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SteamBirds: Survival

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Rating: 4.5/5 (123 votes)
Comments (9) | Views (9,346)
TrickySteamBirds: SurvivalThe original SteamBirds, by Radial Games and Spry Fox, has become one of the most popular casual gaming hits of 2010. The combination of aerial dogfighting and turn-based strategy has captured the interest of fans like Penny Arcade's Tycho, our own JohnB, and, thousands of others out there in internet land. And now, not-so-coincidentally coinciding with the original's release on the iPhone and Android platforms, the SteamBirds team has released a new quality iteration of the franchise, SteamBirds: Survival. This time, instead of the original time-spanning mission-based gameplay, the focus is on October 15th, 1940, holding off an ever-growing number of enemies over London during the Battle of Britain. The Axis air armada will blitz the city: history tells us they will not be stopped. The evacuation of civilians depends on them being stalled, though, and it is up to you and your fellow pilots to try. Choose your plane, and Godspeed. It is a dramatic premise, but one that the SteamBirds engine thankfully does justice.

Though gameplay is a bit more action-oriented this time around, and you control a single plane instead of many, the core control mechanics remain similar. After selecting your plane at the main menu, you'll be plunged into a battle for survival. Using the mouse, set your flight path by moving the arrow that extends from your plane's tip, with you and your enemies moving simultaneously once you end your turn. The plane will automatically start shooting once it gets its sights on an enemy, but the planes have different ranges of fire. Most planes have allies that come with them, but truthfully, you'll find them pretty useless. A new game-play aspect is how each downed plane releases a power-up to be picked up, including health, shields, bursts of speed, missiles, bombs, gun-jamming poisons, easy 180 degree turns and others. Knowing when to collect these and when to retreat under fire will be key to your success. New planes can be unlocked with the points earned in each battle (and by publicizing the game), or through the use of microtransactions. 16 planes are available for all players with another 8 available with payment or newsletter sign-up, though, as each plane has a separate high score table, they offer no competitive advantage: only more ways to play.

SteamBirds: SurvivalAnalysis: It's most accurate to describe SteamBirds: Survival as a new mode of play, rather than a sequel proper. As the interesting development post by Daniel Cook reveals, that was kind of the point. Certainly the random generation of enemies and situations makes it much more replayable that the original, and the various planes to choose allow you to focus on your preferred play style. Still, there are some drawbacks to this approach: First, most of the planes up for selection didn't really seem all that different. Yes, there were a few that seemed set up to focus on specific power-ups and tactics, but others seemed pretty indistinguishable. Admittedly I am a turn-based strategy novice, and the experts among us might appreciate the fine-tuning the choices allow.

Still, since all planes have their own high-scores tables, it makes you wonder why it's necessary to have to unlock them in the first place. I mean, unlockables are usually based around the idea that you deserve advantages in a game for playing longer or kicking the developer some well-deserved cash. Here it just gives you a plane that has a little better shield, but less powerful guns or whatever, which feels more like an additional option than an upgrade. If the idea is to allow each player to pick a plane that fits their method of play, why force them to earn points to unlock it in a plane that doesn't fit ? The answer, of course, is to allow non-paying players earn them slowly while letting paying players get them in one fell swoop, which is fair. Developers gotta eat. I wonder though, if players will be up to paying for the additional planes sight-unseen, especially in a game with limited multi-player content. I appreciate David Edery's Game Tycoon post explaining his rationale, and I'm certain that those who enjoy SteamBirds: Survival will find the extra options worth it,. I'm just more likely to support the developers by buying the original at the App store.

Switching gears, I want to talk about the in-game prose. There wasn't a whole lot of it, but it was extremely well-done. SteamBirds: Survival is one of the few games I've seen whose writing manages to appreciate the inherent value of the pilots' actions in protecting civilization, while simultaneously not shying away from the horrors and feelings of helplessness war brings. Each new wave of enemies brings you closer to a fiery crash, and there will be no victory parade. Yet it is because of you that children will live. So many games either over-glorify or over-deprave war, so it was nice to find a nice balance here for once. Death be not proud, but sacrifice can be, and SteamBirds: Survival recognizes that unison. A fellow reviewer, the daughter of a military pilot, said that the game caused quite an emotional response in her, especially the music. I think that alone speaks to the quality herein.

She also said she wished there was an option to turn off the music without turning off the sound, and I agree. So hey, get on that, developers!

In conclusion, while SteamBirds: Survival may not be the full sequel fans of the series might hope for, it is certainly a high quality expansion, and one those new to the series will find a welcome introduction. It is forgiving to strategy newbies while presenting depth to the more hard-core among us. The developers say they are dedicated to providing a number of sequels and spin-offs to the core SteamBirds concept and I hope they deliver on the promise. This is a franchise that has, well, wings.

Play SteamBirds: Survival!


I enjoyed the original and after playing this it's definitely a disappointment. Probably my biggest gripe with the first was that the music couldn't be muted without muting everything, which is still the case with this one. It sucks having to play a game like this in silence.

That you can only control one plane now takes away a lot of the fun strategy elements that existed in the first. Then there's the lack of quests, only survival mode. I tried out a couple different planes but didn't really have much motivation to build up my copper to try the others.


Well done. I like the interface, graphics and the music. I found game play a little bit slow.


Seriously disappointed on this one. I loved the original, but this one took away all of the good bits of the last one.

First off, you only control one plane, which is kind of sucky, but you can get used to it. Also, the rest of the AI planes in your squad seem to have no powerups and rubbish health.

Secondly, you can only use so many powerups per level. This makes sense for bombs, and the like, but for flying tricks like 360's? Video game logic. Bleh.

Then there's the whole 'buy planes thing'. I was really excited about this, because I thought you could build up your own squad. However, you still only get to control one plane.

Also, there is zero point in buying more planes, because the game just gets harder, meaning you have different powerups, but the same challenge. This is obviously meant to be a way to mitigate buying awesome planes and then spamming the rest of the game, but if they made copper harder to get, it would have made the buying curve better.

I quit the game and replayed the original. So PLEASE developers: if you're making a sequel/expansion, don't change the core mechanics. It only puts people off.



Is it me or are the battles repetitive, every time you play with whatever the battle always begins the same: I am constantly playing as a Bombardino 'till I get my next plane and the battle starts that one plane gets ahead of me, shoots one plane and then gets shot, then a plane comes from the top-right and two from below. It happens again and again (even with all the planes I own), that it drained the interest of this games, imagined if that scoreboard gets filled with scores from a geek who spends his entire life in front of the computer (Graeme of Lazylaces, Greg of Kongregate, they are both married and they still live there life on the internets).


I like this a lot. At first I was disappointed that you can only control one plane, but when I played the original this seemed a lot deeper.

I've only played the first three planes, but I do find that they call for somewhat different strategies. For one thing, the different powerups are a big deal:

if you have lots of shields, you might find yourself using them to fly through an enemy's fire zone and get into a good position. With a missile, you can try to take an enemy out before you get within range or (what's often better) hope that it chases the missile and lets you get behind it. With superspeed, you're often going in big arches trying to get around enemies (or in the case of the spotters, to their sides).

And I think the Dart is faster than the others, which makes a big difference in strategy; heavier armor and weapons on some planes may make that difference too, as if you have better range than an enemy you may be able to take it out without taking any damage.

Though the dropped powerups are artificial, it lends another element of strategy -- you'll usually have to loop back for them, and there's always a question as to whether chasing a powerup will let the enemy outmaneuver you. When to use a powerup is another important decision; you don't want to save them until after you're dead. (That's something I'm not good at.)

My biggest complaint -- besides the sound thing, though I actually like being able to mute it completely -- is, why are the anti-aircraft guns firing at meeee? I like to think that, instead of defending London, I'm on a daring raid over the German airfields; that'd give a better explanation of how they got their AA in place. Plus it seems just that bit more awesome.

Devlin Bentley December 14, 2010 4:59 PM

The planes have a HUGE difference in strategy, especially the later ones. Don't just go and buy planes in order, skip around a bit. I am flying The Axe right now, 180 degree firing arc, but moves slow as heck. A decent strategy is to use shields until enemies overtake me, then let them have it.

Another plane has a tiny firing arc but an INSANE rate of fire.

Then there is the bomber, starts off with a ton of bombs, you have to plan where enemies are going to be a turn from now and ensure a bomb goes off appropriately.


I enjoyed the game very much, and it was a welcome change from the previous SteamBirds.

The biggest problem I had with the first SteamBirds was that while each mission was different, there were only a max of say, 6 planes in total on the screen. Winning was as easy as bunching up your units and attacking the enemies one by one.
In this game however, each game is different; enemies appear in different places and different combinations, and there's no one way to achieve success.

While I don't agree with the people who say there's no point in purchasing new planes, I will say the first six planes or so are pretty similar in overall strategy. Once you get to the Spider (40 poison gas uses) and the Looper (100 360's and 10/10 gun) however, the planes become pretty diverse.

The only complaints I have with gameplay are the extreme rarity of health bonuses in the field, and that the missile doesn't seem to carry much use, as it doesn't kill units in 1 hit as the Bombs do. Speaking of which, the bombs seem to have huge range and damage, being able to kill a Spotter from outside its range.

Somerandomguy February 5, 2011 6:19 PM

Personally, I like the neverslow. It can't slow down, but it is very fast, and has infinite superspeeds. This can be very covenient if you play like me; I superspeed into enemies and let my gun do the rest. If I get an enemy I either do a 360 and gun 'em down or superspeed away. This is not good for high armor bosses. Still, I can kill a spotter and only get hit once.


I started playing survival first and liked it and am addicted to it. I have unlocked all the free planes except the big one that needs 2000000 copper. I like axe the best, and never slow next, these two planes are awesome, and i used dart till i got to never slow and i think this game is awesome and addictive. My plan is to go to 2mil and get the big plane and stay on till round 20 and see what i might get.

good job guys....


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