follows the stalker's trail, which gradually leads him (back) to Union City. But before Robert can start his detective work in Union City, he first has to find a way into that characterized by industrial complexes
Source: PC games
Find a big city. In the first few hours of play, we offer our services to various NPCs, as is typical of the genre, and hold a large number of conversations in order to gradually gain access to Union City. We also use the ID of a certain Graham Grundy, whose body we found in the desert. For our preview in May we were already allowed to play this passage, so the question remained how extensive the adventure would develop within the city walls.
Once in the city, Beyond a Steel Sky's many strengths unfold, such as Union City itself and the system for how the city works. The residents, who are well written by the bank, are kept in mind by various ministries that are responsible for keeping everyone's satisfaction, happiness or ambition at an appropriate level. One is rewarded by so-called Qdos, which largely reflect the reputation in society. For example, if you do not take part in the monthly elections for the flavor of the beverage Spankles, which can be found at every corner, you can expect your Qdos level to drop. Correctly read: A respected citizen has a Qdos level of "A" or "B", the worse the rating, the lower the social reputation. This principle can also be found in the districts of Union City. The city's elite live in the lower residential areas and not, as some would assume, the Union City skyline. In the highest area of the city there are empty industrial buildings and dangerous zones that should be avoided. This is partly due to air pollution. There is also an upgrade of the LINC system from Beneath a Steel Sky: MINOS. Like the old version, everything in the city runs via MINOS. Topics such as control through technological progress are once again the focus.
<img src = "https://www.gamesaktuell.de/screenshots/960x/2020/07/Beyond-a-Steel-Sky-Review-Screenshot-2020-07-16-17-34-07-buffed.png "alt ="Beyond a Steel Sky in the test: Successful comeback of the cyberpunk adventure (12)”/>
Source: PC games
With Beyond a Steel Sky, Revolution Software outlines an exciting social image that keeps the motivation curve when exploring the city and talking to the many residents at a high level. In addition, the story about child abduction and the city's dark secrets connected with it can convince. Only the finale leaves a slight aftertaste, almost as if the threads around Cecil and Gibbons had slipped a little out of their hands at the end. The plot is a lot of fun and feels round, but you shouldn't expect an impressive resolution and big story twists. But you can look forward to a variety of well-written characters with lots of sympathy and wit during the approximately eight to ten hours of gaming experience.
Characters full of love and details
Source: PC games
Typically for the genre, there is of course a strong focus on the different characters. Unsurprisingly, Joey, as our best friend and sidekick, plays an important role again. The cheeky robot is quickly becoming the absolute darling of the adventure. Joey is extremely cleverly written, has a good joke on the metal lips at all times and – as expected – he is the most relevant character in Beyond a Steel Sky alongside Robert. But there are also many exciting personalities outside of the duo. As indicated at the beginning, Robert assumes the identity of Graham Grundy. Although he's dead, Robert can use it skilfully to position himself as an established personality in Union City. Grundy's wife Songbird knows, of course, that we are not her missing husband. Due to the strict Qdos system and some reasons, which we do not want to shed light on here, an interesting relationship develops, which gives us further details about Graham and the floating plot in the walls of Union City. Also worth mentioning is government official Mentor Alonso, who perfectly embodies the ubiquitous danger of being exposed with our identity intrigue. Our conversations and decisions affect the story very little, but the focus is anyway on the flexibility of the puzzles and the enormously charming game world.
But what about the puzzles ?!
Source: PC games
Alongside the world and the characters living in it, the puzzles are of course the beating heart of an adventure. Beyond a Steel Sky actually cuts a good figure there and mostly relies on classic adventure fare. But there is also something new! For example, flexible solutions when puzzling. Puzzles can be cracked in different ways. It is very pleasant that the challenges are not getting any easier. Even if the different solutions are often only minimalistic in nature, this approach enormously increases the dynamics in our very own gaming experience. After so much praise, we (unfortunately) have to address a few small negative aspects. Most of the time, the different approaches work very well, but in certain moments they can also break your neck. If we do not follow the intended Revolution Software specifications too little, our gameplay can sometimes end in a dead end. For example, we should renew our U-Chip very early in the adventure. Instead, we decide to put the piazza through its paces and then quickly end up in a building complex that is part of the further course of action. The problem is, we haven't renewed our U-Chip yet. Now we are trapped in the building and can neither go forward nor back. Something like this has "only" happened to us twice in the course of the game, but it is annoying anyway. We therefore recommend that you save frequently.
Source: PC games
Another innovation is the universal hacking tool, with which we can hack and switch various electronic devices. In the context of small mini-games, circuits can be interchanged. A door with a hand scanner denies us entry? Scandalous, but not a particularly big problem. We just hack into the mechanism of the door at the push of a button and move the fields so that from now on only people who DO NOT have permission can enter. Haha, real life would be so easy … The hacking tool fits well into the overall concept of the adventure and gives it a pleasantly fresh coat of paint. So puzzling is a lot of fun and the level of difficulty is acceptable. The adventure is by no means too easy, as is the case with the many Telltale games, but you shouldn't expect a tough adventure either. And if you don't know what to do, you can simply ask for a little hint in the menu.
The visual, auditory and technical presentation
Source: PC games
In order to prepare for the year 2020, Beyond a Steel Sky relies entirely on 3D and a very appealing Cel shading look. He manages to capture Union City's colorful and overjoyed mood perfectly. The many hologram advertisements on the piazza, the dark and dirty surroundings in the more remote parts of the city; every area in Beyond a Steel Sky feels like an interactive graphic novel of a special class. The scenery is strongly reminiscent of a mixture Mad Max and Cyberpunk. Pop cultural allusions, references to old revolutionary titles and a pronounced attention to detail can be seen in many scenes. In combination with the comic presentation already mentioned, the result is a very appealing and stylistically unique look, which credibly takes us into the dystopian future vision of Australia. Dave Gibbons had a lot more visual exertion than was the case with his predecessor in 1994. The 3D camera is also a surprisingly big plus. Browsing through Graham's apartment, looking out of the windows now and then and being struck by the impressive backdrop of the metropolis has a very special charm.
Source: PC games
wonderful sounds always builds the right emotional state. The opening credits or the soundtrack in the city museum drive enormously emotional and motivating adventure melodies that are strongly reminiscent of the epic Star Wars. In addition, there are of course cyberpunk elements in the music – musically very successful! The soundtrack is also at a very high level. You have to do without voices from the original, but thanks to the bank, almost every speaker was able to convince us. Due to Corona, a German soundtrack should follow as an update in August. Technically, Beyond a Steel Sky can convince, but you have to deal with some graphics errors. Sometimes the camera doesn't really capture the actual situation, elsewhere the animations look a bit rough and bumpy. However, these are only small things that have disturbed us little in such an atmosphere.
A must for every adventure fan
So did the 26-year waiting period for a new part around Robert, Joey and Union City pay off? Definitely! The puzzle design is not at the level of other sizes in the genre, but innovations such as the universal hacking tool and the 3D camera transform Beyond a Steel Sky into a unique gaming experience. The technology would have done a little more fine-tuning, but the Cel shading look helps a lot to overlook some flaws. The clear highlight of the team are the beautifully told story and – especially – the fun and charming characters, as well as the mega-metropolis Union City as the setting. Even after several days apart, many game moments remain in your head, especially Joey, one of the most fun sidekicks in recent years. The precision with which Revolution Software has transported the game world created in 1994 into modern times is commendable. Anyone who approves of a likeable old school adventure with many modern elements cannot avoid Beyond a Steel Sky.
Beyond a Steel Sky has been available for PC since July 16, 2020. Implementations for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch are expected to follow later this year.
Beyond a Steel Sky has kidnapped my heart.
Wow! Before my first play session in May, I didn't know Beneath a Steel Sky, but after catching up, he was able to win my heart like no other video game for a long time. Adventures are by far my favorite genres. With Beyond a Steel Sky, the team around Cecil and Gibbons has now successfully wrapped the fascination of titles like Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and newer games like Deponia in a modern guise. I was particularly taken with the charm and wit in every dialogue and every moment of the game. I really hope you don't have to wait another 26 years for a new adventure in this world – that would be a shame.
Read too PC
Beyond a Steel Sky: PC release still in July – update
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Beyond a Steel Sky: Watch 20 minutes of gameplay
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