Steampunk. Robot. Cowboys. Three words that when uttered, give you an immediate vision of what they might look like. Steaming pieces of rusty scrap metal fighting it out in stylish cowboy garb. Of course not many video games tackle this theme in a way we might envision, but thankfully the folks at Image & Form International have created SteamWorld Heist, and they know how to take that seemingly complex and interesting theme and create a very fun experience that you will not want to miss.
SteamWorld Heist takes advantage of one of the my favorite genres, turn based strategy, and is the second addition to the SteamWorld franchise. I will admit that I have not played the first in the series, which is a platformer named SteamWorld Dig, so I was not already familiar with the SteamWorld setting.
Before getting into the actual gameplay, I need to mention how beautiful the game looks and sounds. Image and Form nailed the space cowboy theme perfectly. The many locations you visit throughout the game are gorgeously designed to fit the theme perfectly and the wonderful music done by Steam Powered Giraffe accompanies the game's aesthetic perfectly to really give it a unique look and feel.
You control Captain Piper and three other weapon wielding steam-powered robots through randomly generated levels while searching for new loot, new hats, and more water or 'gallons' to power your crew's steamy needs. The levels you progress through are completely randomized outside of the actual mission objective, and this randomization adds a very fun layer of tactics and strategy to the game, so it's crucial to not get to comfortable with a level in case of a mistake which could cause you to restart. These levels are quite large and filled with things like explosive barrels, destructible cover, and floors that you can shoot through, all of which are crucial to making sure you have the right angles to go for that stylish killshot.
Instead of simply pressing a button to shoot, the game requires you to aim your shot. Shoot too low and it might ricochet off a barrel or the floor and miss, aim too high and you might just snipe that stylish cowboy hat right off their head. You might think to destroy the cover that the enemy is behind so you can finally do some damage but fear not as the environment is your friend, knowing your surroundings can secure a kill if used right. Bullets in SteamWorld Heist ricochet off everything. If you encounter an enemy cowering behind a barrel, aiming the gun at the wall behind them will let you bounce the bullet off the wall and into the enemy which could in turn be the key to completing a mission.
Missions are straightforward, kill the enemy steambots and collect all the loot. As simple as that may seem, it all depends on whether or not you can survive the enemies. For reference, I am reviewing the game based on my playtime with the game set on Experienced difficulty. Five difficulties are available with Experienced being the middle setting. The game loves to punish you, and it's crucial to position your crew members in such a way that benefits their specific strengths.
Each crew member can use a certain type of weapon - such as Captain Piper, who is limited to handguns and sniper rifles, or sharpshooters as the game calls them. Other crew members might be limited to SMGs or shotguns, so you need to decide how you want to approach each mission, and this is where my only major gripe with the game comes into play.
If you end up losing a crew member in battle it is extremely tough to continue the mission in hopes of winning. Your crew can become overwhelmed very quickly depending on how aggressive the enemies chose to be. Losing crew members also causes you to lose stars at the end of a level. Stars are used to unlock new areas and missions as well as getting access to new crew members. It can get tedious after a while but eventually you should figure out the best way to tackle these situations.
Thankfully the game does not have permadeath, but if you find yourself desperately needing some more power you can recruit new crew members at various Space Bars throughout the map. Alongside new members, these bars also serve as a shop, so you can sell your unwanted loot and purchase new weapons or new utilities such as armor or health packs. These items can be equipped prior to entering a mission.
I personally love games like Steamworld Heist. Turn-based strategy games may not be every player's cup of tea, but Image & Form did a great job in making this game accessible to everyone. As I said, I love this genre but that doesn't mean I'm good at it. The wide ranging difficulty levels takes away that fear factor that some players may have especially if this is their first foray into the turn-based genre. This is what helps make SteamWorld Heist perfect for that tactical craving you may have had. Engaging and fun game play makes SteamWorld Heist the perfect game for that long car or plane trip, or if you are simply looking to sink a few hours into a new game.
Image & Form created an incredible game in SteamWorld Heist. Replay value is high, as the game features a New Game+ mode after the original 15+ hours of game play, and the numerous side missions allow you to try something different with each new game. Fantastic combat and game play combined with gorgeous audio and visuals help wrap the game up in a very fun robotic package. Currently SteamWorld Heist is only on the Nintendo 3DS but it is set to release on all other major platforms in 2016.
SteamWorld Heist was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS with a copy provided by the developer.
SteamWorld Heist is a fantastic strategy game that you will not want to miss, featuring amazing combat will keep you coming back.