Steampunk is an often neglected subgenre. Mixing elements of fantasy and sci-fi to create a world where both swords and Gatling guns can co-exist is no easy task. Maybe that’s why so few free to play MMORPGs have experimented with a Steampunk setting.
There are of course exceptions. Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent is a free game that openly advertises its Steampunk credentials. It’s a fun, feature rich MMORPG that is published in North America by a company called Atlas. Gamers can also access it via the ijji portal using the same account they use for GunZ: The Duel, Soldier Front, Alliance of Valiant Arms, and other ijji games. The story of Neo Steam centers on the ongoing conflict between the Republic of Rogwel and the Elerd Kingdom. Rogwel is undoubtedly the more technologically advanced nation, thus more steampunk oriented nation, while Elerd is more natural/mystical and fantasy oriented. Across Neo Steam there are tram ways, air ships, steam tanks, and other mechanical wonders.
Overall, Neo Steam plays better than your average Korean MMORPG, but still suffers from some classic faults. Movement is mainly click to move, and gameplay feels very similar to the myriad fantasy MMORPG titles out there. Even with thees faults, Neo Steam was for a long time the only game to offer a Steampunk experience.
All that changed in early 2010 with the release of Allods Online. Developed by a Russian studio, the game mixed a World of Warcraft style interface and art style with steampunk elements. With a movement scheme and a quest-driven progression system familiar to Western gamers, Allods Online definitely has high production value. The game’s overarching conflict pits the Empire against the League, each represented by a different set of races. In total there are six races and eight classes to chose from.
PvP plays a large role in Allods, but players aren’t limited to just fighting it out on foot. The game allows players to command large, flying Astral ships and make war above the clouds. But it’ll be a while before beginners can experience naval warfare. In the mean time, they’ll be treated to some great visuals. The cities in Allods Online have a Victorian feel, multi story buildings litter the capital and actually give it a sense of proportion. Many dungeons and monsters look like they’ve been pulled straight out of science-fiction, but characters are still armed with swords, spears, and bows. It’s an interesting contrast, and sure to excite Steampunk fans.
There are already hundreds of free and subscription based MMORPGs that use the standard Swords & Sorcery fantasy setting. Many developers are scared to stray away from this tried and true formula. Sci-Fi games Face of Mankind, Black Prophecy, and EVE Online usually have a steep learning curve that scares away many gamers. Luckily, steampunk serves as a great intermediary. Many free to play MMORPGs have effectively implemented sci-fi elements into their otherwise fantasy world. RF Online, GhostX, and MegaTen all come to mind. Hopefully we’ll see more games like this in the future!
By, Erhan Altay