Steam Prison Review – A Deep and Immersive Steampunk Romance

Steam Prison is the newest otome game localization from MangaGamer, following their release of Poni-Patchet’s OZMAFIA in 2016 and the R18 otome, Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome. There is always a lot of hype surrounding new otome localizations, but, Steam Prison was the first big otome release of 2019, not associated with Idea Factory. Steam Prison, was originally released in 2016 by HuneX for PC as both an all-ages 17+ release (the MangaGamer release of the 17+ version). A Vita port was released in 2017, that added an extra route for the MC’s partner, Finn.

In the game you play as an 18 year old police officer named, Cyrus Tistella, living in the raised utopian city known as the Heights. Everything is coming up roses for our heroine, with a new promotion and her upcoming marriage into the high ranking Evans family. Things take a turn for the worst, when Cyrus is accused of murdering her parents. Unable to prove her innocence, Cyrus is banished to the Depths a place where the most brutal criminals are sent to atone for their crimes. But, when she arrives, Cyrus finds that the Depths is not the primitive wasteland she once believed it to be, she soon learns that all is not as it seems as the things she once held to be true start to fall apart.

Steam Prison Murder

Game Details

  • Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Romance
  • Available for PC (Widows, Mac, Linux)Steam | Nintendo Switch (February 2021)
  • Gameplay Lengh: 5-7 hours first play through/ 25-30 hours Total
  • Cost: $39.99
  • 5 male romance options
    • Suggested Play Order: Eltcreed → Ulrik → Adage → Ines → Yune → Grand Ending
  • Similar Games: Code Realize, Cinderella Phenomenon, and Confines of the Crown

Spoiler Warning

“In this world there are two kinds of people: the rulers and the ruled…”

In Steam Prison there are two very distinct populations of people: those that live in the lap of luxury in the elevated utopia that is the Heights and those sentenced to live out their days in squalor in the Depths. This division leads to quite a few distinct differences between the two populations, which is a central theme in Steam Prison. Discrimination and prejudice plays a huge role in the game, with people living in the Heights harboring a degree of contempt for the people living in the Depths, solely based on the fact that they’re “criminals”, however you soon discover that the people of the Depths hold a similar sentiment to those in the Heights. Otome games are known for dealing with complex themes and storylines, but, Steam Prison poignantly weaves the two building this fully realized world that is captivating in its social commentary. Whether that was its intent is neither here nor there, but the themes of Steam Prison are universal and that goes a long way towards making this an enjoyable and at times painfully bittersweet gaming experience.

Steam Prison 3

Cyrus was born and raised in the Heights, so her worldview is severely limited in that respect. I’ve seen a lot of people finding fault with her naivete about the world around her, namely her lack of experience with love. I’m not gonna lie, I found her innocence about love and sex to be more than a little frustrating, there were quite a few scenes in Eltcreed’s route where he was blatantly coming on to her and she just sits there like a bump on a log… and don’t get me started on Adage’s route. They pretend to be a married couple and he literally has to teach her everything from BREATHING during a kiss to where babies come from… But, given the fact that people from the Heights are not taught about love nor are they able to freely express romantic feelings towards other people, it makes sense in context. And for that reason, Steam Prison is one of the most unromantic otome games I have ever played.

Cyrus has to learn how to love in just about every route and even by the end of it, I’m unsure if she even really fully understands what it means to be “in love” with someone else. Sure, she has affection for each of the guys, but, if we’re talking heart pounding, all consuming love… nah. It definitely reminds me of Fuka from OZMAFIA, which makes sense given the fact that the same writer worked on both games… She takes naive to a whole new level and it will be frustrating, believe me there will be times when you just want to shake her. It also didn’t help that most of the “romantic” CGs had Cyrus looking like she was absolutely disgusted by her chosen love interest’s romantic advances. But, where Cyrus really shines is in her convictions to her beliefs and her battle maiden level sword skills. Where other otome heroines wait for their love interests to save the day, Cyrus is more than capable of saving her own skin. Even at the expense of her own life, Cyrus will always do what it takes to ensure that justice is upheld.

Steam Prison Cyrus Fight

Finally an MC with some fighting spirit

Otome games tend to have a restrictive narrative lens, since we view the events of the game solely through the eyes of the protagonist, which limits the scope of the story. Steam Prison works around this by inserting special POV scenes that give us the chance to experience certain scenes from the perspectives of the love interests. This gives us key insight into events that Cyrus isn’t present for and allows for a more comprehensive narrative. Voltage Inc. does something similar with their mobile games, but rather than marrying the two perspectives like we see here, POVs are usually kept separate. I quite like the way they are handled in Steam Prison, since it really gives us a chance to get a more in depth look into the love interest without disrupting the flow of the story. The love interests are equally well developed, not only do they have their own unique personalities, but their individual character routes (while integral to the overall narrative) have their own self contained arcs.

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In Steam Prison, there are three distinct types of routes that determine which of the characters you can romance: Bodyguard routes (Eltcreed & Ulrik), Prisoner routes (Adage & Ines), and Servant route (Yune). Each route gives keen insight into a different aspect of the world of the game and there are minor changes to Cyrus based on her role in the LI’s life. Also, some of the endings in the Bodyguard routes and the Prisoner routes are linked. There are certain endings that you can only get by pursuing another characters; for example, in Eltcreed’s route the “Goodbye, My Knight” ending is technically an Ulrik ending, but you can only get it through Eltcreed’s route.

In the Servant route, you bypass the Depths all together and stay in the Heights under the employ of Saint Yune. Because you spend most of your time in the Temple with him, you learn a lot about the inner workings of the Heights and uncover the corruption in its governing body. In order to get the full grasp of the story and the world, I strongly recommend playing through each of the routes, and if you’re aiming for the Grand Ending… you have to clear all of the individual endings for each route.

In the Bodyguard routes, Cyrus leaves the Sanctuary District and moves to the true “Depths”, which contrary to what she was told in the Heights is a technologically advanced steam powered country divided into independent districts. She hired by Eltcreed the leader of the district of Liberalitas as his personal bodyguard. These routes give more insight into the politics of the Depths and it’s history with the Heights. But, what I liked most in these routes was the friendship between Eltcreed and Ulrik, the other routes don’t have the same degree of camaraderie between love interests. It’s refreshing to see LI’s with relationships outside of the standard romance ones.

A story is only as good as its characters, and Steam Prison has a phenomenal extended cast of characters. Usually otome games tend to focus only on the heroine and her respective love interest. However, Steam Prison has a strong supporting cast that help fill out the expansive world of the game, from citizens of Depths to members of the Heights aristocracy to members of the HOUNDS. Each of the side characters give life to the various aspects of the world and have their own distinct personalities and motivations. Even more, many of the side characters don’t just fall to the wayside, rather, they play an integral role in the progression of the story.

Sachsen Brandenburg, the leader of the HOUNDS serves as an antagonist in many of the routes he’s in, particularly in the Prisoner routes, but in the Bodyguard routes he’s more of a nuisance and not an actual threat. There’s also a mother and son that Cyrus stays with early on in the game that are integral in integrating her into life in the Sanctuary District. Through them Cyrus experiences first hand the hardships of living in the Sanctuary District and go a long way in helping to change her opinion of people in the Depths.

I really enjoyed everything about Steam Prison (qualms about Cyrus aside), this is seriously one of the most beautifully crafted games. The art is simply stunning! There is a distinctive steampunk style to some of the character designs, though it is much more toned down than say, Code Realize. Though there are quite a few designs like those of the HOUNDS and the police that are reminiscent of military uniforms, and boy do I love a man in uniform. Even the nobility have their own distinct style, with their ornate blazers and flowing dresses. I also noticed that you can tell the difference between the nobility and the common folk based on the colors of their clothing. The nobility in the Heights especially, wear clothes with lighter colors (mostly pastels or white), while the people in the Depths wear more earthy tones (browns, tans, greens). The backgrounds are all full of great details that really bring the world of the game to life, especially the sweeping shots of the various locales. The Heights is all manicured lawns and clean neat buildings, while the Depths is a rustic steampunk wonderland! The CGs were all gorgeous, however, I couldn’t get over the fact that Cyrus always looks like she is in distress in all of the romantic ones…

Speaking of romance, before I close this out, I have to talk about Finn… poor poor Finn. He’s Cyrus’s partner from the police force and it is obvious from the beginning that he is madly in love with her, but due to the restrictive nature of Heights’s society, can’t tell her how he feel… and even if he did, she wouldn’t understand in the first place. So, in just about every single route his love for Cyrus turns him into a murderous yandere, think Ukyo from Amnesia (not Toma). And I know, I’m supposed to feel some type of way about that, but, honestly, I just feel bad for him. He deserves so much more and I’ve read that he gets his own route in the Vita version of the game, however, if it’s anything like the other “new” additional routes I’ve played… I don’t expect much. But, seriously, Finn deserves so much more love!!

Steam Prison 2

Him not having a route in the first run of the game is one of the biggest letdowns of Steam Prison

final thoughts 2

So, final thoughts: I absolutely loved Steam Prison, the game pulls you in with its dramatic opening, but you stick around for its masterfully crafted world building and its well developed cast. Steam Prison tones down the romance in favor of a deeply immersive story that attempts to explore darker themes than you’d usually expect from an otome game. And while, I will admit Steam Prison isn’t without its shortcomings, but its strengths rarely miss the mark. Stunning visuals, unforgettable characters, and a deep contemplative story only scratches the surface of what Steam Prison has to offer.

If you haven’t already picked up a copy of this amazing game, I strongly suggest you do so ASAP. You don’t want to miss out on this wonderful game!

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