In 2010, Swedish gaming company Image & Form studios created a game for the Nintendo DSi ware, called, “Steamworld: Tower Defense.” In the game, you controlled a group of robots defending your refinery from armies of evil steam-powered robots. The game planted the seeds for a larger idea, which soon became Steam World: Dig in 2013. Steam World: Dig was an action-adventure game set within the same steam-punk universe of robots, where players dug deep into mines to search for resources. Last year, the same studio released an interesting side-scrolling game, as it was not action-platforming but strategic, with turn-based elements. These elements would be similar to mechanics that are seen in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with the difference being a reliance on skill rather than luck. The game was called SteamWorld: Heist. Originally released for the Nintendo 3DS, the game received a very solid reception. Now, the space-faring adventure has made its way to the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4. The adventure to a new system was well worth it, as the game is one of the finest for 2016.
SteamWorld Heist takes place in a future without the Earth. The Earth, for a variety of reasons, is destroyed, now nothing more than massive shards and fragments gravitating around its core. Its descendants are an entire civilization of robots, all immune to the vacuums of space and able to do variety of tasks no human could do. In this world, peace-loving steam-powered robots all work to mine sources from the shards of Earth, collecting water and ore to survive. There are those looking to usurp that peace, from pirates, scrappers, and the diesel-powered royalists. Players take the shoes of Captain Piper Faraday, a smuggler and mercenary steambot with a sense of honor among thieves. Your paramount objective in SteamWorld Heist is to defeat your enemies and loot as much as possible, from ship to ship.
Unlike most side-scrollers, SteamWorld Heist plays as a fluid, fast-paced, turn-based strategy game. At the beginning of each game, players can outfit their crew. Players are free to choose who will go on missions, as well as their weapons and equipment. After launching a mission, you link up with an enemy ship and proceed with your objectives. As a turn-based game, your movements are all based on the rules of the games. Moving, shooting, and what weapons you possess all dictate how much you can move. Having experience with other turn-based games, Steamworld as a solid and fluid turn-based interface, allowing for experienced players and those new to the genre to understand and enjoy. This goes especially for the combat. Once the combat gets going, the game really sinks in and becomes an incredible blast to play.
When an enemy is spotted, where and how you shoot matters. Captain piper carries a scoped pistol as a default weapon, which also has a laser sight. When aimed properly, players can bounce bullets off of surfaces and inflict damage in otherwise impossible shots. As you continue the game, players will be able to recruit more characters. Each character is incredibly distinct from the next, which does diversify the combat experience. Sally, for example, is an aggressive steambot that has a penchant for shooting. If players manage to kill an enemy with her SMG, they will earn a “kill shot,” which is one additional shot to take down an enemy. This is great for taking down an additional enemy. when one of your characters is on the verge of falling apart. Other characters can carry shotguns, mortars, and rocket launchers, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and penalties.
At the end of each mission, depending on what players have collected, players will have uncovered brand new weapons, water (which is currency in the game), or various items to aid in combat, such as grenades, armor, and enhancements. In addition, characters build their As each enemy vessel is different from the next, the game encourages players to keep playing, searching for more loot along the way. It’s also worth adding that the game makes an emphasis on hats for aesthetically pleasing purposes.
Steamworld Heist has solid elements in visuals, atmosphere, controls, and gameplay. When all these elements combine, Steamworld Heist becomes one of the most engaging and refreshing games on the digital market today. Missions take place in a high-pace, enabling the player to keep fighting and navigating through levels. With each enemy down and battle won, it is not a victory but a rewarding victory. Each new weapon and item yields a sense of accomplishment. Every mission accomplished becomes another push to keep playing. Every time your character survives and encounter, it truly becomes refreshing for that fact that it wasn’t luck that helped you, but your skill. While other turn-based strategy games, like XCOM, are about skill, their focus on luck can be a bit unfair and frustrating. Steamworld Heist levels the playing field. however, it does not mean that SteamWorld Heist is easy or a push over. The game contains five difficulties, and on experienced, the game will put up a hell of an intergalactic fight.
While at times, the enemy does destroy itself or aim poorly, the enemy A.I bounces back to bite hard! This is also assisted by the procedurally-generated levels, which change each time. Enemies come in various types. Some are typical soldiers, equipped with assault rifles and marksman rifles. Others, however, carry flammable liquid shooters, mortars, and rocket launchers. Some enemies are specifically designed to explode and cause damage at close-range. Toughest of all are the slow-moving, but highly damaging close-range brutes, which clobber your friends, oftentimes destroying them in two hard strokes. Paying attention to your surroundings is important as well. Each level has multiple points for cover, which is the difference between life-and-death in SteamWorld Heist. However, the floor can be porous. If the floor is solid black, that means it is protected and enemies cannot shoot you through it. However, if the floor is looking like a steel construction beam with stripes, it means the enemy can take you. If enemies are above or below you, expect them to shoot through the floor in an attempt to destroy you. Many times, I was annihilated in this manner. Sometimes, it was just one or two crewmembers, but several times, my entire team was wiped out. When a crew member is destroyed, the death is not permanent. Instead, the teams parts are collected and reassembled, at the cost of no experience earned. if your entire team is wiped out, your team will be reassembled at the cost of water. Finally, there are boss fights in the game, requiring precise shooting and tactics. these are fun as the enemy uses its own tactics to destroy you. Ultimately, it is a rewarding and addicting gameplay experience.
Visually, the game looks great on both the Playstation Vita and PlayStation 4. The animations are all drawn and colored, but move fluidly. There are even small details, such as the movements of the mouth and eyes. in particular, when lining up a shot in combat, you can notice the characters closing one eye and squinting to make their shot true. The sound design is solid and the robotic sounds of the robots lend themselves to the overall style and atmosphere of this intergalactic world the game displays. Music is composed by Steam Powered giraffe, which adds to the solid atmosphere. Intense music plays during combat and ambient tracks play during exploration. there are smaller music cues, particularly in the bars that players visit. There is also a pretty neat theme song that plays at the end of boss fights, complete with vocals and a rousing orchestra. The controls, in particular, are solid on both platforms. The UI is friendly on both platforms and won’t have you fumbling through the gameplay.
SteamWorld Heist marks itself as one of the best games available on the independent scene. It’s learning curve nails the “easy to learn, challenging to master” approach. The gameplay is engaging, the atmosphere is neat, and there is a ton of replayability. SteamWorld Heist continues the trend that 2016 is set to be the year space video games made a triumphant comeback, alongside Rebel Galaxy form Double Damage Games, and ADIOS from Cosmic Picnic Games. If you are looking for something very different, SteamWorld Heist will loot your time and reward you every time.