The gameplay is compelling from a strategic and discovery perspective; in addition the game can move at a fairly fast-pace thanks to the ability to reduce the AI move-delay in the options menu. The combination of deadly enemies, ambushes through the walls, and a short standard weapon-range all adds up to an experience which could be rather charming for a certain type of tactical geek. It’s far from Fire Emblem, but for an indie effort it does a decent job of capturing that turn-by-turn tension which tactical games are known for.
Conversely, the storyline is rather weak and doesn’t offer the kind of compulsion that, say, the space rouge-like Faster Than Light offered. Aside from a few Christmas cracker jokes from the marines and scraps of semi-nonsensical text discovered on computer consoles – which are really just acting as XP boosts – there really isn’t much plot to speak of. On top of that the game doesn’t offer an awful lot of customization. New weapons are few and far between and the four classes aren’t all that diverse; at least not to the extent of other roguelikes.
Putting it all together, Steam Marines may be a tasty little challenge for some, but it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Perhaps it’ll be a nice addition to a rogue fan’s collection, and maybe a few indie diehards would like to pick it up to see what it’s all about. However, it doesn’t do a sufficient number of things in a new way or provide enough of a compelling experience to make it a hit for everyone; it’s nothing special, but it’s alright.