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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: November 15, 2004
One of my favorite genres of all time is the 2D space shooter. Whether vertically or horizontally scrolling, these exciting arcade action games give you an incredible adrenaline rush. Despite being technologically retarded by modern standards, classic retro software of this kind can be amazingly appealing. Unfortunately, this type of release has largely vanished from the retail world, at least in terms of personal computer offerings. Now, however, an Italian developer, Atlanteq, has taken the plunge and published through SR-71 Games, Steel Saviour.
In a highly unusual move, Steel Saviour actually has a meaningful and interesting storyline, usually absent from this genre. The plot revolves around an ancient civilization that managed to harness the power of the four basic elements – water, fire, energy, and wind – but then through its own pride lost these elements and ended up in a barren wasteland. You play the role of a nameless hero, the Steel Saviour, determined to save the planet. To accomplish this task, you manage to figure out how to operate a steel flying machine, and you go through a passage into an underground realm containing the missing elements so that you can free them and revive the planet.
As you progress, you pass through four large game settings, each corresponding to the four missing primal elements. There is also a fifth level inside a huge monster. Before starting each world, you get a briefing outlining what you need to accomplish. Each world has a unique physical ambience matching its element, with thunderstorms in the first world, hot lava walls in the second, energy bolts in the third, and powerful winds in the fourth. Each level also has its own set of adversaries with special patterns. The fifth and final level provides a perfect crescendo, posing the ultimate challenge for you. The connection between the theme of each setting and the challenges you face is very tight and well integrated.
As is typical of this genre, the action is quite simple. You maneuver your ship around the screen, dodging enemy projectiles while attempting to destroy your many adversaries. The play dynamics do not incorporate any of the extra wrinkles some designers add in to provide more complexity, such as a store to visit to choose what to upgrade, asteroids to mine to gain natural resources, or tactical concerns with maintaining fuel capacity or ship construction and repair. Steel Saviour openly borrows from many past classics in this genre, and – rather than introducing startling innovations – it strives to refine what already exists to provide a fresh experience. Thus, the challenge is not in mastering complexity, but rather in responding to straightforward arcade challenges.
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