steampunk

SteamWorld Quest: A Review

SteamWorld Quest: A Review
Gamer Heroes

 
 
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SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech is the fifth game in the SteamWorld universe starting back with 2010’s SteamWorld Tower Defense for the 3DS. Since then, we’ve seen two digging platformers in the form of SteamWorld Dig (2013) and SteamWorld Dig 2 (2017), as well as a turn-based RPG in SteamWorld Heist (2015). You can click on the hyperlinks to see my thoughts on some of those games. With that said, SteamWorld Quest is a almost completely different beast. My review here will be primarily spoiler-free but I will note some points and share some images and video from the first 4 chapters of the game.

So let’s begin. SteamWorld Quest is an RPG, that much can be sure. Per Image & Form Games’s press information:

SteamWorld Quest is the roleplaying card game you’ve been waiting for! Lead a party of aspiring heroes through a beautiful hand-drawn world and intense battles using only your wits and a handful of cards. Take on whatever threat comes your way by crafting your own deck choosing from over 100 unique punch-cards!

What awaits you is a luscious treasure chest filled with gold, dragons, vivid worlds, magic, knights in shining armor as well as XP, turn-based battles and all that good RPG stuff! The game’s humorous mix of traditional fantasy and steampunk robots makes for an unforgettable experience with lots of laughs.

Now, let’s shake some of this out. The game is a straight up fantasy RPG with a steampunk style. The steampunk style is in line with the previous SteamWorld games and has come to be one of my favorite video game aesthetics. The animation is lively, bright, unique, and a joy to view. Our three main characters, Armilly, Copernica, and Galleo each fill a relatively standard RPG role. Armilly is our hero though. She is cliche but in a tongue-in-cheek nature.

In fact, the whole game is very self-aware of RPG cliche and that’s just fine. Armilly is essentially our fighter warrior. She has a sword and can increase her strength in battle. Copernica, on the other hand, is our magic barer. She can cast spells of ice, fire, shielding, and more. Finally, Galleo is our tank but reminds me a bit of Overwatch’s Brigitte in that he can provide additional armor and healing while being able to soak up damage.SteamWorld Quest Journey 1

The battle mechanics are really where the game finds its footing, however. As the description says, the battles are turn-based and card-based. Now, when this was initially announced during a Nintendo Direct, I was concerned. Recently, card-based games where you can collect and craft cards have seemed like money pits, pay to win, freemium games. Hearthstone, for example, while a joy to play and really well done, it’s pretty difficult to be competitive without spending a lot of money or playing literally every day. So I was worried this would be similar. Would we be buying individual cards? Blind card packs? Purchasing some kind of dust or in-game currency to craft?

Actually, we don’t do any of that. Not one bit. There aren’t any microtransactions to date. I was shocked but in the best way possible.

SteamWorld Quest Punch-card Tutorial 1

So how does the card-based battle system work? It’s actually pretty interesting and intuitive. You see, at the beginning of a battle, you draw cards. Cards are associated with a specific hero. Strike and Upgrade cards build up Steam Pressure. Steam Pressure is required for Skill cards. For example, if you watch the video below, it shows a single turn. You can see that I play a Strike card but it does not give me enough SP to play by Skill card, Brave Buster, so I play a second Strike card which adds enough SP for me to play the Skill card.

You can play three cards on a turn and eventually you can chain cards together if you play all three from a single hero. In the video below, you’ll see that I was able to use three cards for Armilly. This chaining action adds a fourth card that has an effect, in this case, dealing more damage, but that will vary based on the hero being chained.

As noted before, you will earn new cards throughout the game as you come across treasure chests and level up. Additionally, you can craft cards for your heroes. Crafting cards is fairly simple and is done from the Deck screen. Shaded cards are card types you could craft but have not done so yet. Each card requires specific resources in order to craft it. “To Victory”, for example, requires 250 gold pieces, 5 lustrous fibers, and 10 smoldering ember. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough lustrous fiber, so I cannot craft this card yet.

The story brings our heroes across many different villains ranging from fairly basic characters to those with unique and complicated move sets, including boss level characters like Captain Canary, shown below. Battles range as far as the number of opponents you’ll confront, but the number of heroes you bring into the battle will depend on how many are you in party and how many are still conscious. Tómba, for example, are essentially bomb beetles. While they don’t appear to do much early on, they pack a very serious and deadly punch once they build up enough SP. Confronting these little steambots changed my whole strategy going into battle. I even crafted some cards and altered by decks just to beat them.

SteamWorld Quest Captain Canary

I think that’s all I want to reveal at this time. Overall, SteamWorld Quest is a solid and pleasantly surprising addition to the universe. The card battle system is unique and compelling, challenging and interesting. The characters are a bit corny but that’s clearly on purpose. The art is again, unique. It’s lively, joyful, bright, and appealing hour after hour. The music is bouncy and fun, never feeling repetitive even though I know it repeats. The cheesy characters and story might not be for you, but it hits me strong and I find it a bright spot to my day when I’m able to play. While I do prefer the platformer genre of SteamWorld Dig 1 & 2, SteamWorld Quest has increased by interest in turn-based RPGs. And I think that in itself is a big positive.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous games in this series, especially SteamWorld Heist, I would definitely recommend this new entry in the franchise. If you are looking for a new Indie game and enjoy RPGs with turn-based battle system, I would also recommend this game due to the unique nature of the card battles.

SteamWorld Quest releases April 25th, 2019 on Nintendo Switch for $24.99 USD (€24.99 /£22.49).

You can find additional information on the game through their official website: www.imageform.se/game/steamworld-quest

Game was played 100% in handheld mode on Nintendo Switch.

A review copy of this game was provided by Image & Form.

Follow me on Twitter @TheStarTrekDude to talk to me about this game in more detail!

Music:

  • District Four Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
    Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • SteamWorld Quest theme loop recorded in-game on Nintendo Switch

SteamWorld Quest: A Review

GH Special 01: O Canada

What’s been going on with us? Well, we’ve been moving, traveling, and, of course, gaming! Derreck brings you up to speed on why we have a short episode this week, including a new video game review of Dreadbit’s Ironcast. Ironcast is an interesting turn-based strategy game that brings mechs and steampunk to Nintendo Switch.

So, tune in and see what’s what and then tune in next week for our Serenity Forge interview!

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Ironcast Game Review

Ironcast is a new game coming to Nintendo Switch next week from developer Dreadbit and published by Ripstone. Here’s a little excerpt from the press release to give you a preview:

Ironcast is a turn-based strategy game set in an alternative Victorian history; where refined men and women command gigantic mechanised war machines, laying waste to enemies of the British Empire. As Commanders of the Consortium of Merit, players take control of their own 7 metre tall walking Ironcast to defend 1880’s Victorian England from an invading force of enemy Ironcast.

What I found most interesting about Ironcast is that while it is a turn-based strategy game, it’s not as simple as I fire and then they fire. It combines normal turn-based play with the ever popular icon matching mechanic found in popular titles like Candy Crush and Futurama: Game of Drones. Ironcast includes several different items or icons. Some provide ammo for weapons, others provide power for defensive measures. A third is a coolant that helps keep your systems from overheating. There’s an item for repair work and finally scrap that can be used for upgrades between missions. There are special nodes that pop up from time to time that either boost your matches or allow linking, which is really cool when it lands in the right spot. Linking allows you to, for example, match three ammo then the link and then four power. Since you only get two matches per turn, the links can really help boost your nodes in a time of need.

Ironcast - Matching

To be honest, I’ve never really been a fan of these matching style games and have tried to get on the bandwagon each time a new one hits big. With that said, using this as simply a mechanic in a larger game is a lot of fun and provides a unique twist on standard turn-based strategy games. My girlfriend compares Ironcast to Puzzle Quest and says a lot of the basic mechanics are similar.

You’re given 9 days before the big bad is available to encounter. In those days missions are randomly made available to you. Some are as straight forward as attack and destroy an enemy Ironcast. Others are more complicated, asking you to retrieve certain items or to hold out for a certain number of days. The varying mission types keep the game play fresh. Additionally, you always have options. You’re basically provided three mission options on any given day. They are color coded, some medium difficulty, others hard.

Ironcast - Starting Map

Once the time runs out, you must face the final mission. I’ll be straight with you, my first time around was not successful. I failed one mission because I damaged an enemy Ironcast’s part that I was meant to salvage (more on that in a minute) and then I died during the final battle. Dying is a BIG deal in this game. Death is permanent. Once you die, you’re dead and the game is over. Now items and other unlocked things carry over. It’s as if your people have gained this technology and knowledge and you are stepping in as a new Ironcast pilot the next time around. Think of it like getting all your stuff back from your zombie self in ZombiU but you don’t have to kill your old body.

Now, I do want to complain, for a second, about the missions where you have to retrieve a particular component from an enemy Ironcast. My first time doing this, I had the shields targeted and wanted to harvest the drive. Somehow, even though I was targeting the shields, my weapon hit the drive and damaged it. Mission failed. Just like that. A failed mission results in far fewer rewards, making it harder to repair your Ironcast and essentially wastes a day. Since it was random chance and not a mistake of my own doing, this was pretty frustrating. But hey, if that’s my big complaint, I think we’re ahead.

Anyway, after each mission, you return to base where you can repair your mech and perform upgrades. Upgrades include new weapons, new shields, new armor, etc. Essentially, if it’s something you can use or have damaged during a mission, you can upgrade it at some point. Upgrades are handled via blueprints that are earned at the end of successful missions. They are random, so you might not get the ones you want right out of the gate. Aside from straight upgrades, you can also earn abilities. Some are passive while others are used in battle and take a certain number of turns to recharge. Abilities might include a bonus on your first attack or interfering with the enemy’s ability to repair on their next turn.

Ironcast - Base

Finally, after completing a game (whether you’ve died or won… though let’s just say winning has some unique advantages) you will receive commendations that can be used to unlock new features like new pilots and even new Ironcasts. These new features combined with the randomly generated missions provides for a unique and fresh experience each time you start a new game.

Overall, Ironcast is a fresh take on the simple matching games. The late-1800s steampunk aesthetic is a cool and unique atmosphere that doesn’t feel old or repetitive. While I would have preferred some voice acting since the game is text heavy, the game brings you back to the action quickly. Even though you might start the game feeling a bit cocky and overly confident, it will throw wrenches at you (pun intended), making you pause and think twice before committing your next move.

Ironcast hits Nintendo Switch next week and is currently available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One but playing it on Nintendo Switch provides for several options including a fully touch-enabled experience using the Switch tablet and nothing else. Personally, I played it in TV and handheld modes.

I give the game 4 destroyed mechs out of 5.

(Updated 4:52PM EST Aug 8th 2017)

Ironcast Game Review