Steamworld Heist is a weird strategy RPG with shooting and platforming aesthetics that I really enjoyed. You build up your team of robots and bring them on missions where you have to gather loot and defeat enemies to get stronger and advance through the story. It's really fun and the challenge level is customizable enough where you can tweak the difficulty if it's too tough for you. I really enjoyed playing it and I almost completed it because I kept wanting to see more of the skills, items and challenges it had to offer.

The core gameplay is quite simple. You have a crew of characters that need to accomplish an objective - mostly about collecting loot or getting to a point on the map - by taking turns alongside the enemies. Each character can move a certain distance, then shoot - or move again, if you want to forego your shoot action. You aim with the mouse and some weapons have laser sights to help you get more precision there, and bullets ricochet around, making it a great aiming experience when you line up these tricky shots just right. After all of your characters have acted, it's the turn of the enemies. To help survive their assaults, you hide behind cover - or defeat them first - or use special abilities like healing, becoming invulnerable, stunning them, and so forth.

The game controls fairly well, but sometimes I've been fussing with its input methods. Sometimes the aiming reticule just disappears when you're trying to aim with the mouse, and it's weird how you can mix the keyboard/mouse controls by mistake, they don't go together seamlessly. Sometimes also, you'll shoot without wanting to, simply by trying to move the aiming cursor around. Another weird thing that happened was that I would cancel bonus shooting actions without doing anything special. These issues didn't occur often, but it was quite frustrating when that happened.

At the beginning of each mission, you select a team - the number of characters you can bring is determined by the map - and you pick from characters with various weapon proficiency and abilities. A good mix of close-range weapons, long-range weapons, more tanky characters, sniper types and sharpshooters is usually what I went with. You also can equip gear to your characters, various manners of guns, single-use boosts and armors help you deal with increasingly difficult maps. I've found it a bit clunky how you can't check at what gear is equipped on your non-party characters, that made me sell some gear I was using by mistake between missions. You can use money to buy more gear, storage boxes - to carry more gear - and cosmetic hats.

At the end of each mission, surviving characters get experience and you get loot. Each map has a three star rating, and to get all stars you usually need to finish the map without casualties and by finding the special loot box. I find the 50% loss in money when you retreat/game over a bit harsh, so I've lowered the difficulty quite early on. Maps often have countdowns, which increase the number of enemies that can spawn each turn, or activate turrets. Some maps even kill you outright if the timer goes to 0, but there are usually means to increment it. At the end of most missions, you need to get to an escape pod with all your characters in order to get out of the map. While on your ship, you can chat with other party members to learn about their backstory. The story of the world itself is quite interesting, too!

I really, really liked Steamworld Heist! The gameplay is just great, like everything around it. There's enough depth and even replayability in this title, and the loot and star system scratched my completitionist itch perfectly. I couldn't make it through the whole game, but I got quite far in the third map where enemies started getting real weird. Maybe I'll try and finish it someday!

AuthorJérémie Tessier