When the Earth is broken into a million shards, the steam-driven robots that once called it home are forced into space. With Cowbots farming moisture to make their living, Scrapper gangs preying on the weak, and the diesel-driven Royalists abusing their power, you play as the notorious smuggler and occasional pirate Piper Faraday whose loyal steambot crew soon becomes caught in the middle of everything.
Your life as a steam-driven robot space pirate in SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition is an exciting one that will see you board, loot, and shoot your way through enemy spaceships. This turn-based strategy game was what developer Image & Form had worked on between SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Dig 2, and has now joined those platform mining adventures on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch. With rumours of something far more dangerous stirring in the depths of space, there’s an air of mystery to this galactic escapade, too.
With no riches to uncover buried deep in the underearth seeing as, well… Earth has been destroyed, your steam-driven pirate crew will engage in tactical shootouts as they battle over the scarce water resources that they need in order to survive. And, while the early missions will see you fighting back Scrappers that are spreading across Captain Piper’s turf in the Outskirts, the scale of your adventure soon expands when you draw unwanted attention from the Royal Space Force.
When you aren’t nattering to your crew or recruiting more steambots to your side in [SPACE BAR], you will be boarding derelict hulks as well as Scrapper and Royalist starships. These missions are, unsurprisingly, where you will be spending most of your time in SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition, turn-based encounters where you will have to consider every turn to make them count to take down the scrap-metal meanies that you face.
Commanding your crew in these combat situations is simple, as you cycle between your steambots looking to an orange trail to see where you can choose to move them to – whether that be into the safety of cover or not. You can choose to make their robotic legs sprint a little further – the extra distance is shown as a blue trail – but this comes at a cost in that character not being able to unload bullets at your enemies that turn.
With procedurally-generated levels, a keen eye is required to make the most out of the rusted battlegrounds that your crew must blast their way through. The room layouts remain hidden until you open the door to them, and some caution is needed as there are alarm systems that you can trip that summon reinforcements or deploy turrets. That soon makes completing a mission far trickier, which can be troublesome seeing as Reputation Stars are awarded based on collecting all available loot and evacuating your whole crew.
It is the gunplay that proves the most entertaining, with each character having a proficiency whether that be Handgun, Sharpshooter, Assault, or Heavy. Rather than selecting an enemy and a probability percentage working out whether you hit them or not, the developer chooses to dismiss this genre staple. Instead, you can freely aim in any direction, which opens the experience up to skilled trick shots as you ricochet bullets around your surroundings – even if they may not always end up lodged in your enemies.
Success in missions will reward your characters with experience, and new weapons to arm your crew with, both having as much impact on the experience as each other. Experience will reward your crew with new abilities such as health boosts, increased movement speed, becoming invulnerable for a turn when they take damage, or automatically healing a health point at the start of every turn. While their weapons can be swapped out for laser-sighted revolvers, wide-spread shotguns, and rocket launchers, each with their bonuses and drawbacks. It is down to you to decide how best to kit out your characters, and that also throws in items such as repair boxes to heal with, power gloves that increase your melee attack damage, or grenades that you can lob at a group of enemies to consider.
The writing in SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition is packed with the developer’s mischievous humour, which can even be seen in the chance to build hat up a collection if you can manage to successfully shoot them off an enemy’s head. It’s a game that effortlessly exudes personality, matched with impeccable art direction, and what remains one of the best soundtracks in the business – performed by real-life robot troupe Steam Powered Giraffe.
And, as to the question about what makes it the Ultimate Edition? Well, now that it is on the Nintendo Switch those that choose to play in Handheld Mode can use the optional touch screen controls, while the SteamWorld Heist: The Outsider downloadable content is included. The price point is slightly higher compared to Wii U and Nintendo 3DS to account for that, but seeing as you get a new playable character, missions, weapons, gear, and more hats, it’s worth it to have the complete experience at your fingertips.
SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition is nothing short of strategic perfection, and a game that I’m glad to have seen board the Nintendo Switch so soon. Those looking for their tactical fix on the portable home console needn’t look any further than this, and it’s the best chance that you’ll have to conquer the stars with your motley steambot crew.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Image & Form