The sequel to 2013’s outstanding Steamworld Dig. Steamworld Heist sets its sights to the stars. You can forget everything you knew about Steamworld. Boom, it’s gone! No, really, the Steamworld you knew and loved is gone forever – blown to bits, casting the Steambots to outer space in search of moisture, loot and more than a few gunfights. Swap that pick-axe for a shotgun and fall in line soldier, for what’s sure to be an out of this world space opera of epic proportions.
With Steamworld gone for good, Captain Piper Faraday and her crew have taken up a life of piracy to get by. They’re not alone though, with two other factions occupying space and making life difficult for them. The Scrappers, deranged robots thrown together from non-matching parts, and the snobbish royalist factions are out to cause trouble for other bots, with nothing but their own gain in mind.
This time around, instead of spending your time underground, you’ll visit different locations like bars, shops and scrapper hideouts in your trusty spaceship “Deja Vu”. You’re also no longer alone, with a capable and deadly crew at your disposal. With your crew mates by your side you’ll relinquish wandering scrapper ships of their moisture, collect enough hats to make Gabe Newell green with envy, and even commit regicide to prove you’re not to be scrapped with!
The destruction of Steamworld brings with it some exciting changes. Tactical shooting has replaced Dig‘s slick metroidvania gameplay, meaning there’s less of a focus on exploration, with more attention being paid to Heist’s finely tuned combat. Procedural generation makes a return, but you’ll be playing within smaller confined spaces, although they are every bit as sophisticated as Dig’s labyrinths. These changes make Steamworld Heist a much more approachable game than its predecessor and you’ll also feel much more accomplishment from short play sessions, too.
Steamworld Heist eats, breathes and perspires turn-based tactical shooting. It’s a game all about playing the angles, both literally and figuratively. Overturned barrels provide essential cover, exposed walkways mean death, and standing at the top of ladders is never advised. You’ll constantly be reshuffling your crew mid-combat, trying to keep everyone close enough to be healed by an area-of-effect skill, whilst keeping your sights trained carefully on your enemies. Combat outcomes aren’t determined by dice-rolls, so landing a critical hit is reliant on your ability to line your gun up with enemies, who are often at the other side of the screen. Fortunately, a number of crew-mates are skilled with scoped weapons, making things a lot easier.
As Piper explores space she’ll meet new recruits who can can be convinced to join her crew, either by paying them with moisture or simply by the renown you have gathered during your escapades. Crew members each have skills of their own, both active and passive, and each have a weapon preference – be they long-range or short, explosive or normal. Fully exploring the spaceships you are attacking can turn up new weapons, health kits and armour to kit your crew out with, and you’ll need them if you are to ever make it to the deepest parts of the sector.
Steamworld Heist plays to its strengths by stripping its feature set down to the essentials. It pits the player against enemies both powerful and numerous, in cramped spaces ripe with tactical opportunity. One moment I was facing a heartbreaking last-minute defeat, only to be jumping for joy, seconds later, as my perfectly timed grenade took out the remaining three enemies on-screen. Victories don’t have to be flawless to be satisfying, and Heist never disappoints in this regard. Combat may not always go according to the textbook, but there are enough fixtures on the map to allow the player to plan out a fluid strategy that can be reshuffled should things start to go awry. Even if you don’t win, you’ll be able to return to battle safe in the knowledge that you learned something from your previous defeat.
And when you do win – oh, what a joy Steamworld Heist can be! Watching your bullets hit all the right places, and sometimes ricochet off of unintended but appreciated places, is utterly captivating. It’s as beautiful to watch as it fun to play.
Faraday and her crew’s story is straight space opera fluff, made enticing by the game’s convincing setting and fantastic space-meets-western soundtrack. It’s no Fist Full of Dollars, but you’ll get enough of a kick out of it to want to make it through to the end.
My only hesitation with Heist is that it’s a bit of a one trick pony. Gameplay focuses so intently on combat as to seem limited in scope when compared to its predecessor. Steamworld Dig had more variety in its meager four hours than most other games, with runtimes much longer. This isn’t much of a complaint though – Steamworld Heist is every bit a handheld triumph, just as its predecessor was. Image & Form have taken a bold new direction with the series and still manage to score a direct hit.
Gather your crew mates, strap yourself in and prepare to get moist.