Platforms 3DS, PlayStation 4, Vita Genre Platformer, Turn-Based Shooter
Platform Played PlayStation 4 Developer/Publisher Image & Form Games
In Analog Addiction’s original review of SteamWorld Heist on 3DS, Editor Nathan Manning said the following.
“SteamWorld Heist is a great game. A wonderfully created world, interesting characters, unique gameplay and smart map design all combine to make SteamWorld Heist a joy to play. I honestly did not think a 2D platformer with turn-based combat would work, but Image & Form has put a lot of thought into the concept to make it succeed. There aren’t enough turn-based shooters on the market, and hopefully the success of SteamWorld Heist will be the launchpad other developers need to be creative with the genre.”
SteamWorld Heist on PlayStation 4 ticks all the same boxes, but the addition of improved graphics and larger viewing area when compared to the original 3DS release easily make SteamWorld Heist on console the best place to play. SteamWorld Heist is enjoyable and fun, but requires strategic and tactical planning to overcome the most challenging levels.
Whilst SteamWorld Heist is set in the SteamWorld franchise, SteamWorld Heist is not a direct continuation of SteamWorld Dig. Though there are several polite nods to the last entry in the franchise, SteamWorld Heist has its own unique story to tell. Players take control of Piper, the leader of a small band of cowboy Steambot outlaws. Despite their outlaw status Piper and her crew are kind hearted and always aim to help out others in need; consider them to be a Steambot version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Essentially the story of SteamWorld Heist is separated into three chapters; with each taking players to a new section of the galaxy with its own unique narrative arc. Each story along the way flows perfectly into the next and allows for each new section of the galaxy to feel unique, with new enemies, weapons and allies to encounter.
SteamWorld Heist allows players to recruit new members to Piper’s crew, who will then appear within Piper’s ship between missions. I couldn’t help but make strong comparisons to the Mass Effect series during these downtime moments in-between missions. I was able to move around the ship freely and visit my new crew members to hear more about their opinions on the situation, learn more about their backstory, or to simply chat about random things. I loved being able to have these moments of interaction as it allowed to form a bond with each member of my crew, regardless of whether or not they joined me on each mission. The comparison to the Mass Effect series is one I don’t use lightly, as Bioware’s space epic is one of my favourite franchises of all time. The fact developer Image & Form has been able to create lovable characters that leave strong lasting impressions without the use of coherent dialogue, is a testament to the characters they have created.
While SteamWorld Heist’s three part tale keeps the narrative fresh, almost every mission throughout SteamWorld Heist’s 16 hour campaign is randomly generated; making almost every mission attempt different from the last. The fact almost every mission is randomly generated adds an entire new factor to the strategic elements of SteamWorld Heist’s tactical gameplay. While entering a mission with a strong team is all well and good, will you be able to conquer the new map elements that have appeared? SteamWorld Heist expects players to plan for every possible situation, and reward those that keep a cool head and plan three steps ahead. Due to the turn-based nature of SteamWorld Heist each gameplay mission is similar to the strategic gameplay found in a tough match of chess. While planning your attack and predicting your enemy will certainly help, your enemy will be making those same predictions along the way.
Developing a strong balance of attack, defence, and the range of weapons at your disposal is critical to overcoming the most challenging missions. Before each mission players can alter the AI difficulty, and the option is appreciated as the AI combatants can produce some absolutely challenging situations. AI enemies will continue to spawn the longer you take to complete most missions, which forced me to balance a slow and steady brute force attack with a swift ability to complete the task at hand efficiently. The variety in each playable character allow for players to experiment with which gameplay strategy best fits their playstyle. But SteamWorld Heist does not allow for each mission to be completed with a one size fits all approach, and therein lays the strategic beauty of this turn-based adventure. SteamWorld Heist asks players for their very best and rewards players that succeed accordingly.
SteamWorld Heist’s turn-based gameplay is similar to the iconic franchise Worms, as players must moves their character into potential attacking positions, line up the shot and hope for the best. During turn-based combat players must ensure they use cover and the environment to position themselves in ways to avoid enemy fire; which is made challenging due to the fact enemy fire can come from any and all angles. Combat is made entertaining due to the unique abilities each character offers. For example Piper allows teammates who are close by to deliver bonus damage, while Sally will get a second shot upon each kill shot. When all the aforementioned factors of SteamWorld Heist’s combat combine, it creates one of the most enjoyable turn-based battle systems I have encountered in recent memory.
SteamWorld Heist also provides many RPG-like systems, such as levelling up characters, weapons with different statistics and lots and lots of loot to collect. SteamWorld Heist’s levelling system is quite linear with all characters levelling up and unlocking their designated abilities as they go, but Heist succeeds at producing a strong loot incentive to each mission. For the most part loot is not a compulsory collection during each mission, but it is scattered throughout each location for players to hunt down. Each bag of loot either produces powerful weapons, or currency to purchase new weapons. Players can outfit their character with an array of different weapons (close range, precision, or brute force) while also utilising a variety of additional items that can add damage to melee attacks, health and their ability to move during each turn. SteamWorld Heist doesn’t hold back from offering the player a plethora of options when customising each character loadout, and players who hunt down every piece of treasure will be rewarded with more options to customise their loadout even further.
One of the main differences between the original 3DS release and the new console version is the visuals, which are now better than ever before. SteamWorld Heist delivers a beautifully unique steampunk style. Each Steambot is uniquely designed to fit this vision of a steampunk universe, and due to the crisp console visuals, the beautiful colours of this cosmos are wonderfully portrayed. These crisp visuals simply could not be produced in the original 3DS release, but now SteamWorld Heist can spread its gorgeous wings on console.
SteamWorld Heist’s style is greatly emphasised due to the incredible soundtrack. From the moment I started SteamWorld Heist the main menu song set the standard for a wonderful steampunk western variety of tracks. The music that accompanies players during missions is intense and adrenaline-pumping, while players will also encounter a unique range of musical tracks when they visit bars throughout the galaxy. These saloons offer absolutely incredible tunes that fit the stylistic steampunk western design perfectly. While the songs that celebrate victory over the boss encounters in SteamWorld Heist are truly entertaining and catchy in their own right.
SteamWorld Heist on console brings the tactical turn-based gameplay originally delivered on the 3DS perfectly to new devices. The entertaining story and cast of characters may not have changed from the original release, but the addictive and strategic combat elements are still here in spades.
SteamWorld Heist is an excellent example of a development team understanding their theme and utilising both visual and audio accompaniments to produce a fitting and memorable display. With excellent HD visuals improving the original 3DS visuals and the amazing soundtrack that will stick around in your head weeks after the final credits roll.
SteamWorld Heist is an excellent turn-based instalment that has left me excited to see what developer Image & Form can produce in the future.
- Entertaining cast of characters.
- Strategic gameplay.
- Variety of loadout customisation.
- Excellent visual and audio design.
- Linear levelling system.