I hadn’t opened my Nintendo 3DS for at least a year (and back then probably only for a minute or so), but when I first saw a trailer for Steamworld Heist shortly before Christmas, I knew that time was about to end. Turns out, I was right and it was well worth it!
Steamworld Heist is turn-based action/strategy game similar in some degree to XCom but in 2D. You control a crew of smuggler-robots that find themselves helping other so-called “steambots” in their region of space fighting off pirates. One thing leads to another and over the course of many hours you fight tons of small battles all taking place inside space stations, freighters, or enemy ships. So no epic space battles with fighters and motherships, sorry 😊
You move between missions on a Mario World-like map. Once you’ve picked your battle, you select which members of your crew you want to pick. Equip them with a primary weapon, some accessories like body armour, a hand-gun, pick a nice hat and off you go.
In the levels the controls are pretty much what you’d expect from a turn-based game. In your turn you can move your characters a certain number of steps inside the level and/or execute an action (shooting, healing, …), then it’s the enemies turn. What makes that a bit more interesting is that the shooting isn’t automatic. You actually have to aim manually and (with most guns) can use ricocheting to get around an enemy’s cover.
Most missions have a simple goal: Eliminate a certain target and find a special piece of loot. Throughout the level other treasures are hidden but that’s the one for which you get scored. Afterwards the loot most of the time turns out to be money (which is obviously water, since what would steam-powered bots use oil or coins for) but sometimes you get better and bigger weapons which you can then give to one of your crew members for the next endeavour. Each member has a certain speciality when it comes to weapons. Captain Piper Faraday (the main character of the story) is, for instance, a sharp-shooter and can therefore use scoped guns which give you a nice laser beam for aiming. Others can use SMGs, rocket launchers and so on.
The gameplay is what makes this game enjoyable. The story is … there, but not really memorable. It’s all just an excuse to move from one mission to another and fight tougher enemies. And I’m totally fine with that! For me, taking turns shooting robots with ricocheting bullets turned out to be extremely enjoyable. Esp. the later levels were also challenging and sometimes I fell back to some good old level-grinding for extra health and skills. In that phase the game also helped me greatly with my podcast backlog 😉
Back when it was released it was on sale for €17 and probably costs €20 by now. Still, it’s well worth it. This was the first game I was able to finish in the new year and it is a solid recommendation if you have a 3DS. If you don’t or don’t want to use it, it will eventually also be released for PC, PS4, XboxOne, Vita, and WiiU.