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Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (2015): A niche oddball tactics game

Content of the article: "Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (2015): A niche oddball tactics game"

I recently discovered this sub, so I'd like to share my thoughts on a 3DS game from 2015.

Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a tactics game developed by Intelligent Systems. You control up to 4 agents on a map filled with menacing aliens and take turns to complete objectives. Unlike most strategy games, you control an agent directly as if playing a rudimentary third-person shooter. Moving and attacking costs "steam" but you are free to swap to other agents and walk around until you decide to lock in a move which deducts the steam from your gauge. Agents get more steam at the start of their turn.

Any steam not spent is used for overwatch with most weapons. Enemies will set up ambushes and the player must do the same. What sets the game apart is the way it handles the fog of war: There is none, but there is also no overhead view. Players have to use the free movement to look around and piece together a mental map and check corners without getting caught in overwatch.

What makes the game fun is what sets it apart from most tactics games: Not only what I mentioned above, but also the map variety. There are different objectives and plenty of maps make use of verticality, split paths and destructible cover. There is a wide variety of weapons and a healthy roster of enemies. Each agent has a single-use special ability to break out of a bad situation. The incredible soundtrack shifts between classical intruments, metal and electronic noises. Without spoiling anything, the game goes off the rails in the third area in terms of story and scenarios. There are boss battles and tough defenses that you need to bring down. The boots-on-the-ground feeling made this a very tense game for me, despite it being a methodical turn-based game.

Read:  Ubisoft Forward 09.10.20 - Megathread

What holds it back from being a cult classic is how slow several aspects are. Enemy turns can go on for a while, although a patch allows it to be sped up. The most interesting agents and weapons are not available in the early levels. The game does a poor job explaining some mechanics and enemies, which makes some levels feel like a tedious difficulty spike. You can save in the middle of a level and revive fallen agents, fortunately.

I can only recommend this to those who enjoy a tactics game with a fair bit of challenge and want to play something entirely new. And you need a bit of patience. If you like figuring out what (combinations of) weapons make levels really easy, this is the game for you. You can find physical copies online for prices so low you will forget this is a Nintendo game. There is enough single player content to make it worth your while, and you can replay levels with new agents and weapons with a few mutators. And you can play it on the go and suspend play like in Fire Emblem games. I highly recommend an honor rule of not using revives on a second play-through.


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