You have to hand it to developers who always try something different. The SteamWorld series consists of a tower defense title, a 2D mining action game, and now this strategy adventure set in space, but does it bring the franchise to new heights?
SteamWorld Heist is played by fighting through a series of mostly randomly generated missions. You control Captain Piper and her party of misfits one at a time while invading various ships to claim their resources for your own. It's quite an easy to understand gameplay setup which is fantastic for both strategy enthusiasts and newcomers alike since everyone can get in the groove of how to play in no time. Progressing through the campaign while recruiting additional party members, gathering a wealth of water (which acts as currency), and purchasing an arsenal of guns, accessories, and silly hats makes for one engaging formula. By the way, if you ever want a free hat then why not shoot one off an opponent's head and add it to your collection? There are so many components that make SteamWorld Heist an incredibly addictive game so make sure you're ready to not play anything else for a while before diving in.
As with previous games in the series, the world is quirky with a memorable cast of robot characters. You'll meet many friendly folks and enemy types along the way. Each of the campaign's three areas is occupied by its own distinct enemy faction and a fitting boss. The charming world comes to life with well-animated robots, detailed environments, and awesome explosions. On the audio side, the effects do a decent job of fleshing out exciting parts of battles while characters' garbled spoken language is fun to listen to. The music is cool, too, but many songs are composed of short loops that repeat every few seconds which gets boring quickly.
SteamWorld Heist's gameplay features many complexities that keep battles exciting. The fact that bullets can ricochet off surfaces means that you can take advantage of your surroundings to reach seemingly out of the way foes. However, this also means that you may be exposed without realising it and you may accidentally bounce a bullet into an explosive that kills one of your allies (which happened to me a few times). Anyway, expanding your arsenal with weapons such as rifles, shotguns, and grenade launchers and learning how to use each piece effectively is a blast. When you factor in equipment that allows you to take more hits, fire a sidearm without wasting a turn, and jump to high platforms with ease; you're left with a satisfying party setup dynamic with endless possibilities.
Speaking of equipment, I found the inventory system to be a bit irritating to deal with at times. You can only carry a limited amount of items so you frequently have to sell stuff. Thankfully, there's an option to buy more slots but that doesn't change the fact that you're still limited. Whenever you finish a battle and are forced to sell four pieces of equipment then it can be quite a chore to comb over everything. On top of this, the level-up system is also a pain. Members who aren't in your party don't receive any experience points so you'll likely be left with a couple of maxed out chums by the end with everyone else being severely underdeveloped.
Besides the inventory and level-up systems, I felt like the missions were getting tiresome only a few hours into the adventure. Sure, they're randomly generated and have unique sets of rules and win conditions but you basically do the same thing in all of them. I would have liked to see more variety such as escaping a ship that's on fire or exploring a planet, but it's not a big deal.
Complaints aside, SteamWorld Heist is a must-buy title for anyone looking for an enjoyable strategy game set in an endearing world. Remember: before heading off to space, make sure you have plenty of water!
- + Addictive turn-based strategy gameplay
- + Quirky world full of charming robots
- + Unique mechanics like bullet ricochets add a great deal of depth to battles
- - Missions could use more variety
- - Certain songs are very repetitive
- - Restrictive level-up and inventory systems are sometimes annoying to deal with