NS Review – SteamWorld Heist (3DS)
I stand up.
“Hi there everyone, the name’s Boots.”
“Hi Boots,” the room collectively murmurs.
“I have a confession to make,” I pause.
“Go on,” prompts the SteamWorld Heist Anonymous organiser.
“This year I haven’t found much reason to touch my Nintendo 3DS, well, until now that is… and I presume you know why I cannot stop, it’s the reason we’re all here right?”
The room agreeably mutters.
Let’s get some perspective here. This year I have sunk the majority of my PlayStation 4 gaming into Armello, my Xbox 360 time into XCOM: Enemy Within (because I lost the PS4 to my partner’s #UraniumFever, but that’s another story entirely), and my 3DS play into – you guessed it – SteamWorld Heist. What do these three games have in common? They have all cooked up a deliciously contagious turn based strategy broth which I cannot stop quaffing, that’s what.
In a space age future akin to Firefly and Cowboy Bebop (with far less humans) the moisture farming steam powered Cowbots are trying their utmost to honestly live off what’s left of an erupted earth. Although this is not stopping the oppressive scrappers and diesel fuelled Royalists getting up in their rusty grills. The game revolve(r)s around slipping into the
boots bolts of Capt. Piper Faraday and being tasked with commanding her ragtag crew of loveable misfits to take the fight right back at ’em. If this strategic Steambots in space premise comes anywhere near to nudging you in the happy blubber, trust me you’re going to be squirming with delight because it just gets better and better!
The gameplay core is based on tooling up one to four class based recruitable crew-mates (including or excluding Piper, player’s choice) with offensive/defensive items and stylish hats equipped ready to strategically blast your way through randomly generated spacecrafts full of swag. It’s a formula that soon becomes second nature due to a marvellously intuitive cover based system even within its side-scrolling ‘limits’.
Each Cowbot in play has several actions they can take in their turn. Moving twice aka ‘sprinting’ a set amount of tiled distance will use their full turn allowance, a handy option when attempting to evacuate to the escape pod in most tense mission finales. Or the usual tighter move into barrel cover then shoot results as a productively safe way to play. Unless the currently controlled character has a scoped weapon you’ll be in a free aiming and trigger pull scenario. Here lies the game’s hit/miss percentage ratio – which is us – the player’s eye is key to lining up a revolver side on tussling with the intentional robotic arm sway!
Bullets spray, rebound, zing past and knock off baddies headwear with true ol’ West brio. It’s really all in the angles and here’s hoping like it has me, this mechanic will clasp you into what makes the combat entertaining. I must admit I couldn’t help myself whooping time and time again after each planned and or unplanned bullet’s wayward zig-zag ignited chaos.
After each mission there’s of course swag to riffle through and presuming your crew-mates make it back to your ship intact (not KIA) they will sponge their fair share of XP. More XP equals more ability unlocks and this is where your Cowbot’s classes begin to come alive. Piper’s Captain class’ ‘Inspire’ adds damage and heal buffs to any ally next to her. Beatrix’s Sentry class’ ‘Loose Cannon’ enables her a double rocket blast if she doesn’t move before firing. Grahame “Payroll” Phroggi’s Flanker class’ ‘Run’n’Gun’ grants him a highly useful attack after sprinting, not forgetting if he shoots the target in the back for more bonus damage!! You can start to see the tactical options on offer make for an appealing ballet of risk and reward. Speaking of which depending on the difficulty chosen (I plunged into Experienced myself) will decipher your self punishment preference. SteamWorld Heist is one of those games best played with an amped challenge to truly relish the weight of one’s decisions.
There’s plenty of game to be had here. Each mission offers a three star rating if crew-mate level grinding isn’t quite enough of a reason for you to revisit post looted spacecrafts in the first place. The aim here in being to complete a thoroughly successful swag grab with a full team evacuated. There’s shopping to be done, other bots to converse with in taverns including your highly social recruits and also optional challenge missions to get your cow-bolts screwed into.
As for artistic direction it is clear the dev team have honed their craft since SteamWorld Dig, they’ve even conscripted a steampunk band for the soundtrack, which I may add it pretty darn ace. The boldly outlined 2D cartoon visuals are a snug fit for the game’s flow and the 3D layer does its job once the slider is maxed. The Cowbots themselves jibber jabber with their own robotic personalised twang and the music compliments rather than overwhelms the already solid package.
Turn based strategy bias aside I whole heartily believe Image & Form’s second Steambot trot has surpassed its predecessor not only in its genre tangent but also in its seductive dollops of addiction. If you
SteamWorld dig the concept of 2D space Cowbot shoot-outs and adore taxing the center of your nervous system SteamWorld Heist is the perfect fit for what the portable gaming scene currently has to offer. Now I shall leave you with this decision. Will I or won’t I be seeing you at next week’s SteamWorld Heist Anonymous meetup?
SteamWorld Heist is out now! This Nintendo Scene Review wouldn’t have been possible without a press copy kindly provided courtesy of Image & Form.