To be steampunk or not to be steampunk.
Vaporum catches attention easily. We like steampunk, it’s cool, and ever since Bioshock brought steampunk back people have been trying to encapsulate that style.
I don’t think it’s a solid hit, Vaporum attempts to capture a steampunk style but ends up with something a little more industrial. Style aside, the game is a well-rounded and fun dungeon-crawling RPG with a grid-style emulating games such as Legends of Grimrock. It’s a package which works really well and as grid-style RPG’s go its up near the top as the most interesting game I have played in a while.
You play as a nameless male, who wakes up on a rock suffering from amnesia, standing in front of a steel monolith. Entering it, as every human would in that situation, and finding out what the hell is going on is the goal of the game. While this doesn’t feel like a strong story there is plenty of bulk to make this more engaging including diaries and sound bites throughout each level. With this is limited but nice voice acting, with the main character’s gruff voice reverberating around empty metal corridors.
You trudge your way through each level from start to exit, defeating steampunk enemies and solving puzzles. If you have played Legends of Grimrock then you know this gameplay well. Attacks take time to perform so tactical thinking is paramount and it can be easy to stick yourself in a corner if you are not careful and get beaten up by little robots.
Besides the attacks everything else is basic RPG mechanics. Inventory management is key, as there are plenty of items and space is at a slight premium. You have various levelling trees as well, each boosting a specific facet and progressively allowing unlocking of skills such as duel-wielding. From the beginning the game forces you to choose somewhat of a route by picking an exo-rig, a plot device to explain how robot do not murder you instantly which comes in three flavours valuing defence, technology and damage. It took about 4 runs before I found a style I liked, favouring defence and attack speed to be as vicious as possible.
Props have to be given for how much depth the game has, particularly in video options which gave adequate descriptions of facets but mostly in starting options. You can choose some fidelity options such as whether movement is continuous or static but they focus more on how much you want the game to hold your hand ranging from all the way to not at all. This gives plenty of replayability for hard core completionists who really want to get that max difficulty no deaths run under their belt.
While this game is a solid package, it will do nothing to draw you in if you do not like grid-based games. It’s understandable, they have disappeared out in favour of vast open world games and instant-gratification FPS action games. But the game knows its audience and targets accordingly. This even though at points it felt like the game was at juxtaposition to grid-based gameplay, as though it was a last minute change from a more open movement design.
Nonetheless, Vaporum is an interesting and good new addition to a thin market. The demographic, which you may be part of, will eat this game up. It ticks all the boxes and adds a few nice unique steampunk flavourings as well as options for the old-school players to sink their teeth into. Nothing is wrong with this game, and it earns a strong 8 for it, but this game is not going to turn you to the genre if you are apprehensive.