Amazon and Twitch are giving this game away. But is it any good?
Early last month Twitch and Amazon announced an integration between the Amazon Prime program and Twitch that included free rewards. One of those rewards is an enhanced version of a game that is currently in Steam early access called Streamline. Wonder if it’s any good? Then read on.
Streamline attempts to present itself as the ultimate game for streamers to play with their audience, though it only partly succeeds at that goal. Many aspects of the game are smartly designed to make it accessible to a very wide audience. Other choices hold the game back from its full potential as a fun competitive platformer. Most notably, the way Streamline is built with streaming in mind is really interesting but in some ways it holds the game back a bit in terms of the way it plays.
The gameplay of Streamline is essentially competitive 3D Pac Man. Players run and Parkour around an environment in collecting pellets for points and also hitting each other. While there is combat in the game it doesn’t involve realistic weapons or gore, making Streamline very kid friendly. This is only one of the ways that the game appeals to a wider audience.
Like a lot of games released in the last five years, Streamline features a bunch of free running abilities. Players can double-jump, wall run and speed boost around environments. The versions of these abilities offered in Streamline feel okay but would benefit from being bit more responsive. The game feels a bit muddy and slow across the board.
The way the gameplay interacts with Twitch chat is pretty neat, though. Individuals participating in the Twitch chat of a Streamline match can vote on environmental effects or rule changes to a match. The system is lot like the “hashbomb” Twitter integration in IDARB only with a bit less of a wacky charm. But players can simply set a random rotation of the same rule changes effectively making this chat feature basically useless. This is one way that Streamline gets itself caught between a rock and a hard place. Finding a way to integrate Twitch chat into their game is a no-brainer for a game that is selling itself to streamers. On the other hand the game also clearly should offer all its mechanics to non-streaming players too. So Streamline ends up with a chat focused mechanic that works without chat.
When it comes to online competitive games with an “E for Everyone” approach to in-game violence and gore there isn’t all that much to compare Streamline to outside of Splatoon. While Streamline doesn’t quite hold up against Splatoon in the polish department, few games in early access can hold up to a finished Nintendo product.
Everything about Streamline feels like a compromise between making the game work for the player and making the game work for Twitch viewers. The unfortunate fact, though, is that this ends up making the player’s experience worse in favor of the Twitch audience. The player movement would feel better if it were faster, for example, but making it faster would make it harder to keep track of when watching on Twitch. Anyone who has watched a game of CS:GO or Call of Duty on Twitch can understand the desire for visual clarity on a stream, but that clarity shouldn’t come at the cost of the player’s enjoyment. In the case of Streamline, it definitely does.
Streamline utilizes a cartoon-y 3D art style not too dissimilar from Team Fortress 2, which is odd considering the game is made with Unreal engine and not Valve’s Source engine. Streamline’s style is a bit more detailed than Team Fortress 2 and uses a slightly different color pallet but the inspiration is pretty easy to trace. The game does a good job of making this style work well when animated and looks nice overall.
Streamline doesn’t hold up as well in the sound department. The music in the game isn’t particularly great, sound effects lack weight, and the match announcer is a bit flat. The sound work of the game isn’t all that bad either, just mediocre across the board.
Streamline is currently in early access on Steam for $19.99 but is also being given away as a reward for Twitch Prime, the recently unveiled Amazon Prime/Twitch integration. So, people who link their Amazon Prime and Twitch accounts will get Streamline and a pack of cosmetic character customization items for free.
Multiplayer-only games have a lot of replay value that much can be said for Streamline. On the other hand, Skyrim was just remastered, reminding us all what it’s like to get lost in single player for hours on end. So, while a both single player-only and multiplayer-only games both can have a lot of replay value, being one or the other doesn’t guarantee a ton of replay value. In the case of Streamline, there actually just isn’t all that much to keep players coming back for more. There is a leveling process and loot drops but not much outside of that to reward players for playing.
An interesting factor in the value of Steamline are the streaming tools built into the game which seem to work reasonably well. The question is, of course: Who are these tools for exactly? Experienced streamers will already have a streaming solution set up. People streaming for the first time will undoubtedly find these tools useful but as soon as they want to branch out to a different game they will need to find a different way to stream. The overall value of this feature is a bit questionable.
It should be noted, again, that Streamline is in early access. While most of the playable pieces of the game seem feature-complete there are some unanswered questions about the background aspects of the game. For example, as mentioned above, the Twitch Prime reward version of Streamline includes some character customization items. Additionally players can receive some these items as loot drops in the game client. While there’s nothing wrong with having cosmetic options in a game there are unused menu options in the current build of Streamline for opening loot chests and a store which is potentially a minefield for player’s patience. If the system is implemented fairly and priced reasonably, assuming real world money is changing hands, then it will add to the Streamline experience in a positive way. If implemented poorly it will turn a bunch of people off the game.
Steamline is kind of a weird thing even if it is well put together. It’s fun to fool around with, but there isn’t much depth to the game and it feels like it was designed by a committee. Important aspects of the game seem just a bit off and it really hurts the overall package of the game. If you have an Amazon Prime account and a Twitch account it won’t kill you to give Streamline a chance, since it’s free for you. Anyone else would probably be wise to wait for the final version of the game to see how the loot system shakes out.