- Developer: Image and Form
- Publisher: Thunderful
- Release Date: 25/04/2019
- Price: £22.49 / $24.99
- Review code provided by Image and Form
Hand of Gilgamech
Since the dawn of time, fans have been clamouring for an RPG experience set in the Steamworld universe. Being the merciful people that they are, our supreme robot overlords at Image and Form have duly obliged. The result is a 20 + hour romp through a both visually stunning and lovingly crafted world that shines with the inimitable style that the Steamworld games have laid their foundations upon.
The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world
Our tale begins as so many of the greatest stories known to us have before, with our protagonists picking mushrooms in the forest. More specifically a magic mushroom called the Peppermint Puffer that one of our heroes, Copernica, requires for some alchemy work of sorts. Her ally in the field is the ever courageous character of Armilly, who quite literally does everything by the book. The hero’s handbook that is anyway. After the game’s opening moments you meet Galleo, who still lives with his mom!! In her basement!! What a loser!!
These three unique characters make up your party, for the time being at least. After picking the elusive Peppermint puffer, our heroes return to their hometown, only to find the Guild of Heroes is missing and a nefarious no good miscreant calling himself the Dark Lord is seemingly behind their disappearance. Thus begins our quest. Through the Steamworld…..
Steamworld never looked so good
SteamWorld Quest once again switches up the formula of the previous entries of the series, further demonstrating the prowess of the incredibly talented and enigmatic minds over at Image and Form. The closer perspective utilised, combined with more time to fine tune their art, means that SteamWorld Quest is by far the prettiest looking game that Image and Form have ever put together. Everything just screams quality and it really isn’t difficult to get swept up in this entry in the Steamworld universe. Colours just pop off of the screen, whether played in handheld or docked mode and on top of that it runs at a silky 60FPS consistently, all in glorious 1080p. On top of that, I didn’t encounter a single bug or glitch, nothing that could have a negative impact on the gameplay experience. As well as looking great, Steamworld quest sounds fantastic too. The soundtrack paves the way for adventure, and is suitably epic for what lies in store for our plucky paladins. Whilst navigating the world, the music is minimal, footsteps rustle on the leaves below your feet and the cracking sounds of twigs fill your ears as you break down barriers. In battle, the soundtrack comes alive and create layers of tension, apprehension and exhilaration and is varied enough to never become stale or obsolete. I can’t recommend highly enough playing Steamworld Quest wearing a good pair of headphones. It adds another layer of complexity to proceedings and further elevates this stunning title. I personally used my Samsung Buds, paired to my Nintendo Switch with the Genki Bluetooth adapter.
I guess the best way to describe just how refined the entire package is would be to compare it to a Nintendo game. Steamworld Quest is polished to the nth degree, and all credit to every single person involved with its creation as it has clearly been strenuously bug tested, resulting in one of the most opulent gaming experiences that this simple scribe has had the sheer pleasure to experience in quite some time. We may only be one third of the way through the two thousandth and nineteenth year since calendars began, but we already have a contender for GOTY in our midsts.
Play the hand you’ve been dealt
Battle is at the forefront of Steamworld Quest and things play out in typical RPG fashion, to an extent.
Combat utilises a card deck, with 6 cards being dealt at any one time. You can swap 2 out on the fly per turn, to better try to create the ideal hand. Being a Steamworld game, steam management is fundamental to Quest, and you must manage your steam to play certain, more powerful cards. To create a buffer of steam cogs, certain base level cards actually help to build up your gauge, alongside their intended buffs in battle. For example, Armilly has a move called Bravado which restores a small amount of health whilst simultaneously booning you an extra steam cog.
In the early moments of Steamworld Quest, chains are created by playing three cards of the same colour. As this epic adventure unfolds, you unlock the ability to play a team chain, with certain cards working in tandem with cards played from a different party member. Deck management is also an essential aspect to take into consideration when trying to achieve the most glorious of hands. Throughout the course of this grand old adventure you will collect a whole plethora of playable cards that offer up the most delightful and imaginative moves and modifiers. These are found in the many chests you’ll encounter on this quest through the SteamWorld, as well as appearing during certain poignant, or heartfelt moments. They can also be crafted at the Mysterious Merchant’s, a character with a penchant to traverse the most perilous of pitfalls in an attempt to shift his wares to our band of lovable losers.
Hand in hand
For the most part, combat felt intuitive and tactical. I found the balancing act between defence, offence and healing to be varied enough to keep things feeling fresh and I seldom found myself simply ‘going through the motions’ and spamming attacks. That being said, despite the combinations afforded to you by the multiple party members, I found once I’d discovered my optimum party and perfected my deck, discovered a technique that made me near on invincible which was both deeply satisfying and somewhat disheartening. I only say this, as, towards the end of the game, I knew that I would approach an enemy, put the required cards into motion and become godlike, inflicting absurd levels of damage whilst simultaneously just chilling out from the safety of my protective mana barrier. Admittedly, this was during my 1st play through, which I experienced on the Knight setting, the games medium difficulty. On completion of the titular quest, and on starting a new save on Legendary, the games highest offered challenge, the process was not quite the same, and the method, whilst still effective early on, was found wanting in the later levels.
Time after time
The Steamworld timeline breeds fanatical debate unlike any other, aside from the hot mess that is the Hero of Hyrule’s very own timeline of course! Although some clarity has been offered in the YouTube series The Engine Room, a show hosted by Image and Form’s very own Julius and Brjann, fans like nothing more to debate fervently the happenings of the universes that they adore so much. Steamworld Quest has a very definite place on the Steamworld timeline. And that’s all I want to say on the matter…
Aw dad, tell me a story first….
Whilst Tower Defence, Dig 1 + 2 and Heist all had overarching stories, no Steamworld entry has ever been so strongly story driven as Quest is. From the game’s early moments right through to it’s deeply satisfying conclusion, you are introduced to an ensemble of entertaining, weird and wonderful NPCs who enrich the beautiful game world tenfold. As you would expect from the team that brought us Steamworld Dig, at a time when nobody was on board with the Wii U, Image and Form always remain true to themselves and bring their vision to life how they want it to be beheld. As a result of this, Steamworld Quest isn’t just the most story influenced game that the studio has created, it’s also the most ambitious too. The nature of the heavy focus on story means that the entire Steamworld universe has the possibility to grow infinitely. With a combination of the characters on show, to new locations introduced, it really is incredibly exciting to see what Image and Form bring to the table next.
Knowing them as I do, it will probably be a sports game!
In all seriousness, when they do decide to show their next hand, I can’t wait to count my chips and, as ever, go all in.
Are you not entertained?
My time spent with Steamworld Quest was an incredibly enjoyable experience and one of the those gaming memories that will long linger. Due to a certain in game event that happens during the half way mark, there is an additional game mode that adds even more replay value to this most incandescent of titles. On top of that, the Legend difficulty will be calling me back in once my craving for a Steamworld experience summons me once more. Unless of course Image and Form decide to bring Tower Heist to the e-shop in the meantime.
- The best looking game Image and Form have created
- Story driven nature opens the Steamworld universe up in exciting and endless ways
- Nintendo-esque quality levels of testing and polish create an engulfing gaming experience
- Once you perfect your deck and team, combat can become straightforward
- I’ve already played it.