Piper lifts her gun and carefully targets a wall above an enemy Scrapper. Her aim shifts with each breath, she waits until the perfect moment to pull the trigger. The singular bullet ricochets off wall to wall before annihilating the enemy, hiding behind the barrel, in slow-motion as the robot’s parts are dismantled before Piper’s eyes. Success. She has little time to celebrate before an enemy fires a bullet into the flammable barrel she mistakenly used as defence, the barrel explodes, causing Piper to be dismantled and to be defeated. All hope appears to be lost, until her fellow Steambot grabs the last of the loot, an enemy Scrapper shoots at him but it rebounds off the wall and misses him, he sprints for the evacuation pod and is victorious.
SteamWorld Heist differs greatly from it’s predecessor, SteamWorld Dig. SteamWorld Heist is a tactical turn-based shooter in which the Steambots that inhabit the game are forced to evacuate planet earth into space. Rather than digging through abandoned mines, our protagonist, Piper, along with her robot squad find themselves invading enemy spaceships, either looting, killing a target or simply surviving until an escape route is found. The sense of exploration is slightly limited in comparison to that of SteamWorld Dig, where abandoned mines can be explored and treasure found. SteamWorld Heist offers more of a structured tactical experience where the player is required to be patient and skilled in their moves, rather than running onto an enemy ship and shooting aimlessly.
SteamWorld Heists’ menu screen boasts an upbeat backing track that gives the player a sense of determination and adventure, highlighting the fact that this game relies greatly on working as a team with your characters. However, once on board enemy spaceships and tracking down a target or searching for loot to steal, the music takes a much more eerie tone which really creates an atmosphere. The sound of footsteps, loading of guns and shots are amplified, the consequences of the characters move seems much more significant, a shot being rewarded with the sound of an enemy being dismantled or punished with the dismal sound of the bullet hitting a wall due to a misjudged aim.
When venturing into bars to gather information, purchase items or hire Steambots for battle, the music tends to be mellow and wistful, as if wishing for another time when Steambots could inhabit Planet Earth. The sound in SteamWorld Heist, although not breathtaking, does create atmosphere to the areas visited.
SteamWorld Heist follows a very similar graphical style to that of SteamWorld Dig. The game looks brilliant on the 3DS, the levels look colourful and inviting with crisp, detailed fully animated characters. The Steambots that can be hired to join Piper’s crew all look unique, their appearance reflecting that of their abilities, for example, a heavy weightlifting character can wield a rocket launcher to cause a lot of damage in a battle. Unfortunately, the game can lag when battles get busy with many sprites in one area at a time which can result in the game slowing down at times. Having said this, it does not seriously affect gameplay and is not enough to damage the player’s immersion in game.
The story within SteamWorld Heist is fairly basic, Piper and co. initially set out to defeat the no good space ‘Scrappers’ that are causing havoc to innocent space dwellers. Later on in the game they target the corrupt Royalists. The story is definitely not at all memorable or all that significant to the gameplay. However, terms used in the game such as ‘Mothertecher’ and ‘Techromancer’ keep the game fresh and inventive, making the story light-hearted and not to be taken too seriously.
The gameplay is where SteamWorld Heist really shines. The satisfaction of pulling off a perfectly aimed shot that rebounds off multiple surfaces before destroying the target is highly rewarding and makes the game dangerously addictive. Then the anger felt when a mission is completed and your one remaining character left has irresponsibly low health and you desperately want to flee for the evacuation pod. However, the enemy is allowed to move first and they shoot the deadly bullet your way, the game goes into grim slow motion, following the bullet’s path…and…your character dies. SteamWorld Heist unrelentlessly poses a challenge that causes the player to be all the more determined to not make the same mistake again. You will die. Many missions will be failed and restarted. The great thing about the game is that you will want to restart the missions and start again, applying different tactics and strategies.
Even if defeated at the end of a completed mission, the game will still make you start from the beginning of the task. Steambots run on water and so if a mission is restarted it will cost the player valuable water to reassemble their crew, making battles all the more tense and important. This means that collecting loot as you move your way through the mission is very important as water is often hidden in amongst the steals. At the end of a completed mission the loot your characters have picked up is unloaded, this is often very exciting and there are a lot of rewarding steals such as new powerful weapons and items. Therefore, taking the risk of spending a character’s turn on picking up loot rather than killing an enemy, is often worth it.
Levelling up your crew is incredibly satisfying as new powerful abilities are unlocked which are vital assets in the more difficult missions. The reward of a character being ambushed near death and then having the ability to fire a mini nuke, causing mass destruction and clearing the character’s path to victory, is well worth the potential grinding and levelling up it took beforehand.
Missions are fast paced and exciting due to each turn allowing for a generous number of spaces to move with the sprint function. This makes each turn seem unrestricted and makes missions rapid with each move vital to the outcome of the task. The choice of whether to sprint or move forward slightly and shoot an enemy becomes an increasingly more difficult choice to make the further into the game.
The environments of the enemy spaceships can be destroyed however the player would like. Highly flammable barrels that enemies are hiding behind can be shoot, causing them to explode, potentially killing multiple enemies at once. However, if one of your characters is standing too near, they can also be a victim of the explosion. A fun feature that is highly amusing is that if your character aims their shot slightly too high above an enemies head, the bullet can shoot their hat off, allowing your characters to nab the hat for totally cool customization. Similarly, enemies can shoot off your characters hats, leaving your character hatless forevermore (unless replaced with a shiny new hat of course).
Gameplay can become slightly repetitive with similar items in the loot that characters pick up and missions that do not differ greatly. Missions in SteamWorld Heist tend to be either steal something/certain number of things or kill a certain character. The fun gameplay largely makes up for the repetitiveness, however, if playing the game for a few hours the missions can get a bit too familiar.
SteamWorld Heists’ story lasts a good 8 hours on regular difficulty, however, if wishing to obtain every item and hire every potential addition to your team the game could take well over 15 hours to complete. The highest difficulty level is ‘Elite’, during early levels in the game, ‘Elite’ does not pose much more of a challenge in comparison to regular difficulty. However, as the game progresses, the ‘Elite’ difficulty provides a steep learning curve and packs in a lot of challenge.
SteamWorld Heist has a very significant replay value if a player wishes to complete the game on the highest difficulty level and obtain all of the upgrades and items. The turn based game is so addictive that many players will revisit once completed to relive the most challenging levels and approach them from a different angle. Furthermore, level maps are randomly generated each time a mission is restarted, meaning that a level will never look the same twice, making the mission feel fresh each time and ramping up the difficulty as the player cannot predict where enemies or loot will be. This further adds to the replay value as levels feel different each time meaning the game could easily be played through multiple times, feeling different with each playthrough.
SteamWorld Heist is accessible to newcomers whilst posing a challenge to veterans alike which is not an easy feat. This is a satisfying turn based shooter that will have the player punching walls due to a miscalculated move or laughing maniacally when a perfectly timed shot causes mass destruction. SteamWorld Heist creates a perfect balance between rewarding the player with satisfaction when completing a challenging mission and punishing the player unrelentlessly for leaving a character undefended and exposed to the onslaught of enemy fire. This is a seemingly light hearted game that will grab a hold of you and not let go until you are sweating out of your eyes, it is great fun.