Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: May 21, 2018
SteamWorld Heist is a side-scrolling turn-based action strategy game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4 and PS Vita, while there is also a retail release titled SteamWorld Collection that bundles together SteamWorld Heist and SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt. The SteamWorld series began in 2010 with a real-time strategy tower defense game titled SteamWorld: Tower Defense, while SteamWorld Heist is the sequel to SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt which is actually set within the completely different genre of an adventure platform game having released on a variety of platforms in 2013 prior to the PS4 and Vita versions in 2014, while receiving many nominations for a variety of categories in multiple Game of the Year Awards such as Best Original Game, Best Indie Game, Best Handheld Game and Overall Game of the Year 2013 which really showcases the quality the series. Can SteamWorld Heist propel the SteamWorld series into a different genre, while achieving the same level of quality as the SteamWorld Dig games within Image and Form’s SteamWorld series?
The story is set hundreds of years after the events of SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt in a world in which steambots have become incredibly intelligent; even progressing their knowledge as far as reaching space. The story revolves around a new character known as Captain Piper Faraday leading a crew of steam powered robotic space pirates exploring the outer reaches of space on their many adventures to loot supplies to keep her crew alive and well, although in the process becomes entangled in battles against other robotic factions. The story is similar in concept to the television series Firefly, albeit with steampunk robots replacing Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his tightly knit crew that are essentially his family such as Wash and Zoe, Jayne Cobb, Kaylee, Simon and River Tam, Inara, Shepherd Book and the rest of his crew and passengers throughout their journeys.
There is a strong variety of missions including boarding a ship to collect supplies commonly referred to as swag bags as they contain small yet rewarding treats and an epic swag grand prize which is rare as it usually contains something more powerful in addition to increasing your reputation; re-claiming stolen bar supplies; destroying terrifying Scrappers that are stealing and even kidnapping from the locals; evacuating yourself and your crewmates from the ship you have collected supplies from or destroyed Scrappers on by finding an escape pod; and more besides. Side missions are pretty much the same as missions but are not necessary to complete in order to move the story on such as a challenge mission in which all Scrappers must be eliminated with the prospect of also looting some supplies followed by evacuating from the ship in escape pods. New Game + allows players to keep their recruited crew members and even the collection of hats after having completed the first playthrough, although every crewmate returns to level 0 when it comes around to beginning the second playthrough.
Character design is rather interesting as all of the characters are robots that each possesses their own unique look and personality in regards to how they approach you and the kind of tone of conversation they will have with you from humorous through to serious and angry. In addition to each character having their own backstory; they also have their own set of attributes between health, stamina, accuracy and melee combat with Piper on 7 health, 6 stamina, 4 to 6 accuracy and 4 melee combat on level 2, while Seabrass has more health by 2 points, but the same stamina and accuracy with 1 less point for melee combat when also on level 2 which shows the differences in capabilities between the crewmates even when having levelled up identically. Reputation is necessary for recruitment to draft more robots into your crew such as Sally Bolt requiring four reputation stars before being convinced that joining Piper’s crew would be a wise move, although there will be some robots such as Valentine Butterbolt that are more convinced by a specific quantity of water, but do not be concerned by the prospect of spending your precious hard earned resources on assembling a crew only for them to be destroyed by ruthless Scrappers; as any crewmates who are destroyed will have their parts sent back to your ship for a full repair resulting in your crewmates being as good as new for your next mission.
Environment design is incredibly varied as the environments such as the interiors of ships you and your crewmates are boarding are actually procedurally generated with the surrounding environments always possessing an appropriate amount of detail to them including rivets, fans, ladders, pipes, machinery, doors and much more besides all looking as they would be anticipated in a steampunk space travel era.
Weapons have their own unique attributes which can be viewed from the inventory including a Scoped Short Round which is a Tier 1 Sharpshooter with a long laser sight capable of inflicting 3 points worth of damage and improving the chances of a critical shot by 2 points, while the rare Scoped Repeater is a Tier 2 Sharpshooter that also has a long laser sight and the same chance of a critical shot, but inflicts 1 point more damage and provides two attack turns instead of the normal single attack, although the Carrion Uzi has a different type of advantage as it sprays four bullets which produces the same amount of damage as the Scoped Repeater albeit at short range, alongside a Harpoon Gun which is a Tier 2 Sharpshooter that has no ricochets and only a short laser sight with 1 point more damage inflicted in comparison to the Scoped Repeater as well as many more weapons found along your crew’s journey.
There are further weapons beyond guns as there are also scrap grenades which allow players to shoot a grenade with an arced trajectory with up to 6 points worth of damage inflicted, although it can only be used once per mission, while brass knuckles are perfect for improving your proficiency in melee combat which is quite useful for when an enemy is rushing at you and engaging in close quarters combat. There are also a range of items and utilities which can be contained within your inventory by purchasing them with in-game currency or earning them with swag bags such as a small repair box which restores 2 points worth of health to a character, although it can only be used once per mission and rare to find repair oil which treats crewmates in the same way as the small repair box. Weapon purchases and upgrades are funded by the amount of water your crew has in their possession which is effectively the in-game currency and described as an essential resource for all steambots, while weapons and items can also be sold for specific quantities of water such as standard Tier 1 weapons will usually sell for 125 gallons of water, while treasure such as a gold bar will fetch as high as 1,000 gallons of water.
Levelling up is important as experience is gained per crewmate at the end of each level for completing objectives, collecting swags and a difficulty bonus which increases for harder difficulty levels with the benefit of gaining as much experience as possible resulting in gaining new abilities.
Upgrades take place when a crew member has levelled up with upgrades producing new abilities such as improved health; Payback results in Vanguards becoming enraged after taking damage which makes them deal bonus damage to enemies during their next attack; Inspire which makes Piper inspire nearby allies resulting in allies dealing one bonus damage to enemies with Piper also becoming inspired for as long as at least one of her allies remains inspired; Power Shot Cooldown reduces the amount of time required during the cooling down period in order for a Power Shot to be used again by one turn; Mend allows Seabrass to restore 1 point of health after every turn when he has taken damage; and many more abilities besides.
SteamWorld Heist supports cross-buy between the PS4 and Vita. Cross-buy presents a superb amount of value as it means that you will be purchasing the PS4 and Vita versions of the game with just a single purchase, although there is no cross-save functionality; resulting in players on Vita not being able to continue from their previous progression from the PS4 version and vice versa.
There is downloadable content available for SteamWorld Heist in the form of The Outsider which sees Captain Piper find a new ally situated near to Chop Sue who has a mysterious past with The Outsider also including new missions, weapons, gear and hats for a cheap cross-buy price of £3.99.
The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to shoot; pressing L2 to cycle through to the next available character; pressing X to activate; pressing square to end turn; pressing O to cancel an action; pressing triangle to skip an animation; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or alternatively pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to move your currently selected character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to scroll the camera around the surrounding environments; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. The customisable control scheme guarantees a control scheme that will suit the preferences of every player such as being able to re-map the touch pad in place of R2 to shoot enemies or replacing X with the touch pad to activate. Tapping the touch pad produces a map, although the light bar and vibration on the DualShock 4 controller are not supported which is surprising as the light bar could have produced a multitude of colours to inform the player of how much health that specific character has or alternatively to produce a colour based upon which character you are currently controlling, while the DualShock 4 controller could have vibrated when boarding a ship, when an alarm is set off and even when a crewmate has been shot by an enemy. The changes between the PS4 and Vita control scheme includes shooting enemies being re-mapped from R2 to R, while cycling through to the next available character has been mapped to L instead of L2 and the map moving to select from the touch pad instead of utilising the touch screen which is rather odd as the touch screen and rear touch pad cannot even be used to re-map part of the customisable control scheme on Vita.
Graphically, SteamWorld Heist really does look absolutely amazing on PS4 and Vita with fluent animations of character models set amongst stunning procedurally generated environments which are complimented by a wealth of detail such as superb lighting, shadows, while the weaponry produces some fantastic light shows and ricocheting physics.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, mission and difficulty level menus, options menus, vault menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The background of the menu screens consists of a planet rotating in the distance amongst thousands of stars, while three characters including the lead character Piper stand atop the stylish title logo.
The audio spans across sound effects including your crew and enemies running and climbing ladders, doors opening, alarms alerting Scrappers of your crew’s presence on their ships, your crew shooting at enemies and enemies shooting at your crew, while the music comprises of an exceptional soundtrack by a California based band called Steam Powered Giraffe which are styled as steampunk robots during their live performances were they perform throughout a wide range of genres of not only music but also entertainment with the band members also appearing as their on-stage personas at bars located throughout the game as they amazingly perform songs from the soundtrack. Unfortunately, there are no voice-overs as the dialogue is presented in speech bubbles, rather than any voice-overs as you will only hear some brief robotic sounds. The PS4 version does not feature any DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is a surprise given that it could have produced sound effects, music or the robotic sounds.
The trophy list includes 42 trophies with 26 bronze trophies, 13 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy with a further 5 downloadable content trophies including 4 bronze trophies and 1 silver trophy. Easier trophies include the Tutorial Grind bronze trophy for completing the tutorial, while there are trophies for levelling up such as the It’s Over 9… and the Madly Maxed bronze trophies for reaching level 10 with one character and with all characters in your crew respectively; using certain abilities such as the Backscratcher bronze trophy for using the Flanker ability to kill 50 enemies; and a number of hat related trophies such as the Headgear-Hunter bronze trophy for shooting off then picking up a rare hat; the Hat-Trick silver trophy for shooting off three hats with a single shot as well as the Well Hatted and Mad as a Hatter bronze trophies and Hats, Hats, Hats silver trophy for collecting 15, 30 and 60 hats respectively. Harder trophies include the You’re the Best Around gold trophy for completing the game on elite difficulty; the Fields of Gold gold trophy for completing the game with an all gold SteamWorld ranking on any difficulty; and the Higher Than the Sun silver trophy for completing the game with an all gold SteamWorld ranking on elite difficulty. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 20 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are five difficulty levels including casual, regular, experienced, veteran and elite with the major differences between each difficulty level being a gradual increase in the penalty for failing a mission from 0% on casual difficulty through to 25% on regular and 50% on experienced, veteran and elite; accompanied by a five star rating system which represents an increase in the amount of enemies from one star on casual, two stars on regular, three stars on experienced and veteran and four stars on elite; an increase in the amount of damage an enemy can inflict on any of your crew from one star on casual increasing with each step-up in difficulty through to five stars on elite; and an increase in enemy health from one star on casual, two stars on regular and experienced, three stars on veteran and four stars on elite. There is also a risk and reward factor as the bonus experience steadily increases for each step-up in difficulty from 0% for casual and regular, 10% for experienced, 25% for veteran and even as high as 50% for playing on elite difficulty level.
There are no multiplayer features which is a surprise given that the lead character Piper has crewmates on her team and multiple enemies to face up against from opposing crews. I would have liked to have seen some form of co-operative multiplayer for two to four players with one player taking control of Piper and other players controlling the crewmates in what could have been drop-in/drop-out on the same screen until a player or multiple players had ventured off onto a different area of the environment in which case becoming split-screen to retain freedom of movement and online co-operative multiplayer version of the single player story.
Split-screen and online multiplayer could have been expanded further beyond co-operative multiplayer as competitive multiplayer could have re-told the single player story from a different perspective for two to four players with a player controlling Piper and a second player controlling her crewmates attempting to defeat the many enemies in their way which would be controlled by human opponents trying to prevent any crew from stealing back any of their loot. There are no online leaderboards which is surprising as they could have included leaderboards for the amount of enemies each player has killed in total, the amount of enemies killed from each specific ability and weapon, the total number of hats collected including their rarity as well as the quickest completion time for each level individually and throughout the entire game.
SteamWorld Heist’s replayability stems from a number of areas such as mission variety and side missions, assembling your own crew, levelling up to earn new abilities for those crewmates participating in missions, New Game + to carry your team from one playthrough into the next, five difficulty levels and collectables including swag bags and hats which will collectively have players coming back for a substantial amount of gameplay on PS4 and Vita.
- Title: SteamWorld Heist
- Developer: Image & Form
- Publisher: Image & Form (Digital)/Rising Star Games (SteamWorld Collection Retail Release)
- System: PS4/PS Vita
- Format: Blu-Ray Disc (PS4)/PSN Download (PS4 and PS Vita)
- Cross-Buy: Yes (PS4/PS Vita)
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1
- Memory Card Space Required: 185MB/Hard Drive Space Required: 275MB (Version 1.01)