Die, and Die Again!
Traverse the land, recruit some soldier dudes…and watch them all die. That sums up Steel and Flesh 2: New Lands, a Renaissance-era strategy game from Virtual Studio. The main goal in the game is to eventually become king and rule the land, which you achieve by conquering enemies and occupying their land.
To become king, you must engage in battle to occupy towns, villages, castles, or ports with the help of your recruits. They must face the desired territory’s soldiers and deplete their numbers to zero to overtake their land. Once the enemies are defeated, you and your army can move into the location. The more sites you acquire, the more quickly you will level up. Your cash will then grow, allowing you to obtain more skilled recruits and higher level weaponry to continue the cycle of victory.
Steel and Flesh 2 has no actual story. In fact, there is no tutorial, save for a few YouTube links on the title menu, which mostly aren’t in English. That usually wouldn’t be an issue, but it is a problem with this game. There is no direction whatsoever, and the relatively steep learning curve requires hours of trial and error.
Become the King
My first 60 minutes were spent wondering what I was supposed to do and sifting through numerous in-game menus. In contrast, the second hour was relegated to watching my recruits die in a flurry of arrows before I succumbed to a similar fate.
This is for hardcore niche audiences only. Casuals beware. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have its redeeming qualities. The graphics are impressive for a mobile game. It features fully 3D rendered characters and landscapes, and the game ran smoothly with no dropped frames. I enjoyed the flute music, which seemed appropriate to the era. It felt plucked straight from any Renaissance Faire or a tavern in Skyrim.
Once I hammered out the initial logistics (after my fourth restart, numerous troop casualties, and misused currency), I began to see the game take form. The core gameplay consists of selecting your recruits, navigating the landscape, and engaging in combat. Regulated town arena battles present contests of skill for the accumulation of gold. Or you can attack map strongholds, where the campaigns are unsupervised and the result is death.
When on the main free-roam map, there is a list of actions at the bottom of the screen that allows you to set up camp, recruit for the squad, and manage States, which features territories at war and the status of their current political relations. The Invent option enables you to buy ships, animals, or siege weapons, among many other things, to aid you in your travels. The Player icon allows you to check your level, customize your character’s gender, helmet, facial features, as well as hair/beard styles and color.
Before you experience the core gameplay, you must set up your game correctly. The initial choices you make will absolutely determine victory or defeat. When you begin Steel and Flesh 2, you can set a difficulty meter. Very Low will give you the most starting currency with 25,000 gold. I suggest selecting this level, at least for your first play through, as it will cushion your inevitably misspent currency. Keep in mind that if you exhaust your initial troops and gold, its best to restart the game; you’re practically dead in the water. It’s a horrible way to begin a game as a newcomer. If Virtual Studio wants to expand its player base, I sincerely hope they fix the issue or, at the very least, implement a much-needed guidance system.
After your difficulty level is selected, you must pick your starting location, which includes places like Norway, England, and France. I don’t recommend the Holy Empire or France because those locations harbor more bandits, which will result in even more restarts. When choosing your class, I prefer Demoted Soldier because you start with some decent equipment. And lastly, when it comes time to allocate stats to your character, go all in on Leadership. It will allow you to recruit up to 23 squad members instead of five. Concentrate only on Expert Soldiers because everything else at this point is either a waste of time or too expensive.
And that’s it. From there, the map opens up, and you are free to travel where you’d like. Engage in various battles, tournaments, talk to townsfolk and explore markets and taverns. As you raise your army, you acquire gold, level up, and purchase items such as camps, horses, or baggage animals on your quest to become king.
Raise the Crown!
Whether you achieve king status or not, there will be challenges that test your problem-solving skills, mostly due to the lack of direction the game provides. Although Steel and Flesh 2 isn’t exactly my brand of beer, I can see how it could appeal to hardcore strategy fans who enjoy deciphering cryptic gameplay. But the game is free, so have at it.
Is it Hardcore?
Build your army, engage in battle, and rise in power to become king in Steel and Flesh 2: New Lands. Unfortunately, the tedious gameplay will prevent most from achieving their goal.