Asking me to review a free-to-play steampunk title is assigning me to cover a concert featuring Nickelback and Train. Being the stand-up, professional kind of dude I am, I’ll go in with as good an attitude as I can about things, but there’s a good chance by inner biases are going to color things at some point.
Fortunately, Steam Clan, one of several low-rent quasi-RTS titles clogging up the Play Store at the moment, is weak enough that I don’t have to worry about that. It’s bad no matter what lens is filtering it. I could Literally (capital L) own a shirt that says “I love freemium games” and a bunch of lame Victorian-era top hats with tubes and lights and stuff all over them and I’d still be disappointed with it. Here’s a quick look at what it does wrong and why it’s probably not worth your time.
Like most RTS/city building games, a large part of your goal in Steam Clan is gathering resources. Like almost all freemium titles, one resource in the list is ultra-rare and a lot easier to find via your wallet than it is through actual gameplay. As you build and upgrade your base of operations, you gain the ability to hold more resources, create better offensive units, bolster your defensive capabilities, and more. While you do spend some time defending your own turf with various tower defense-style fixtures like mounted guns and rocket launchers, attacking is clearly the focus when it comes time to rumble: Once you’ve built an army you travel to a simple minimap and get to grinding through one of the game’s 50 offensive challenges.
I’m fine with almost all that stuff. What I’m not so keen on is boring gameplay and the time-based reward structure. When I’ve, say, saved up enough blue crystals to upgrade my barracks, thus giving me access to a new offensive unit, I don’t want to have to wait literal hours to enjoy the fruits of my labor if I don’t choose to pay. That’s right, hours. When upgrading your barracks to level five takes over three hours of my time, I tend to get frustrated, which in this case means I get to put the tablet down and complain about it online. Then again when I realize the game costs in-game currency to get a multiplayer match going, which is another earth-shattering sham in my book. Working from home rules.
Aesthetically the game is so bland it hurts. Dull unit and character design – even at higher levels — go hand-in-hand with the downright bizarre layouts developer Cell Studio imposes on some of the attack levels in the name of “gameplay.” The animations are stiff and boring, too. Freemium games are little more than make-the-numbers-go-higher simulators by necessity; the visual interface they put over their digit-raising scheme is sometimes what makes the difference. This time the graphics are definitely nothing special… just like the game itself.
Steam Clan is fairly liberal with the amount of rare currency (gems) it gives you at the onset, giving you plenty of time to play before you spend anything, which I very much appreciated. The way it handles your offensive and defensive duties has some potential, too, though I’d guarantee you can find better examples of similar gameplay with a little searching on the Play Store. The actual progression is also solid, at least while you have some gems floating around. Once mine were gone, however, I felt no urge to continue playing. None of these positive attributes were really standout-quality, either – I just wanted to mention anything I found enjoyable at all in the interest of fairness. And a lack of whiny comments when someone gets offended that I don’t like a game they do. Not that that ever happens…
Steam Clan is about as meh as it gets. As a reviewer of mobile games, I spend a lot of time playing ho-hum games I forget about within minutes of finishing my review. This one’s even more forgettable than that. If you don’t believe me or are one of the biggest fans of RTS/tower defense gameplay ever, I suppose you could do worse than to check it out. If not, go find a fun freemium title. They exist, but you aren’t going to find one here.