Thursday night Blue Omega showed off their vertically bent steampunk shooter, Damnation, to the press at Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco. After loitering a bit in a pseudo-secret side room (the venue is prohibition-era themed) we settled in to the Xbox 360 system-link set-up in a semi-adjoining back room, where the fuse promptly blew…

But we eventually did get to play the game, and I quite enjoyed it! My first round was King of the Hill in a warehouse-y sort of environment. You notice the height immediately, and notice it head-on if you take the stairs a bit quickly and rely on a railing that doesn’t exist.

You have to sort of suspend your belief a bit when it comes to the utility of the structure—why would anyone build a tower that requires dive rolls over pits of doom to scale? But aside from falling to your doom, it’s pretty fun to wall jump over to a ladder hanging from a platform and clamber up, climb your way to the glowing blue “hill,” and blast away the King and posers alike.

Controls were pretty standard for a third-person shooter, but the gameplay depends a lot more on platforming skills than most. The sprint button was really handy, especially for escaping those horrible HORRIBLE PEOPLE (which, yes, included me from time to time) taking advantage of the (probably) overpowered melee punch.

Actually, there were quite a few unintentionally hilarious fist fights during the evening—people chasing each other like a dog after its tail, four man clusterfreak. However, the level designs are conducive to awesome sniping opportunities as well, and the range of weaponry will allow for both running in with a Tommy-gun styled automatic or hiding out for longer range tactics.

After taking a death match spin through a more outdoor environment, I ended up sampling the evening’s titular cocktail (which was rather a bit like spiked apple cider, and pretty damned—hurr–delicious) with producer Richard Gilbert. He caught me up on details like how the story mode is co-op from start to end, with the second player controlling various supporting characters as they weave through the plot, and how Blue Omega is aiming to create an American epic in the same way that Lord of the Rings could be considered a European epic. I’m totally into the idea of an Americana-marinated, steam-powered, alternate history tale (and I really liked that cowboy I was running around with), so I’ll have my eye on Damnation when it releases this winter.