Europe is on the brink of war. A new, rapidly-growing military power, The Cult, has devised a mysterious means of bending entire territories to its will. As the commander serving the militia of noble Lord Bingham, you oversee the Steampunk Tower, a technological powerhouse which can be deployed anywhere in the continent by Bingham’s personal air carrier, the Aurora.
This exposition is important, because Steampunk Tower II is clearly a sequel to an older flash/mobile title with an established lore and universe; several story events from the first game are referenced in an early agent rescue mission, for example. Thankfully, the context is clear enough that I felt like I could jump right in here and not really miss anything.
The gameplay is divided into two sections: base management on the map screen, as well as a real-time combat section with heavy tower defense influences. Battles primarily involve managing your available turrets between multiple ‘floors’ of a central, stationary tower. At any time, you can disengage a turret to reload its ammunition (an important manoeuver as enemy forces increase) or place it on a new location in the tower to better bolster each front. This adds a more dynamic element to the combat, which compliments the strategic choice of selecting which turrets are suitable for each battle. Each turret – from the electric-pulsing Thunderstorm to the saw-blade-launching Claw – comes equipped with its own unique attack types, strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll quickly pick your favourites as you learn to play.
The majority of your time outside of missions is spent on the map screen, in particular overseeing your secret base in the south of Spain. From here, you can upgrade your transport links, develop new technologies and weapons, dispatch agents on secret missions across Europe, as well as regularly gather taxes from your citizenry. Exploring Europe, you’ll be more concerned with defending specific regions from repeat attacks from The Cult, notably anywhere which houses a weapon part factory. Thankfully, an ‘autobattle’ option is available for any territory which you have manually defended in a full battle previously. Managing everything happening both inside and outside your base successfully is vital to achieving victory in the main campaign, which will last anywhere from 10-15 hours, depending on your skill level.
As someone who mostly missed the late-2000’s explosion of the tower defense genre, I initially found Steampunk Tower II’s combination of base management and real-time action a little hard to grasp. However, the game really should be commended for the ease at which its tutorial introduces you to its gameplay concepts and systems; by hour three, the basic loop of ‘complete skirmish, receive taxes and etherium, upgrade weapons’ had fully taken hold, and I had started to confidently form strategies for placing turret types on my weapon tower. Like the many mobile games which inspired it, timer elements are in place to prevent you earning money too quickly by just sitting in your base, though the intervals seem perfectly tuned to allow just enough time for you to finish another battle or binge another YouTube video. There are, I’m pleased to say, no micro-transaction elements in the game whatsoever.
On the default difficulty, keeping track of all the timers, upgrade trees and quest objectives provided is a decent enough (and fun) challenge in itself. As the campaign progresses, though, it occasionally throws a curveball your way by asking you to defeat the boss units: massive, creative behemoths complete with their own attack patterns and behaviours. This concept is explored further in the challenge missions, high-risk confrontations which restrict the available weaponry and disable screen-clearing super attacks, but offer massive rewards in the form of unique turrets should you succeed.
As it stands, Steampunk Tower II has a couple of rough edges. The art and sound design are more than acceptable for a game of this type, with some nice character illustrations peppering the between-mission story beats, but many of the assets are re-used outside of your initial base. There’s not a particularly large variety of music on offer at the moment, either, though what’s here is appropriately, well, steampunk. A special shout-out should go to the chill map BGM; it’s a perfect track for idling in a browser window while you wait for more taxes to roll in. More egregious, however, is the game’s current English translation; replete with grammatical errors and odd-sounding sentences, it’s clear that there were few native English speakers on the development team.
But really, little of this matters when you consider the volume of addictive, ‘just-one-more-go’ gameplay on offer here, especially at the low entry-price of £6.99 on Steam. With developers Dreamgate actively responding to community feedback, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the game further refined in future, with plans already in place to improve the English translation. Now, if you’ll excuse me: I have taxes to collect and a Tempest cannon to upgrade!