July 6, 2022

Steamhounds Preview

Disclaimer: This preview of Steamhounds is based on a pre-release build. All character models are placeholders and will be changed prior to release.

Steamhounds

Steamhounds is Stray Basilisk’s upcoming turn-based, grid-combat strategy game, in which a team of steampunk mercenaries battle to gain control over a once-great industrial city. The game is currently multiplayer focused. However, the developers do have a single-player campaign in development. You can hear more about that in our interview with Stray Basilisk co-founder, Jason Davey.

Gameplay

Steamhounds merges the best of JRPG and grid-based, XCOM-like combat, and adds an innovative and deep stance system. The combat is grounded in JRPG turn-based combat, with each player taking turns to order attacks from different positions within the 3×3 grid. The order of attack is dependent on character speed, but can also be disrupted by abilities. However, the main draw in Steamhounds is the innovative stance system.

Stance System

In a most of turn-based games, your characters sit idly waiting to be attacked by the opposition. However, Steamhhounds allows you to lay traps of a sort. Each character has a defensive or supportive role that can be applied to either a portion of the 3×3 grid, a row or column, or to an individual character. These allow the characters to react to events on the field.

For example, the Engineer can levitate, offering immunity to melee attacks. The Berserker has a defensive buff or tunnel vision, with the latter offering an additional attack should an ally attack an enemy in the same column as the Berserker.

The closest mechanic to this is “overwatch” in XCOM, however this is a versatile and unique take. It offers a nice level of accessibility, allowing you to quickly understand the system, but a high enough skill ceiling that you will constantly be discovering new combinations.

Balancing

What really struck me, is how well-balanced the game is. It is, of course, easier to win with certain character combinations. However, it is very possible to with any combination of the current roster, and the stances each combine to create unique, and often powerful, combo attacks.

No character combination appears to be overpowered, and after my first couple of games vs. the AI, I found myself able to win with any character combination. What I liked about the AI structure, is that you seldom face off against the same trio in a game-by-game basis.

Characters

In the games current state, there are five characters to choose from; chemist (healer), Warrior (tank), Engineer (support), Berserker (tank) and ranger (ranged/DPS). The current aim is to launch with ten characters.

Aesthetics

The pixel art suits the Steampunk genre, and, while the character models are placeholders, they are also very pleasing. While the setting is fittingly dreary, the illumination and the overall presentation is superb. The UI is minimalist, allowing you to enjoy the character models and combat animations.

The animations are sleek and fluid, and the attack combine well with the individual character lighting. I look forward to seeing the new character models when they’re introduced.

Conclusion

For a game that is in development, Steamhounds feels more balanced than a lot of games launch with. It will be a challenge to maintain that balance as the final characters are introduced, though Stray Basilisk are committed to ensuring the game launches similarly balanced.

As the final characters are introduced, I very much look forward to seeing how the stance system evolves. Even in its current state, the system offers a nice depth that offered hours of discoverability.


If you would like to get involved in helping to shape the game, or even just to try it, you can do that on the Steamhounds Discord server.


Enjoyed what you’ve read? Let us know in the comments and as always for all things gaming stay tuned to ABG. If you liked this then why not check out our interview with Jason from Sttray Basilisk! Also donb’t forget to check out the Steamhounds steam page!


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