Title: Steam Prison
Release Date: February 14, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Visual Novel
When I looked at a screenshot of Steam Prison for the very first time, I had a preconceived notion that the game was simply gorgeous. Luckily for me, MangaGamer announced that they will localize the steampunk-themed otome game. Since I consider myself to be a huge Sci-Fi geek, I was looking forward to its release, and it finally has. I have to admit, I had high expectations for Steam Prison — I mean an otome game with steampunk elements, that’s a must play. After playing through it, I can definitely say this game didn’t let me down.
Steam Prison has players step into the shoes of a lovely main protagonist (which whom you give a name) who was born into the Heights, a “wonderful” world where the government decides what’s best for its citizens, including, whom they have to love or marry. Due to an incident, the protagonist decides to become a police offer and passes the entrance exam along with her faithful partner Fin. With her wedding coming up, she admits to herself that she doesn’t really have an interest in getting married although she doesn’t exactly dislike her fiancé. Nothing could go wrong anymore, right?
On an assignment, our protagonist and Fin have to go visit the Depths, a place underground full of criminals, the exact opposite of the Heights — some might just call it a prison. Following their visit, the protagonist’s parents were murdered and she was the prime suspect. With Fin being the only person who believes her, the protagonist ends up being sent to the Depths for her alleged crime. While living in the Depths, she realizes the people she looked down before are humans who are just trying to survive, some are even innocent. Their only crime was falling in love with the wrong person. The story follows her will to escape the Depths and clear her name, something that no one has managed to do before.
Like I already implied, Steam Prison teaches us to not be blinded by prejudice. Even if the Depths seem filthy, dirty, and full of good-for-nothing people at first, it shows you right at the start that this couldn’t be more wrong. The game’s protagonist is a strong female lead who does not want to be a bother to people who are close to her. She is highly determined to protect the weak and never doubts her decisions. While playing this game, I just wanted to give her a big hug. The injustice done to her will definitely make you feel the same way. However, the protagonist is super dense at times though, so watch out for that. There will be times where you just shake your head while playing Steam Prison. As you surely noticed she is very different than your usual otome protagonist, but that’s the thing which makes this game absolutely unique. She doesn’t hesitate to draw her sword against a male who is obviously stronger than her — and more importantly, she definitely doesn’t need a guy to protect her.
Speaking of guys, bromance is in this game. In case you didn’t know, bromance is a close connection between two men. It’s very refreshing that this type of love connection is included in an otome game. Reading the dialogue during bromance scenes in the game is really fun since the male characters in these scenes tend to tease each other and act like they dislike each other at first. However, you’ll notice very soon that these have a special relationship and are inseparable … until a girl comes into the picture and at the moment, juicy drama begins.
What I immensely enjoyed about Steam Prison is its premise that highlights how not all things are what they seem. This is the case with the two worlds in the game, the Heights and the Depths. The Heights seems like a luxury and safe world without any issues, however, it’s far from perfect due to having cruel dictator-like laws and standards. On the other hand, in the Depths, is more viewed as a criminal-filled, terrible place, but people that live there actually have more freedom and more opportunities. Instead of staying silent — like how many protagonists are in other otome games — the protagonist in Steam Prison shares her thoughts on what’s happening around her and I absolutely loved. This was because, I was able to be more connected with the protagonist and learn more about her as a character.
As far as romance mechanics go, Steam Prison has five love interests you can romance, which lead to multiple choices and different endings. Each choice might raise or lower your affection or simply doesn’t affect anything. There is an affection scale located in the menu you can check anytime. There is the option as well to let an icon pop up at the side of the screen to check if your choice lowered or raised your affection — so it basically shows you the right answer. This feature comes in handy if you want to get into a specific route without having to try multiple choices. Due to the number of choices you can make, Steam Prison has significant replayability since even the common routes are not all the same, depending on your choices.
Instead of worrying about making the right choice each time, Steam Prison does have an option to rewind back to your last previous choice, in case you want to correct it or wish to choose a different one. My only qualm with this though is I wished there was a mechanic as well that lets you skip a choice, so it’d be even faster to replay the game for the different endings but don’t want to read through the whole game again. However, you can still skip the already seen text, even though it takes longer than a direct jump.
Another feature, which I think is unique in this game, is that the perspective changes occasionally, and you’re able to read the thoughts of certain love interests. This feature lets you see what the characters are talking about when the main character isn’t around. It’s a neat feature, and I especially liked it because it let me understand how my relationships with other characters developed — like for instance, what my sweetheart was thinking or doing behind my back.
Rather than simply reading text, every character except for the protagonist is voiced, so you get to hear every character’s thoughts and opinions. The quality of the voice acting is superb, and the artwork is gorgeous. The sprites have different facial expressions and you can tell right away Steam Prison is indeed a high-quality visual novel. One nice high-quality touch for those that prefer reading will appreciate, is that Steam Prison lets you choose between two fonts. As far as game audio goes, the sound effects are well done as the sound of things like footsteps, doors squeaking or swords clashing all sound real. The game’s sound design and soundtrack perfectly match the game’s overall feel.
So in the end, would I recommend Steam Prison? The answer is “yes”. Steam Prison is truly such a unique otome game that we absolutely need more of. Its themes of love and humanity will undoubtedly capture your attention, and the main protagonist is one-of-a-kind. All in all, Steam Prison is absolutely worth playing through, again and again.
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