Six months after debuting on the Nintendo 3DS, Image & Form’s sequel to the cult classic SteamWorld Dig has finally graced Sony’s systems. The wait has been worth it, as PlayStation owners get to enjoy a high res version of the game that can be played on their big screen TVs or on the go courtesy of the criminally under supported PS Vita. Set in the distant future, sometime after planet Earth suddenly exploded, players take control of space pirate Piper Faraday and her ragtag crew of steam powered automatons. Cruise through the cosmos, board hostile vessels and claim more loot than a Red Bull fuelled Diablo player who has been dungeon crawling all night.
SteamWorld Heist is a squad based tactical game (think Ghost Recon) that is played from a 2D side scrolling perspective. Players lead their squad of one to four bots through randomly generated levels that require tactical acumen and sharpshooting skills to complete. During your turn Piper’s pirates can be ordered to walk a few steps and perform an action, although when the need arises actions can be forfeited in favour of sprinting over greater distances. What makes the game unique is that attacks are not resolved via number crunching, but rather by where you point your gun. Successful headshots are rewarded with critical damage whilst blasting a foe in the legs will prevent them from moving that turn. I used to be a space pirate like you, until I got zapped in the knee.
In order to avoid the abovementioned Skyrim injuries it is advisable that you hide your faithful Steam Bots behind cover. Just be aware that no place is entirely safe. Barriers can be destroyed by repeated gunfire and if you are good with angles it’s also possible to circumvent defences by ricocheting bullets off walls. Hurrah! I finally get to make use of those pointless trigonometry classes they taught me at high school. The importance of cover shouldn’t be overestimated though, as bunkering oneself within a fortified position for many turns can be detrimental. Completing missions in a speedy manner is encouraged, as anyone who overstays their welcome in a level runs the risk of being overwhelmed by the continuous stream of enemy reinforcements that periodically show up.
My rating for SteamWorld Heist is four stars. I had a lot of fun playing through this downloadable adventure thanks to its comedic script, space western setting and tactical gameplay. Customizing my raiding party was especially enjoyable, as there is a vast selection of armaments from which to choose from. Some of the guns that Piper’s nine-man crew can brandish include beam weapons that are capable of piercing multiple targets, bazookas that deal explosive AOE damage and sniper rifles for anyone who demands deadly precision from their robotic minions. According to one of the load screens, SteamWorld Heist was partially funded by the European Commission – but given how many guns are obtainable in this game I half expected Heist to be sponsored by the NRA too.
There aren’t many things I can criticise SteamWorld Heist on other than the story’s length, which I wish was a smidgen longer. Based on my playthrough I estimate that most players will clear Heist’s content in around ten to fifteen hours. Not a big deal given the title’s modest asking price, but a few more levels would have been nice. For those wishing to continue their interstellar plundering and hat collecting, a new game plus mode is unlocked once the end credits roll. Hat collecting? Oh yes, I forgot to mention that it’s possible to nab headgear from foes by shooting them in the cranium. Avid collectors can hunt down close to one hundred caps, crowns and fedoras. Blimey, what is it with shooting games and hats? First we had Team Fortress and now this!