Thank you so much Image & Form for sending us a review code!
Released nearly a year ago, SteamWorld Heist debuted on the Nintendo 3DS to critical acclaim. Over this past year, Heist has been ported to numerous other systems with a physical version for the Wii U also due to release in the coming weeks. After playing the game for the first time for this past week, it isn't hard to tell what all the fuss was about.
The story of Heist takes place hundreds of years after SteamWorld Dig, and follows Captain Piper Faraday. She was once a pilot for the Royalist Space Force, but deserted after she refused to bomb a rebel base. She leads a ragtag band of steambots as they raid Royalist spaceships in the search of loot and glory. Along the way she'll be able to recruit more crew members and deck them out with massive firepower and dashing hats.
The gameplay is something not seen very often, blending turn-based strategy and precision shooting on a 2D plane. Missions take place in procedurally generated spaceships, and each bot has a certain amount of steps they can take before ending their turn. Their movement paths are highlighted with orange and blue lines. The orange line represents how far you can move and still be able to shoot after, whereas the blue line is how far you can fully move without the ability to shoot that turn. This mechanic of moving and shooting felt similar to the Worms series of games.
Combat and movement is displayed on the top screen with the touch screen being used to activate abilities or items. Shooting requires the player to aim their gun with the D-pad in order to line up a shot. A bullet can ricochet off walls and other objects, and certain weapons allow the bullet to ricochet off more objects before stopping. This makes trick shots possible, and also adds to the fun factor. The only issue is that due to the small screen on the 3DS, some shots feel like a complete gamble because you simply can't see the enemy. Completing a mission with all crew members surviving, as well as collecting all the loot in that particular ship, will reward more reputation. This is represented as stars and is used to unlock new areas and rare weapons at stores.
Each crew member has unique abilities and primarily focuses on the use of one type of gun. Piper uses handguns that deal moderate amounts of damage and normally have the ability to shoot twice, or the gun has a laser scope to help with aiming. Other guns include: SMGs, shotguns, as well as RPGs and grenade launchers. Each weapon has its ups and downs as far as effectiveness goes, but each is a blast to use and experimentation is the key to success. By completing missions you'll gain experience points needed to level up the crew. Each level usually unlocks a new ability or perk.
A neat feature to the game is ability to shoot the hat off of an enemy. Each enemy robot wears a hat, and you can shoot it off their heads and claim it as your own. They don't add any additional benefits, but they all look great and make your character stand out. Once you have one you can't claim it again and each member of the crew can wear it. If you own SteamWorld Dig you'll get a very special hat. It was one of the few hats I had Piper wear throughout the entire game.
Throughout my 15 hours with the game I was blown away by the art style in Heist. Every inch of the game is incredibly detailed, and the bots themselves are just a joy to look at. Interactions with NPCs and the crew opens up much more of the backstory of the game and its inhabitants. So on top of breathtaking graphics, there's a deep lore to get lost in as well. There's a ton of hilarious conversations to be had. In an effort to not undersell it, the writing in this game is top-notch.
During your expedition through space you'll be accompanied by a standout soundtrack. It still retains that old-western vibe that made Dig so good in my opinion, but other pieces sound much more somber and futuristic. Sound effects are fantastic, with the guns sounding extra amazing. The real gold here though is actually hearing Steam Powered Giraffe in a video game! Songs both new and old by the band are used at the various bars around space. Now initially when I started playing I'd never heard of them before. After my first trip to a bar in the game I knew I was hooked. To say that the production of the music is high would be an understatement.
Morally there are a few things to mention. As this is a game about guns there's inherently some violence to be witnessed. Finishing off a robot at low health shows them disintegrating into a pile of scrap. Headshots are encouraged, and if it were to finish off an enemy, it would result in a slow zoom-in to the pieces of the robot scattering. There's swearing in the game, but it's so minimal and used so infrequently that you may never notice. Looting ships is the main goal to the game, and though it's technically stealing, it's the only way for Piper to maintain a decent amount of water for her crew of steambots. One of the bosses is a necromancer named Chop Sue. She combines robot scrap parts together to make new ones, and in combat can resurrect her fallen minions.
Now if you don't mind a little robot violence with your turn-based strategy there's a lot to enjoy with Heist. Its campaign lasted me 15 hours and with the New Game+ option, there's plenty of reasons to replay the story. There are a ton of hats to find, multiple difficulty options, and with the DLC pack known as The Outsider, there's a lot to enjoy long after those credits roll by. This is a game that should be played no matter what console you can get it for.