Review: SteamWorld Heist (PS4/PSV)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: SteamWorld Heist
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4 262.4 MB) (PSV 148.4 MB)
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Image & Form
Developer: Image & Form
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), €19.99 (EU), £15.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
SteamWorld Heist is also available on Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

It’s been a long time since my SteamWorld Dig review and I still have fond memories of that unique experience. This game is based in the same universe as the first but it plays very differently. You control Captain Piper Faraday and her motley crew of smugglers and pirates as they embark on a very dangerous adventure.

Gameplay:
SteamWorld Heist is a side-scrolling, procedurally generated turn-based tactical shooting game. The general rule for each mission is to get in, grab the loot, and get the hell out of there. Each mission has varying parameters and allows for different sized boarding parties.

You will need to recruit other steam-driven robots and equip them with their preferred weapons and items, most of which you will scavenge on your missions. Some bots will need better armor, explosives, or a sidearm for a few extra sneaky attacks.

You will gain experience for every mission and each level awards a new ability. Some of these will make a huge difference and change the tactics massively. Sadly, only the surviving crew members from the mission gain experience so you will have to either rotate them every so often or only build up your favourites.

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Now, I have a powerful pistol for my captain which has a laser sight and high chance of crippling the enemy. However I cannot move and shoot, so placement and forward thinking is key. I found a grenade launcher and gave it to another favourite character of mine. It is very powerful but can also hurt my own team so caution is needed.

Enemies have different weapons that you need to be aware of. Some only have a crowbar so they’ll charge your team while all the rest have weapons just like you. Some even have a massive shield so a ricochet shot or a quick dash to an advantageous spot are the best choices. This game will keep you on your toes.

… you can always come back when you’re better equipped …
Just like you, the enemies can make mistakes, a favourite being a poorly aimed grenade bouncing back to the unlucky fool and his friend. Another one that made me smile is a ricochet hitting a red barrel. If you’ve been a gamer for a few years at least, you would know they explode. It just so happens that three of his comrades were loitering around said barrel at the time.

The procedural generation of levels has certain confines and guidelines so the placement of walkways, barrels, doors, and other things of that ilk will be different each time. Some levels have to conform to a particular shape and size. This is apart from the bars and shops which do not change. This can help when retrying a troublesome mission as the layout might be more beneficial to you the next time round.

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My one frustration is not being able to configure the crew’s loadout. Apart from at the start of a mission when you are traversing your ship or visiting a bar, you can only view and sell items. You can sort them into item types but not by owner. You have to scroll to each item to see whomever has it equipped. This might not be a big deal for some, but it bugs the hell out of me.

Each area brings with it a few new enemy types and hazards to be aware of, most of which you can often use to your advantage. Some missions are optional and might be difficult, but the rewards are plentiful. Just remember that you can always come back when you’re better equipped.

SteamWorld Heist is a Cross-Buy title and it plays extremely well on both systems but for reasons unbeknownst to me, Cross-Save is nowhere to be seen. It’s such a shame as I would have loved to continue my game on the go. At least I have an excellent excuse to play it all over again. Maybe even go for that difficult Platinum too.

PRO TIP:
Buy inventory slots whenever you can and as soon as possible. You will need them!

Visuals:
The game has a very distinct look that’s fantastic. It’s bright and colourful comic book style that oozes with a wonderful attention to detail and charm. The crew becomes a very mismatched but lovable team that I ended up caring for, even wincing and recoiling a little when one of them is killed, though thankfully they can be rebuilt, at a cost.

Steambots explode in a shower of parts, hats can be shot off their metal heads, and explosions decimate anything nearby in a golden fiery glow. The wisp of a bullet trail momentarily hangs in the air so you can see the line of that perfect shot as it tears through the metal steambot in slow motion.

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There seems to be a fascination with hats as the machines wear nothing else apart from the occasional belt. There are loads to collect and buy during the game and most will have to be shot off the owners head and picked up during missions.

I can think of many games that would look fantastic in 3D and I truly believe this would be one of them. Sadly, it was not to be. You will just have to enjoy the tranquil backgrounds and diverse enemy characters in two boring dimensions. In all seriousness, it looks great on both the Vita and PlayStation 4.

… a wonderfully fun and charming game …
Audio:
Piercing shots send pieces of the victim clunking and clattering across the metal hull. Explosions ring out and alarm bells send pangs of morbid expectation through your body. The music ushers in vibes of excitement and trepidation as you embark on each mission and it really helps set the mood.

Most of the steambots converse in a garbled machine tongue that appears as speech bubbles and helps in keeping the narrative moving along between the occasional storyboard cutscene. You will hear some speech, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
SteamWorld Heist is a wonderfully fun and charming game. An abundance of skill and a modicum of luck will help you through the interesting story. A varied choice of characters and excellent weapons will keep the action entertaining. Aside from the muddled inventory and loadout option, I find nothing wrong with the game and heartily recommend it.

There is something deliciously satisfying about performing a perfect head shot or masterful ricochet and watching the enemy explode in a mess of metal pieces. In addition, it’s Cross-Buy so you get to play it all over again on the other system.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature and the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

PS Vita Screenshots

PS4 Screenshots

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