Game Recs

PS Plus Quietly Added This Unique, Addictive Soulslike In February

Steelrising boldly asks “What if Bloodborne but French?”

Aegis, the protagonist from Steelrising
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Science can’t explain masochism. There’s some research to support the thin biochemical line between pleasure and pain within the central nervous system, but the psychology of why people seek out pain and humiliation remains a mystery. Without it, we wouldn’t have Soulslikes, the infamous subgenre named for From Software’s notoriously difficult Dark Souls series. It introduced gamers to the concept of being treated like ignoble filth, peons incapable of glory until they hone their skills through hours and hours of punishment. And we loved them for it. So much so that this thriving subgenre is going strong more than a decade later. And now PlayStation+ has dropped one of the most unique Soulslikes in recent memory.

Steelrising from French studio Spiders is an alternate universe take on the French Revolution that gives King Louis XIV an army of automatons at his disposal. One automaton, or “automat” as the game prefers to call them, is named Aegis. A bodyguard for Marie Antoinette, Aegis is dispatched by the legendary beheadress to locate her missing children. Along the way, Aegis will battle King Louis’ forces on the foggy, cobbled streets of the French capital and unravel a mystery all her own.

The biggest strength Steelrising has going for it is the vibes. The atmosphere is cold and spooky, and it’s clear the Spiders team has an affinity for Parisian architecture thanks to some faithful recreations. Interior buildings look especially good, with warm wooden floors and flowing drapery. Your character will also turn heads thanks to an extensive wardrobe system.

The alternate history-style premise is cheeky and fun, although the cameos have more weight if you have a solid background in the French Revolution (or happen to be as French as the dev team). Still, enough recognizable names crop up to make you do the pointing-Rick-Dalton meme.

“Marquis de Lafayette!”

Columbia Pictures

Combat is what’s most important to a Soulslike, and Steelrising is a pretty standard with a couple of tweaks thrown into the mix. You’ll start with character customization and pick a starter class: bodyguard, soldier, dancer, or alchemist. These offer some slight variations in your initial weapons and stats but don't lock you out of anything, so you’re free to switch things up as you progress through the game.

Each weapon has a special ability in keeping with the standard controls of light attack, heavy attack, and dodge. There are stealth and airborne combat moves too, plus a ton of weapons and armor. Even better, none of the equipment is gated for stats so you’re never too weak or too slow to use a new toy you just picked up.

There’s also the familiar stamina bar but with a twist. When fully drained you can do a quick refill in exchange for taking frost damage. Too much frost and you’ll freeze up, leaving you vulnerable, so balance is key. Frost damage works both ways, and if you have it on your weapon you can slow and freeze your foes. It’s one of a few standard elements you’ll encounter in combat along with lightning, fire, etc.

Elemental effects are everywhere in Steelrising.


Beyond the combat, it’s exactly what you’d expect if you’re familiar with these types of games. Fight enemies, collect anima essence (aka souls), unlock save/fast travel points, and grind your way to perfection. It’s worth keeping in mind this is a AA studio making a solid AA game. The subtle flourishes that make Elden Ring a distinctly stylized masterwork aren’t on display here. That’s not to say the game is unpolished, but there are noticeable rough edges and moments when things might feel more busted than challenging.

Clunkiness aside, Steelrising is a worthwhile pursuit for purists and newcomers alike. Soulslike fans will appreciate what does and doesn’t work within the broader context of the genre, while newcomers can enjoy a shorter, slightly less intense game than what From Software typically has to offer. Its inclusion on PS Plus eliminates the only real barrier to trying it because it’s the type of game you’ll be happy to rent, not own.

Steelrising is available now on PlayStation+. It’s also for sale on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.

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