Beyond a Steel Sky Apple Arcade Review
Getting into Union City is a real headache. Union City is a giant futuristic city in the heart of Gap, the desolate post-apocalyptic alien wasteland, and when you start playing Beyond a Steel Sky, you might find yourself a bit lost. The giant city walls tower over you and getting inside seems utterly impossible. Beyond a Steel Sky gives you the classic adventure game intro, a bunch of people to talk to, and a bunch of obtuse tasks you need to complete before making your way inside. And, for better or worse, it maintains that momentum throughout.
Beyond a Steel Sky is the modern sequel to Beneath a Steel Sky, the 1994 adventure classic, and in many ways it’s incredibly faithful to the classic PC adventure titles people know and love. You play as Foster, the protagonist of the original, and years after leaving Union City, he returns to find a kidnapped child in his village. The intro cinematic features comics by David Gibbons, illustrator of The Watchmen. As far as intros go, it already feels distinctly like a game from the 90s.
But the experience itself has taken on major cues like Telltale Games and other modern adventure titles. The world is reminiscent of The Walking Dead art style – though that’s probably not surprising, given that it’s another comic-inspired 3D adventure game. Foster roams through environments with solid, chunky animation that you’ll see a lot, and has a sort of “witty” note to make about almost anything you care about in the game.
The walls of Union City look like a proving ground. This may be because the exterior of Union City is the area that was heavily focused on early in development, but the first area of the game seems the most intricate and detailed. You could easily get lost in the myriad of characters, dialogue options, items to collect, where they go and what to do with them. It feels like the devs spent a lot of time here, testing what works and what doesn’t, iterating over the core mechanics of the game until they have a solid model for the rest. of the game to follow, as everything beyond this point is distinctly easier.
Once inside Union City, you’ll move from area to area, each of them with a variety of useless items and objects to interact with, and a handful of items that you’ll actually have to interact with to continue. You are given a Hacker before you enter the town which allows you to manipulate some of the automated systems in place around town, but this ends up being reduced to a fairly simple puzzle-solving tool. You will use the hacker to move “functions” between different robots. For example, you can approach a drink vending machine and set it to activate the alarm when people try to buy a drink, terrifying the next customer to approach. Of course, you’ll also have to use the hacker in more interesting ways, like setting up a cleaning robot to clean the outside of a building, so that a potentially suicidal jumper can use it to get down.
Let’s be clear: solving the little puzzles in Beyond a Steel Sky is fun. You can literally spend hours wondering what you’re supposed to do next, before the answer suddenly comes to you like a flash of inspiration, and if it works, you’ll be ecstatic. Those moments when you feel like you’ve truly deciphered a solution from nothing but the environment are amazing, but the time you spend trying to find the next dark element to interact with to move the game forward. story is lost and frustrating. Truly, Beyond a Steel Sky is at its best when you’re initially confused, and the solution slowly reveals itself to you. The time you spend in confused limbo is simply wasted. But this is an adventure game – arcane solutions and complete nonsense are just part of the routine.
It’s a shame that the puzzles outside of this opening area are so much more streamlined and straightforward than the ones you were first introduced to. Areas like Graham Grundy’s apartment, the old museum, and the recycling center have fairly linear and straightforward solutions that you should be able to comfortably find. I can’t really say the same for the intro area – especially since this game has quite a few bugs, luckily only one I’ve found that can be game-breaking. In this first area, you must attract a Gang-Gang bird to obtain a key element. Being a bird, it can get spooked if you get too close to it, and if you’re unlucky, the game won’t spawn the birds or come back down. Add to that a low actor draw distance, which results in character pop-in, and you have a recipe for disaster.
This brings us to the port. I’ve played PC versions of Beyond a Steel Sky before, and the game absolutely supports customizable graphics settings and high resolutions, but you won’t find it on Apple Arcade. I played the game on my iPad Mini 4, one of the oldest Apple Arcade compatible devices, and therefore one of the worst places to experience the game. And despite the fact that I was getting the level experience the further down, Beyond a Steel Sky holds up incredibly well. It is fully playable. Sure, there were bugs, characters stepping on me or me stepping on it, the camera getting stuck in walls during conversations, crashes, but none of that had a significant impact on my enjoyment – even the crashes were more of an annoyance than a deal-breaker, thanks to the auto-save system. If this is the worst case scenario for Beyond a Steel Sky, it only makes me more optimistic to see the game working on other platforms, because even on Apple Arcade it works very well.
Throughout the game, Beyond a Steel Sky jumped between being frustrating and making me smile. Those moments of success made me feel like a scientist, while those moments of being lost made me want to do something else. Nothing else. Still, Beyond a Steel Sky is a quality adventure game, one of the best titles on Apple Arcade, and definitely worth the wait when it launches on PC.
Reviewed on apple arcade.
Beyond a Steel Sky is a classic adventure game because it’s obtuse, complex, frustrating, and once you get past this challenging puzzler, endlessly satisfying. Whether or not it will satisfy fans of the 1994 original remains to be seen, but it’s the best adventure on Apple Arcade, and has plenty to offer fans of Telltale Games and other adventure classics.
- A classic adventure game
- Entering Union City for the first time is great
- Solving puzzles is infinitely satisfying
- A classic adventure
- Exploring Union City can feel limited
- Finding puzzle solutions is endlessly frustrating