What is Beyond A Steel Sky?
Beyond A Steel Sky is the 3D prequel to the 2D cult classic point-and-click adventure game, Beneath a Steel Sky, released in 1994. BASS brings an enrapturing Orwellian narrative crossed with a futuristic cyberpunk puzzle mechanic guaranteed to keep any mobile gamer enthralled. Additionally, BASS's release on iOS is an impressive milestone in the mobile gaming industry following the release of Ocean Horne 2 two years ago during Apple Arcade's debut. With more notable titles coming to the mobile arena like Call of Duty, League of Legends Wild Rift, and Apex Legends later this year, we are sure to see bigger and better titles. Although we are unsure if Apple's Arcade has yet to proven wildly successful, games of this stature will herald in a new era of gaming on the go. Below I begin with the devices I played on, introduce the story, explain the puzzle aspect central to this game, and my conclusion and rating.
As an Apple Arcade game, I had multiple cross-platform options, and I dedicated time to each. I started BASS on my 12.9 inch iPad Pro with an Xbox Elite controller. Controller support provided an intuitive gameplay experience I never foresaw but now emphatically embrace. The sheer power and graphics behind Apple's latest iPad magnify this experience. Next, I jumped into my saved file right where I left off on my 27 inch iMac Pro. While dedicated PC gamers couldn't imagine playing a game on any Mac, the experience was pleasant. Following the iMac, I dabbled on my Apple TV. I anticipated a positive experience on my over-the-top TV but was left disappointed. The experience felt clunky with slow loading times and choppy movements. At this point I was left me wondering why I shouldn't just turn on my Xbox or Playstation and dive into a more expansive, better running adventure title. Lastly, I spent the least amount of time on my iPhone 11 Plus. I may have felt differently if I started with the iPhone, but my accessibility to other larger screens left the iPhone feeling underwhelming. The iPad claims the crown, in my opinion, followed by the iMac, iPhone, and lastly, the Apple TV.
In Beyond a Steel Sky you play as Foster and your journey begins in the Gap, a place painted separate and distinct from the city. The introduction begins with an animated comic book narration, which had me hooked from the moment it started. While fishing out in the desert with your buddy Max and his son Milo, a peaceful fishing trip turns into a nightmare as a mysterious group of raiders kidnap Milo. When Foster awakens, he vows to Max's wife that he will find Milo and return him to their village. As the comic narration winds down, Foster sets out on his investigation, following the raiders in a harsh and unforgiving Gap.
If you are new to this series as I was, you learn quickly that only through dialogue, interacting with objects, and exploring will you find yourself progressing through the story. While the initial narrative is enticing on its own, you find yourself back at Union City, where Foster mysteriously notates his vague history here, leaving the gamer wondering why he left in the first place. As your search for Milo continues, the stakes increase when you learn that Milo isn't a one-off event but a trend sharply on the rise. Your investigation becomes complex as you enter Union City and discover a futuristic, black-mirror, Orwellian civilization where every citizen is monitored and rewarded points representing their place in society. The unsettling oversight of Union City's Ministry of Wellbeing, Ministry of Aspiration, Ministry of Safety, Ministry of Comfort, and Ministry of Plenty leaves an eerie brainwashing effect that is no longer apparent to the citizens. As the story develops, it leaves you anticipating the next actions and how those will affect your path.
I went into BASS blind, having never played the original, Beneath a Steel Sky. As mentioned above, progress through the puzzle mechanic is central to this game. As you interact with items, engage in dialogue with individuals, and hack almost anything electronic, you'll unlock and expand new areas to explore. One tool that plays a mighty companion in your journey is the scanner pictured above and below that allows you to hack nearby electronics. By connecting to nodes and rearranging task logic blocks, you learn to manipulate technology to suit your needs. Let's say you're in a room with an elevator, a singing robot, and a vaulted door that you need to get behind. Hacking into all three of them will allow you to rearrange the task logic blocks so that when you push the elevator button, now the robot sings, or when approaching the singing robot, now the vaulted door opens. Below is a visual inside of a bathroom, and one can only imagine the fun of flushing the toilet, actually activating the shower.
At first, this mechanic felt complicated and overwhelming, but you quickly learn how to interact with technology and hack their functions. Tinkering around with all objects and hacking everything you can is the key to moving up in this game, especially once you enter Union City. An enjoyable aspect of Beyond a Steel Sky is the option within the menu to reveal hints. I will shamelessly state that I became stuck at a few points, and had I not been able to reveal a hint, I might have considered putting the game down. While I enjoy the challenege at times, I also want to enjoy the experience and progress without stopping, and this feature is a nice touch.
Conclusion & Rating
All biases included, I gave Beyond a Steel Sky a 7.5 out of 10. At the time of release, this adventure title was , and still is, an impressive experience on mobile. If you love Orwellian stories and challenging puzzles, you'll find it here in abundance. While I do not believe this title is worth the $35 price tag for PC players on steam, nor do I think the experience would be as joyful, the $5 subscription to Apple Arcade for access to this game, along with others, is well worth the cost. Beyond a Steel Sky is coming to Xbox and Playstation later this year as well and I would be interested in giving it a shot on console. If you enjoy any of the aspects mentioned above, we believe you will enjoy this game.