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SteamWorld Heist Review (PS Vita)

SteamWorld-Heist-1SteamWorld Dig was a fabulous game. It was “small” in the best possible way – tightly designed, accessible and engaging. Within seconds of the game beginning you were having fun, and that fun never really stopped till you finished the story. Amazingly, the next entry in the SteamWorld series achieves the same goals in the far more complex Turn Based Strategy genre. Games like XCOM and Fire Emblem may be compulsive, but they are complex, cumbersome games for the first few hours. SteamWorld Heist meanwhile manages to make turn based strategy both simple and deep. It’s no small achievement, especially because SteamWorld Heist is very different from any other turn based strategy game I’ve ever played.

For a start it looks far more like a 2D platformer than a strategy game. The challenge comes not from positioning units on a map, but rather positioning them behind cover as bullets ricochet through the interior of steampunk space ships. The ricocheting bullets are the most original and engaging part of the games combat. You’ll spend long moments meticulously lining up shots to bounce off ceilings, walls and barrels before (hopefully) hitting your enemies in the head. Or if you’re unlucky, knocking their hats off.

Levels are small and you control only a few characters at a time. This is small scale combat, and the complexity comes from the difficult shots you have to line up across the ship interiors. Scoped weapons helpfully provide you with a guide to show where your shots will go, while grenades and heavy munitions bounce around multiple surfaces before exploding. Your enemies go down easily, but your crew does as well. And there’s a strong incentive to excel in each level. Mastery is rewarded, with the best score reserved for completing a stage with minimal losses while escaping with all the levels loot.

SteamWorld-Heist-screenshot-08-1030x579Your crew levels up with each successful mission, while a pleasing sequence plays out after each heist. One by one you open all the containers you captured, obtaining rare weapons, equipment, or water (the games main resource). Between missions you can chat with your ship mates, visit locations from the overworld (over-space?) map and buy equipment or hire more crew.

SteamWorld Heist is a clockwork wonder; a brilliantly engineered piece of turn based entertainment. It’s modestly brilliant. A well designed little game that’s very, very hard to stop playing.

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