“In SteamWorld Heist, you command a steam-driven pirate crew in a series of epic tactical shootouts. It’s turn-based strategy with a twist: You manually aim the guns of your robots, allowing for insane skill shots and bullet-bouncing action!
As the captain you will board, loot and shoot your way through enemy spaceships. Overcome the challenges of the vast frontier by upgrading your recruits with unique abilities, weapons – and even stylish hats!”
– The SteamWorld Heist Steam page (http://store.steampowered.com/app/355800/)
Whilst it’s fairly common to see developers throw out sequels for games willy-nilly these days, Image And Form Games have taken a different approach with SteamWorld Heist, the follow up to their well-received 2013 cult hit SteamWorld Dig. Whilst SteamWorld Dig mixed elements of Minecraft and Metroid together to offer a great platforming experience, SteamWorld Heist instead brings a whole new genre to the game with a new focus on tactical battles between Space Scavengers.
Naturally this means that those looking for the same sort of experience they had in SteamWorld Dig will be disappointed. That doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to love in SteamWorld Heist though – the battles are exhilarating experiences whilst the charm from the previous entry in the series is present too.
SteamWorld Heist swaps the Wild West location of its predecessor for the depths of Space, all thanks to Earth being destroyed. Traumatic, right? Rather than digging the depths of Earth, this time you’ll be scavenging through Space as you seek the supplies required to survive. You’ll take on the role of the enigmatic Captain Piper as you build a crew, form alliances and face off against your foes in a grand quest for survival.
The game is full to the brim with personality with the humorous charm of SteamWorld Dig as present as ever. It’s a genuinely funny game with a script that is both clever and silly, something I could appreciate and that actually kept me engaged with the game’s story. You’ll actually care about your little robotic crew thanks to their delightful personalities that actually show there’s more to the cast than just gears and cogs.
SteamWorld Heist offers a turn based strategy experience similar to the likes of the XCOM series. Rather than taking place from a top down or isometric viewpoint though, SteamWorld Heist takes place across multi-layered 2D environments. You’ll be able to move your crew across a certain distance on each turn, your movement limits clearly indicated with a coloured line across the level. It actually gives off a tile-like presence that’s typically present from an overhead view, though from a whole new perspective this time around.
Of course, there’s a certain amount of strategy to be found in your movement. There’s a risk and reward sort feel to it – will you move yourself to a position where you can get a clear head shot on your opponent, or will you instead find a safer location behind cover at the expense of an easy target? Fortunately you can normally get the best of both thanks to the fact that you aim your weapons manually in a similar vein to Valkyria Chronicles. It’s this sort of control during combat that makes SteamWorld Heist stand out when compared to other titles of the same genre – plus you’re able to make your bullets bounce off objects as you line up a perfect trick shot, which is pretty awesome in-game.
There’s a decent variety of weapon types available in the game, each one coming with their own pros and cons in combat. Some weapons are better from range, some are better up close; some don’t have great accuracy but make up for it with power, whilst some offer plenty of accuracy but don’t deal out much pain. The weapons you take into battle will determine how you actually approach each instance of combat too. I personally enjoyed carefully bouncing a grenade into the path of my enemies, though a well aimed headshot could be satisfying too. There’s actually a benefit to executing a headshot, with a clean shot knocking off your opponent’s hat for you to add to your collection. It’s a nice little diversion that actually offers a good reward for accuracy in-game, plus it’ll keep the Team Fortress 2 hat connoisseurs pleased. Besides hats you can also collect a ton of loot and commodities throughout each level, but who needs supplies when you have hats?!
You can take different crew members along with you on missions with each having their own specific strengths to offer you in-game. Whilst it’s nice to be able to play around with different teams, I often stuck to the same crew – when you finish a mission your team will gain XP and level up, thus earning new abilities in the process. This feeling of progression actually saw me pledge loyalty to a specific line-up, though it was neat to see what others could bring to each battle too.
Naturally the game becomes more difficult as you progress, with levels becoming more complex and enemies more powerful. You’ll come across an assortment of improvements in your foe including new specialist abilities, better weapons or even a shield that’ll block your attacks. The variety certainly keeps you on your toes and stops you getting bored, especially since the enemy AI isn’t always great. The game isn’t a cakewalk by any means, but the enemies of SteamWorld Heist aren’t the most intelligent when it comes to competent combat strategies…
Each level is randomly generated so you’ll never quite know what’s ahead of you. There are a ton of missions on offer too so there’s plenty to see before you reach the game’s end. I particularly liked that the game allows you to select the difficulty ahead of each mission rather than just at the start of the game. Whilst I typically like to play games on the normal difficulty to begin with, it was neat to be able to increase the difficulty as I slowly got better at the game. Playing on a higher difficulty also meant you’d get better rewards for mission completion, offering a real incentive to push yourself to tackle the more challenging difficulties.
Visually the game looks great, with the same vibrant style that looked so good in SteamWorld Dig. The environment’s look phenomenal, whilst the character design is so creative and, in some ways, kind of adorable. I love the aesthetics of the game, and thanks to the closer viewpoint you can appreciate the finer details that you might not have noticed in SteamWorld Dig. Whilst the game started life on the Nintendo 3DS, it still manages to look stunning on the Playstation 4 with a 1080p resolution and a constant 60fps too.
SteamWorld Heist offers gamers a strategic experience that’s both incredibly accessible and a heck of a lot of fun. It looks great, the storyline features the same SteamWorld humour and charm from its predecessor, whilst the tactical gameplay and combat will keep you entertained throughout each of the game’s many missions. Sure, the enemy AI isn’t perfect, but the flexible difficulty settings ensure that the game always provides a decent challenge.
Whilst some SteamWorld fans may be disappointed to find the game is completely different from its predecessor, I’d still implore them to give it a try. I didn’t realise how much I’d enjoy SteamWorld Dig until I played it – I think that’ll be the same case for just about anyone who plays SteamWorld Heist.
Developer: Image And Form Games (www.imageform.se)
Publisher: Image And Form Games (www.imageform.se)
Release Date: 10/12/205 (Nintendo 3DS) 08/06/2016 (Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC, Mac, Linux) TBC (Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, iOS)
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PC, Mac, Linux and iOS.