Earlier this week Iron Mountain Interactive launched their game Steel Circus on Steam in its Early Access stage. During this part of the games development, it is both functional and free for players to try it out before putting any money towards it. This online-only game brings an ability and skill mixed style to the classic game of handball with a top-down view of the field. It isn’t without problem, but it is a solid start for a game of this style.
Once you first load up the game you will find that there is only the option to find a game or go in to tutorial, however the tutorial won’t let you in right away forcing you to go into an actual match first thing. This may have been a bug or problem on my game, but fact is that I had to join a live match before I was allowed to go into the tutorial.
The camera is a top-down view with the camera focused on your player character. This is a good camera choice and when the ball goes off camera, there is an arrow that points to where it is at on the field. There is no color code to the arrow to let you know whether it is loose or if one of the teams have the ball in control, but you at least know where it is at.
Each character has a different set of abilities to aid them in the game. Along with unique abilities, they all have different stats for aspects such as speed and strength. This is where you will find what character fits your play style best, but hopefully it is one of the first three characters given to you out of the current six available as there is a grind-or-pay wall blocking the other three characters. No player can use a character that is already in control, so each team member will have to use one of the first three available. The load ups are randomized as to who gets to pick first, so versatility will be necessary when it comes to the actual use of the ability and stat style use in game.
The goal of the game is to take the ball to the opponents side of the field and throw it into their goal. There are also bumpers that will block your path, so aim and ball control will be key assets for winning. You can take control of the ball by simply grabbing it while it is loose, tackling an opponent that is currently in control of the ball, or using one of your abilities - given your character has one that will knock the ball out of their hand. Aspects like interceptions and goal defending catches are also options, but be careful not to get tackled the moment you touch the ball!
There is a stamina and health bar to maintain as well. Stamina will recharge on its own when you stop running, but health has to be regained through a pop up item that will occasionally spawn on the board. Both of your abilities will have a timer to be used, which resets every time you use it, but these can also be recharged through a pop up item that will occasionally spawn as well. Collecting these items is a good way to regain your abilities and health or simply starve your opponents from getting a refresh on theirs.
There is still a lot of work to be done in order to make this game worth while.
First off, there is no level system to keep players matched up with those of the same skill level. Someone who has been playing for hours and reached level 5 with get teamed up with level 1’s like they are all on the same playing field.
There is no in-game microphones for communication when the game is practically based on team work. Not to mention it loads up random games, so partnering with friends will be challenge until a proper party system is added as well.
The grind to unlock characters usually isn’t a problem, but they are 15,000 Steel a piece and you only earn about 200 Steel for the average game. That is 75 games, each lasting a little over 5 minutes long, just to unlock a character that you might not actually like too much. If you don’t want to grind for over 6 hours per character, you can just buy the characters now which will give you access to all the other characters added to the game later.
The ball location arrow needs an indicator system to tell players who is currently in control of the ball, if either team is at all. Some defensive players like to stay back and they are given no notice when it is time to prepare other than seeing the opposing team charging directly at them from the section of the screen that was currently out of view.
Steel Circus has a pretty solid start for a free game, but it has a lot of work to do before it will be worth players time. From updated matchmaking systems to party systems and even some in-game aspects, there is a lot of room to improve. If you want to just play a competitive game for fun and not take any of it seriously, this is a game you can get in to. Otherwise, you might want to wait for a few updates before jumping into this playing field.