Beneath a Steel Sky was a fantastic point n’ click adventure game released way back in 1994. A game I used to play a lot on my brother’s Amiga and one that is still fondly remembered today by fans of the genre. In 2003, the game was made freeware, so you can download and play it for free and legally too. My advice, give it a go, can’t go wrong for free. Then, just a short twenty-six years after the release of the original game, a sequel was unleashed in 2020 on PC. Now in 2021, the game has seen a console release. From developer and publisher Revolution Software Ltd (the creators of the original) comes Beyond a Steel Sky but is it any good and worth waiting a quarter of a century for?
You are Robert Foster. A child has been abducted in a brutal attack. You have vowed to bring him home. The trail has led you to Union City, one of the last remaining mega-cities in a world ravaged by shattering wars, and political meltdown.
Union City is a utopia, its people loving life under the control of an altruistic AI: ever-attentive androids, designer living, piazzas and bars. What’s not to love? But this City has a dark underbelly…
For those who do remember the original game from 1994, you are playing as Robert Foster once more and have to return to Union City a decade after the events of the first game. Thankfully, Beyond a Steel Sky gets you up to speed with the main events of the last game through various little references. So strictly speaking, you really don’t have to have played through Beneath a Steel Sky to know what this one is all about but if you want o get the most out of the references, you really should (it is free don’t forget).
The old, very nineties, 2D point n’ click adventure look and style is gone. Now, everything is in glorious 3D and you solve the various puzzles in the game using a simple conversation wheel and inventory system. If you have played any modern adventure game, say the many Telltale Games… games, then you’ll know what to expect here. Your first major task in Beyond a Steel Sky is to gain entrance to Union City. Talk to a few folk, pick up items, use said items and so on. This is your basic adventure game stuff and solving the many puzzles the game throws at you (while weeding out red herrings) soon becomes second nature.
When you do get inside, Union City really is a wonderful place to be in. The graphics here are kind of cell-shaded and certainly do look nice. The world feels alive with the residents of the city go about their daily routines, skyscrapers tower over you, robots fly/scurry about doing whatever robots do and more. Just walking around and exploring Union City is actually kind of fun.
However, an adventure game’s strengths need to be in the writing and the puzzles. In this regard, Beyond a Steel Sky really is a bit of a mixed bag. Pretty much every character you meet feels very shallow, even Robert Foster himself seems to be suck in the old 2D age at times. The main plot is okay, I guess. For me, the overall writing felt of a lower standard compared to the 1994 original. I mean, it’s not bad or anything but it does feel very subdued and too plodding at times. As for the puzzles, they’re all a bit too samey after a while and never really test the old grey matter.
There is a hint system, which I never had to use. I only know it is there as it pops up on the menu in the inventory screen. There’s the introduction of a hacking tool that you use to… well hack various electronic devices. This is really where most of the ‘puzzle’ solving comes in and while the hacking gets increasingly more complex, the basic idea of swapping modules remains the same. This means that the hacking never really changes and soon becomes a bit laborious.
Beyond a Steel Sky will set you back between £30 to £35, depending on the format. I feel this is a bit too high for what you get. This is closer to a £20 game. As a standalone game, it’s pretty good, flawed and often feels like it is been needlessly dragged out. As a sequel to one of the most loved point n’ click adventure games, it really falls short of expectations. I’d suggest you just wait this one out and pick it up in a sale further down the line. Play the first game while you wait… it is free!