Nintendo's revealed additional details on Code Name: STEAM, the latest strategy game from Intelligent Systems. That's the outfit that made Advance Wars and Fire Emblem, so new IP from these guys is already good news. It becomes better news, though, when you realise that the studio's created its own spin on the squad-based XCOM formula.
And yes, it gets even sweeter when you throw in influences like HP Lovecraft and - y'know - Abraham Lincoln.
Intelligent Systems is describing STEAM as a turn-based strategy game with action elements taken from first-person shooters. The setting is rich with steampunk Victoriana, and you command a motley of big-chinned patriots who have been gathered together by America's favourite president to tackle an alien invasion. The art style's heavily inspired by Silver Age comic artists like the great Jack Kirby, and the game's presentation revels in elements such as speech bubbles and a gorgeous halftone gradient. I think that's what it's called anyway: I mean the newsprint dots that always accompany the lurid colour schemes of cheaply printed funny books. It's a wonderful look.
The mechanics hinge on steam. Each of your heroes has a boiler clamped to their back, and the amount of steam it produces dictates how far they can move around the grid-based map and how many actions they can undertake in a turn. Actions will include overwatch, incidentally, and the ability to stun enemies. Beyond combat, you'll pick up medals as you go, which can be cashed in at save points to replenish steam or health on the battlefield, but can also be saved up to buy better weapons too - a nice trade-off between short- and long-term gain.
Characters seem to come with their own specific weapons, abilities and sub-weapons, so there'll be a strategic element to choosing which heroes to take into battle. The guns they carry tend to be covered with crazy gilt sculpture, and have names like Eagle Rifle and Lion Launcher (both of which are currently banned by the Geneva convention). "Since we wanted to avoid abstractions, you should be able to tell what kinds of powers a character has simply by looking at them," says art director Takako Sasaki.
The game's 3D landscapes are complex and colourful, with lots of verticality and compromised sight lines. The enemies, meanwhile, are nasty squid things and bugs. Expect mandibles and tentacles. "I think you can tell the heavy influence of HP Lovecraft," says Sasaki.
So what does STEAM stand for? "Hang onto your seats," says creative director Paul Patrashcu. "Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace. And yes, the sound you're hearing is the English language buckling under the weight of that pun."
You can watch the developers' full presentation below. Code Name: STEAM's out in 2015 for 3DS.