Steamworld Heist Review

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Title: Steamworld Heist
Developer: Image & Form
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 176 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: No

Steamworld.  That’s a series I’ve known for a good while, despite not having played much of it.  The Nintendo 3DS has benefited greatly from the few Steamworld games that are out there, and the PlayStation world is starting to as well.  Steamworld Dig was a highly-praised game as was its sequel, Steamworld Heist.  The genre-changing series isn’t the largest in the world, but for what it is, it is revered as fun and entertaining.

The PlayStation World is about to get a taste of the newest entry in the franchise, which the Nintendo 3DS has had since December 2015.  Cross-buy between the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation Vita, here is my review of the Vita version of Steamworld Heist!

Story

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In Steamworld Heist, the robotic population of Earth was forced into space when the planet exploded into millions of small pieces.  Most of these robots, known as Cowbots in traditional western fashion, went to the stars to try to make a living through farming and harvesting resources.  Just as they found enemies on Earth, however, they find enemies in space.

As Heist begins, a pirate Cowbot named Piper and her crew begin a fight against a faction called Scrappers, who plunder resources and kidnap people from all over the system, in the search of research and the creation of weapons to become the dominant power.  You control Piper and her crew as she goes after them and more as the story progresses through.

The one thing I like about the story is that the intro feels like an old-style TV show.  The western theme fits and hits home really nicely, both in the game’s characters and how the introductions are spoken by the narrator.

Gameplay

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Every game of the Steamworld franchise changes its genre.  The first game was tower defense.  The second game was a metroidvania action game.  Heist changes things up quite a bit, as it is a strategy side-scrolling shooter.  You explore environments in a side-scrolling manner, but do so in turn-based missions that are like a mix of Strategy RPGs and 2D shooting games.

Progression through the game takes place on a point-to-point map with each point being missions to take on or hub locations you can visit where you can recruit new party members, advance the story, and purchase new items and weapons.  The more missions you complete, the more locations will open up for you to explore.

Going through the missions has you platforming and exploring small levels.  When a turn begins, you have a specific amount of space each character can move.  Beyond that, they can only travel so far if you want them to also be able to attack in the same turn.  They can go further if you want to sacrifice the ability to fire off gunfire until the next turn, so it all depends on what risks you deem are the most worthy.

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Combat comes with firing on enemies and taking cover.  There are a lot of barrels and boxes in each level that you can hide behind.  It’s not hard to position yourself behind a barrel, fire off a shot against an enemy, and then have the barrel as a shield when the enemy fires at you.  They can also hide behind barrels, so you may have to think of strategic ways to hit them, like making a bullet ricochet off a wall to hit them from behind while other enemies have shields on them at all times, making this kind of strategy something you have to do a lot.

Missions have loot to gather aside from the mission objectives of either taking down enemies or gathering treasure.  Loot comes in the form of bags and chests that enemies drop upon being killed or just have laying around.  The more extra loot you find in a mission, the better grade you get when it’s done.  This is also thrown into the strategy as a lot of missions have alarms that give you timers.  Once you spend so many turns, enemies endlessly respawn, making things more difficult.

Mostly, Loot will be in the form of “Gallons”, which is the game’s currency, weapons, and items.  Weapons are different types of firearms, like handguns, shotguns, sub-machine guns and more.  Items are there to help you on missions, like increasing your inventory to take health items with you.  These items can also be bought with gallons at the various shops on the world map.

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Once you finish a mission’s objectives, you retreat your party to the Evacuation Zone and are graded on how well you did.  The better you do on missions, the more experience your characters get towards leveling up and learning new skills, like increasing attack damage once you take fire from an enemy or just stat increases in general.

You also earn reputation when you complete missions, as there are required missions for the story as well as harder side-missions for extra rep.  Reputation is used to recruit new allies.  In each new hub area, there will be potential party members, but they’ll only join you if you’ve got enough reputation.  For some, it’s key to tackle those harder missions in order to get better party members on your team.

As far as difficulty is concerned, you’re in for a challenge, as any strategy game will do to you.  The first several missions are pretty simple, so long as you hide behind cover.  Soon after, though, new enemy types will emerge, requiring not only stronger weapons but also strategic planning just to get through the first enemies that guard loot, let alone bosses.  Even if you go in on the Casual difficulty setting, you won’t be casually flying through like a pink fluffy unicorn dancing on a rainbow.  Expect a challenge.

Now for the length of the game.  I’d gauge it at around 10-12 hours, give or take.  It all depends on the difficulty setting and how easily you get into the system, but don’t expect this to be some 2-hour indie game.  It’ll take you a good while to beat.

Controls

One thing to note is that this is not compatible with the PlayStation TV.  I have spoken to the developers about this and they may get a patch going at some point to add it.  They did say that their next Vita game would probably support the PSTV after I’d explained what it is and what its market is for.

Moving around the field or your ship/hub areas is done with the Left Analog Stick and the camera can be moved with the Right Analog Stick.  You can also move with the D-Pad.  The L trigger can be used to switch active characters and the R trigger can be used to start aiming your weapon.  X can activate items or fire your weapon and Square can end your turn.  Circle cancels actions and Triangle will skip an animation.

Nothing to complain about here, and you can customize the control scheme to your liking.

Presentation

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Visually, this is a very artistic game.  All of the artwork of the world they’ve created here looks really interesting and very steampunk.  The fact that the soundtrack was done by a Steampunk band makes the theme even more fitting.

The only thing I have issues with is the occasional blurred character model.  Some character models appear with a good bit of blurring and some of the text areas also have some jagged edges and blurring, a small blemish on an otherwise polished presentation.

Performance is superb.  On the Vita, the load times are short, frame rate is steady and everything just runs great.  The developers did a great job of optimizing it.  All that remains is PSTV Support for PSTV owners.

Summary

Steamworld Heist is the newest in the critically-acclaimed Steamworld franchise.  Some of the character models and text boxes look blurry on the Vita, but it is only a minor fault holding back a fun strategy game.  Series fans should definitely check it out. 

9/10

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  • Lester Paredes

    Aw, dang. No PS TV support? I mean, I’m still getting the game, but it’d be nice to be able to play on my TV also. Oh well. Maybe a future patch will show up, but with support for the discontinued system seemingly left up to random chance, who knows.

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