I’m always at a bit of a loss when a game decides to split itself between two (or more) genres. Often, these titles end up too scattered to really shine through as a good example of either of their composite parts, and the whole experience suffers. Steam Bandits Outpost is another cross-genre title that’s got some weird quirks to it so far – it’s still in an alpha stage, so much could change – but there are still some things it does pretty well in spite of itself. That said, there are definitely some areas where it finds itself stretched thin, or simply left wanting due to focus on other aspects.
On the surface, Steam Bandits Outpost is a town-building game; think something along the lines of FarmVille, but without bothering everyone you know on Facebook every three hours. You’ve got all your basics in this part of the game, including housing for workers, community buildings, and harvesters for collecting resources, and so on. The game revolves around islands in the sky, traversed by groups of people in zeppelin-like airships and populated with adventurers, captains, and more. You kick of with some character customization for your own Captain, who becomes the town-builder and leader of your little group, as well as the focus of the game’s other genre-side: the RPG.
The town-building is pretty solidly handled, if a bit cumbersome time-wise, especially in regards to the collection of certain types of resources. That’s where the RPG side comes in, though, and while it’s the more flawed, there’s still some promise to it. Essentially, it boils down to the fact that your character, along with up to two recruited Captains, can venture out into the wide world and go adventuring. You can go after quests, in search of creatures, loot, or whatever else you’ve found. There are even “daily” quests, repeatable once every 24 hours and usually give some useful resources in addition to the experience or gold earned. Unfortunately, at this point this element has some drawbacks, with slow movement, obtuse objectives, and especially a poor combat system among them.
What’s important to remember, is that Steam Bandits Outpost is a free-to-play game, so expectations are pretty low when it comes down to it. I think Iocaine deserves credit for their strong stance against the pay-to-win / pay-to-continue mentality that dominates the F2P marketplace these days. There’s a lot to do here and a lot to like about the game, provided you’re a fan of the town-builder genre. As I said, that side of the game is pretty well done, but it does also rely on the less-than-stellar RPG side, which may be less appealing to some folks. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to recommend “buying in” to the game (ie, spending much, if any, real cash on it), but I found it to be a fun “diversion”-type game, and one that’s easy to put a little bit of time into here or there without investing too much at once. I’m looking forward to seeing the bugs and other kinks worked out as the early access moves along and I am keeping hope alive that, once it’s all polished, Steam Bandits Outpost will be a fun pick-up-and-play game that’ll keep me coming back.