Steam City Chronicles: Rise of the Rose — An almost unplayable mess of tedium and tasteless fan service

As a big fan of turn-based squad strategy games I approached Steam City Chronicles: Rise of the Rose with some curiosity. I’ve played some interesting entries into niche this year with Children of Zodiarcs and Phoenix Point and first impressions of Steam City Chronicles: Rise of the Rose looked promising. The game has an interesting aesthetic with skirmishes taking place in arenas that look like a cross between Blade Runner and Dishonoured. The clash of the typical steampunk aesthetic with the cyberpunk neon works pretty well. Beyond that, Steam City Chronicles: Rise of the Rose aims for a board-game-esque look, with characters represented by stylized 3D miniatures, as if the whole thing was playing out on a tabletop in front of you, similar to Wartile. The implementation isn’t as good as the Viking-themed game though, with detail and animations being less smooth.

At this point, unfortunately, I run out of good things to say about Steam City Chronicles: Rise of the Rose though. Even before leaving the area of aesthetics, the game runs into trouble. The first two leader characters encountered are both women, and both have been designed and dressed in a way that could generously be described as tasteless. The second character, Anna, is running around the city in assless chaps, is what I’m getting at. In this day and age there’s really no excuse for this kind of design in gaming and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Steam City Chronicles: Rise of the Rose
Anna must really like to feel that breeze.

If that was the only problem with Steam City Chronicles: Rise of the Rose then it could perhaps be overlooked but the gameplay is a mess. There is a very basic tutorial mission that manages to tell you everything that is basic common sense (standard camera controls etc.) and nothing more. After that there is a mission where the characters must be guided through city streets, using Geisha pawns to distract the police and recruiting militia as you go. I tried this mission three times and gave up. Every time I hit major pathing and AI issues that caused militia not to respond to orders and got the main character stuck in the scenery. There is no saving on these missions, your only option is to restart. That isn’t inherently a problem, but it becomes one when restarting is constantly forced by bugs.

Perhaps, if the gameplay was more entertaining, having to replay entire missions due to glitches wouldn’t be so bad, but it is a tedious mess. Each time I tried that second mission it took about twenty to thirty minutes, almost all of which was spent moving an excessively large number of pawns across an unnecessarily large map, with nothing happening. There are no advanced controls, no strategy. Apparently the geisha can distract policemen to stop reinforcements arriving but no information is given on how this can be done. The mechanics are opaque. Beyond that, there’s just nothing interesting to do with the characters. The militia are very basic, you just point them in a direction and tell them to go, at which point they will bobble off and shoot at bad guys they find. You control directly only one character, and they have no more interesting options; just walk, run or shoot. Perhaps, as you get deeper into the game, options open up for these characters but, at this point, I’ve already put two hours of my life into this game and I wasn’t about to commit further, in the hopes that I would miraculously be able to finish the second mission.

A group of Rose Militia moving through the streets
The literal tabletop game aesthetic is appealing.

I must, in the strongest terms, suggest everyone stays far away from this game for now. Perhaps if the bugs and glitches get sorted there may be something here; but even then the gameplay is tedious and the style is tasteless.

Steam City Chronicles: Rise of the Rose is available now on Steam.

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