SteamWorld Heist is a turn-based strategy game developed by Image&Form Games. The game is completed for the Nintendo 3DS but it will also be made available for other platforms at a later time. Image&Form Games is also the team behind SteamWorld Dig, a game with the same world as Heist. Unfortunately, I have not been able to play Dig yet, but I may now have to considering the enjoyment found in Heist. You will easily be playing Heist for a long time and be wishing for way more.
In SteamWorld Heist, you assume the role of Piper Faraday, the female captain of a group of rouge cowbots that travel in heavily-inspired steampunk Space. Cowbots usually mine for water (like in SteamWorld Dig), but Piper’s team fights with the other groups of steambots, mainly the Scrappers and the Royalists. The three groups of steambots do not get along together in space but the intro cutscene suggests that there may be something more ominous out in space. Your goal in SteamWorld Heist is to do battle against the other steambots, you do this by entering their ship via an overworld map. Once you pick a mission, the turn-based strategy fun begins.
SteamWorld Heist embraces a “fight or flight” gameplay mechanic. When it is your turn, you can either attack or sprint. You can only walk a few spaces before you attack if you choose to do so, but you can sprint much farther and lose the ability to attack. This movement is made easy to identify by blue and orange lines. Following the orange path will show you where you can move and still attack, while the blue will show you where you can sprint to without attacking. As you level up your characters, they may gain the ability to upgrade their sprint and movement options. However you decide to move, that decision can mean a lot. Sometimes fleeing from enemies when your health is running low is the only path to victory. When you do decide to shoot, you can even perform some incredible trick-shots to ensure that your opponent goes down with your bullet. The gameplay rewards skill and does not rely on luck whatsoever. Victory will only come to you if you make it arrive.
Although every mission will have you pitted against some robotic fiends, the goal of every mission can be different. Some will have you defeat a certain number of enemies while others will have you looking for items that somebody in the world has requested. There are even a few boss battles that can be quite difficult depending on what difficulty you are playing on. That is one great aspect of SteamWorld Heist; it makes itself accessible and playable to all different types of people. If you are not a turn-based strategy veteran, then you can easily adjust to one of the 5 different difficulties available. You can even do this before going into each mission. The rewards and experience gained in each mission will be different, but you can play however you want without being fully penalized for it.
Now, back to the missions. When you complete the goal of each specific mission, an escape pod will be made available to you somewhere in the stage. Sometimes these can be very close to you while at other times they can be way across the map. Once you do complete your goal, it is your job to make it safely back to these escape pods to fully complete missions. At the end of each mission, you are judged by a star/reputation system. Most levels are based on a 3 star rank but some do give more. You get stars by completing your objective but you also get 1 star for collecting the “Epic Swag” found in each stage. You also lose stars for every party member that you lose during the level. This star system surprisingly brings a lot of replay value to the game. I found myself replaying many stages just to achieve the perfect ranking on each level.
Before starting each level, you can decide on your arsenal. There are various character to choose form and various more items and weapons to pick. You can also even collect funny can cool hats for your characters. There are shops that sell these hats but you can also obtain them from missions. There are also shops and bars that sell items and weapons, usually increasing in power (and price) as you continue in the game. Something to mention would have to be the incredible soundtrack found in SteamWorld Heist. It was made by the Steam Powered Giraffe, and their steampunk tunes capture the game perfectly. Most of their songs can only be heard at the various bars found in space and at key moments in the game. I always looked forward to hearing the next song play in the game, and I was never disappointed.
All the characters that you can choose from in the game do have some unique abilities that can help affect the outcome of every mission. You start out the game with just two characters, Piper included. As you go along the game, you can recruit a few more steambots, most of them for a price. Most of these steambots have very cool designs but there isn’t much development involved with them. They do not really affect the plot since you do not even have to recruit any of them. They all do have some nice dialogue and backstory when you are on your ship but other than that, they fall a bit flat.
Steamworld Heist is a game that just works. There was never a dull moment in the game. Every time that I did stop playing, I found myself wanting to come back to it for just a little bit more. With the various hours of gameplay, randomly generated levels, and a New Game+, SteamWorld Heist fed my craving for more multiple times. SteamWorld Heist is easily one of the best Indie games out there this year and has become one of my personal favorite Indie games of all time. Be sure to pick it up when the game launches on December 10th.
*This review was written with a press copy made available by Image&Form Games. For a limited time, you can get SteamWorld Heist at a discounted price of $16.99/ £11.99 (original price is $19.99/£14.99) for the holidays. If you buy it on the 3DS, you will be able to get a free home menu theme that will be gone after December 31st.