Steamworld Heist was the best tactics game from last year. It didn’t make it onto any GOTY lists because it was born in the black hole of mid December; where games are doomed to be excluded from GOTY immortalization. And the Steamworld Heist’s 3DS temporary exclusivity kept many of us from it’s generous tactical innovation, but that has changed: Seamworld Heist is out on PS4, Vita and Steam.

Heist adapts XCOM’s two-step cover-snapping tactics into the second dimension, then it builds on that foundation as a heist game—get in, grab the goods, and get out before the guards’ bullets can snag you. You can rightly compare Heist to last year’s other tactical heist game, Invisible, Inc., as both games innovate the tactics genre in hefty measurable ways; but there’s a reason why I say Heist is the better game: and that’s entirely based on the bulk and heft of the game’s feeling in your hands. This is a game designed for controllers in a way that makes you feel connected to each part of your team.


Sticky near-haptic friction permeates every “click” of your cursor’s movement, illustrating a sense of moving your character, even before you say “go.” That “go” sends your steambots clanky-chunking along as if they’ll fall apart at any moment, their weight straining under their steam-engine’s capacity, but they’re sturdy rustic savages—which you’ll see when you pull the trigger. Unlike Invisible, Inc., this isn’t a game about avoiding guards, it’s about lining their bulky frames in your sights, squeezing one off, and watching their bodies shatter into a pile of scrap.

Substance floods every corner of Steamworld Heist.

Ricochet shooting is the name of the game. Angle your laser sight towards the ceiling, lined just right to bounce off the wall and punch a hole through the back of your foe’s noggin. Crunchy! The weighted kick of each shot bursts into it’s own feel of satisfaction; be it a full-stop “clunk” of impacted damage or the satisfying “clatter” of a shot’s breakthrough moment—a slow-mo burst enemy steambot parts. Ricochet shooting pairs Heist with a central selling point of yesteryear’s Hard West, but Heist has an ace up it’s sleeve: player controlled luck. You already know that percentage rolls define the tactics genre as a gamble (a 51% chance on a shot forces you to rely on the literal luck of the draw). But in Steamworld Heist, you line that shot yourself: positioning your gun at just the right tilt and angle. So if you miss, it’s your fault.


Pick power over accuracy if you want to cause real damage, but it’ll require that you eye-up the shot yourself. This is the brilliant part: it draws you as close to the enemies as possible before you take the shot; both assuring accuracy and the chance that they’ll have a cleaner shot on you. This magnetic pull seems perfect in a game set around bulky steampowered robots as every conflict comes with a satisfying risk of going terribly wrong.

Tensions mount every time you line the outside of a new door: you never know what’s on the other side, as levels are procedural variations of a consistent theme. You’ll have to learn how to roll with the punches and maybe make for the exit faster—instead of trying to wipe the ship clean of enemies. The rules for each scenario have come captivating complexities, including smart boss fights that utilize every facet of the tactical library.

You get zero experience points from kills: the only way to nab that gushy sweet EXP is to make it to the exit whole. This means that, while there’s no permadeath, the consequences for death are catastrophic: not only does a fallen comrade cost half your entire loot pile, and not only does it instantly drop your performance ranking (another form of currency), that broken unit gets no experience points. For them, that “successful run” means nothing. It’s quite an ingenious consequence.

Substance floods every corner of Steamworld Heist. It goes beyond the attractive artwork: making you feel directly connected to these massive steam-powered hooligans. You’d have to have something seriously wrong with you to walk away from Steamworld Heist empty-handed. Burn the land and boil the sea, you can’t take the Heist from me. 

About The Author

M. Joshua makes game trailers when not writing about games. He loves any game experience that engenders empathy to others, be it biographical, co-op, or games about valuing the well-being of your enemies. He loves getting humans together in his house for survival deathmatches.

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