When Steambirds Alliance showed up in my Steam discovery queue, I was surprised by its description. It was tagged as an MMO, but also as a shoot em up (schmup). I happen to enjoy bullet-hell style games, and have played them since childhood, but I didn’t see how you could turn this sort of concept into an RPG, let alone an MMO. Color me interested, particularly when I found out that it was in Open Beta and free to download to try out. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but after a session with the game I found it to be intriguing. Many of the concepts that you’d expect from an MMO are present. There is crafting. There are different ships that could correlate to classes. There are quests. You level up. You get gear. There are open world parts, and dungeons complete with bosses. There is a central hub city where you can group up with other players and it works sort of like Marvel Heroes, where the open world is wandered by all, and if you participate in battle you get your own share of the XP. It does actually become a bullet hell at times too, so the schmup portion of the game’s design is true to its roots.
Being in beta, I’m sure there are still kinks to work out. The tutorial was good enough, but didn’t really describe the fact that you don’t really sell your loot, you just drop “trash.” There are features that don’t open up until you’re level 5 or level 20. I have no idea what crafting is like due to this level restriction, though I will admit the levels come at a rapid clip. There is a story that loosely translates to birds hating cats and cats ruling the world currently, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Then again, when is the last time you cared about the story/quest text in an MMO? It doesn’t look bad but it definitely doesn’t feel AAA. Not that being indie is a bad thing, but it doesn’t really feel like a top notch game, but that could also be due to the fact that it’s a schmup MMO mashup and that’s just weird to begin with.
Honestly I don’t think it’s a bad game, but I have only scratched the surface so far. I had to play it to sate my curiosity, but I’m not sure it’s something I’ll play more of. One thing that makes the schmup genre fun is the fact that yes it is challenging, but there is an end to the game and you can say you beat it. Turning that concept into an MMO either means eventually things become trival or you get bored because by now you normally would have beaten several games in the genre. I’m not sure what to think about this one, but I wish them luck in their coming launch. Seems to have some sort of population, I saw dozens of people playing during my session. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re bored and want something new, or if you’re as curious as I was about this bastard of a game concept. If you’re already playing a more traditional MMO I don’t think you’d be into this one.