Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
Release Date: 25 April 2019
Price: $24.99 / £22.49
Reviewed by Gary Gray
From defending towers, battling in space and digging miles below the Earth, SteamWorld games have always managed to expertly tackle something different with every instalment in the series. The latest entry SteamWorld Quest is yet another twist in this Steampunk, robot-filled universe.
Young aspiring heroine Armilly and her smart, outgoing college-dropout friend Copernica are collecting mushrooms in a forest when a commotion starts in their hometown. Armilly quickly sets off to find out what's happened and where the missing Heroes Guild have gone, all while aspiring to be like Gilgamech - the great hero of the past.
Bot You laughing at?
She’s instantly likeable, and that character depth is extended throughout the game. A unique cast of diverse robots - be they friend or foe - all interact with each other with such vivid personalities and styles, with Image & Form’s trademark humour providing a welcome respite from the often dark overtones of SteamWorld Quest’s story. Be it robot goblin called a Coglin, or a bird in a cage that drives a one wheeled mech, there's always something around the corner to make you smile.
As you make your way through the overworld, you’ll see enemies walking around. Bumping into them will initiate the battle sequence, but you can also press A to swing your weapon at them first a la Paper Mario, slightly damaging them before the battle starts. Boss fights were always well designed and memorable too, though while they often took longer to defeat and offered their own unique attacks, they tended to present less of a challenge than some groups of enemies that spam you with status effects.
Every Quest I’m Shufflin’
Card based RPG battles are the core SteamWorld Quest’s gameplay. Each “punch card” is a move for your character, and has multiple values such as strength, element and type. Some cards also have a gear value on them, which is essentially the game’s ‘special move’ bar. Every time you use a card that does not have a cog on it, you’ll gain one cog, however if it has a numerical value it will use up some of the cogs you have been keeping. Striking the right balance so you can readily unleash the right attack added a fantastic level of strategy to each bout.
It also makes predominant use of buffs and debuffs, so instead of just going crazy with constant attacks, you’ll have to be more tactical with thinking ahead always the key to victory. This is the case with swapping out cards in your hand too. You’re allowed to swap out two cards in your hand for a random one from your deck each turn. Even if there’s three cards in your hand that you want to play there's, strategy in looking at what you want to use next and swapping some cards around in anticipation.
Before battling you can set up what cards will appear by building each character’s unique decks, these are then shuffled together and dealt at random during battles. You’ll get bonuses for chaining three cards together that belong to the same character too. It’s an incredibly deep yet intuitive system, and although it’s a mechanic in other titles that causes many people to turn off, in SteamWorld Quest it’s executed perfectly.
Go Ahead Punk, Mech My Day
As expected characters can be tweaked with weapons and accessories, and the cards that they use to battle with can be powered up too! Most of this is done at a travelling merchant who manages to outpace our heroes no matter how difficult the road ahead is. Finding the right team, weapons, accessories and deck is all down to personal taste, and I was spoiled for choice in exactly how I wanted my team to be set up. Discovering more punch cards in the world and finding the best way to incorporate them into my deck was more fun than I was anticipating. In fact I spent absolutely ages tweaking each character’s deck of cards until I got it near perfect.
Treasure and loot are scattered around the overworld too, as well as the occasional none playable characters. Filled with beautiful artwork and a matching musical score, the settings for SteamWorld Quest serve their purpose well. Although it must be said that the consistently flat design and familiar rectangular layout starts to feel a little tiresome towards the end of each chapter.
SteamWorld Quest is a breath of fresh air that offers thought-provoking gameplay in a world of beautiful backdrops where art, story, music and gameplay meet as equals. Although the overworlds can feel a little bare and flat, the sheer amount of detail in customisation and the game’s core battle mechanic more than make up for it. Every inch of SteamWorld Quest’s combat system is finely tuned and makes each battle incredibly enjoyable as you move through the game’s engaging narrative. A must-have for RPG fans.
Pros & Cons
+ Deep battle mechanics
+ Beautiful art
+ Unique characters
- Flat overworlds
- Easy boss fights