PAX Online 2020 Highlight – Gestalt: Steam & Cinder

Posted on September 16, 2020

Gestalt: Steam & Cinder is one of the many games currently being highlighted and playable during PAX Online. The game immediately caught my eye and apparently this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. It’s one of those games that very few people seem to have heard about before PAX’s show reel. Although given the quality found within this game’s demo, I’d suggest it’s a title more people need to know about. And with a “late 2020 release date”, this title can’t be far from release.

Developed by newcomer Metamorphosis Games, Gestalt seems to be making some waves with its beautiful steampunk pixel art as well as its lovely action combat. It’s stated to be in “pre-alpha” but already handles better than plenty of finished games. Check out the trailer below which doesn’t just showcase the lovely art and combat, but shows some good variety to the areas and enemies you’ll be facing as well! It all looks highly promising.

The demo has you waking up in a hospital ward as protagonist Aletheia, a sword-and-gun-wielding desperado-type with enormous red hair and an outrageously cool trench coat. You quickly discover that Aletheia has been unconscious for around a month after a close fight with something called a ‘MEGA MESS,’ all-caps included. There’s some nice, natural dialogue to give you a very rough idea of what sort of person Aletheia is – quick to violence, apparently – and then you’re out the door with a mission to hunt some “Syndicate” members.

The environments within Gestalt: Steam & Cinder are gorgeous, the character sprites are sharp and eye-catching, and the larger portraits when you talk to important characters are stunning. Of course, being me, I want to give a shout out to the female characters too. So far we’ve been introduced to protagonist Aletheia, the doctor Jocasta, fellow mercenary Cassandra and bookstore-owner Ada. All of these women look absolutely awesome and represent a nice diversity of skin tones to boot. It always gets bonus points with me when I can play as a character who is cool enough to want to relate to, attractive enough to swoon over, and yet isn’t going to make me need to recite body-positivity mantras for a week to recover from. Having that be the baseline of all characters? Yes. Absolutely. Please do.

Gameplay is just as promising. Pretty much everything feels tight and responsive except for a few tiny things like inadequate buffers. You’ve got a light attack combo and a heavy attack as your main options, as well as the ability to fire bullets that do small health damage but ‘stun’, which can open enemies up for a few seconds of free hits. On top of that you get two separate dodges (a forward roll and a back-hop), attacks out of those dodges, an aerial attack that can be aimed up or down, a crouch attack, a spin attack when you hold down the attack button, a divekick that does big stun damage and doubles as a nice quick-movement option, and the ability to slide down and jump off walls. Every last one of these moves feels great to use. To put it simply, in terms of gameplay, Gestalt: Steam & Cinder feels like it’s ready to ship right now. It’s an incredible achievement for a game that only just went into pre-alpha.

Whilst the game’s demo does rush you away from the story to quickly put you behind the controls, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t story here. If you just talk to who you need to and run through the only currently-playable area, the demo probably takes around 15-20 minutes. There is, however, an absolute SLEW of world-building content in the hub area, including two side quests that you can’t finish but can make some definite headway in. It fleshes out your character, the characters around you, the city you’re in and the world you occupy, as well as the history of the entire society you’re a part of. It seems like an incredibly fleshed out world with all of this dialogue extending the ~20 minute demo into 80 minutes of playtime for me just to read everything people had to say.

Gestalt: Steam & Cinder seems enormously promising. Its presentation, gameplay, direction and world are all something I’ll be immensely looking forward to when it hits later this year. You can check out the game’s demo here whilst it’s still available!