VG Tribune

Review: Code Name S.T.E.A.M.

July 31, 2015 / 7:51 AM

By: Matthew Gibson

Intelligent Systems is very well known for Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, both are quite well known within the Nintendo community. Well, just earlier this year, they have delivered another new strategy game. This is Code Name S.T.E.A.M. As the world gets ready for the opening of the Steamgate Bridge, aliens bombard Great Britain and soon, the world. It is up to Henry Fleming, Abraham Lincoln, and the team of S.T.E.A.M to put an end to this madness.


If the title didn’t give it away, steam is the name of the game here. You’ll be moving with steam, using steam to shoot, and other things in order to annihilate the alien threat. You move around on a grid of squares, and for each square you move, you use one piece of steam. But don’t worry, you can always move back to get your steam back, making it very useful for scouting the surrounding area and to get medals. These can be used to restore steam and health when you reach save points. Three gears can also be found on each map, making for some replay value to be had. The maps are pretty nice in both layout and setting, varying from London to the South Pole. But who will you be controlling? Well, S.T.E.A.M has a very diverse roster, ranging from all different folklore and stories. Tom Sawyer, Califia and even the Lion from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ are just some of the cast on offer, and each have their own special weapons. The Fox’s Fox Rifle has amzing range, Tiger Lily’s Medi-Mortar can heal allies in a certain area, and John’s Bear Grenades can explode on impact. Each soldier can have different boilers depending on their size, which can affect the amount of steam they have, and can also have a secondary weapon for different purposes. Plus, everybody comes equipped with their own unique special move, to have different effects that normal weapons can do, in addition to distinct abilities, that can come. You really have to think hard about who to bring out onto the battlefield, and what sub-weapons to equip them with, especially as only four can be chosen per map. If the cast of twelve isn’t enough for you, you can always use one of your four Fire Emblem amiibo for extra variety. However, as I said earlier, your actions will take up steam, and once you fire, you can’t move back. So once you’ve picked a good area to fire from, do so from the best possible area, and you can always move around your little square for extra cover. You can deal extra damage if you hit an enemy’s weak spot, so where you shoot from is key.

Save some steam, however, and you will be able to catch the opponent off guard. This is a pretty neat mechanic called Overwatch, and as long as you have a weapon that supports this, enough steam to use it, and the alien is in your line of sight and range whilst it is their turn, you can catch them off guard. But here’s the catch; they also have this ability. A good amount of alien types will be able to get you when you yourself are not on guard. And whilst it is a nice attempt to make the game even more fair, and potentially more challenging, it has ended up being one of the most frustrating parts of my experience. Yes, it does make you more wary of your surroundings, but as soon as you see one, it’s already too late. And since all aliens look near-identical, I couldn’t tell which ones I should be more careful of. Not only that, but it seems they have no system of conserving their own energy. They can move as far as they can, and still use overwatch! That’s sadly not all. There are these enemies called Eyestalkers, I believe, that act as an eye for a big enemy that can hit you with a missile no matter where you are on the map. So if you’re within the Eyestalkers vision, you’ll get hit. This seems like a cool concept, but it gets very, VERY frustrating when it either blocks the way, or comes up from somewhere no one can escape from. Combine that with enemy respawns on most of the maps, and the game is of a much slower pace than it should be. If I try to move up, I get shot at. If I stay, enemies may not come to me. And it doesn’t help that enemy turns may take too long, despite the ability to double how long it takes for them to do this. This has made the game a more frustrating experience, than the action-strategy game it should, or rather deserves, to be.

Anyway, there is one more way to play. At certain points in the campaign, Mr. Lincoln himself will pilot this mechanism known as A.B.E, which is this giant robot in the style of the president. When fighting within this machine, you are able to take down much bigger foes, be it with your fists or your guns. As awesome as this sounds, it is, quite frankly, the most boring part of the game. You can hold down the L or R button to shoot the entire time (when you have steam of course), dodge a couple of attacks, repeat, and it will be over in just a minute. It may fill in the ‘action’ aspects of Code Name S.T.E.A.M, but it ultimately feels underwhelming.

The game also supports multiplayer for local and online play (though good luck trying to find anyone online). Unfortunately, this is probably slower paced than its single-player counterpart. Both players pick their best four, with sub-weapons and all, before entering a selection of arenas based on the levels from the campaign. Only problem is that since you can’t travel far without being caught by overwatch, you are forced to stay back each and every turn. There’s also a mode where you have to collect as many medals as possible, in addition to a 1V1 showdown between A.B.E machines.


Whilst not jaw-dropping, S.T.E.A.M isn’t a bad looking game. Everybody has their own distinct look to them, although I feel that the aliens are lacking any variety in design. The game in general has this very nice pop-art style to everything, and I love the comic book aspect that can be seen in the cutscenes. So in short. Code Name S.T.E.A.M isn’t an atrocious looking game, but it isn’t Van Gogh.


The music isn’t anything that you’d want to listen on repeat to. Yes, it does set the tense tone quite nicely, and I appreciate how the music will get added depth when you get closer to an enemy. But there’s nothing that has really stood out to me. Well, apart from this amazing Fire Emblem remix!



If you couldn’t tell from that one big paragraph in the gameplay section, the game can be extremely frustrating. However, Code Name S.T.E.A.M still manages to deliver a relatively fresh experience. With its unique style, a (to an extent) diverse cast, and its combination of strategy and third-person shooters, there is still some fun to be had in this game. Yet, sadly, it falls short thanks to sometimes unfair respawns and uncanny enemy attacks. And it is for that reason I’m awarding this game a 7/10. A very unique strategy game, but sadly not one to be on the same rank as Advance Wars and Fire Emblem.


I bought this from the Hyper Japan event earlier in the month. Funny story, actually. Out of the three days of Hyper Japan, only three copies of this game were sold at the Nintendo UK Store, despite being at half price of what they would normally sell. So don’t expect a sequel any time soon, sadly.

Codename: S.T.E.A.M.


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About the author /

Like many other game writers, Matthew was brought into the gaming world from a young age. He aspires to be a games journalist in the future. Oh, and he's from the UK, so there's that. He also does Nintendo Podcast System, just in case there isn't enough Nintendo on this site.

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1 Comment

  1. Jack Gawn

    I think you got the review spot on to be honest, it’s nice that they have tried something different but it just isn’t as fun as some of the other titles. The enemy turn times are horrendous.

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