Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament ReviewEdward Cheng
Don't let the cute graphics and mechs fool you, this game is as hardcore as Armored Core and Chrome Hounds. Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament is a PSP spinoff to Irem Software's PS2 title Steambot Chronicles. It centers around the protagonist of your choice, male or female, as you enter Orion City to take part in the Steambot Tournament. You meet a companion, Venus, and find yourself unraveling a secret and beating bad guys along the way. If the story sounds terribly cliche, it's because it is, and unfortunately for Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament, it doesn't get much better.
With so little going for it, gameplay is the only bread and butter of Steambot Chronicles. One of the main draws of this game is the ability to build your Steambot from the ground up. You can change the body parts, weapons, paint schemes and even attach your own emblem. The game also allows you to upgrade parts a certain amount of times for increasing prices, improving performance and giving you a slight edge. You'll encounter enemies outside of the city which will respawn after you leave the area and also have a chance to take on other Steambot in tournaments.
In order to take part in tournaments you'll have to complete jobs in order to gain fame and challenge rankers. Unfortunately, this is where the game gets repetitive. You'll often be forced to take the same menial jobs over and over again such as fetching wood or fighting off enemies. Part prices for your Steambot are high and pay from jobs is very low, so often times you will only have enough to pay for ammo and repairs and not much else. Tournaments aren't much better; considerable money can be wasted if you lose, and battles are difficult and brutal. Even an avid Armored Core fan such as myself, where arena battles and mission costs with high difficulty is the norm, I often struggled to scrap up enough money to buy new parts and upgrades and was constantly thrashed in tournaments. Both jobs and tournaments are linked to the story, but at times it's almost impossible to know what you need to do next in order to advance the storyline.
The game also promises a sandbox style open world and multiple dialogues, which it does achieve; the problem is that both are used only to a shallow degree. Dialogue trees are present, but make little difference no matter what you choose, and there are no extra side missions or tasks outside of jobs, which means wandering the city is usually pointless. Voice acting is awkward and forgettable, spouting lines that have the same amount of emotion and complexity as a child's cartoon show.
Even for fans of the series, Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament will be a hard swallow. While it retains the same art and feel as the first, the lack of good story and a very high difficulty with few rewards makes it feel like a bad joke. With only about six hours worth of gameplay and repetitive side jobs after the story is done, there isn't much to stay for or look forward to.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.