SteamDolls - Order of Chaos

A game by The Shady Gentlemen for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, not yet released.
SteamDolls - Order of Chaos is a dark and gritty metroidvania set in a steampunk universe. You take on the role of a masked anarchist called “The Whisper” as he skulks through city streets, sewers, factories, and the like, taking down the agents of those in power by brutally murdering them with blades attached to his wrists. Unfortunately, The Whisper seems to be suffering from visions of some sort, which are often severely divorced from reality. (Ed note: this preview is based on a concept demo that is meant to showcase the game’s atmosphere and various features; it is not meant to represent the final product.)

The game takes place after the Great Collapse, set in a world where society has returned to some semblance of order… only to turn everything to shit once again. A corrupt authoritarian government now rules by controlling the world’s primary power source, quite possibly – as the protagonist believes – through the aid of sorcery. The Whisper has taken it upon himself to reveal the truth of this world, and hopefully ignite the flames of revolution.

The game gets off to a quick start as an opening cutscene shows the masked vigilante standing in the street, ready to enact his grand plan… only to have some kind of security robot activate behind him. So the player’s first action is to run away from this threat as quickly as possible, dashing through the ramshackle housing district and its trash-filled streets, beneath the grand Victorian superstructure of an overpass. Finally escaping indoors, the game presents a short sequence to acclimate the player to his general moveset.

The Whisper has a 2.5x variable jump and is able to dash to the left or right while on the ground or in the air, and this maneuver has a couple of seconds of cooldown before it can be used again. The Whisper has a blade attached to each wrist, and this allows him to perform a 3-hit combo while standing, a short strike while ducking, or a wide swipe while jumping. He is also able to toss knives to strike enemies at a distance, but doing so drains his power meter somewhat. Collecting blue orbs allows him to replenish this meter, whereas red orbs replenish health, and orbs may be found by breaking open various contraptions or crates.

Finally, The Whisper has the ability to perform stealth takedowns. This is represented by a black and white effect and a sneakier walking animation as The Whisper approaches enemies from behind. When he gets close enough, performing an attack results in a stylish and bloody animation showcasing the brutal kill. Stealth kills work differently for different enemies – but they don’t work on robots – with the gun-toting baddie getting several wrist-blade strikes to the back before getting one in the skull, and the staff-wielder getting his staff snatched, then being beaten by it, before ultimately having the staff driven through his back, leaving him slumped over on the ground with the bloody tip emerging from his chest to prop him up.

The game features an illustrated metroidvania map, with hand-drawn notes and arrows pointing to points of interest, as well as save rooms. Save rooms restore the player’s health and power, but using them also respawns all of the enemies, following soulslike conventions. The world is designed to allow for backtracking, with the player frequently encountering switches to open doors that act as shortcuts to earlier areas. In addition, switches are occasionally used to activate moving platforms and elevators.

Human enemies aren’t the only thing that the player must contend with, as he occasionally encounters hovering drones and patrolling robotic insects that explode (beautifully) when killed. There are also trip lasers that set off turrets or cause bombs to drop from the ceiling. Other obstacles include crushers, popup spike traps, floors that drop out from under your feet, and spring-loaded traps that snap shut if you walk over them. And there are some explosives that go off if you run past them, requiring that you destroy them from a distance or sneak to pass them safely. One area features huge electrical blasts that move back and forth, forcing you to run under cover to find safety as sparks fly from struck objects.

As mentioned, The Whisper occasionally sees things that might or might not actually exist. This comes in the form of occasional visual glitches that intrude on the environmental visuals. In one instance, The Whisper is walking through the streets when reality seems to completely give way, being replaced by a green landscape filled with gnarled trees, a rope bridge extending into the distance, and a floating naked woman. The woman says that she will give The Whisper anything he desires, if only he promises to love her forever. Tempting, he says, as reality returns around him, but he’s not into that kind of commitment.

SteamDolls - Order of Chaos is quite stylish, done up in comic book fashion with its introduction and cutscenes, and this visual fidelity and atmosphere carry over into the game itself. Explosions in particular are stunning. The dark and grimy environments are rendered beautifully and offer bright lighting effects that stand out against the darkness, although some areas are still a bit too dark, particularly around the edges of the screen, which can make it more difficult to tell where you're meant to go.

The game steeps the player in this thick atmosphere by sending him through dark and decrepit alleys, overcrowded factory floors, and picturesque landscapes populated by hovering airships and towering statues, showing a city that is quite beautiful… if only from a distance. Additionally, the gravelly voice of The Whisper – whose tone and masked visage are reminiscent of other anti-heroes such as V and Rorschach – is voiced by none other than David Hayter of Metal Gear Solid fame.

SteamDolls - Order of Chaos was developed by The Shady Gentlemen, a 3-person team based in France and Belgium who have never met in person. The team consists of designer and developer Yoann Peter, artist Etienne ETN Vrithof, and sound designer and composer Jeremy Hagry. The game is part of an overall SteamDolls universe, which is also comprised of a concurrently-developed graphic novel from the same team.

The game is being published by Top Hat Studios, which focuses on cyberpunk games, visual novels, and a bit of NSFW content, and it also the publisher of LAZR - A Clothformer.