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Hot Steamy Fun | SteamWorld Heist

Posted on 6 June, 2016  in Current-Gen Reviews, Nintendo 3DS, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita

SteamWorld Heist HD

KAPWINGGG!!! (Credit: Image & Form)

 

I just love the story of developer Image & Form.  After a modestly-selling mobile title and the muted response to a Nintendo DSiWare release, this group of plucky Swedes decided to put everything on the line for one last, everything-or-nothing attempt at a commercially successful game.  The result was the brilliant, wonderful, critically-acclaimed, and best-selling SteamWorld Dig.  If you haven’t played it, please do — it’s available on just about every platform.

 

Anticipation was high for a sequel.  I was particularly excited, as SteamWorld Dig was (and still is) one of my favorite games of this generation.  I wanted more of its procedurally-generated mining / platforming / puzzle goodness!  So I was a teeny bit apprehensive when I&F announced its next game would not be a true sequel, but an entirely different genre of game, set in the same universe.

 

My fears were wholly unfounded.  SteamWorld Heistout today on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC — proves Image & Form’s success with Dig was no fluke.  It is a phenomenal game in its own right, and an experience made all the richer for its collection to the ever-increasing SteamWorld lore.

 

 

Heist is a little bit difficult to fit neatly into any particular genre, and that’s what makes it so great.  It’s a turn-based strategy game at its core, but it isn’t an RPG at all.  Heist looks and feels a bit like a platformer, but at a much more deliberate pace.  It gives the player plenty of time to think and plan ahead, while keeping a tense atmosphere of near-constant danger.  SteamWorld Heist does all this while presenting itself in a charming, beautifully-rendered 2D package, wonderfully scored by the beloved indie rock band Steam Powered Giraffe.  (I can attest to their popularity — the line to meet them at A-Kon here in Dallas last weekend was two hours long!!!)

 

In SteamWorld Heist, the player controls Captain Piper, a steam-driven robot space pirate, and her motley crew of renegade automatons, in their fight against diesel-powered robo-punks, a tyrannical robot kingdom, and another mysterious force.  Piper’s band boards various enemy spacecraft — most of them randomly-generated — and fights off robotic fiends, while scooping up loot, weapons, and other goodies.

 

Here’s the hook: instead of the typical run-and-gun action found in many games of this ilk, Heist implements a turn-based system of battle.  Each robot has a limited number of spaces they can move per turn, during which they can also aim and fire their various weapons at enemies.  A few guns come with helpful laser sights that will show the expected path of the bullet or missile, as well as any subsequent ricochets the ordinance will undertake.  Most weapons lack this feature, so careful aim is a must to hit one’s target.  Adding to the challenge: these ‘bots don’t have the steadiest of hands, so the player must time shots just as the firearm’s barrel is squarely aimed where desired.  On top of that, various ammunition types may arc, spread, bounce, or even cause “friendly fire” damage to allies.

 

It sounds complicated, but the designers did an excellent job of making it easy to learn without an overbearing tutorial.  After a few simple missions early on, the challenge picks up steadily — but it can always be adjusted between missions.  Even beginners are accommodated with a “casual” setting.  And if you find the going gets too tough later on, you can go back to earlier stages and grind some experience, thanks to a nifty level-up system.  I spent many hours happily grinding away, to better prepare my crew for the teeth-gritting final chapter.

 

I have only one minor criticism of the game; there is no reward for skill shots, trick shots, or any other methods of dispatching enemies.  While the animations are lovely and frequently quite funny as bad ‘bots collapse or explode, and we do get some “bullet time” slowdown with particularly tricky shots, no bonus is provided.  The game even tells you this in the occasional on-screen hint, reminding players that there is no score given for kills.  If nothing else, I would have liked a “instant replay” of great kills that could be uploaded to the internet in some way, but that’s really a luxury and doesn’t detract from the game’s value at all.

 

Skilled players can probably complete SteamWorld Heist in under ten hours.  As you can see in my screen-grab here, I spent considerably more time with it — not just grinding, but working to improve my scores.  Each mission has a star-rating system, a little bit like Angry Birds, judging the player on how well they completed objectives while keeping everyone in the crew intact.  I’m not often a completionist, but the random nature of missions (most starships have a different layout each time) and the seriously addictive gameplay kept me coming back.

 

Today’s launch of SteamWorld Heist on PlayStation and PC platforms comes with optional paid DLC, already available on the 3DS.  I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I urge you to play through the standard campaign first, as the DLC may be a teensy bit spoiler-y.

 

Image & Form assures us SteamWorld Heist is also coming to Wii U and Xbox One, so you won’t have any excuse to play it if you don’t have one of the above options.  And remember to try SteamWorld Dig, too!

 


 

SteamWorld Heist logo

AT A GLANCE

SteamWorld Heist

 

  • PLATFORMS: Nintendo 3DS; PC; PlayStation 4; PlayStation Vita
  • PUBLISHER: Image & Form
  • DEVELOPER: Image & Form
  • RELEASED: December 10, 2015 (3DS); June 7, 2016 (PC, PS4, Vita)
  • ESRB RATING: E 10+
  • FRANCHISE: SteamWorld
  • DESCRIPTION: Randomly-generated turn-based strategy action platformer geometry physics shooter with robots
  • WHO WILL ENJOY THIS: Fans of strategy, action, humor, well-crafted indie games, and robots
  • WHO WON’T ENJOY THIS: Anyone with a short attention span, lack of patience, and fear of robots
  • SIMILAR TITLES: Angry Birds; Advance Wars; SteamWorld Dig

 


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After E3: A Nintendo Fan’s Lament

Posted on 16 June, 2013  in Wii U

Sad Mario from Super Smash Bros. Melee

I know, Mario. I know. (Credit: Nintendo)

 

I’m an unapologetic but reasonable Nintendo fanboy. By this, I mean I love Nintendo games and consoles, and I have only owned Nintendo systems (every one, including Virtual Boy, except DS and GameCube); but I respect fans of other systems and am the first to admit the strengths of every platform.

Having said that, I still don’t know what to make of E3.

 

Briefly in regards to Sony and Microsoft, I will say that the PlayStation 4 really does look like a fantastic system with some great games and good ideas on the way, and that it is well-positioned to be the dominant console of its generation. I also think it is foolish to underestimate the Xbox One; Microsoft obviously made some serious mistakes in how it presented its message to the hardcore gaming audience and media, but they may make up for this in what looks like a killer slate of launch titles and upcoming exclusives.

 

Then there’s Nintendo.

 

I’ve written before about what I think Nintendo can and should do to reverse the fortunes of Wii U. It is a solid if not spectacular console, and Nintendo has always been reliable about providing high-quality games for its audience. But if I was worried about the platform’s future before E3, I am now no longer convinced that Nintendo will do anything right to make the Wii U relevant.

 

The biggest blow to the Wii U’s future came not from Nintendo itself, but from Sony. The PlayStation 4 will launch at $399. That’s just $50 more than the Wii U Deluxe Set, which by all accounts will soon be the only option available from Nintendo. So surely, amid intense pressure from analysts, publishers, consumers and the media, Nintendo is planning a price cut. Right?

 

Right?

 

TIME’s Matt Peckham: “The Wii defied early critical dismissal by crossing over to a nontraditional gaming demographic, but that demographic was able to enter at the $250 price point. Don’t you think you’d drive more sales if you eliminated the Basic model and dropped the Deluxe’s price to $300?”

 

Nintendo Vice President of Corporate Affairs Cindy Gordon: “There’s a strong value proposition in Wii U. It’s a versatile system with unique social and entertainment features and a growing and fun library of exclusive titles. Consider this: Five of the top 10 best-selling franchises in home console history – Mario, Zelda, Smash Bros., Mario Kart and Wii Fit – are all on the way soon for Wii U, and either playable or viewable here at the show. At the end of the day, people buy a video game console to play great games. By this measure, the Wii U can compete with anyone. Nintendo has everyone covered with a broad array of amazing new games on the way. We aren’t talking price at the show. We are here to showcase games.”

 

So, no price cut, then.

 

This is Nintendo’s corporate culture is cutting off its nose to spite its face. Nintendo seems to believe, contrary to everything we know about consumer behavior, that it can tell consumers what makes a product a “good value”. Consumers don’t really pay attention to that sort of talk — the average non-gamer parent buying a Christmas gift, or casual gamer deciding what new console to buy, looks at the price tag.

Wii U is $350.

 

PlayStation 4 will be $400.

 

For $50 more, you get a much, MUCH more powerful console, with features Wii U cannot match, and a substantially larger future game library thanks to third-party support.

 

With Wii U, Nintendo would like us to believe that the similarity in price is offset by the fact Wii U has Mario and Smash Bros. and a pack-in mini-game collection and a controller with a screen on it.

 

On PlayStation 4, you’ll be able to play Madden NFL 25, NBA 2K13, MLB The Show, Tiger Woods PGA Tour ‘14, FIFA ‘14, and numerous other forthcoming sports titles.

 

On Wii U, your choices are year-old versions of Madden and NBA 2K, and an upcoming Mario and Sonic at the Olympics title.

 

On PlayStation 4, you’ll get AAA titles like Grand Theft Auto V and the newWolfenstein.

 

Neither game is coming to Wii U, ever.

 

Which console offers more bang for the consumer’s buck?

 

Let me be clear: I am happy with my Wii U so far, except for the lack of games and third-party support. I am looking forward to Super Smash Bros.and Mario Kart 8 with great enthusiasm, and somewhat less so for Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I am sure they will all be great games.

 

But no one who isn’t already a hardcore Nintendo fan like myself is going to buy a Wii U just for those titles.

 

I am already resigned to the fact that I will have to invest another huge chunk of change in a next-gen console in order to play the sports titles and other big-ticket games I’m interested in. I wish it didn’t have to be that way.

 

Sadly, Nintendo seems content with letting this be the case, and I fear it will spell the end of their days as a home console maker.

 

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