|Where did everyone go?|
Well, you might have a beta key for City of Steam. All weekend the only nag in the back of my mind seeking to pull me away from Tyria was the knowledge that with a click I could be in Nexus again. Once the Karka threat ended I gave in to the tug and what a joyful experience it was.
|When the going gets tough the green go shopping|
Now here we are in Closed Beta (for a given value of "Closed") and much has changed again, all for the better. City of Steam is shaping up to be really something quite extraordinary.
|I warned you about leaning out of the window|
Entering the world, the action now begins with your home city on fire and a pell-mell rush to the Railhauler to save your family. It's a much stronger opening and puts the refugee status that all player-characters begin with into a better-defined emotional and narrative perspective. The journey on the Railhauler itself has been pared and polished, all the fat stripped off to leave a clean, invigorating introduction to basic gameplay and UI conventions.
|Yes, we are quite near the flightpath|
|Now that's quality!|
I can't demonstrate this, however, because the only way you can even work around the lack of recording options in-game is to cut&paste from Print Screen and using that in Full Screen mode just gets you a matte black rectangle. I spent an hour or so researching and downloading external screen grabbers, including some that are alleged to work with CoS but without success. Consequently, all the illustrations here are from the much smaller windowed version of the game and look about 20% as impressive as they should.
That single complaint aside, so much has been added or smartened up since Alpha. The wonderful ambient soundscape is back and better than ever. All the quest dialog has been re-written. The familiar matter-of-fact placeholder text has been replaced with some very good, witty, banter in sharp, idiomatic English. The sequences and steps of the starter quests have been tidied into much smoother order and the whole "Welcome to Nexus" sequence is a real pleasure to play through.
Slots on either side of the main hotbar now confirm we get both Mounts and Pets. There's no Jump function but when I hit the spacebar this time round, forgetting that, I got a red message "Jetpack not equipped". Crikey! Apparently this isn't a joke and jetpacks really are in the works.
There are a few hours of this first beta weekend left and I'm off to make the most of them. Not to repeat previous mistakes but I really would play this now. Permanent characters can't come soon enough.