SteamWorld Heist review - steampunk western in space

Author: Krystian Smoszna
Date: 2016-07-07 13:47:00
The review was based on the PS4 version. Also applies to the PC, XONE, PSV versions

Swedish Image & Form Games studio has already released three titles, but most of you will only associate one production - SteamWorld Dig . This simple and cute game allows you to play the role of a cowboy (a combination of a cowboy and a robot), which in the western-steampunk reality deals with extracting raw materials from the mine. Heist is the second work of the Scandinavians set in the same universe, but this time we are dealing with a two-dimensional tactical position, showing some, though rather minor, features in common with the new versions of the XCOM series. Nintendo handheld owners have been able to enjoy it for a long time, and now it's time for large consoles and PCs.

In SteamWorld Heist, the player controls a group of pirates led by Piper Faraday - a former pilot in the Royalist service who turned to the dark side of the force after refusing to carry out an order contrary to her beliefs. The happy group can be powered by a total of as many as seven cowbots (with the addition of DLC - eight), and most of them are only accepted at a later stage of the struggle for the oil obtained during the mission (the only currency in the game) or reputation points. The characters do not only differ in appearance - each of them represents a specific class, which determines the ability to handle a specific type of weapon and a set of abilities, unlocked after reaching new levels of experience. Of course, effective mastery of the skills turns out to be essential on the battlefield. The product forces you to carefully manipulate the available options, especially on higher difficulty levels.

At first glance, the work of Image & Form Games studio does not look too complicated. After starting the boarding of the enemy spaceship, a predetermined number of soldiers takes their starting positions and the player takes full control over them. Managing the charges is completely fucked from the new installments of the XCOM series - cowbots can make two moves in one turn, the latter usually not allowing to fire at opponents. Our soldiers can also hide behind interior design elements, symbolized on the screen by the shield icons known from the aforementioned title. Here, however, there is quite an important difference. Shields do not provide a stiff bonus to protection against enemy projectiles. Some of the items cover the heroes only in half, some of them are large enough that even their heads stick out from behind a vertical barrel. Opponents usually do not fire as precise shots as our daredevils, but the player should be careful anyway - shooting duels are largely ruled by chance and even a well-placed pirate can unexpectedly take a classic headshot, losing the vital energy that is very valuable in SteamWorld Heist .

These shooting duels are the essence of the game. Although the Swedish product does not reward you for killing enemies in any way (experience is gained only for loot collected along the way, which in itself is an interesting approach to the subject of exp), you simply have to eliminate rivals, otherwise you will not be able to escape from the enemy ship in most cases. Most interestingly, the chances of hitting this tactical position depend entirely on our agility. When we reach for a weapon, we have to track the opponent ourselves and press the trigger at the right moment. It might seem that the idea is stupid, but it works perfectly in this game. We owe it to the ricochet mechanics, which allow bullets to bounce off walls, ceilings or interactive objects and reach their target this way. After mastering this art, which requires a lot of practice, you will hit your rivals in a fancy and spectacular way, often using elements of the environment for this purpose. It is also advisable, because opponents can position themselves in such places that sending a cartridge by the straightest and shortest way (straight ahead) will not be possible at all.

Unfortunately, the ambitious work of the Swedes also has its weaknesses. In the long run, it is irritating to manage the equipment, which is presented in the form of a single sack, containing both weapons and gadgets - in addition, arranged in the order in which they were acquired. It would be nice to be able to sort items automatically in groups, so we could review weapons faster. I owe this not the best solution to the accidental sale of one powerful gun that I managed to find during the mission. It wasn't bad if you could buy it back, but it was a rare piece of equipment, and no vendor had it on offer.

The disadvantages include the dullness of the opponents and their reluctance to fire after ricocheting. After several hours of struggle, I was able to predict the moves of my rivals and position my soldiers so that they would avoid enemy fire, even when they were not huddled up to any of the covers. Enemies can change positions, adopt convenient shooting positions, but if there is an object between them and us, they will usually shoot it instead of us. In a way, I understand this procedure - if opponents could still destroy cowbots after ricocheting shots, it would be practically unrealistic to complete this game. However, it was possible to level the chances in other ways, e.g. by giving pirates more health points. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true.

However, both of the above-mentioned shortcomings do not spoil the general perception of the title. This production is excellent and very charming among independent items. You can admire everything here, from the graphic design, through a well-done fight, to dialogues. Indie enthusiasts should be delighted with the Swedish proposition, as long as they obviously have a flair for tactical turn-based games and are not afraid to fight on the last difficulty level. SteamWorld Heist bought me after fifteen minutes of fun, and I compensated the regret after turning off the console by launching the edition on PlayStation Vita. I don't regret a single zloty spent on this small but extraordinary work. This is my best invested money in June.