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E3 2015 Hands-On: SteamWorld Heist


Jonathan Higgins

Following up a successful game probably feels intimidating most of the time, especially if you“re a small development team like Image & Form. If you“ve played and enjoyed SteamWorld Dig, you“re probably expecting me to use certain key words and phrases when describing SteamWorld Heist, like “it“s more of what you love about the first game” and "the gameplay is very similar." I invite you to toss all those precognitions out the window.

 

SteamWorld Heist isn“t an exploration-based platformer at all, but rather a turn-based strategy game mixed with elements of an action game. I got a chance to sit down with Image & Form CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson at E3 and spent a good thirty minutes immersing myself in a whole new world, and a new gameplay style that couldn“t be more different from the game that came before it.

 

SteamWorld Heist opens with Captain Piper, who needs to save her small squad of space pirates who have been captured. My immediate instincts were to use the control stick to move my character, but I noticed it caused the camera to move instead. So I guess the first thing I can say about SteamWorld Heist is that you have a full view of the level around you to carefully time your movements, and that“s a very good thing.

 

Character movement is limited, and you can see a line indicating a path where you can walk. SteamWorld Heist is a lot like Codename S.T.E.A.M. in that respect. You can only move your character(s) so far before your turn is up, so if you see an enemy--take cover or shoot it down.

 

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Thankfully, Image & Form are very fair with how they“ve implemented their system. Things you can do (such as picking up an item, taking cover) are clearly marked by appropriate symbols that you see as you plan your path forward. And all enemy combat is halted while you plan your attack; you won“t have to worry about being accidentally shot or feeling rushed to plan the best move.

 

Speaking of planning the best move — when you go to take a shot at an enemy, you“re shown the full path the bullet will take. Your shots can ricochet off walls to hit enemies, sometimes affect the environment around you (such as shooting a wire to make an area burst into flames), and more!

 

One of the fun, small things you“ll be able to do with SteamWorld Heist is find wacky ways to take out enemies. Whether you blast an enemy in one shot by aiming for their head, or take a few tries at them, how they die is pretty satisfying. This isn“t a game that just lets enemies fade away or disappear. This is the kind of game that lets your robotic foes kind of burst into a million pieces. They even leave their hat behind if you knock their head clean off their shoulders!

 

And speaking of hats — there“s a hat compendium in the game, as well as extra characters, items and other stuff to collect. With that in mind, I“d say this game is just as much about enjoying the levels around you and trying to collect everything as it is about reaching the end. The attention to detail is consistent with SteamWorld Dig. If one of the things you liked about Dig was its charm and aesthetic, that“s one thing you can count on.

 

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I never would have expected SteamWorld Heist to be what it is — a turn-based strategy action-game. But I“m happy with the direction that Image & Form have taken with their next game. Even if the strategy genre intimidates you, I think that Heist has a fair enough take on the genre to feel welcoming towards everyone.

 

Image & Form are bound to be looking at another success story here. If you“re looking for more information, you should check out the game“s website. It“s still planned for a 2015 release on all current gen platforms.

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