SteamWorld Heist is a turned-based strategy game that is a spinoff from Image and Form Game's original game SteamWorld Dig. As Piper Faraday, you lead a rusty crew shootin' tootin' and lootin' around space. But don't worry, you only do it to the bad guys.
For those unaware, the SteamWorld series is set in a universe that combines robots and cowboys. Take that concept into space and add a dash of 50's sci-fi movie and you got this game. You are Captain Piper Faraday, a pirate who sails the oceans of space in search of some loot. The only issue is that their are multiple evil forces out there to stop you. So, you decide to form a crew to take on these evil forces for the greater good...and some loot on the side.
Starting off with the story, I found it to be weak; but I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing. This game needed just enough story to give context to the game and make your actions justifiable, and SteamWorld Heist did just that. Still, I think what story was there was uninteresting and incredibly basic. The story can pretty much be summed up to 'fight bad dudes and save the common man (or Steambots in this case),' and I think this story made some of the combat a little repetitive. Despite the weak story, I found the characters to be surprisingly great. Each member of your rag-tag crew all feel different: whether it be a strong Russian with a love of balet, a mean crusty sailor, or a fish robot that can only slay 'blub.' The crew is what shines in the story department in SteamWorld Heist. Overall, I felt that the story wasn't great, but also isn't something that impacts the game that much. But where the story fails, the gameplay succeeds.
SteamWorld is a turn-based game like XCOM but with one big difference: you aim the shot, not the game. Where other games have the character shoot and hit based on a percentage chance of hitting the enemy, SteamWorld Heist has you move a crosshair and decide where you want to shoot. This means that the game relies on your skill more than luck, and I love that. One of the biggest things I hate about the turn-based strategy genre is relying on a percent chance of hitting an enemy because I believe the skill aspect of maneuvering characters and using characters doesn't blend well with the random chance of maybe hitting an enemy even if the odds are in your favor. One of the things I liked about Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was the fact that the chance of hitting an enemy was distilled to three possibilities, and two of those possibilities were yes or no. I hate relying on chance to kill enemies because I would rather it be me taking that chance of hitting the enemy, and that is what this game does right. When you see a head pop slightly above cover, Heist allows you to aim and see if you can hit, where I know in other games they would have no chance in hitting the enemy. It's this choice of aiming that makes this game stand out from other strategy games. Plus, having the ability to ricochet bullets was a lot of fun. But aiming isn't the only thing that is great about the gameplay.
The loot aspect of the game is actually a lot of fun. Their was a lot of loot to be found: anything from guns to items likes grenades and armor to hats, their is a lot to pick up. Not only that, I found that specking out characters before each level was a lot of fun to do. Each character has their own special abilities and can only use certain types of objects, so specking a character with the appropriate gear was a little puzzle in-and-of-itself. Also, the loot was a lot of fun to use. Whether it be pistols with a laser sight so you can pull of accurate shots and ricochets to jetpacks that allow you to get to higher up platforms without climbing a ladder, the loot was a lot of fun to use. Unfortunately, one flaw with the loot was the cluttered inventory screen that had no way of organizing it. Still, adding in a loot mechanic to the game was a good choice and gave me a good excuse to explore the levels. Speaking of levels, most of them are randomized. This mean no two levels of any playthrough will be the same. I think having the levels generated was a good choice as for I could play the game again and still have a different enough experience. While I think the level design is fine, I think the levels aren't varied enough and does lead to repetitive gameplay. Just about every level involves killing dudes and picking up loot, with a chance of destroying something something before you leave. While the feeling of receptivity took awhile to set in, it still set in and I eventually found myself not caring as much about specking out my characters because I wanted to get through levels faster. Luckily, at the end of each area (three in total) there is a boss fight that breaks up the gameplay loop. Unfortunately, while I did enjoy the boss fights and I liked the fact that they are there, I found them to be pretty easy to a point where I didn't feel challenged at all. Funnily enough, I found that the boss fights got easier as the game went on to the point where the last boss was so easy I only had two characters be hit by common enemies only once because the main boss had to charge up its weapon to hit me, allowing me to easily dodge its shots. I love the idea of the boss fights and I like the fact that they break up the repetitive loop of the rest of the gameplay, but they felt like something I could brush aside easily. Finally, I found that the home base where you spend your time between missions was a waste. The home ship was only really there as a place to talk to your characters. While I did enjoy talking to them, I found that only doing that action felt like it was a waste. I think that this hub could've benefited with upgrades that would allow you to do various things like weapon upgrades or a training area to level up characters, but instead they left it empty. It's a small issue, but one I felt could've been easily fixed. Overall, I felt that the levels were mixed for me as for the randomized aspect made playing the levels different every time, but the lack of difference between each level made the game repetitive and the boss fights were too few-and-far between while also not posing a real challenge.
With the levels essentially being the same each time, I actually started to notice smaller details that made my experience better or worse. Such small things like how you achieve all three stars for each level and how enemies that spawn mid-game can't shoot when they do spawn made my experience better while aspects like the lack of an ability to fast forward through enemy turns and skipping the turn on a character doesn't put them into an overwatch mode (even though combat is through aiming) made my experience worse. These smaller aspects didn't affect my experience a lot, but were still worth mentioning. And speaking of smaller aspect, two things I did want to talk about are the music and the art style. Personally, I thought the music was bad. While I do appreciate getting original music for the game, I thought the music from Steam Powered Giraffes was bad (though that is just my personal taste, this will vary from person to person). Other than that, I thought the instrumental music was fine but forgettable. As for the art style, I actually quite enjoyed it. The SteamWorld style is one of rust and jank, and it is no different here. I love the fusion of robots and cowboys, and this style speaks to that infusion well.
The verdict: SteamWorld Heist is a solid turn-based strategy game that combines an excellent shooting system with the quest for loot. The game has issues here and there like repetitive levels (though the repetitiveness only settles in late in the game), things like the shooting system, loot, and characters shine to make this a fun game to play. Personally, I don't think this game stacks up to the main Dig games, but this game is still a SteamWorld game worth playing. If you enjoy the turn-based strategy genre or are wanting to get into it, then you can't go wrong with this game.