SteamWorld Heist Review – Needs More Cat Pimp Hats

There are just some titles that wipe you around with a three word premise and make you say: yeah, now I’m interested. SteamWorld Heist is definitely one of those games, especially with its steady pop ins here and there. Now is the time we are all waiting for, where we see if there is any steam to the games world or if it’s just a bunch of hot air.

Title: SteamWorld Heist 
Publisher: Image & Form
Developer: Image and Form
Platform: 3DS(Reviewed), PC, Playstation 4, PS Vita, Wii U
Release Date: December 10, 2015(3DS) June 7, 2016(PC, Playstation 4, and Vita) Wii U (October 20, 2016)
Players: 1
MSRP: $19.99 (Review Copy Received)

(Disclosure: I have had drinks with Brjánn Sigurgeirsson, who is the CEO/PR at Image & Form, at E3 2015)

This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review above, or read the full review of the game below.

If there is one thing that will automatically draw players in, it is SteamWorld Heist’s refined and heavily detailed style coupled with characters that can lend themselves to so many unique ideas at once. It almost seems like a fluke, but at the same time, when you really look at how the game mechanics work with the art style, you realize just how entwined that development must have been.

Much of this has to do with the amazing lighting of the world, which helps bring out the color in the world. Characters are equally as colorful. Even though they are robotic, the world is vibrant yet made of metal or wood, and weapons are deadly but playful looking. The look and ideas could have gone so wrong in so many places, but it is a bit of a miracle they work so well together. Outside of player artwork preference, I dare say it’s perfect.

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Depth of gameplay is great, if very simple at first. This is not a bad thing but it might make some hard core strategy game fans wanting in the beginning, but the game does build over time in this aspect. The stages are set on enemy ships for the most part, where you and your crew, averaging around three or more crew members, but sometimes as little as one will take on enemy combatants, bosses, and obstacles.

The leveling system gives each character a lot of weight, having abilities that feel uniquely reflective of them, gained with each level. This is also a double edge sword, as characters that you don’t use can quickly become obsolete in the players minds very quickly.

While characters are all unique, some just don’t have the usability of others, and that usually comes down to map and weapon designs that do utilize them properly. It is not a major problem, and might even go totally unnoticed by the majority of players playing the game, but it should be mentioned for those looking to jump into the deep end of the game.

When it comes to combat and completing objectives, the game is flawless. There is so much polish on these two fronts, it is kind of amazing and a breath of fresh air. Instead of taking the “just kill everything all the time approach,” you will be focusing on grabbing loot, and for some, positioning yourself to blow the hat off of your opponent so you might steal it for yourself (something I have spent hours gleefully doing). Nothing says “amazing!” quite like a sassy female robotic space pirate captain in a pimp hat made out of a cat.

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When voice acting pops up to carry event dialogue, you would do best to have a nice set of headphones to enjoy the banter. The voice work is cute, fun, weird, and sometimes nostalgic in a goofy way. It works well with the overall themes of the game.

Sound effect are spot on for the most part but some come off a little dull, but many players will never notice unless they are playing for 5-6 hours straight. There are some nice bonus effects that more than make up for it though. These were surprising and enjoyable, making the world outside of combat more lively and spontaneous.

The majority of music is nice but typically felt like merry background noise. There were some standing exceptions that have lyrics and are used strategically after certain events, almost as little treats for actions you perform in the game.

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The story imitates the best of 1950s radio shows mixed with 1930s space operas, with allusions to pop culture today.

There are more than a few laughs spread throughout the story, as well as bit of dialog spread throughout that smartly defines the world you are playing in, even down to how robots “grow up” over time.

It also tackles topics like classicism in this universe in a way all users should be able to grasp, which gives a nice background narrative push. However, if you are looking for Dostoyevsky, you are just being greedy.

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You might have already guessed by reading the above, but everything works so well together it’s shocking. This is one of the most polished products I have played in the last 5 years, standing out as a real labor of love.

SteamWorld Hiest  was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS using a digital copy provided by Image & Form. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 9.5

The Good:

      • Great artwork that lends itself well to all platforms.
      • Amazing depth of gameplay.
      • Fun dialog and story.

The Bad:

      • Some game sounds come off a little dull with extended play time.
      • At times bad character balance.
      • Music is a bit lacking.

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