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.

FEATURED GAME

  • Travis Touchdown

    I really love this game, personally.

  • chaoguy

    Been tempted to get this title for a LONG time.
    Might finally pick it up over the holidays!

  • alterku

    Game hasn’t quite gotten cheap enough for me to drop money on it yet, but it will one day. Looks fantastic and worth a purchase.

    Edit: Up top it says you reviewed the 3DS version, but at the bottom it says PS4.

  • Arbitrary

    Token Female protagonist – no buy. Careful with recommending this shit, Niche Gamer.

  • Dude, really? Its a fucking robot, gender does not play any roll in the game, it was just the aesthetic they chose when designing the character.

  • O weird, though i fixed that when i copy and pasted the tag, good looking out. Will fix it when i get to a pc

  • DynastyStar

    under what grounds is it a ÈToken Female protagonistÈ? Do they specifically put her gender before all other parts of her character or something? Personally I donèt mind if the protagonist is female, so long as they donèt do that, and they do not put their personal politics into the game(though In some cases I do not buy their games either way depending on the development team, ie. Double Fine because of Tim Schafer).

  • Gender plays no part in her character, she just happens to be a female robot, and this guys is just some loser who needs a safe space from robotic vaginas. And in all reality they are robots with no sex organs.

  • Kessek

    You will die a virgin.

  • DynastyStar

    I do wanna hear his perspective though on his rationale behind it, if there is any to be had.

  • Here’s some perspective on the “gender” topic – I’m one of the guys and gals at Image & Form, who made SteamWorld Heist. But first, thanks to all who’ve commented and to Niche Gamer for reviewing our game.

    Really interesting that this is even a topic, so here we go!

    The robots in SteamWorld, so called steambots, don’t have sex organs. Take my word for it; we even made a short cartoon that explains how steambots are made (http://imageform.se/heistuesday-4-steambabies-this-is-how-steambots-are-made/). Why, then, do they look male or female? It has more to do with humans than robots: we humans obsess over gender. Take a quick look around the web to see how modern robots are named – and designed. Once you design a robot for interaction with humans (let’s forget industrial robots for a while), you will want to add a few traits that lend personality in order to avoid alienation or awkwardness. A name and/or certain characteristics can make your new android acquaintance so much more acceptable. In short, we like to model them based on ourselves.

    So, when the first steambots were manufactured back in the late 19th century, they were given certain traits to make them more easily acceptable in their roles as versatile helpers (a notch or two better than regular tools or machines). To make matters simpler and more efficient, the steambots were also taught how to make other steambots. And then humanity suddenly warred itself to practical extinction (there’s a SteamWorld game or two in there, so I won’t go into detail). Suddenly the world is “run” by upstanding, hardworking steambots who know how to reproduce (see above) when necessary.

    The steambots have carried on the tradition of modeling new ‘bots after humans. It’s a setup where every other steambot is made into a male/female appearance, that is, more or less exactly like in real life (around 105 male humans for every 100 females, last I looked).

    Now, in SteamWorld Heist we have a gang of robot pirates on a steam-driven spaceship. Who’s going to lead – a male or a female? If gender doesn’t matter, then statistically it’s a tossup. If it were a male we wouldn’t be having this back-and-forth. But luckily gender doesn’t matter that much to steambots. It’s Piper’s ship – she stole the Deja Vu from the Royalists – and she’s the one who hires the rest of the crew. That’s whom I’d call boss if I enlisted.

  • DynastyStar

    Yeah well I still dont really understand what the original person was upset about. They seemed to be actively against having any female protagonists at all, which is extremely dumb at best.