Steam World Heist - Games Weekly

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Steam World Heist

After the runaway success of Swedish outfit Image & Form's excellent 2D vertical mining collect ’em up game Steam World Dig, the developer was left with a tough decision: to sequel, or not to sequel ? It’s a question many studios have asked themselves, to the point where some are apparently planning ahead of their own success see Bungie’s ten year plan for at least one Destiny sequel so clearly the answer is normally something like “yes, yes we should”.
The Steam World universe has grown quite organically, starting with SteamWorld Tower Defense, which inspired the developers to extend the “robots in a steampunk world” lore in Dig. This, in turn, inspired the turn based space shooter Heist. Image & Form has clearly fallen in love with the world it’s created and wants to continue exploring it in new ways.

But Heist isn’t a direct sequel, taking place instead in a world 200 years in the future from Dig's setting, and while there are similarities the style, the characters, the setting it’s an entirely new story with an entirely different action catalyst.

Just like the start of any good party, there’s been a cataclysmic disaster (unlike a good party, there’s neither jelly nor ice cream). Dig’s simple, small town mining operation is left behind as we fly into orbit. Still steampunky, still designed in that attractive 2D papercut style, the robots have banded together as Royalists under one supreme Queen, your role is as a ship captain who gets stripped of his crew and everything on board by said monarch-manic group, and there your journey begins.

An open-world filled with outlaws, factions, criminals and sects is set to provide the backdrop for a Western meets Victorian strategy RPG, that sees you docking to rival ships and exploring their interiors with a raiding party. The action looks indebted to XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s turn based gameplay: your squad has fixed movement distances, and once placed can be switched into a manual targeting mode. That the action is viewed from the side emphasises angles of attacks as you bounce bullets off walls to reach otherwise sheltered soldiers. 

Of course, they can do the same to you worse, raiding a ship summons reinforcements, starting a countdown to your doom. From what we’ve seen, combat looks exciting and mercurial, helped by character classes that enable you to build (literally so) a team to your liking. Puttering around Image & Form’s take on space promises to be a pleasure, and with procedurally generated encounters, there’s always going to be something new.

Steam World Heist looks madly ambitious and, based on Image & Form’s past form, we have no doubt that it’s all achievable. Space may be the final frontier but it’s made in a Gothenburg basement.

Space cowboy
Men are from Mars, ‘bots are from SPACE.
So, wait, it’s a roguelike, Western-inspired, steampunk space shooter ? Look at it this way: the recipe is two parts Firefly, two parts Wild Wild West (that’s the Will Smith one), a sprinkling of Star Wars-like rebellion and a smattering of Star Trek  weirdness topped off with a cherry made from delicious XCOM style strategy. It’s a space Western, sci-fi treat for anyone who ever wished they could be/make sweet love to Captain Mal Reynolds. Lucky, lucky us.

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