by Image & Form
Reviewed by Philip "Pocket
Squirrel" Wesley (Deluxe Version Review 12/18/2015)
Size: 1430 BLOCKS on the eShop. (Verified
by our Download Guide)
Save: SD Card Backup/3 Slots
Works with: 3DS Software
compatible devices, New 3DS & Above recommended.
ESRB Rated: E10
Rating Descriptions: Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
Disclosure: This game was
provided by Image & Form via a review code.
the successful and interesting SteamWorld Dig, Image & Form
announced the third SteamWorld Universe game: SteamWorld Heist.
This time, the Earth has been destroyed and all of the Steambots
live in space. Water is the most important resource out there and there
are many different factions out there. Outlaws, Moisture Farmers,
Scrappers, the diesel powered Royalists, and other types of robots make
their homes among the stars and pieces of Earth. One of the more rag
tag bands of Outlaws is run by Captain Piper Faraday. The Scrappers are
muscling into her turf and she has to do something about them!
An interesting thing about the SteamWorld series is that each
game seems to inhabit a different genre. SteamWorld Tower Defense is
Tower Defense, obviously. SteamWorld Dig is an exploration style
platforming game. SteamWorld Heist is a side view, turn based strategy
Role Playing Game. I am a huge fan of Strategy Role Playing Games like
Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, or Codename: S.T.E.A.M. and I admit
that I was a bit skeptical of the idea of a completely two-dimensional
Did Image & Form succeed in their unusual gamble?
game reminds me a bit of Worms and Side Pocket Pool for the NES.
Each character has a set amount of spaces along a two dimensional grid
that they can move to per turn. The movement grid has two colors
indicating how far you can move and still fire and where you can
"sprint" to without firing your weapon. You can equip your character
with one weapon that matches up to their "skill class" and two items
that can add extra attacks, extra statistical enhancements, healing,
and other unique abilities. Each character also has a set "skill tree"
unlocks when you level up from completing a mission. You gain
experience from finishing mission objectives and not from defeating
enemies. Many of the map layouts are procedurally generated, so going
back into a mission to improve your score, try a higher (or lower)
difficulty level, and grinding for experience is always a unique
experience. Upon completing all of the objectives in a mission, you
have to evacuate to get back to your ship.
You can also customize your characters with a collection of hats
(FINALLY!) that you can either purchase or shoot off the heads of your
enemies. A normal turn in the game includes moving to a place behind
cover, aiming your weapon at enemies and firing at them. Your bullets
bounce off of certain objects and walls, so you can "aim around" to hit
enemies with the ricochet. Some weapons even have piercing bullets, so
it's possible to kill multiple enemies with one shot. During playing, I
actually killed three enemies in one blow using one of the stage
hazards that explodes when you shoot it by bouncing a bullet from
In many levels, there is an "alarm" count down which causes
enemies to spawn endlessly. Since you do not gain experience from
killing enemies, often a typical mission is a strategic race to escape
with "Swag" without getting horribly killed by the enemies. Especially
when Turrets start to show up. There are a lot of levels to explore in
this game. It would be a bit of a spoiler to say how many of them are
there. When you beat a level, you get stars based on your performance
and how many of your crew members are still alive at the end of the
mission. Penalties for dying, aborting a mission, or getting a game
over depend on the difficulty settings and feel evenly balanced.
The storyline of the game is presented visually in voiced
"picture rolls" and by in-game dialogue between characters. All of the
characters, even the the one who only says "Blub," are reasonably
fleshed out and interesting. The storyline has some great call backs to
the previous games: Dig and Tower Defense. The script in this game is
pretty fantastic too with interesting puns and item descriptions. One
of my favorites is the description for the item that WE know is a
Football trophy, but the Steambots think is something entirely
different. I am not going to spoil the joke because I think it has to
be discovered to be appreciated.
Liked: I enjoyed the fairly
epic story, the gun ricochet physics, the ease of learning the
mechanics, the upgrading mechanics, and the over-all style of the game.
Oh! I have not really mentioned some of the items that can be used to
add area of effect damage, buffing, or healing. Those come into play
and are somewhat optional.
Hated: There are no
StreetPass elements and there is no real variation in the Skill Tree.
Also, the level cap is too low, I think. Oh! Performance on the
original 3DS units is slightly diminished in comparison to the New 3DS
units as this game is optimized for the New 3DS.
These are your new best friends.
is an insanely gorgeous game
with a ton of great little details
in the backgrounds, foregrounds, and characters. The game is chock full
of great and interesting robots. The 3D design is great and the band
that shows up in the soundtrack is also visually represented in the
game in a fun way. The design of the areas are distinct and the game
has some really good dynamic lighting, steam effects, and just a very
visually appealing look to it. The character animation and idle
animation are pretty detailed as well. When aiming, your characters
will close one of their eyes to focus their shots. There are also
little words that pop over the characters after each turn. The game
uses a "no firing" icon above the movement lines to illustrate what you
can do on those actions. This is good because it helps people who have
specific kinds of color blindness to also enjoy the game. Please enjoy
these screenshots of the game and keep in mind that there is all sorts
of movement happening during gameplay as well. The game runs at a
steady 60 frames per second on the New Nintendo 3DS, even when the 3D
option is being used.
That is how we do it.
So happy, this one.
The Royalist of Richochets.
Look at that bottom map. The red icons are ENEMIES. Just think about
that for a moment.
Liked: This game is
just a beauty to behold, dripping with style and detail. Also, you have
"free range" of the camera for the most part and it allows you to set
up your shots fairly easily. The tons of great hats that are available
are pretty great. The SWEETEST thing is the bit of deliberate slow
motion when you make a
particularly great kill shot.
Planning the attack.
Hated: To be honest, there
could be a little more motion to the maps and backgrounds. The game
will slow down to dramatically tell you that the bullet heading toward
your bespectacled scientist robot will, in fact, turn her into a pile
of scrap. That little bit of salt hurts. It works well, but it really
makes me cringe to see a perfect score ruined by a turret I forgot was
music in this game contains a ton of Filk songs with lyrics from
the band Steam Powered Giraffe and some really great musical numbers by
Johannes Hedberg, who some people may know from the group "Carbon Based
Lifeforms." There are also some interesting samples, licensed "olde
timey" musical numbers, and really good sound effects and folly work.
The non-vocalized music works well with the gameplay and creates a
unique and interesting atmosphere. The theme when you run into an enemy
is appropriately tense and the sound made when a bullet tears through
an enemy causing them to explode into a ton of parts is incredibly
Liked: I love the
full musical numbers and the music. Since I am already a big fan of
Filk music, I should probably take a moment to explain what Filk music
IS and why I enjoy it. The sub-genre of Filk music is Folk Music
combined with Fantasy or Science Fiction related lyrics. This could be
something like a lovely ballad composed on guitar and traditional
acoustic instruments that talks about a Zombie War in Middle Earth. In
the case of this game, the music is talking about events that happen or
will happen inside the game world. Often the lyrics in Filk songs will
borrow from science fiction franchises like Star Wars or fantasy epics like The Wheel of Time. Filk music may
also contain references to horror genre products or general pop culture
icons like the Back To the Future
franchise or Ghostbusters.
Hated: If you are
not a fan of Filk Music or SteamPunk, you might not like the songs? Eh.
I hate nothing about the this games music and I applaud every one
involved in making the inspired musical choices.
game has all sorts of accommodations for both the 3DS and New
3DS consoles. Being able to use the C-Stick on the New 3DS for the
camera controls is a pretty great addition. Sadly, ZR and ZL do not do
anything, but that would be besides the point. I would like the ability
to tap them and see a clear view of the bottom map or have a "turn
redo" option. This game is the most perfectly balanced title that Image
& Form has ever put out. It has enough challenge for the casual and
elite players with five difficulty levels and easy to learn mechanics.
A 2D Strategy Role Playing Game with Steam Powered Robots living "Firefly" style around the
remains of an exploded Earth that are fighting against the forces of
evil is pretty unusual. When you realize that the game is about the
preservation of freedom and individuality against forces that would
shackle that freedom through horrific means, it becomes even better.
The storyline just keeps escalating and even has smaller sub plots with
the Non-Playable Characters that are interesting to track.
This game just works on a number of levels and I really enjoyed
it. It took me a few extra days to finish my review because I beat the
game and discovered a New Game + option. This meant I certainly had to
dive back into the game. I maxed out the character levels on my first
play through and I am currently working on doing that again. The level
cap is 10, which seems to be artificially low for a game as long as
SteamWorld Heist ultimately becomes.
works here and this game provides a solid experience that is worth the
money put into it. When I garner the value of a game, I look at it in
terms of hours I have spent on the game. At the time of this review,
the title is $19.99 USD. I divide that by the current (2015) minimum
wage in the United States, which is $7.25 an hour. To be worth the
monetary investment, this game should provide at least 2 to 3 hours of
solid gameplay. This is a game that exceeds that value proposition by
several times and I will continue to play this game long after this
review. I also like that there are options to fast forward movement
phases in the game, which is a good option for speed runners. The fact
that many level maps are procedurally generated adds even more spice to
this already savory dish.
Hated: I do not
like the level cap and I would like an even harder mode than Elite.
(Free Ideas For Game Designers!)
would add more animation to the map screen and also have an "Iron
Voyage" mode. In this Iron Voyage mode, I would raise the level
cap to 20 with all the new bonuses being additions to
Health/Power/Movement. Then I would have something akin to
"perma-death" in that losing any character that is not Piper results in
you having to rehire them for an ever increasing amount of water. Also,
this mode would have a maximum amount of characters per mission and not
a minimum. This would allow you to take on a boss level, completely
alone, to really test your skill.
I would also like a Jukebox and Movie mode that allowed me to
listen to the sweet music in the game in a playlist and also rewatch
those interesting little movies between "chapters." Maybe something so
I could look at all of the descriptions of the items and hats I have
collected over the course of the game in a specific save file. Maybe
some extras like illustrations of early designs for the game.
I just want more of this brilliant game.
I would also like some kind of special feature to add sweet
scanlines or olde timey "effects" to mission levels. Just because that
would be a fun extra.
(Recommended If You Like...)
Emblem, Codename: S.T.E.A.M., Steampunk Aesthetics, Ogre Battle, Worms,
Filk Music, and Billiards.
Heist is a brilliant combination of spare parts that has been
constructed into a rewarding and challenging experience for fans of the
turn based strategy game looking for something unique. Image & Form
has delivered an impressive labor of love that I will continue to enjoy
for some time to come.
SteamWorld Heist is appropriately titled as it aims to steal
your free time and it damn well succeeds.
Play Control/Game Design: ****
Star Total: 72%
Personal Opinion Merit: 23
Final Score: 95%
Letter Grade: A