The future, it turns out, is not a glamorous place. The Royalists left their greedy mark on the vast and wild territories of space and now it’s down to a bunch of scrappy tin can anti-heroes to sort things out. With your robot pirate captain, Piper, you must recruit allies, board enemy ships and wipe the galaxy clean of Scrapper scum (and steal some lovely loot while you’re at it). SteamWorld Heist is a turn-based strategy shooter set in a cartoon steam-powered space western world. A complete change from its predecessor SteamWorld Dig, Heist offers something new but just as fun. Hold on to your pistons and prepare to get your nuts shot off and your bolts blown to smithereens.
Turn-based combat isn’t for everyone, but we’re big fans and dab hands here at Punk and Lizard. SteamWorld’s tactical turns are very uncomplicated in design and execution, and suitable for anyone looking to try out something more strategic rather than action-based. Instead of having tons of options each turn, success depends more on tactical placement and aiming a good shot. Along your travels you’ll pick up different weapon types and these will all have different tactical advantages and disadvantages. One of my favourite guns is the scoped pistol which will give you a handy line of site that is perfect for pulling off bouncy pinball trick shots. It’s a powerful gun but it cannot be used in addition to the character moving, so placement and forward thinking is critical. The characters themselves also have different perks and abilities which they gain as they level up. Piper, for example, can inspire both herself and any character standing next to her so they can both hit harder. Another character can shoot twice and when hit himself will long for payback and on his turn attack back mega hard. While the basics of the game are very simple and it takes no time at all to get acquainted, there are enough options with different characters and weapons that the strategy aspect of the game doesn’t take a dive.
To progress you’ll need to earn experience and stars, and this is done by boarding various vessels and completing the objectives inside. You’ll need to search for loot, kill all the enemies or target specific high value adversaries. It’s good fun despite each mission feeling remarkably similar to the last. All missions are variations of each other, although they are all randomly generated so despite the very familiar feeling you’ll get on each new level, they are actually a little bit different. Whether it’s getting in and out before an alarm sounds or taking out the pop-up turrets while a Scrapper comes charging towards you, they all offer a decent challenge.
Graphics are bright and colourful. It’s easy to like those rag-tag pirates when they look so darn cute. Environments are richly designed with charming details. The neon lights in the bars are a gorgeous contrast to the rust bucket style behind them, and the characters with their truckers’ caps look positively adorable. And it’s not just trucker caps. There’s a wide variety of hats and caps to collect and equip, ranging from the very practical to the very jaunty. They can be shot from your enemies’ heads but watch out because they can do the same to you. Don’t forget to pick up your fashionable headwear unless you want a chilly scalp!
If an enemy really gets you in his sights it’s not just your hat that’s at risk, you could lose your life. If a robot comrade dies in a mission, he will arrive back at your ship as a pile of flat pack DIY. He or she will be promptly put back together but you’ll lose their stars experience. If you’re looking to level up all the characters evenly and gather as many stars as you can in order to progress you may need to attempt these missions again. That can become a tad tedious, but luckily there are various shops around the galaxy that sell items to help you stop being dead quite so much. Armour and medical boxes can be bought and assigned to a specific character’s loadout. Be warned, though; your inventory is tiny and buying extra slots is expensive but necessary if you’re going to build up a decent arsenal to take down those evil Scrappers.
Fun, colourful and full of hats, SteamWorld Heist is a charming take on the strategy shooter genre. While gameplay can at times feel a little repetitive, the amusing characters more than make up for it. Not quite addictive but certainly engaging.
S J Hollis Rating – 8/10