Steamworld Heist very different from the studios past title, Steamworld Dig which blended the exploration of a Metroidvanna and a concept from the indie hit Spelunky. With this new game, Image & Form Games set out to make a Turn Based Action Title, not unlike the X-Com Series. Releasing last Fall on the Nintendo 3DS to great reception and on PlayStation Platforms and Valve’s Steam Service this week, does this shift in gameplay produce a strong title?
The story is set in space, with a series of Cowbots flying around the galaxy looking for the valued resource for all Steambots; water. While this goes on, Captain Piper and her crew try to steal supplies off a ship but learn about a much darker situation going on in the background.
After losing some of her crew after being ambushed, she and another crew member look for new members to join her cause and take out these evil robots built of the remains of other Cowbots. The plot here is good, as the characters have clever dialog with a lot of heart and having the ability to talk to your crew throughout the game. In addition, you have a number shops you can visit that have a lot of atmosphere; bands singing in the background, people drinking in the bar and a lot of little details that stand out.
What really surprised me is how the story opens up after you solve the scrapper battle; you fight the government and soon, alien life forms in deep space. This allows the story to keep growing and you have a lot of time to get attached to your crew and the other NPC’s.
Overall, the story feels connected to the experience and that allows you to connect to your characters more, making it well realized tale.
Gameplay & Design
The gameplay here is strong, as it takes place on a 2D-plane but the games core is that of a turn-based action title. This isn’t surprising, as Image & Form Games used the X-Com series as inspiration when working on this title. You can move with the D-Pad or Analog Stick, with orange spaces telling you can shoot and blue spaces telling where you can’t. The R-Button is used to swap between different actions you can do when planted (shooting, healing yourself, ect) and you can aim where you shoot your gun with the analog stick, with some characters having the ability aim with more precision.
What makes the game very fun is how fast the fights play out. Most shots you make can shave off a lot of damage and stage hazards like turrets and alarms make things more interesting. Most shots can bounce across the level, making your aim very vital to most fights. A smart shot can hit a hard to reach foe with a shield or hit a TNT barrel right behind someone. The game also has a resource system, with you having a limited storage for your weapons and gear. This is something that can be an issue but the game lets you buy more storage through water you earn from battle. When you win battles, you can earn various guns, useful items you can equip your party and even valued items you can sell back for more water. Don’t worry if you do not have enough space though, as most items have high prices when you sell them back and you can use the water you get to purchase a number of items in the shops the game offers.
The other robots you fight also change as the game progresses, with some being able to warp around the map late in the game, others having shields that deflect bullets, having a barrier around them that requires you to shoot a weak-point and even the final boss which summons robots to defend itself & using everything the game threw at you prior. It makes battles fun and interesting throughout the entire adventure.
Each character has different skills, and most stages allow you to bring three units with you at a time. But this is not always the case, with some challenge missions making use varying numbers of crew members. This allows for some flexibility for battles; using your brute unit for heavy melee attacks, having your solder unit use his ‘Focus’ ability to get in some more shots, your mobile unit to activate his movement ability to get across the map faster or Captain Pepper’s ‘Inspire’ ability that allows units close to her gaining higher damage and defensive buffs. This makes every unit feel unique and special, and it helps you set up a great team that you can stick with for the entire game or mix & match for specific missions.
It is also worth noting that recruiting specific crew members and talking to NPC’s can unlock extra missions to complete, offering fun side missions outside the main story. The games leveling up system has a Level 10 limit for every unit you sign on for the fight. They join you for a number of reasons; offering them water, having a specific amount of stars and other such factors. The leveling system is fair and the difficulty never felt intrusive, as the game gives you the option between all five modes before you start a mission. I beat the game by switching between Easy and Normal for this review for example, but I revisited a few stages on Hard for higher EXP rewards.
A set of fun items you can collect are hats that you can put on your units. They offer little outside of cosmetic changes but it adds some personality to your crew and a few trophies you earn are linked to collection of hats. If you are completionist, then they will be a fun challenge to get them all, as you can shoot them off foes during battles and pick them up. Not every hat is earned from beating missions, so you have to keep this in mind if you want to get all the hats in the game.
Lastly, you have a large selection of guns you can get for your crew, ranging from simple pistols too very useful machine guns and bombs. These work for specific characters but it leads for greater customization for your units as a whole.
The game has five difficulty options for every stage and you have the ability to play with any difficulty from the start of the game. You can even change it as you get through the game if you are having a rough time or want further challenge. Its worth noting that higher difficulties have EXP bonuses, making replays of past levels encouraged to fully level up all your units.
The game has over 100+ Stars to Collect across three sectors and well over 10+ hours worth of content on your first run through the game. With a lot of difficulty options and extra content opening as you play through the main story, you will a lot to dig into if you get invested in the game.
Some DLC will be releasing alongside the game during launch that adds a new unit to recruit and some new missions to complete in the existing three sectors. The story even is included here, as the events in the DLC happen naturally as the main story progresses. If you enjoyed a great deal of the game, highly recommend this DLC. Other features it has includes new weapons and hats you can get for your units. It is 4.99$ on the NA PSN Store.
The game is a great looking game with the title having a lot of smooth animations, an art style that pops off the screen and a musical score that matches the games tone. One touch I personally really enjoyed was a number of sound effects from Steamworld Dig returning; the Banjo-esc mumbling you hear when characters speak and the instruments used at specific points during some tracks. They helped connect this world to the one from Dig, and I really appreciated that part of the game.
It also runs very well too, running at a locked frame rate on Vita and at native resolution. The PS4 and Steam versions likely benefit from a higher resolution as well.
Story: 4.5 out of 5 / Gameplay: 5 out of 5 / Replay Value: 5 out of 5 / Presentation: 5 out of 5
Steamworld Heist is a very interesting title, as it blends 2D Action with a lot of elements you expect out of turn based action games. For someone who struggles with this genre of gaming, I had no issue jumping into the title. The game accomplishes being a fun and enjoyable adventure that opens the doors for people new to the Real Time Strategy genre. For the price of 19.99$, Steamworld Heist is well worth your time with plenty of content, post-launch support and its strong core gameplay.
Overall Score: 5 out of 5
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita with a review code provided by Image & Form Games and is cross-buy with the PS4 version. It is out now on the PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4 and Steam. Later Xbox One and Nintendo Wii U versions are on their way as of this writing.