Developer: Image & Form International AB
Genre: Turn-based Strategy
Rating: E 10+
Back in 2010,Swedish developer Image & Form first introduced us to the SteamWorld universe with SteamWorld Tower Defense on the DSi which made a good first impression. They struck gold in 2013, however, with SteamWorld Dig. The latter was met with great reception including a Metacritic score of 82 out of 100 (3DS). It was later released in 2014 on just about every other platform, yet I nearly missed it. I barely noticed it on the PlayStation Store store, but only saw it as something like Minecraft or Terreria, then my brother recommended it. SteamWorld Dig would then become became one of my favorite games on the Playstation 4. When news broke out about a new SteamWorld game coming, you can bet I was more than excited.
SteamWorld Heist only looks aesthetically similar to its predecessor; it is actually a tactical turn-based shooter. Image & Form has created a whole new experience but with a style and presentation that we are familiar with. It seems as though a goal of theirs was to expand the universe in which they have done successfully. The steam pun-filled humor and strange characters are all here as well. Heist is a welcome addition to what is shaping up to be a great series in a highly competitive indie game history.
Earth has exploded into pieces, leaving the Steambots with no choice to explore the vast outer space. Cowbots are forced to make a living by farming moisture from what land remains of their home. The Royalists rule the galaxy, but abuse their authority and drive out the Cowbots. Space pirates also pillage, plunder, plight, and fight for turf. A smuggler known as Piper Faraday controls the Outskirts and things are not well. A gang called the Scrappers have come to invade the territory which could draw Royalist attention. Piper gathers a few crew members to Steal one of their ships, this being the first step to stopping the Scrappers for good.
Spiritual Content: There is a boss fight with a “Techromancer” in which the character raises the dead in the form of multiple robot parts. This shares similarities to the practice of Necromancy.
Violence: This game contains the use of guns, however the characters happen to be robots. There is no blood or gore, the bots simply explode and fall to pieces
Language/Crude Humor: The language is very mild and includes the word “d***” a few times. As for crude humor, there are a few references to the country stereotype that some may find offensive.
Drug/Alcohol Use: There are many times where you may visit a saloon kind of area where characters are seen at a bar.
Positive Content: There was not any positive content that truly stood out to me as remarkable or edifying.
SteamWorld Heist is a very unique title, though games like XCOM and Shadowrun come to mind while playing. The basic mechanics are easy to learn; you have only so much space to direct your character to be able to move and shoot in the same turn. When choosing where to move a line shows the path your character will take. If you move too far,the line turns from yellow to blue which is called “Sprinting.” By doing this, you can move further but lose the ability to shoot the enemy. When you do choose to take out the enemy, they can be shot from any floor in the room. Your first instinct might be to shoot at them directly, but bullets can ricochet off of walls and ceilings which adds some humor and strategy to the battles. Barrels and boxes can also be used for cover by the player and enemies—just try not to stand near any that say “TNT.”
There is a decent variety of enemies you will encounter in a firefight. All of them create a bit of challenge and cause you to rethink your battle strategy. One of these enemy types are bots that look like little rockets. They go kamikaze and get real close to you in hopes that you’ll take the shot and possibly do damage or even kill yourself. I grew to dislike these little guys but found that they always kept me on my toes. My only issue with the enemies was the A.I.; there were times that they didn’t even try to aim at me. If one of my characters was taking cover behind a barrel, the bot would simply shoot right at it, causing the bullet to bounce into a wasted shot. There were other times when they seemed rather clever.
In many role-playing games light and hardcore alike, you will find a loot system. In Heist, loot comes in the form of “Swag.” Throughout the missions, you will find money bags and possibly a large chest waiting to be opened. At the end of the mission, you get to open up these swag bags that may contain gallons of water (currency) or different kinds of weapons and items. These can also be purchased at different stores. Weapons are class based—Piper can use pistols and sniper guns while other bigger characters can use heavier weapons like grenade launchers. Items come in the form of consumables and utilities. Consumables are things like healing items and grenades whereas utilities like armor or special goggles can improve things like movement and chance of a critical hit. All of this adds great depth to the game, but if you really want to succeed, I highly recommend buying storage boxes that increase inventory space. The more space you have will provide more options and will help you to better determine how you want to go into a mission. It is worth noting that the maps in almost every mission randomly generate every time you enter. If you happen to fail a mission, the next layout may be more helpful than the last.
When you are not blasting baddies, you will be flying your ship on a map that resembles the solar system theme of Star Fox. You can direct your ship to the next area, or stop by a shop or saloon to purchase some items with your gallons. In these other areas you might run into a potential crew member, and depending on the criteria for them, you will either spend gallons or have to meet a certain reputation level. Reputation comes in the form of stars which you earn from completing objectives. These stars can also unlock other side missions that may have special requirements to test your skills.
From the smooth 2-D art style down to the music SteamWorld Heist is impressive on the 3DS. Yes I literally mean “down to the music.” There is an official soundtrack that you can purchase the same day the game is released by a band called Steam Powered Giraffe. Once you liberate an area from the Scrappers, you can listen to an original tune that is played by a band of Steambots. The inclusion of actual songs and original music adds a whole other level to the style that the developers have already poured into these games.
If anything could be improved upon, it should be the environments. The entire game is spent inside many space vessels, and some of the areas felt a little too similar. The procedurally generated maps however do make up for that by creating an experience that can be unique for each player.
Fans of turn-based strategy games will feel right at home here, while people who don’t play a lot of them (like myself) will not have a hard time learning to play. The most enjoyable aspect for me was that every time I failed, I could rethink my tactics and retool my crews’ equipment for each situation. There were even multiple occasions where I lost track of time when playing. Image & Form expressed that they had talked about the possibility of a delay. They eventually came to the conclusion that Heist was ready. My experience with it can vouch for that good decision. Being a big fan of SteamWorld Dig, Steamworld Heist is everything I had hoped for in the newest entry in which I had been waiting for all year.
The Bottom Line