(Updated: 7:40 CST December 10th, 2015)
Image & Form, the Indie video game developer from Sweden returns to the world of steam with SteamWorld Heist! SteamWorld Heist is the turn-based RPG pseudo-sequel to their previous hit SteamWorld Dig. The new game takes place in the same universe but even further into the future. Per their official fact sheet:
Join Captain Piper Faraday, smuggler and occasional pirate, as she recruits a rag-tag team of steam-driven robots and sets out on a daring adventure. With your hearty crew you’ll board, loot and shoot your way through enemy spaceships. Overcome the challenges of the vast frontier by upgrading your robots with unique abilities, weapons – and even stylish hats!
Let’s take a look at some of the facts before we move on to my review of the game so far. SteamWorld Heist released yesterday, December 9th, 2015 for the Nintendo 3DS via the eShop. The game is also slated for release on the Nintendo Wii U, Sony Playstation 4 and Vita, Microsoft’s Xbox One, Steam (PC/Mac/Linux) and iOS in early 2016. These other versions are considered HD releases, per their website. The base game sports between 15-20 hours of play but there are talks of additional DLC in the future. The basics of the game is that you captain a crew of Steambots. Using various weapons, you take out the enemy. Each character boasts different status for damage, health, speed, etc. Each weapon boasts different stats for damage and accuracy as well as class use. Weapons include unique guns, hand to hand weapons like brass knuckles, and armor in the form of vests.
There are five difficulty levels: Casual, Regular, Experienced, Veteran, and Elite. Mission failure penalties are assessed on all levels except Casual and experience bonuses, which increase incrementally each level, are provided for Experienced and higher. Additionally, the difficulty level for individual missions can be modified in-game, meaning this is not a universal setting for your entire game profile but can be set on an as-needed basis if you run into a mission that’s too easy or too difficult.
Official Press Release
After two years of developing SteamWorld Heist, our biggest effort to date, we’ve come out on the other side. Towards the end we beat a near-impossible time schedule to have the game approved on the first try by Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe. We made it: it would be released in 2015. A week ago we sent out for reviews and wrung our hands in giddy, dreadful anticipation of the verdicts. And we passed that test as well: in terms of reviews, SteamWorld Heist is a resounding success.
SteamWorld Heist is a game that requires a longer explanation than a brief elevator pitch. It’s a new game, a mashup of genres where the sum constitutes something unique and larger than its parts. In short you control Captain Piper, who commands a rag-tag band of steam-driven robot pirates throughout strategic, turn-based shootout missions. It’s set in 2D, so you can use the environment to bounce shots, take cover and get the upper hand. You’ll find weapons and equipment, collect swag and gather experience to upgrade your crewmates, while you’re slowly getting tangled up in a war of factions.
Today, December 10, SteamWorld Heist is finally out of our hands. It’s strange that we cannot really affect it anymore. From today it will be put to the real test – the judgment of the Nintendo 3DS community. When we released SteamWorld Dig on Nintendo 3DS in 2013, we came from nowhere and were embraced, lifted up. You can’t imagine what that’s like. Because of that, since then we’ve been determined to give as much back as possible: to make a game so great that it could change people’s preferences, to make them play a game they thought they wouldn’t like – and ending up loving it.
I believe we’ve made such a game, and here it is. With it, I hope we never have to listen to phrases like “It’s a great game… for an indie studio,” because it implies that indie studios will somehow always be second-rate. With such a preconception, we cannot charge adequately even when making top-notch games, and in turn it means that we can’t be brave enough, economically and creatively, to go all in.
Well, we have gone all in this time, and we’re not afraid. Games aren’t indie or AAA – they’re just better or worse. We know we’ve made one of the best games this year, and we want you to find that out for yourself. Your faith in our promise is the only thing we need to continue creating magic. Thanks for supporting us.
Image & Form”
SteamWorld Heist: My Take
For a little background, I have never played SteamWorld Tower Defense, the 2010 game that was the first in the SteamWorld series but SteamWorld Dig has been one of my favorite 3DS titles and I still play it every now and then. You can read my review of SteamWorld Dig here. But let’s talk about the game of honor, SteamWorld Heist. This game mixes up the genre again by making a fast-paced turn-based tactical RPG. I enjoy a good RPG but I tend to get bored very easily playing turn-based RGPs or turn-based strategy games. I like action and I like being able to adapt based on what’s going on around me. Now, this game does a solid job of keeping me engaged and interested without losing the turn-based aspects.
Let’s start from the beginning. The title screen opens with a short video explaining the context of the game. For those who never finished SteamWorld Dig, there is a bit of a spoiler because it names the planet all of the Steambots are from, something mainly eluded to in the previous game. I really like this introduction video. It’s styled up in a similar fashion to the Fallout, Cold War propaganda films. There’s an excited announcer spewing biased named groups defining both the good and bad guys. It’s fun and I always enjoy a good setting.
The game allows for three different save profiles, so feel free to try it out in different difficulties. For the sake of reviewing, I left the difficulty at the default, which is Regular. In retrospect, I might go back and play Casual just to get the story because I ran into some difficult levels about 90 minutes into playing. The characters are a lot of fun. You primarily play as Piper. She is the female Steambot captain of the ship. She has a crew that grows as you complete quests and use water to recruit more for your fight. Water is the main currency and is used to purchase new items, recruit more people to your team, and is taken away if you fail a mission on a high enough difficulty level.
The game map is pretty standard but does a solid job. It shows the various locations and ships. Locations are usually places to get information or make purchases while ships are your missions. Most missions consist of boarding a ship and getting all of the swag (loot) on board. Turrets, alarms, and unique enemy units make the tactical side of things very interesting and, at times, quite difficult. Sometimes all the cover you have is an explosive barrel, other times there are too many turrets to have any cover at all. Each mission has a possible three starts to collect. The stars are used to unlock other missions\levels. The picture below is an actual shot from my 3DS using my phone’s camera. You’ll notice that this particular mission, “Cargo Barge” is available. As the top left indicates, this mission has special swag available; I can use three mission members, and I have not earned any stars yet. In the bottom right, you can see that I currently have 10 out of a possible 45 stars. One mission, for example, required 22 stars, so I couldn’t play it yet.
If I have anything negative to say at all, it’s that when you encounter a new villain, it’s difficult to know what is unique about them off the bat. Some, for example, explode when they are destroyed, something good to know… otherwise you might use a melee attack on one and blow them and yourself up. But, of course, I didn’t do that…. certainly not multiple times. Okay, I did but still.
Overall, this is a fun and exciting game that continues one of my favorite sci-fi universes, SteamWorld. The characters are unique. The animation and graphics are sharp and fit the style of this universe perfectly. I do feel like their graphic design is more sophisticated and detailed than SteamWorld Dig and they accomplish this upgrade without losing the feeling and connection to the previous game.
SteamWorld Heist is on sale now in the Nintendo 3DS eShop and will be available for additional platforms early next year.
Currently, the game sits with an 89% on Metacritics, making it the highest rated Nintendo 3DS game this year and pushing it to the top 6 on the all-time list! Very impressive.
You can pick up the game for a limited time discounted price of $16.99 USD as part of their release promotion. Additionally, a free 3DS exclusive home theme is available until December 31st. So get to downloading!
I give the game 4.5 out of 5 saucers. I feel like some of the abilities could have been explained a little better but it’s a great game definitely worth your time, even if you’re not a fan of the turn-based RPG genre.
Have you picked up SteamWorld Heist from Image & Form? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!