Alright, let’s get something out of the way immediately: Steamworld Heist is simply delightful. I’ve not played a title that has surprised me so much in quite some time. Most games I know what I’m getting into, more or less; thanks to so much connectivity at our disposal, it’s somewhat difficult to be pleasantly surprised by a game. So, instead of working my way towards explaining how great Steamworld Heist truly is, I’m going to work a little backwards.
Firstly, the presentation in this title is superbly done. The art style and steam[bot]-punk aesthetic is quite fitting in the storyline and world created in the game. The game is colorful, yet normalized; it stays true to its western film roots with many browns, reds, and dull yellows flowing across the screen while still managing to fight off blandness. Part of this is due to the excellent level designs, as well: generated levels that fit within ships of various sizes, lined with steaming, creaking pipes, shot-up metal barrels, loot, hidden turrets, and…..well, you get the point. There is a lot to look at and take in, much of which can easily go unnoticed, thanks to the amount of detail lovingly put into this title.
Not only does the level design and western steampunk aesthetic both benefit from and add to the overall art style and direction in Steamworld Heist, but the 3D is enhanced by the way this game looks. In fact, I tried playing without the 3D on, and found I much preferred the 3D depth to help truly create the illusion that each ship I journeyed into not only had length and height, but felt thick. The 2D models overlapped upon each other are magnificently done; there aren’t many 3DS titles that come to mind that utilize the feature specific to Nintendo’s handheld console like Steamworld Heist does.
Ok, I have to stop talking about the way the game looks, or I’ll start to put you to sleep; so let’s talk about the music and audio! Hilariously amusing lyrics in country songs played by fellow steambots just trying to make a living in the vast spacey-ness of….well, space. Where the actual songs throughout are more country-western in nature, the background music while playing the game evolves into industrial steampunk-like compositions. The pieces never felt out of place, yet they managed to stick out enough to enhance the gameplay experience.
Clinks, clunks, heavy robotic footsteps clanging across metallic ship floors, steam bullets ricocheting off beaten up pipe walls. Every audio cue and creative musical decision is outstanding and incredibly well placed. Personally, my favorite sound in the game is that of a pistol being shot with a steamy “phwooosh-chink.” Ok, so I’m not very good at translating sounds to words, but I’m telling you this: Steamworld Heist utilizes many different audio cues throughout the entire experience, all of which fit into the visual style and enhance the overall experience. I cannot talk enough about the visual and audio display in this title – the amount of polish and loving, creative care put into Steamworld Heist is breath of fresh air, and it is hard to do it justice with only the usage of words.
I could end this review now, right? There couldn’t possibly be more to talk about with Heist? As good as the aesthetics and audio implementation is, the actual gameplay is even better. Heist plays as a pseudo turn-based battle system; players can manage various characters (some levels allow up to four steambots to control) to navigate ships and loot them. There are other objectives to complete along the way, though not all are required within each mission: take out a main enemy, delay an alarm or detonation, collect 100% of the loot on a ship, keep all your steambots alive till the end of the level, and so on. Players can collect stars for each level, too, collecting them to unlock different areas to explore throughout the main story adventure (obtaining certain amounts of stars is required to get through main story missions).
Along the way, the player can recruit different steambots who are ready and willing to take the fight to the Scrappers, for either the right price or right amount of fame. Gaining stars helps to build your reputation, which then gives you the leverage needed to recruit new characters, each of which brings something new to the gameplay. For instance, the main protagonist, Piper, is great with her sniper shot, but not nearly as good with close-quarters combat; while Seabrass may not be the best shot, he has a unique ability named “Payback,” which amplifies the amount of damage done if an enemy hurts him during their turn. Choosing which characters to bring into each battle, and how to level them up throughout the entirety of the game, truly does make a difference in the outcome of each mission.
After choosing the desired character(s) for each mission, the player then navigates each one through ships of varying sizes and shapes. Every character can move a certain distance and then shoot, or they sprint to their destination – meaning that they can go a bit further than stopping and shooting, but then don’t have the option to shoot. Choosing to find safety behind a rusty barrel or steel box is usually the way to go, since enemies have a harder time shooting your characters when they are hidden behind some cover. Oh, but don’t get too comfortable behind your makeshift cover: the more shots taken at cover, the quicker the cover will break/fall apart and disappear.
Weapons, water (used to purchase new items or rebuild busted allies), and consumable items add more strategy to each mission. Perhaps you’re trying to level up a character you’ve somewhat neglected thus far in your journey; give them a metal vest and a health pack to keep them alive and kicking throughout the mission. That way, they get the experience without getting destroyed. Or, perhaps you’d like to fully utilize Seabrass’s “Payback” ability in hand-to-hand combat to deal massive amounts of damage; put some spiked knuckles on him to up his melee attack. There are plenty of items to either purchase or loot, and then utilize in different missions.
Various enemies also affect your battle tactics, making the gameplay even more fun and varied. Some enemies are literally barrels that explode (so take care of them before they get close!), others bring high attack/low range weapons, then you have some that charge at you with melee weapons, while still others might bring a sniper rifle to the fight. This, coupled with randomly generated ships, not only brings a more excitement and entertainment to the overall gameplay, but a good amount of replay value to the title. Upon finishing Steamworld Heist at the medium difficulty setting, I was ready to tackle it again on the next level up.
I could seriously go on and on about how much I’ve enjoyed Steamworld Heist. It truly is a title I did not know I would enjoy so much. Whether getting the chance to play for hours on end, or perhaps only having a quick 10 minute break in your busy day, this title is easy to just pick up, play, and be entertained. I highly recommend this title to….well, just about anyone. Want witty – and sometimes entertainingly cheesy – dialogue? You got it. Enjoy a good game soundtrack? Are you into turn-based gameplay and tactical strategy? Steamworld Heist is quite enjoyable. Not sure about turn-based gameplay, as you think it might be boring? I truly believe this title might impress you. Steamworld Heist is a great game. So what are you waiting for, cowbot? Mosey on over to the eShop and rustle yourself up a download of this steam-tastic title!
This game was provided by the developer for review.