Image & Form's iconic SteamWorld series has been providing gamers with enjoyable games over the years within a few different genres. Now that they created a dungeon crawler RPG, let's see how its cast of robots fare in this latest offering.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech stars an aspiring hero named Armilly and her alchemist friend Copernica. They go on an adventure to prove themselves as noble warriors and soon come across the dastardly Captain Canary who's definitely up to no good. The 2 of them meet plenty of friends and foes along the way such as a helpful merchant, a crafty robot named Galleo, and a masked hero known as Orik. The game world and cast of characters is full of charm and there's plenty of humour in the story sequences that are scattered across the adventure. That being said, I never felt much urgency throughout the campaign or a connection with any of the characters so the story was mainly a fun-filled romp for me as opposed to an epic and engaging quest.
Story and characters aside, SteamWorld Quest plays like a very basic dungeon crawler where each chapter takes place in a different dungeon. These dungeons consist of interconnected rooms and each room may feature enemies, a save spot, treasure chests, or a merchant. If you spot an enemy, you can attack them to gain a slight edge in the commencing battle but besides that, the dungeon gameplay is extremely basic and it gets monotonous quite fast. This is primarily due to the fact that the dungeon layouts are utilitarian at best and don't even feature any tricky puzzles or immersive designs. Instead, you simply explore as many rooms as possible with hopes of discovering treasure or coming across the next save point. Needless to say, it's quite mindless and gets tiresome fast.
On the plus side, the battle system is rather engaging and enjoyable. For starters, you set your party up by equipping punch cards for each character. Doing so can be quite rewarding as you imagine what combos and chains you can potentially perform after equipping certain cards. Considering each character can only equip 8 cards and you may have a dozen or more to choose from, carefully picking the best combination can be quite tricky. You can also craft and upgrade cards using found materials which is cool. Anyway, the battle system itself tasks you with selecting 3 cards which pertain to characters' abilities and may require rechargeable energy. If you manage to select 3 cards for the same party member, they'll perform a fourth Heroic Chain bonus skill and certain cards link with other party members to make stronger Tag Team Combo moves. Once you're satisfied, you proceed then you and your opponents trade blows.
Although the battle system is unique, the core gameplay loop of SteamWorld Quest is very limited in scope which makes the campaign feel tedious just a few hours into the adventure. After completing a handful of dungeons, I thought that the game world would open up by allowing me to explore towns, partake in optional challenges, or feature some sort of puzzles. However, it was just dungeon after dungeon. This lack of variety is SteamWorld Quest's biggest flaw as not having a chance to experience anything different makes it feel like a limited and often claustrophobic adventure. Finally, there are a few difficulty spikes here and there and no matter how you set up your party's cards, these moments can be exceptionally difficult to overcome. As a result, you'll have to regularly grind. Thankfully, you can at least replay previously mastered dungeons in order to find more treasures and defeat enemies to level up.
SteamWorld Quest may feature a charming cast of characters and an enjoyable battle system but its overall lack of variety and drab dungeons make it a tough game to universally recommend. If you want a top-notch RPG then play SteamWorld Heist instead.
- + Solid card-based combat system
- + Setting up your card decks can be an involving and rewarding process
- + Fun-filled characters and game world
- - Dungeon layouts are far from interesting
- - Simplistic and limited gameplay loop becomes tedious just a few hours in
- - Difficulty spikes require grinding to proceed