By: Ted Chow
How better to break in a new 3DS than with a new game? SteamWorld Heist is my first 3DS review title and I’m starting out with a bang. In a galaxy far away where robots have colonized the stars, Captain Faraday and her motley pirate crew of rag tag automatons will scour the galaxy for scraps and treasure. With turn-based mechanics and 2D side-scrolling to boot, SteamWorld Heist offers a fun and challenging experience for those risqué enough to board some scrapper ships and take the fight to royal federation.
As a semi turn-based game, the controls are pretty standard as far as the genre goes. Before the start of any enemy encounter, you will take turns calibrating your shot or repositioning your pirates behind cover or other vantage points. Much of the game will play out in this particular sequence with free movement only available on your ship or other non-mission areas.
Aiming takes into account the ricocheting of bullets to allow for some interesting setups to what would otherwise be a point blank shooting fest. Overall, the game’s short tutorial explained the basics that will carry you throughout the entire play experience.
Reminiscent of the Wild West, SteamWorld Heist presents itself in that old-school movie theater vibe with film grains and all. The in-game art is light-hearted and showcases a nice command of 2D sprites and animations. With plenty of references to cowboys, pirates and, of course, robots, the culmination of themes make for an interesting space opera. Sound wise, the score is a friendly mixture of western and sci-fi.
As Captain Piper Faraday, you live your life as a pirate with your crew on the outskirts of the galaxy. Factions such as the scrappers and the royal federation will be integral in the story’s progression, but overall, things revolve around you getting rid of the competition and going about your merry pirating ways.
Missions in SteamWorld Heist are accessed in a way similar to other Nintendo titles, such as Mario, where areas are connected through a multitude of branching pathways. Once selected, you can bring up to four crew members with a variety of load outs to accompany Faraday.
Items and weapons can be bought and sold at rest stops and offer different tactical advantages while in a firefight. From health packs to grenades, a party’s composition can be essential for victory, especially on harder difficulties.
During a mission you will play your characters in turns and move across the derelicts, lifting the fog of war. As you progress further you will encounter enemy robots and treasure bags for you to loot. Each mission has a set of requirements needed in order for extraction back to your ship, and if crew members die they’ll be incapacitated until mission completion — or if you’re able to heal them with items.
After successful completion of a mission, experience is awarded to your individual characters that will eventually unlock bonus abilities and stats. These abilities can have some interesting dynamics while in combat.
For example, the Vanguard ability will increase damage output when a character with said ability has sustained damage. Rank points in the form of stars can also be acquired base on your performance within a mission, and those points can be used to unlock additional crew members or items to equip.
With single player as the only source of gameplay, the difficultly slider is the lone feature to offer additional replayability once a mission or the story has been completed. Ramping up the difficulty may provide a different challenge than the first playthrough, as enemies will be more numerous and tactical in their approach to hinder your advance. Otherwise, for those that just want to get through the story, casual or normal modes are viable options.
SteamWorld Heist is part turn-based action, part RPG with its leveling system and itemization loadouts. For those that enjoy those genres, SteamWorld Heist does a good enough job to cater to the casual fans. However, the wonky story of space robot and pirates is really the main driver for the game, and it certainly delivers a solid handheld experience to those looking for a new 3DS title to play.