The SteamWorld series started off with SteamWorld Dig- a game about digging into the earth, collecting treausure, and upgrading your abilities.
Following along in the same universe then came SteamWorld Heist, but rather than digging and exploring the underground, you now take part in tactical shootouts with Steambots in space.
SteamWorld Heist follows the story of Captain Piper Faraday, a space pirate and smuggler who goes on a crusade to save her robot-kind. Along the way, she’ll be recruiting plenty of unique Steambots to her cause, and raid and pillage many enemy space ships throughout her journey.
In the tradition of the SteamWorld series, SteamWorld Heist retains that same gorgeous art style of the Dig series. It’s bright, colourful, and gives so much personality to the series. The character’s mumbled voices and crazy personalities are all here too, all trigger happy and itching for a fight.
But what has changed dramatically is the gameplay. No longer are you digging, exploring, and platforming. Instead this game has shifted focus to a completely new genre.
See Also: SteamWorld Dig 2 review
It seems to be quite a Frankenstein of a genre, mixing 2-D side scrolling, action, RPG, and turn-based strategy.
The game plays out on a map with all the locations you can visit at the time. These consist of spaceships, bars, etc. which all unlock as you go along. For each spaceship you raid, you’ll take on a number of enemy Steambots, in which the goal is typically to eliminate them all.
As described before, these battle are done in a turn-based format. Each character will take it in turns of making their moves, whether it be moving to a more suitable location, and/or taking aim and firing at the opposition.
Like any turn-based strategy, positioning is extremely important. Leaving yourself open to attacks will often end in failure for you, so moving behind cover is always the best option. Aiming and firing at enemies is obviously the most enjoyable part of combat.
You’ll have to be accurate if you want to make an impact in battle. The main character, and a few others, have the ability to use a laser scope so you can see where you’re aiming.
I always made sure Piper had this feature, as being able to hit your enemies at the expense of slightly better damage was always worth it.
The characters you recruit will have their own weapon types to use, so selecting what characters to use will be important for victory. Whether you want someone who can use a shotgun, a grenade launcher, RPG, or a plain pistol, you’ll need to make these decisions before the battle starts.
Everyone will have their favourite combination of characters to use, but sometimes readjusting may be necessary if you’re having trouble with specific battles.
But for me, aiming with the laser sights, ricocheting off the wall, and getting a head shot was immensely satisfying. You even get watch all your kills happen in slow-motion, just to really feel that gratification.
Something else to take into consideration when selecting your team before missions is their abilities learnt as they level up. Every character has their own unique abilities, and when used well, can really turn the tide of battle.
For example, the main character Piper can learn the ability to increase the strength of anyone close to her. So if you use another character that uses similar weapons with similar range, it’s wise to keep them within close range of her.
You may have to grind with the different characters available to see what they have to offer, but it’s worth it to see how they can be utilised on the battlefield.
You have the option to replay missions, so the game gives you the opportunity to raise the levels of your team if need be. That way if you’re struggling, you can always gain more XP, or more swag (the in-game currency), to buy more items.
At the end of each mission, you’re rewarded with XP, and is divided between the characters used. Even more exciting is the loot given to you. Throughout the battle, you’ll occasionally see loot scattered around, and you must walk to that exact spot to pick it up.
These get added to your collection of loot, and fun begins when you get to go through each loot bag, one by one, to reveal their contents. It could be swag, items, or more importantly, weapons.
Items and weapons have their own tier class so you know how good they are, and equipping a more powerful weapon for the next battle is always exciting.
I do wish though that there was more variety with the missions. It is mostly just about eliminating your enemy and then making your way to the evacuation point.
There are a few missions here and there that require you to destroy certain objects, but just a bit more variety would have kept things fresh.
It was starting to feel a bit repetitive as I went through, but at least the enemy types changed as you progress to keep things interesting.
Some of the tougher enemies will be holding massive shields, forcing you to attack from behind. Others will be protected with force fields, making you shoot out the source of the field before commencing your attack.
If the mission objectives weren’t going to offer much variety, at least the enemies do, and this is what keeps things fun until the end.
If you happen to fail a mission, prepare to be hit hard, as you’ll lose half of your swag. This does make it hard to save up for what you want. It did get quite discouraging, but it make me rethink how I should approach the battle the next time around.
Another thing that annoyed me was when it was the enemies turn, I had to wait the whole time while they made their moves. I wasn’t able to skip, or even fast-forward, during this time. It’s a minor criticism, but it did hurt the pacing a little bit, especially when there are a lot of enemies to face.
But while I do prefer the SteamWorld Dig series over Heist, I still enjoyed this game all the way through. The developers know how to craft a game with great mechanics and fun gameplay.
The fact that their SteamWorld games manage to retain the charm and visual style just adds to their personality.
I look forward to seeing what Image & Form decide to do next because I know it will be another fun, and addictive ride.