SteamWorld Heist Review

SteamWorld Heist is a great follow-up to 2013's SteamWorld Dig.

By Woozie, Posted 22 Jul 2016

SteamWorld Dig kept me busy for a couple of hours due to its interesting mixture of gameplay elements and visual charm. After several more spent in the company of SteamWorld Heist, it’s clear to me that Image & Form know how to exploit their universe,creating games that are fun and that, despite a couple of drawbacks, are worth giving a shot. Where SteamWorld Dig was more about exploration, SteamWorld Heist takes a different approach, shedding the explorative/crafting elements. This time around, we’re offered a turn-based 2D tactical shooter. A good way to look at it would be to imagine a mixture of X-Com and Worms. The game is centered around pirate Captain Piper Faraday and her crew. The story doesn’t fall flat on its face, but neither does it shine in too many ways. It’s simply there to give context to the fights that make up the largest chunk of the game.

SteamWorld Heist, Review, Screenshot

These fights involve taking up to four members of your crew with you and attempting to clear, or reach a certain point in levels that are, in most cases, procedurally generated. You’ll have to carefully navigate your surroundings, finding cover as you move along. The most interesting thing about the combat is by far its choice for manual aiming. This removes the possibility of missing 99% hit chance shots while adding a fair challenge to the shooting component. Sharpshooter type weapons have laser sights, which indicate where bullets travel, but the other weapons need to be aimed without any help. Trick shots are also a possibility, as bullets do ricochet off certain surfaces, at times being entirely required in order to bypass shields or strike enemies from the back. Getting a headshot has a 50% chance of triggering a critical hit, if your weapon is capable of critical damage, while hitting an opponent’s legs may cripple him, disallowing movement for the next turn. This pushes the player into attempting to get a feel of how to position their character and when, or which, enemy to prioritize as well as when exactly to pull the trigger.

The graphical style of SteamWorld Heist, with its colorful charm, also succeeds in highlighting the elements required for combat in a proper manner. After the first few fights you’ll understand which surfaces you can shoot through and which ones will trigger a ricochet. There’s some enemy variety in there as well. From simple gun-toting scrappers, to melee oriented enemies with large shields, to royal guards with small shields attached to their weapons, they will require careful positioning in order to get a good shot and make sure your character isn’t exposed. Every fight gives you the possibility of collecting swag bags, often times requiring you to go out of your way for the rarer pieces. Swag bags provide water, which is the game’s currency, and items. The item system works, for the most part, in a linear fashion, providing direct upgrades, with the exceptions of certain rare weapons which may prove to be alternatives, with added advantages and drawbacks, to the weapons you currently have. Each character can be assigned a weapon (every class can wield two weapon types) and two utility items which range from grenades, to health packs, to an extra gun and so on. On top of that, your crew can don hats, hats which can either be bought or shot off enemies and collected (whenever a hat is shot off, the game plunges into slow-motion, highlighting the very dramatic nature of the act). Sure, having hats in your game isn’t exactly a novel idea, but having a captain that’s wearing a cat-in-a-hat while fighting baddies is pretty, well, badass.

SteamWorld Heist, Review, Screenshot

SteamWorld Heist could have perhaps benefited from some variety in its objectives. Most of the missions will have you collecting a certain amount of swag, killing a certain number of enemies or reaching the evacuation area. The game does vary it up a bunch with a couple of boss fights and ambush missions, however some tedium does set in, especially in prolonged sessions. On top of that, most missions are accompanied by an alarm that’s often triggered from the very start. This alarm spawns turrets or enemies after a certain number of turns. While it is a good way to keep the player on their toes, after a while it tends to become a nuisance.

SteamWorld Heist’s five difficulty levels work wonders for it. Being able to change them prior to every mission, allows for a large amount of flexibility. Should a mission feel too easy, you can go back to it and choose a more difficult level. This also works the other way around. Your crewmates are very distinct from each other and the rest of the world’s inhabitants. This is thanks to not only their visual design, but also the writing which has a decent amount of wit attached to it. In between missions you get the chance to talk to your crewmates while on your ship. While not quite being a 2D Mass Effect, the conversations did pull a couple of laughs out of me and actually got me liking a couple of the characters.

SteamWorld Heist, Review, Screenshot

Apart from the visual element and the writing, the crewmates also belong to different classes, having their own stats. While there’s a level of specialization involved (Ivanski is more likely to be a tank than, say, Valentine simply due to his higher health pool), all characters are capable of dealing damage. Upon completing a mission, all surviving characters receive experience, which, in turn, gives them access to new abilities. Piper can inspire adjacent allies to deal more damage; Ivanski can become invulnerable for a turn and, later, even draw all enemy fire towards him for that turn. Discovering these abilities feels great because they start to change the way you handle fights. The game’s first DLC also adds a new character: Fen, The Outsider. Being the Outsider that he is, his abilities differ from the rest of the crew’s. Upon dealing a killing blow, Fen receives a charge. He can store up to 2 charges which can then be used to either heal Fen or fire a beam that pierces through cover and characters. Fen quickly got to being a constant member of my party, adding some much needed ability spice to the team.

Like its predecessor, SteamWorld Heist came first to the Nintendo 3DS, however that should not discourage you from purchasing it on PC. The time spent with it will be filled with fun and enjoyment. There were a couple of times when I felt like taking a break after not being able to beat a boss on the desired difficulty, or after a tricky mission, but the fun I’ve had with the game far overshadows that. It can be a light experience or it can pose a serious challenge, the pick is entirely the player’s.

SteamWorld Heist, Review, Screenshot

SteamWorld Heist is a charming title and a great experience that, nevertheless, requires you to think about how you approach every scenario. The manual aiming adds a layer of challenge and complexity to it. The world it creates oozes personality, the writing is witty and the music is in tone with the desired atmosphere. If you’re looking for some turn-based 2D action, there are Steambots out there waiting for your help.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, 3DS, Vita, Mobile
Publisher(s): Image & Form
Developer(s): Image & Form
Genres: Turn-Based Strategy
Themes: Turn-Based Strategy
Release Date: 2015-12-10

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