Gears, clocks, top hats, monocles, goggles, steam-powered machines -- all are part of a trendy culture called "Steampunk" that is making an appearance in areas of creativity including, of course, video games. Riding on this trend is the free-to-play MMORPG "Neo Steam." With a world that is completely powered with in-game Neo Steam -- including a Steam Balloon, Submarine and a Zeppelin -- you can expect an environment that all steampunk enthusiasts can appreciate.
Two factions are available for you to choose from when you start out: the Republic of Rogwel and the Kingdom of Elerd. The Republic of Rogwel focuses on the old Neo Steam world, specializing in science and engineering, while the Kingdom of Elerd has turned to magic as an alternative source of energy and a new way of life. I like that the opposing factions are not the "Alliance," "Rebels," "Empire," or some other typical titles.
Unfortunately, the character customization is somewhat limited. You can choose from six races: Human, Elves, Pom, Lupine, Lyell and Taxn. The humans and elves are just like you would expect them to be; however the Poms are incredibly cute, furry creatures that put puppies to shame. The Lyell resemble humans, but have teddy bear-like ears. Taxn's are considered the attractive race with the appearance of humans, but more slender and elvish-looks. If you prefer playing more beast-like characters, the Lupine are wolves. Besides choosing your race, there are only four classes to choose from: Machinist, Mystic, Warrior and Scout. You can probably guess what each class is like based on their titles. Once you reach level 10, you can choose what you'd like to specialize in within your class.
PvP in "Neo Steam" is enjoyable for those who love player vs. player combat, and those who typically hate it due to being ganked will like it as well. The PvP zones, battlefields and arenas are level-limited (like "Warhammer Online"), so all of you newer players don't have to worry about getting ganked every 20 minutes. I am not a big PvP player, but after doing some research and reading the chat in-game, PvP seems to be a crowning jewel of "Neo Steam."
The 3D anime graphics are relatively decent, but not for critical, fussy, and visually-focused gamers. There were some bugs that I encountered such as getting stuck right in the middle of a stairway, quests not enabling me to loot the quest items and giving me credit for killing a boss when in fact, the boss had killed me and still had a good 30% of health left.
One of the most annoying things I faced was, believe it or not, the status bar. The status bar for opening and collecting items takes a long enough time that it becomes very frustrating when 10 or more things are required for one quest. I found myself quickly becoming impatient and surfing the Internet while my character opened up items, taking me out of the experience.
Thankfully the music is excellent and engrossing, with electronic beats and dramatic scores. It definitely helped get me through the obstacles that I faced. I even left the character creation screen open while I was writing this review because it makes for great background music.
If there's a feature you're used to in MMORPGs, chances are "Neo Steam" has it in some fashion. There are pets, crafting and specialty skills to acquire, level up and customize. Also expected is that the Item Shop makes getting things a bit quicker. If you find yourself wanting an EXP bonus, a money drop rate increase, a training point bonus, potions, vanity items and special mounts, you can always visit the Item Shop or purchase a premium package, charging you either $5.99, $9.99 or $14.99 for 30 day's use.
You can go through the entire game without spending a dime, though, so don't be worried. The Item Shop is more intended for those who hate grinding and would rather fork out some cash to get fancy items than spend the time in-game. Looks like lazy players and character customization fanatics like myself will have to start budgeting the premium package into our monthly allowances...
Great for beginning MMO players, "Neo Steam" is simple to start out, but is surprisingly deep and challenging. The steampunk theme sets it apart from other anime MMOs, and for fans of the genre "Neo Steam" is definitely the best free-to-play MMORPG available.
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