SteamWorld Heist is a turn-based strategy, action shooter, that follows Captain Piper Faraday through an action packed space adventure full of wild and tactical shootouts, loot hunting, crew recruiting, and some pretty crazy boss battles. Developed and pubished by Image & Form, the title is the third installment to the SteamWorld series, and a sequel to the companies earlier SteamWorld Dig where players explored a world of mining as the protagonist Rusty. On this adventure you'll meet some truly unique characters and explore a setting more expansive than life on Earth.
The game opens up after a short introductory cutscene, fashioned like a retro nuclear war television documentary, explaining that the Earth has been essentially destroyed after the extensive mining of it's materials. The remaining robots survive in space, moving around in search of the same moisture that will be a necessity to their survival. Playing as space pirate Captain Piper Faraday, you also control any recruits that you pick up along your adventure, but will quickly find your first one during the introductory gameplay. The tutorial is short and sweet as it teaches you the ins and outs of the game before bringing you back to your space ship that acts as the hub throughout your adventure. After selecting your next mission, the ship will connect through an airlock door to the one you're about shoot and loot.
It's free running 2D platform throughout your own space ship changes into it's strategic turn-based combat at the point of breach. Each character will get turns moving in a few different ways, depending on what you see best fits the circumstances. They can either shoot as soon as their turn begins, move a few spaces and then shoot, or they can sprint extra spaces past their allotted normal moves but without the option to shoot after. Putting them behind cover should be most important but getting the first strike could mean immediate kills, so balancing how fast you push them through the map is a game patience and strategy. Upon mission complete, you'll need to get all your characters to stand in front of an escape pod that will then launch you back to your own ship. When it comes to shooting during the missions though, this is where the game truly soars and stands out.
Instead of basing your combat and survival on a hit percentage or the luck of metaphorical dice (like many of these turn-based strategic games), you'll aim with what is almost a laser sight (depending on the gun). It'll show the ricochet projections, allowing you to pull off some really crazy shots that bounce around the interior of the hulks, especially when you otherwise wouldn't be able to get a direct hit. Maybe you can't hit the enemy with a direct shot or even a ricochet, but they happen to be taking cover behind a barrel of TNT. Everyone's gun is a little different, and based on what you purchase from the dealer and equip your bots with, you may have to adjust the shooting for them. For example, a handgun or rifle can ricochet off surfaces and bounce around (and you'll see the line of projection while aiming), but a shotgun will pale in comparison in terms of accuracy, so therefor you must get close enough to see that you're aiming it in the right direction.
It's extremely fun and fast paced, even as a turn-based game, and brings a great amount of diversity because of these mechanics. The game has a decent story about a power hungry organization fueled by diesel fuel instead of moisture as well as a force more powerful lurking about, but it wasn't an "extraordinary" story. It fit the purpose for everything it needed to and gave reason to shoot up some opposing robots in space ships. The real joy and interest was in the characters that you'll meet and learn about throughout the adventure as well as taking them into the exciting combat; each one has a distinct characteristic and way of dialog that makes them unique to themselves. Some are bitter about their situation, some witty and sarcastic, and others may be in a happy mood.
Sound and Graphics
The game immediately grabbed me with how inviting each of the environments looked. You'll be playing through a lot of space ships, and they don't change in too drastic of ways, but they do look extremely good. I didn't have a problem playing for long periods of time, but if the environment repetitiveness or anything else takes away your ability to play for extended lengths of time, it makes for a great pick up and play game that you can work on over time. The missions are semi-short and can usually be beaten in 5-15 minutes, meaning you'll see a lot of them quickly.
Bosses look fierce and are anything but repetitive though; each with their own style and attacks that you'll partially love and partially hate. The combination of detail, steampunk space design, and high paced action graphics like explosions and weapon firing meant the environments and everything within were constantly flowing in a way that made it feel like the complete presentation package of intense gameplay. Performance-wise, I never found myself running into any glitches or technical issues/bugs throughout my playthrough. It's a fairly simple game that has been ported to multiple platforms, but has also been smoothed out and polished really well (at least on console).
If you haven't played the game yet, you definitely should take a look at it and consider buying. It is turned based with strategy, but it makes everything fun for all fans by putting the combat back into your control and not your luck. If you're new to the genre, the game offers a laid back difficulty that will allow you to succeed and enjoy everything it has to offer, but bumping up the difficulty will challenge veteran space pirates, as well as anyone who feels to take on a big challenge right out of the gate.
The shooting is fun, especially when you pull off crazy shots that bounce off several surfaces and then obliterate your opposing robot enemies. The leveling via experience as well as gaining currency to upgrade equipment at the space bar is well thought out and incredibly simple to understand, which is nice for a game in the genre. It's pleasing to look at and offers roughly a dozen hours of gameplay, not including the New Game+ where you bring back your crew of badass robot pirates and take on the adventure again, perhaps on an even harder difficulty.
|+ Fun characters and plot setting||– Environments may begin feeling repetitive|
|+ Exciting combat and shooting mechanics||– Story could have been improved on|
|+ Over a dozen hours of content|
|+ "New Game+" mode|