SteamWorld Heist

EDGE - - GAMES -

3DS

Like a prac­tised pil­ferer, Steam World Heist has mas­tered the art of the theft. It knows what to steal and where to steal from, and how best to use those spoils to its ad­van­tage. It un­der­stands, too, when fresh think­ing is needed, us­ing in­ven­tive new ways to re­work old ideas. The re­sult is a side-scrolling strat­egy game with a clar­ity of de­sign and a strong sense of pur­pose.

You be­gin by raid­ing a se­ries of pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated enemy ships, steadily amass­ing a mot­ley band of space thieves. Yes, your group of cor­sairs and crooks want money – or rather wa­ter, the Steam World’s most valu­able com­mod­ity – but they’re a like­able bunch, ev­ery bit as mo­ti­vated by the ad­ven­ture, the ca­ma­raderie, and the heroic de­sire to help out friends and strangers alike, whether driv­ing back a fleet of vi­cious scrap­pers or tak­ing on the Roy­al­ists.

At times, you’ll be re­minded of two of 2015’s most dis­tinc­tive strat­egy games. Its heists play like a turn-based version of The Swin­dle; there’s a sim­i­lar tension once you’ve raised the alarm, as you weigh up the risk of hunt­ing down the rest of the loot against high­tail­ing it with your cur­rent swag be­fore re­in­force­ments ar­rive. And it’s like Nin­tendo’s Code Name: STEAM in that it pri­ori­tises care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of your en­vi­ron­ment and your place within it from an un­con­ven­tional view­point. As your turn ends, you’ll need to hun­ker be­hind bar­rels, us­ing scenery to min­imise po­ten­tial sight lines, or tak­ing ad­van­tage of an ally’s sin­gle turn of in­vul­ner­a­bil­ity to shield a weak­ened team mem­ber.

You’re never en­tirely safe when pro­jec­tiles can re­bound off walls and ceil­ings, but you can sim­i­larly turn the ta­bles against op­po­nents cow­er­ing be­hind shields or en­ergy bar­ri­ers. At­tack­ing is akin to bil­liards, al­low­ing you to line up elab­o­rate trick shots, though you’ll only get an aim­ing line with cer­tain guns. If your judge­ment with a reg­u­lar pis­tol or as­sault ri­fle isn’t quite so true, you may pre­fer to bring launch­ers or grenades into bat­tle, or spray buck­shot from closer range. There’s no RNG, but you’ll need to mind the nat­u­ral sway of each char­ac­ter’s aim­ing arm. Who knew ro­bots breathed so heav­ily?

Mis­sions are won­der­fully compact and briskly paced, sweep­ing you through a sub­stan­tial cam­paign with style to match. There’s rich de­tail in the char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tions, while the sound de­sign­ers cap­ture ev­ery­thing from the metal­lic clink of shell cas­ings and de­stroyed parts hit­ting gantries to the thick slurp of a leak­ing oil pipe. Your ram­shackle ship and its oc­cu­pants might clank and hiss, but Steam World Heist is no bucket of bolts; care­fully crafted from the finest of parts, it’s an im­pec­ca­bly tuned and well-oiled ma­chine.

The beauty of ro­bots is that they don’t stay dead – but they won’t gain any ex­pe­ri­ence from the mis­sion they per­ished in. Still, the odd easy quest for lone raiders en­sures they don’t fall too far be­hind their team­mates

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