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Steamworld Heist Review: Swagged Out

/ Jan 4th, 2016 No Comments

Steamworld Heist

Creating a universe takes a concerted effort, but Image & Form has successfully done it with the Steamworld universe. Across multiple games, Steamworld has become radically unique with a cool western frontier vibe and steam-powered robots. The latest game in the universe goes on to further strengthen and define the themes that make Steamworld Dig compelling.

Steamworld Heist ain’t nothing but a good time. It only takes a few missions to understand the basics of the deep strategy gameplay, but takes hours to master. Once you get a taste for the swag collecting, you’ll be hooked.

Like a Steam-Powered Leaf

The outskirts were getting hard out there for a cowbot, let alone an honest smuggler trying to make a living collecting swag. Cowbots all around were disappearing and pirate attacks on ships were on the rise. Captain Piper Faraday was only looking to go about her business scrapping out the occasional salvage here and there without getting the law on her case. But important matters pull her and her crew into affairs affecting the entirety of steambots and their survival. Any good smuggler knows an opportunity when they see it, so Faraday seizes the opportunity to help the poor cowbots, but the swag she finds along the way isn’t a bad deal either.

Steamworld Heist

Wouldn’t be a frontier without a good band.

Little did anyone know that her investigating these disappearances would lead to far greater danger. Learning the truth about the cowbot kidnappings only scratches the surface of where the journey takes Faraday and her crew. After resolving the matter, she runs afoul of the royal army and discovers an ancient, insidious evil that may spell the end of civilization if her crew doesn’t stop it. With only a plucky crew, some reliable gear and her wits, Faraday aims to behave improperly.

Much like other western-meets-sci-fi works, Steamworld Heist effectively infuses humor into the bones of the story. Captain Piper Faraday and her Bad News Bears-esque crew treat everything happening around them with a level of disinterest. This laissez faire approach to the serious things around them makes what could be a dire and dour story into something light and fun.

Steamworld Heist

Most of Piper’s crew will be found in local saloons.

It’s like Firefly, but with a colorful cast of steam-powered robots. However, the lack of bleakness to the story doesn’t mean it lacks substance. There is some solid character development happening with Faraday’s crew as she checks in with them between missions. The conversations between Faraday and her crew are always enjoyable, and often reveal some important personal information about members of the crew.

Know the Angles

You’re probably thinking to yourself that wrasslin’ up some swag will be easy. Obviously, right? You got a loyal crew, a weapon and a fancy hat. Those unsuspecting thugs won’t know what hit them. An attitude like that will get you and your crew killed. Getting cocky is a sure fire way not to make it back to your ship.

The key to tackling missions in Steamworld Heist is a measured approach and knowing the angles. What does that mean? The straightforward answer is that bullets simply bounce off walls of spaceships. You don’t need an enemy dead in your sights to inflict some damage in Steamworld Heist. Instead, you’ll often need to bounce bullets off angles to reach enemies dug into cover or in another room. It is a useful tactic that needs to be mastered if you plan to get far in missions because waiting for opportune shots most likely means the enemy will leave your robot corpse riddled with bullets.

Steamworld Heist

It is all about the angles.

A more philosophical solution is learning how best to approach certain missions. Not every mission involves hammering enemies with shells and brute force. Sometimes your only goal is to grab swag and then run for the exit. In that instance, getting entangled in a prolonged firefight with the staffed crew and persistent back-up can result in failure. It also requires you utilizing your crew members to the best of their abilities.

Not every crew member behaves the same. Knowing which crew members can draw fire, handle damage or inflict it, heal, or maneuver around quickly is vital. Sending out sentry class crew members to deal heavy melee damage can open your sharp shooters and scouts to line up cherry shots.

Another important factor to consider is preparation. Realizing the type of mission you’re entering is helpful, but nothing is worse than entering a mission with an ill-equipped crew. Pairing your crew members with complimentary gear is extremely helpful. A sentry drawing damage should have heavy armor to increase health and a med pack to heal if things get hairy.

Steamworld Heist

Them trick shots’ll help you bring the pain.

Planning is your best friend in Steamworld Heist. In missions, you don’t need to open all the doors and split up your crew to scour a ship quickly. Often, this is bad practice because a lone crew member can get overwhelmed quickly by enemies. Sometimes the best strategy is taking a slow measured approach to prevent the untimely death of your crew. Every mission has a star ranking, which opens up locked areas and can give you access to better items in shops. Using effective planning will help you max out your rep, grab epic swag and leave without losing a single crew member.

While clearing missions and killing enemies is good, it all means nothing if you aren’t collecting swag. Swag is littered throughout a mission, which is randomized — it could be weapons, accessories, treasures or water. The easiest way to improve your crew’s gear is to gather up a ton of water and raid the local shops in specific ship clusters. You can also always luck out and get some rare weapons from picking up swag. Collecting it will also help level up your crew — farming swag has a nice bonus of giving out valuable experience. Both leveling up your characters and getting better swag adds heavy replay value to missions.


Steamworld Heist has a fun story filled with colorful characters and deep gameplay. It is an often challenging strategy game. At times, there is a harsh learning curve in understanding the ins and outs of how best to approach a mission and get the most swag without losing a crew member, but doing so is indelibly satisfying and worthwhile.

Steamworld Heist was reviewed on 3DS using a code of the game provided by the publisher.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Steamworld Heist’s gameplay isn’t difficult to pick up, but quickly can overwhelm those that don’t get ahead of the learning curve. There is a lot of depth to pick up adding hugely to the game’s replayability.


There is a good grunginess to how each of the ships and outposts look in the game giving everything a rough space-meets-western aesthetic. Plus, the character designs for the robots are fantastic.


Steamworld Heist is full of chill tunes and delightful robot gibberish.


The story evolves well over the course of the game with bigger threats building organically as an in-over-their-head crew stumbles into larger conflicts.

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