Steel Commanders is a free to play collectable card game of the science-fiction variety by Gamevil. Players will find this title does little in terms of defying convention, as well as also starkly lacking in imagination. Predictable and cliche to a fault, Steel Commanders gives the distinct impression of a game relying heavily on the age old and time tested formula for games of this type: needlessly prolonging gameplay and blatantly luring the player around with endless carrot-on-stick gimmicks.
Gameplay itself is underwhelmingly stale. Having sunk a few hours into the game itself, I do not find it hard to envision most players finding themselves underwhelmed and questioning why they are continuing to play; this game relies heavily on the “just around the corner” addiction experienced by most gamblers. Steel Commanders is in possession of very few redeeming qualities.
Players will be presented with the choice between three factions: Agartha, Troy, or Pacifica — each bestowing special perks to particular unit types. Players will also be able to customize their leader attributes to best suit their playing style. The approach Steel Commanders takes to the the attribute system is disappointingly simplistic, predictable, and decidedly unoriginal; players will have the choice between only four attributes. In addition to this, there are three energy bars available to the player: Quest, ATK, and DEF energy. Quest energy allows the player to perform actions in quests, ATK in attacking other players, and DEF in defending against other players attacks.
The tutorial does a fairly acceptable job of acclimatizing the player to the mechanics, but past a certain point doesn’t seem to give as much assistance as it should. Players will find themselves spending time figuring things out that really could have been easily addressed with a better designed tutorial system.
As mentioned, Steel Commanders is definitely guilty of prolonging gameplay needlessly. Don’t expect to make a large amount of headway within the first couple hours of gameplay; this is the sort of game you have to be in for the long haul (energy bars replenish hourly) unless you are willing to sink some money into it to expedite your progress.
One of the things that glaringly stood out for me in this title was the sheer amount of teething issues present. Certainly it is understandable that a newly released game should possess a few problems here or there, but in Steel Commander’s case they add up to more than a few and consequently the gameplay suffers dramatically. Straight from the beginning, Steel Commanders was fraught with problems: a connection error prevented me from logging in (connectivity is required at all times to play) and when I was finally able to log in, the responsiveness of the UI was severely hindered by bad server latency. It was not uncommon to have to wait around 5 seconds for each action to complete — something that greatly slows the gameplay. In addition to this, upon viewing attribute info players will be greeted with a large red “coming soon” placeholder — clear indications that the game still needs a lot of work. The UI doesn’t even take up the whole screen on the ipad — perhaps a consequence of being hastily released with multiple device support. You can’t even use some of the items (in my case a quest energy replenisher) without linking your game ID to your facebook or similar account, a considerable setback to those disinclined to do so. Explainable, and perhaps even understandable as all these facts may be, it still points to Steel Commanders falling, at the time of this review, considerably short of the mark.
One of the few redeeming qualities, however, is the artwork you will encounter throughout the game. The unit cards and mob pictures you will face in quest are skillfully done and quite pleasing to the eye. The music, however, is quite repetitive, and I imagine many players will find it grating within quite a short span of time.
While Steel Commanders is definitely lacking in several areas, it is clearly a game in its infancy: newly released and still undergoing development. At free-to-play price, it wouldn’t hurt to give this one a try and decide for yourself.