If you’ve been eagerly awaiting a new Titanfall game…well, I don’t bring any news of that (but know that I’m as sad as you are). What I am here to tell you about, however, is this neat little side-scrolling, mech-based indie game that just hit Steam. It looks like it takes inspiration from more than a few hit games, chief among those being Titanfall and Metroid. If that premise has you interested, keep reading.
Steelborn hit Steam yesterday courtesy of developer Vega Horizon Studio and publisher Take Aim Games. First impressions reveal the obvious: With a big ass mech you can hop in and out of with the push of a button, the name Titanfall is simply reflexive. But on the ground? Where that’s where things kinda feel like a side-scrolly, twin-sticky, beat-up-the-weird-alien-life platformer that gives me some serious Metroid vibes, at least aesthetically. I can’t say whether or not it slots into the Metroidvania sub-genre just yet, but the game’s Steam page does promise “many mysteries and secrets hidden in hard-to-reach places” on its hostile alien world.
With the obvious comparisons to the much-loved yet frustratingly elusive Titanfall series, it’s no secret why the game has caught some attention on Reddit, becoming a top post on a forum with over 36M members. Aside from referring to it as a “Titanfall Demake,” other comparisons from folks include Blaster Master, Metal Mech, Starbound, and Metal Slug. Two of those are directly referenced, along with Contra and Ranger-X on the game’s official Steam page, so it’s not afraid to wear its inspiration on its sleeve.
Surprisingly, there were a few other neat things I spotted in the game’s opening moments that felt like fitting tributes to other classics: The opening space scene looks straight out of Halo: Combat Evolved’s opening, which transitions to a neat No Man’s Sky-esque travel sequence over a planet. The synth basses used in the soundtrack also scream Mass Effect (which transitions to a very fitting and groovy fusion of metal). And an enemy type that reaches down and grabs you straight up reminds me of Half-Life 2’s barnacles—you can even sort of use them as a quasi movement technique (though you will take damage).
As a game, Steelborn is a little tough on first impressions. The first boss took me a little while to get my head around as I was still learning the jetpack moves, and it doesn’t help that the game likes to throw a lot of enemies at you while you’re trying to dodge and attack the big bad. But once I got into its flow, it felt like there’s a good, fun, speedy action game here. You can also, of course, move around in your big-ass mech, which makes you mostly impervious to minor hostiles. Aside from some combat utility, the mech also plays an essential role in clearing out inaccessible areas, allowing for more platforming and exploration.
On a gamepad, you’ll aim with the right analog stick and move around with the left, so there’s a twin-stick feel to the side-scrolling action and platforming. And while it isn’t verified on Steam Deck, I was able to get it to work reasonably well, though it did fire up the SMPTE-esque color bars on first launch. It booted up the game a short while after; this is a common Steam Deck quirk with games that aren’t directly supported but will still work.
Steelborn is currently on sale on Steam for just over 13 bucks. Though it’s a little challenging at first, it’s got quite a few things going for it, particularly the great music and pretty art design. And I love a game that isn’t afraid to be honest about its influences—which in this case are some pretty awesome games.