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Full Steam Ahead - SteamWorld Heist Review
SteamWorld Heist made it's debut on 3DS in 2015 as Image & Form's second entry in the SteamWorld franchise. Since then, and HD version of the game has released on Wii U and many other platforms. Unlike SteamWorld Dig (an excellent game in its own right), SteamWorld Heist is a turn-based strategy action adventure. Along with a new genre and gameplay, Heist features a whole new cast and despite existing in the same universe as it's predecessor, is a whole new experience.
Platforms: 3DS, Vita, iOS, Wii U [Reviewed], PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Image & Form Games
Release: October 20, 2016 (Wii U)
Press copy provided by Image & Form
SteamWorld Heist pits you in the world of the space pirate steambot Piper and her trusty driver, Wonky. As the game progresses, your crew of playable characters will increase as new steambots join your party. Alongside your crew, you'll navigate your ship through a wide range of levels that open up on an overworld map. The narrative expands as you complete levels and engage with NPCs at local bars or shops. The plot is fairly expansive and features multiple enemy forces and environments. Crew members are charming and their dialogue often adds to the game's story.
With each ship that your crew boards comes a mission objective that will take a combination of carefully planned strategy and accurate execution to complete. Each level will allow you to bring one to four crew members along and each crew member has two basic options during missions: move and shoot. Movement is limited based on crewmate and level. You can choose to sprint far ahead and sacrifice the ability to shoot or use another utility, or you can move a few spaces and still shoot your gun. Levels are designed such that there are amble barriers and walls to hide behind and play defensively, but it should be kept in mind that the AI enemies can also utilize these.
Although each crewmate works in essentially the same way, each one has unique attributes and abilities. Each can only carry a certain type of weapon (handgun, assault, sniper, heavy) and move a certain number of units. Health and range are also important factors to consider. I found that a handgun, sniper, heavy team for most missions worked well, but it definitely had some drawbacks and tons of other options. Each crewmate also has some unique abilities that can be used instead of (or in addition to) shooting that will be expanded as the character levels up. Abilities include missle launching, healing, and a double-shot.
Goals of the mission vary from defeating every enemy of a certain type, staying alive for a certain number of turns, or destroying generators. The most common by far and a requirement to earn maximum reputation—which is needed to unlock certain missions and gear—is to collect all the treasure known as "Swag" in each level. Most Swag comes in varying quantities of water, the unit of currency in the SteamWorld, but each mission also features other Swag that includes weapons, utility, and treasures. Another requirement to obtain maximum reputation in each level is to not let any crew members die. Levels can still be completed if this happens, but you'll lose 1 reputation per crew member. There are five difficulty levels that can be changed between every mission. This means the game is more versatile and can offer a challenge to all players, regardless of previous experience. The standard setting for the average gamer known as "experienced" provides a very balanced challenge.
In addition to abilities and stats that are improved when crew members gain expirience by completing missions, there is a whole slew of gear and utilities that will improve your crew and allow you to defeat more powerful baddies. These weapons and utilities can be purchased at bars and shops that are spread throughout the overworld. All cost water and some have an additional reputation requirement. There are different classes of weapons, all firearms, that can only be carried by specific crew members. Each weapon deals a certain amount of base damage and critical damage (when you land a headshot) and has a range. As you progress through the game and gain reputation, you'll have access to more powerful, yet balanced weapons. Heavy weapons deal heavy and widespread damage, but can often damage crewmates and have short range. Sniper weapons include a lazer scope that will make your attacks and headshots very accurate, but the longer range weapons don't allow you to move before shooting.
Especially on the HD Wii U version of the game, the art and presentation is fantastic. The environments are of course steampunk in nature and look and feel great. The graphics honestly far surpass those found in SteamWorld Dig and are incredibly detailed. In addition to art, the game features a solid soundtrack and audio. In certain in-game taverns that feature live music from steambots, there are even songs that include vocals. The game also controls very nicely. The Wii U gamepad is very helpful and serves as a minimap that shows basic features of each map and locations of crew members and enemies. The game is turn-based, so it is to be expected, but movement is smooth. Perhaps more significant, the user interface works great and there's plenty of room and visibility in the Wii U version, a good reason to choose it over the 3DS or Vita versions.
SteamWorld Heist is another very polished and simply fun game from Image & Form. Gameplay is strategic and because most levels are psuedo-randomly generated, there's a huge variety in experience, creating replayabitiy. It should also be mentioned that the game will likely take 15+ hours to complete and is quite rich in content. The Wii U versions seems to be the definitive version of an already great game. There's very little to complain about. If you liked SteamWorld Dig or fancy strategy games at all, SteamWorld Heist is a no-brainer.
- Strategic and precise gameplay
- Unique and plentiful case of characters
- Lots of content and replayability (New Game+)
- Solid plot and sometimes humorous dialogue
- Hearty challenge for a wide range of players
- Some weapons and gear feel underpowered or not very useful
Excellent games have our official recommendation and our examples of what every game should strive to be. These games feature exciting gameplay, engaging stories (when applicable), intuitive controls and movement, polished and fitting presentations, and good value. Above all else, these games are truly fun to play.
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