Oasis Game’s Steel Circus reminds me of many games, and that’s not a bad thing.
Steel Circus is a 3v3 sports game where each team wants to put the ball into the opponent’s net, a la football.
Players pick from some “Champions” to play and each of them bring different skills into the arena.
Upon first look, its closest comparisons are Mario Strikers, Nintendo’s 5v5 football game featuring characters from the Mario series, and Rocket League, the one where you play football with somersaulting cars. It features the quirky nature of Mario Strikers’ football with characters who use crazy skills to tackle each other and the competitive multiplayer nature of Rocket League where each player plays as only one character.
The game is easy to pick up, with a straightforward premise. All it took was one game to get the hang of it and it was down to shenanigans in the Steel Circus. Each of the 4 champions (Alpha build, developers are planning for at least 15 champions) have differing health and speed, and two unique skills to help their team. The skills are fun and impactful but the cooldowns are relatively long, so it would be best to utilize them thoughtfully rather than simply spamming them. That being said, some of the cooldowns are too long in my opinion and it can feel a bit underwhelming when a situation arises for a certain skill, only for you to mash it and see nothing happen.
There is only one arena to play right now, with an estimate of 5-10 arenas in the final game, and it features pinball bumpers. The bumpers help block direct shots from long distance, but they can also be detrimental to the defenders by bouncing an otherwise harmless shot back into dangerous areas. In one game, my team had a shot bounce off the edge of goal, hit a bumper and go back in. That is probably one of the epic moments for the attacking team, and the game does have quite a few of those.
The game suffers a bit from clutter, due to the constant name tags hovering, duplicate character selection, and similar avatar colours between both teams. Each player’s name tag is constantly stuck above their avatar. The player’s own name tag is highlighted in a different colour to enable easy finding, but having too many characters together makes it hard to read and cluttered to find a team mate. Being able to select the same characters across both teams without any difference in colour or skins means that whenever duplicate characters are chosen, it is entirely reliant on the name tags to identify different teammates, and in crucial moments it leads to wrong decisions in the game.
Overall, the UI has to be praised though, and I especially enjoyed one aspect: 2 faint lines linking the other teammates whenever one character has the ball. It has a three pronged advantage:
1) allowing the ball carrier to find his teammates
2) allowing teams to identify quickly who’s attacking or defending
3) letting friendly teams find quick pass lines, or for opposing teams to quickly shut down the same pass lines.
As each player holds down his skills, there is a UI area showing up instantly, giving an idea of where it will land. This has become a staple of most MOBA(Multiplayer online battle arena) games, and works great here. One minor complaint is that as you see all of the areas for everyone, things can get hectic, contributing to the clutter.
In conclusion, the game draws from many inspirations and references, ranging from Cartoony Sports games like Mario Strikers and Rocket League, MOBAs like LoL, to the asymmetrical character selections from Overwatch. It is ultimately fun in its own charming arena, evoking many of these games along the way, and at higher skill levels the game can be impressive with trick shots and passes, great timing in interrupting skills or blocking shots, but it is still lacking polish and some bits of balance. With it still being in Alpha, there is great promise if it manages to carve out its own identity amongst the many experiences it draws from.
Check out the Closed Alpha Test Gameplay Trailer
Steel Circus Review by Castalos Heng.