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Not So MMO: SteamWorld Heist is a Winter Sale Gem

Columns By Michael Bitton on December 28, 2016

SteamWorld Heist is a Winter Sale Gem

I don’t get as excited for Steam sales as much as I used to. I pretty much own most of what I want on Steam already, so when sales do roll around, I tend to dig through and look for some obscure gems that I can add to my library at a great price. This year, I missed one called SteamWorld Heist. Thankfully, though, a buddy of mine didn’t and gifted it to me. It’s always great when your friends know you well, because this game has consumed most of my gaming time over the holiday break and I couldn’t be gladder for it.

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In Steamworld Heist, you’re the captain of a pirate crew of humorous Cowbots, steam-driven robots, in a sort of sci-fi Wild West setting. Basically, think Firefly with robots, and, uh, hats.

In terms of gameplay, it’s sort of an interesting mashup of X-COM and Worms. Your crew is comprised of members fitting into different classes such as snipers, or heavy weapons types. They level up, acquire new skills, and can be fitted with a variety of weapons, and utility items, such as grenades, med packs, pieces of armor, and so on. Combat is turn based, but in 2D. That’s the X-COM bit. Where Worms comes in is in the way you aim your skills. In other tactical turn based games, you’re mostly dealing with dice rolls, but in SteamWorld Heist, everything is a skill shot, and some weapons can even ricochet off of walls or objects, letting you score some pretty awesome trick shots. You can even shoot the hats off of enemies’ heads, which leads to a sort of obsession with collecting them and equipping them to your crew. There’s even free (and paid) hat DLC. This should add some easy crossover appeal to you crazy TeamFortress 2 fans out there.

The game is pretty straightforward, but incredibly addicting. You take your assembled crew through space, raid enemy ships (mission goals are fixed, but map layouts are procedurally generated), blast away other robots, and try to escape with as much swag (loot) as possible. Map progression, the recruiting of new crewmembers, and even some item purchases are also gated through the acquisition of stars, which are earned based on your performance in missions. I’m pretty obsessive about this sort of thing, so it’s not enough for me to just finish a mission, I have to max out all of its stars.

There are also multiple difficulty levels (and New Game+, though I haven’t gotten there yet) and playing at max difficulty can be fairly unforgiving. The game autosaves on every turn, so you can’t just save scum it if you make a misstep, but you’ll get significantly more experience for trying your hand at harder difficulties, so it’s definitely worth it.

While SteamWorld Heist is tons of fun, it’s also a charming game. The humor is on point, the visuals are vibrant and detailed, and the soundtrack (by Steam Powered Giraffe) is definitely a highlight. I’m particularly fond of my Russian circus strongbot, Ivanski. This dude carries around a dumbbell in one hand and his heavy weapon in the other and he’s always lifting, even in the middle of a firefight.  Why’s he carry around a dumbbell? Well, he’s a bit insecure. You see, there were rumors that the Great Ivanski had gone soft, so he’s constantly pumping iron to keep himself in tip top shape. As you interact with your crew, you learn about their nuances and backstories, and these bits of backstory are always amusing thanks to the games consistently witty and well written dialogue.

At $9.99 (50% off), SteamWorld Heist is a steal (yeah, yeah) right now on Steam.

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site''s Community Manager.