Usually at the end of the day, when you’ve spend the entire day at one of the UK’s busiest gaming events, you just want to pack up and go home. But not Image & Form CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson, upon introducing myself to him at their busy stand in amongst the Nintendo area it was like Christmas morning for him, because he gets to show off his upcoming game once again, and with nothing else on for the remainder of the event, Brjann was keen to show me as much of the game he could.
It was nice to see a developer so excited about what they had to show me.
After a quick coffee and a brief chat, we got down to business: SteamWorld Heist. Having not played its predecessor, SteamWorld Dig, I was a little apprehensive as to how I’d get on with the game, but I was assured that it’d be fine as SteamWorld Heist is an entirely new game based in the same universe, in fact, it’s set way in the future compared to the last game with everyone, including the game’s steam-powered robots, searching the universe for much-needed resources.
Why? Well, that’ll actually be coming in another game which’ll tell the story of the timeline between SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist, of course, there aren’t any details on that just yet.
So onto the game. SteamWorld Heist in sort, is a 2D turn-based tactical shooter where you manage a team of steam powered robots currently flying through space looking for enemy ships to raid. I was offered hands-on with a development build of the game and shown some early levels as well as some more advanced levels.
Being shown the ropes, I was handed the development console and was left to my own devices and what I came away with, was a thirst for the game. I wanted to play more. In fact, during our time together, we actually played for an hour, without even realising. It wasn’t until the NEC issued a half-hour closing warning, that we realised that we should pack up.
So, back to the game. Steam World Heist works in a similar way to XCOM in that players are offered two types of movements, either travel really far and forfeit the ability to shoot, or travel a small distance, yet retain the option to fire. Most missions require players to get to the loot found within the game and in the beginning it’s relatively simple. You pick your team from a rag-tag team of bots, choose your weaponry, and execute the mission.
From here you search the area for any loot and make your way there. But you’re not alone. On each ship that you invade, you’ll find units from one of a number of factions in the game, each of which having their own unique abilities and play styles. It’s your job to learn what they do and how they operate and play into that.
Fortunately there’s a number of things available to you. There’s plenty of cover, that’s the first thing, and second, your bullets ricochet, meaning you can still take more difficult shots. There’s also a number of environmental things which you can play into such as red barrels – which need no explaining.
One thing I will say about SteamWorld Heist is that in the more advanced levels, things get hard. I made the fateful mistake of asking Brjann to show me a level far into the game, in which time he accidentally docked into a ship which acted as a store, allowing you to purchase weapons and other items to aid you on your way. Then he finally found a fairly difficult mission for me to tackle.
With my three robotic pals chosen I set about acquiring loot and getting around each level. The further you progress the more complex the levels become with doorways blocking your line of sight meaning you don’t know what to expect until it’s sometimes too late. In this example I came across some beasty bots with massive shields. In order to succeed I had to figure out a way to hit them either from behind, above, or below.
It’s safe to say it didn’t go well. Brjann’s advice? Perseverance. In order to succeed in SteamWorld Heist you need to tackle each mission correctly. Though you’re left to your own devices, you need to be able to get in the right place at the right time. Like a good game of Chess, you need to look ahead rather than at the current situation. Is there a bot better suited to the situation? Could you have a better gun? Could you lure your enemy into a red barrel or into an ambush of sorts?
Fortunately if you do terribly, you can try again. Sigurgeirsson explained that before now they decided on a sort of permadeath, which made the game really, really hard. Now however, you can repair your fallen bots, though it’s going to cost you some of your precious resources.
Image & Form have actually found a pretty neat middle-ground between easy and super hard in SteamWorld Heist. Sure you can replay levels, but they won’t be the same as last time, meaning that trying to learn the level just isn’t an option, instead you need to focus on your play style. This is something I found really impressive about the game.
SteamWorld Heist is set to launch later this year. I was told by Brjann that they’re aiming for a “before December” release, though that’s not set in stone. Understandibly, Image & Form want a game they can be proud of which is the reason for the game’s many delays before today. He believe’s the team are on target for a late 2015 release, so fingers crossed.
The game is already shaping up to be a brilliant game, so much so that, like I mentioned before, we spent a good hour and a half playing, before realising we were about to get locked in the NEC.