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Developer: Image & Form International AB Publisher: Thunderful Publishing AB Platform: Nintendo Switch Release Date: April 25, 2019 ESRB: E for Everyone At this point in Image & Form’s rapidly-expanding SteamWorld franchise we’ve had two incredible Metroidvania entries; an epic, space-faring tactical strategy title; and a lesser-known tower defense game for DSiware that started it all. According to studio head Brjann Sigurgeirsson, fans had been clamoring for the Swedish developer to give the RPG genre a go and it seems his team was all too happy to oblige. Thus, SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech was born. A departure from the sci-fi setting of previous games in the series, SteamWorld Quest features a storybook tale that unfolds in an era of knights, dragons, and magic, narrated by SteamWorld Heist’s Seabrass in a welcome cameo. The journey begins with two adolescent female steambots named Armilly and Copernica -- a wannabe knight and a novice alchemist, respectively – who find themselves caught up in a plot against a rising evil. Along the way, you’ll pick up a few more party members and discover some unsettling truths about what’s really happening, and maybe even experience a twist or two. Naturally, SteamWorld Quest is a bit heavier on the narrative than previous games due to being an RPG. However, the cast is wisely kept smaller and contained versus large and unwieldy, thus giving each character just enough focus and attention to keep them interesting. The writing is downright hilarious at times too, once again showing that Image & Form really does have one of the best localization teams on the indie side of the industry. And though the plot is a little formulaic (yet entirely self-aware), the writers do subvert a few typical story tropes – the two main leads are both female, for one -- and ultimately, there are fulfilling arcs for each of the characters by the time the credits roll. Unlike many other 2D RPGs where a top-down or isometric view is standard, the out-of-battle sequences in SteamWorld Quest take place in a side-scrolling manner where you’ll mostly move from left to right (and vice versa) and screen to screen, coming across the occasional treasure chest and/or puzzle, a shopkeeper, and scores of enemies. Touch an enemy (they’ll be alerted to your presence if you come too close) and you’ll initiate a battle, which is far and away the best part of this game. In fact, I’ve never played a card-based battle system that I enjoyed more than this one. The mechanics are kept surprisingly simple: at the beginning of each battle, you’re dealt eight “punch cards” randomly from your deck of 24 (which you can customize throughout the game), and you can play up to three cards each turn. Playing base cards (usually lower level attacks that have no number) will help you build up your steam power gauge, in turn allowing you to play even stronger cards that unleash powerful attacks, restore health, or cast buffs that help your team (or debuffs on your enemies). What really propels the gameplay in a big way are the variety of options at your disposal. Sure, you can play your cards as they’re dealt, but you can also strategically choose to pass on some in order to get the right combination to line up special combos that can, at times, save your bacon entirely. The battle system is also amazingly well-balanced. I played on the Normal difficulty, but the challenge remained consistent throughout, picking up toward the end. Image & Form did a great job making boss fights feel alive and engaging thanks to a number of different scenarios you’ll have to play through. For example, one boss poisons your characters every five turns, forcing you to constantly switch between damage control and going on the offense. Other bosses might have lackeys or pawns whose extra attacks and damage can add up over time unless you defeat them. Creative scenarios like this kept me looking forward to each and every battle, which is a rarity for me when it comes to RPGs. If there’s one thing that disappointed me, it’s the lack of activities and interaction with the world outside of battles. There’s little to no interaction with NPCs due to them being sparse, little to no side quests that you can carry out that either reward you with more loot or delves deeper into the game’s lore, no interesting minigames to shake things up, and no engaging puzzles aside from the ‘lite’ ones you come across (find a switch to open a gate, or rotate images a certain way to open a door, etc.). While the battle system is near perfect, the out-of-battle activities and exploration are the biggest aspects Image & Form could and should expand upon should they give the game a sequel (or create other RPGs like it). Still, the game has so much going for it that it’s easy to overlook this aspect this time around. The art, like in other recent SteamWorld games, is fantastic and draws on the strengths of Image & Form’s talented and creative team while the music keeps the story suspenseful and allows for some lighter moments as well. If you’ve played other SteamWorld titles, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that SteamWorld Quest is another great entry. And if you’re hesitant because you’re not sure what to make of the card-based battle system, be assured that this is easily one of the best battle systems I’ve ever played in an RPG; it’s both fun and engaging, as is the deck-building element. While the game still has some room to grow for next time (more out-of-battle activities, for example), SteamWorld Quest is a tremendous first step into the RPG genre for Image & Form’s ambitious franchise and more than lives up to the lofty expectations the studio has set with its prior games. Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great SteamWorld Quest is fun, zany, and boasts what is possibly the best card-based battle system in any game to date. Though not without room to improve, this is yet another genre Image & Form has shown considerable skill and expertise developing in, and I can't wait to see what's next. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Switch code provided by the publisher
Jason Clement posted a article in NintendoImage & Form's upcoming title, SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, has officially been dated for release and it's heading exclusively to Nintendo Switch's eShop (for the foreseeable future) on April 25th for $24.99 / €24.99 / £22.49. While the SteamWorld games are primarily known for action and platforming (and even tactical strategy!), SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech is the developer's first foray into the world of RPGs. You'll lead a group of aspiring Steambot heroes in a world where steampunk meets high fantasy, with treasure chests full of gold, dragons, magic, XP, colorful worlds, and all of the usual good stuff that comes with the genre. Oh, and the turn-based battles are card-based as well. You'll craft your own battle deck from over 100 different punch-cards in order to take on your enemies. Also, if SteamWorld Quest sounds familiar to you, the game's title was originally leaked back in 2016 by way of a European listing. It would appear Image & Form has had this SteamWorld entry in the oven for a good while now! At any rate, you won't have to wait much longer to get your hands on the next game in the SteamWorld saga, so get ready for plenty of steam-driven RPG goodness coming your way soon. Source: Press Release
Jason Clement posted a article in Industry NewsRemember the news about the formation of Thunderful from earlier this year? In case you forgot, it's a joint company that's comprised of Image & Form (of SteamWorld Dig 2 fame) and Zoink Games (of Fe, Flipping Death, and Stick it to the Man fame). And if two of the biggest, rising star indie developers in Europe joining forces weren't enough, Thunderful is about to get even more influential on the gaming scene. That's because they've wholly acquired 100% of the shares in Rising Star Games, a UK publisher that's primarily known for distributing retail versions of popular indie (as well as niche Japanese) titles such as Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. Rising Star Games' role in this operation will be to publish strong titles from Japan whereas future Western titles will continue to be published under the Thunderful Publishing label. Ed Valiente, who previously worked at Nintendo of Europe, will be the managing director for Rising Star Games. Source: Press Release What are your thoughts on Thunderful acquiring Rising Star Games?
Jason Clement posted a article in Industry NewsIf you haven't been paying attention to the Swedish gaming scene, you've been missing out on two of the biggest indie developer success stories in recent years. And now, things are about to get a whole lot bigger. Case in point, Image & Form (developer of the SteamWorld series) and Zoink Games (developer of Stick It to the Man and the upcoming Fe) have joined forces to form Thunderful, a limited liability company that will wholly own both developers. With the relationship formalized, the new company will eventually move into a bigger office together, but will still develop new and existing IP under their respective labels. Thunderful is co-owned by Image & Form CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson, Zoink Games CEO Klaus Lyngeled, and Bergsala Holding. Sigurgeirsson will assume the mantle of CEO for Thunderful whereas Lyngeled will become the Chief Creative Officer. So what led to the decision to join together? “We already work together on a daily basis in PR, marketing, intelligence and publishing,” says Brjann Sigurgeirsson, CEO of Image & Form and CEO of Thunderful. “Image & Form and Zoink will continue to produce games like we always do, but we’re now formalizing our close relationship. Through Thunderful we can share resources more effectively, officially act together and launch bigger, more ambitious game projects. We’re becoming a real powerhouse.” “Brjann and I already exchange very much information, so this development is natural,” says Klaus Lyngeled, CEO of Zoink and Chief Creative Officer of Thunderful. “With a group of close to 50 people we’ll grow our clout both nationally and internationally.” Also of note, Bergsala Holdings is the sole distributor of Nintendo products (among other things) in the Nordic region and has been a long-standing partner for both companies. At the moment, Thunderful has close to 50 employees and nine projects that are currently in development -- two of which are Fe and Flipping Death, while the remaining seven are as-of-yet unannounced. Image & Form's most recent title, SteamWorld Dig 2, released in September 2017 and has been critically acclaimed and gone on to be the company's best-selling game to date. It received a 9.5 out of 10 in our review. Source: Press Release What are your thoughts on Image & Form joining with Zoink Games to become Thunderful?