Gif: Aim Games / Kotaku
If you’ve been eagerly awaiting a new Titanfall game…well, I don’t have any news on it (but know I’m just as sad as you are). However, what I want to tell you about here is this nice little side-scrolling mech-based indie game that just came out on Steam. It looks like it’s been inspired by more than a few hit games, Titanfall and Metroid being the most notable ones. If this premise interests you, read on.
Steelborn released yesterday on Steam courtesy of developer Vega Horizon Studio and publisher Take Aim Games. First impressions reveal the obvious: with a fat mech that you can hop in and out of with the push of a button, the Titanfall name is just knee-jerk. But on the ground? Where things feel like a side-scrolling, twin-sticky, beat-up-the-weird-alien-life platformer that gives me some serious Metroid vibes, at least aesthetically. I can’t tell yet if it fits into the Metroidvania subgenre or not, but the game’s Steam page promises “many mysteries and secrets hidden in hard-to-reach places” in its hostile alien world.
Steelborn looks like a Titanfall Demake
Given the obvious comparisons to the popular but frustratingly elusive Titanfall series, it’s no secret why the game has garnered some attention on Reddit, becoming a top post on a forum with over 36 million members. Aside from being dubbed the “Titanfall Demake,” other comparisons by people include Blaster Master, Metal Mech, Starbound, and Metal Slug. Two of these are referenced directly, along with Contra and Ranger-X on the game’s official Steam page, so it’s not afraid to wear its inspiration on its sleeve.
Surprisingly, there were a few other neat things I spotted in the game’s opening moments that felt like fitting homages to other classics: The space opening scene looks straight out of the Halo: Combat Evolved opening, which morphs into a nice No Man’s Sky-like journey skips sequence over a planet. The synth bass used in the soundtrack also screams Mass Effect (which transitions into a very appropriate and groovy metal fusion). And an enemy type that reaches down and grabs you straight up reminds me of Half-Life 2’s barnacles – you can even use them as a quasi-movement technique (though you’ll take damage).
As a game, Steelborn is a little harsh in terms of first impressions. The first boss took me a while to get my bearings since I was still learning the jetpack moves, and it doesn’t help that the game likes to throw a lot of enemies at you while you’re trying to dodge and attack big badly. But once I got into its flow, it felt like there was a good, fun, fast-paced action game here. Of course, you can also move around in your fat mech, which makes you largely impervious to smaller enemies. Aside from some combat functions, the mech also plays an essential role in clearing inaccessible areas, allowing for more platforming and exploration.
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On a gamepad, you aim with the right analog stick and move with the left, making the side-scrolling action and platforming feel like a twin stick. And while it’s not verified on Steam Deck, I was able to get it to work reasonably well despite throwing the SMPTE-like color bars on first launch. A short time later it started the game; This is a common quirk of Steam Deck in games that aren’t directly supported but still work.
Steelborn is currently on sale on Steam for just over $13. Although a bit challenging at first, it has quite a bit going for it, especially the great music and pretty art design. And I love a game that’s not afraid to be honest about its influences – which, in this case, are some pretty great games.