Image & Form has made it again. Following hits such as SteamWorld Dig 2 and SteamWorld Heist the genre hopping developer faced a new challenge: a steampunk fantasy RPG game. SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech released today for the Nintendo Switch, turns its knights and magicians into robots who challenge it in sophisticated, battle-based battles. It's one of the best role-playing games I've enjoyed in a long time.
SteamWorld Quest follows the adventures of Armilly, a fortunate adventurer who dreams of joining the local heroic guild. No one really takes Armilly seriously at first: she's inexperienced and runs around in dingy armor that's too big for her. After the heroes' guild is attacked and their village plundered, Armilly and her friends need to find out what happened.
On the surface, this is a very vague premise for an RPG, but the SteamWorld aesthetic keeps it fresh. Yes, I've seen things like tanks and mages many times before, but I've never portrayed them as a charming crouch or college dropout robot. The unique character concepts, combined with lush, hand-drawn designs, create a vibrant world that I like to explore.
What really makes SteamWorld Quest is its combat system. It's a turn-based RPG where you choose your actions and then watch your opponent make his own moves. Your talent pool is determined by punch cards with the appropriate equipment cost, which you can think of as the version of the action points of this game. Basic features like a sword attack are "free" and build up your pool of points. Advanced moves, such as a fissure strike, often hit harder or have special status effects ̵
All these mechanical elements together make up an addictive mini-game for the player. Will I build a character who is more of a Brucker, or will I give him a good mix of healing and status effects skills? How many big games do I stack in a deck? Do you spend all my action points while you go? Or do I save and try for the sharper, more advanced punch card? There are no right answers, just different ways to solve the problem.
As the game progresses, this basic setup becomes more and more complicated. Cards can be combined to create an additional effect: You can wet an enemy with one character with water and then zap it with another ally for additional damage. Characters can also join together when playing cards in the right order. One of my bread-and-butter combinations brought a devastating blow to Galleo, the shy artisan, when I was sure Armilly was attacked first. SteamWorld Quest also gives you when you play all the moves of the same character. She teams up three Copernica rifles – she's the Team Mage – and ends with a bonus shield that surrounds all your allies. Standard stuff like buffs / debuffs, XP and upgradeable accessories complete the game's strategic elements. They always think about who should attack first, in what order and with what cards. These considerations become even juicier as you hire new allies with different abilities.
Most of the time, repetitive, turn-based battles in a role-playing game lead me to check. I figure out what works best and then I do that over and over again until a boss comes. If I bring enough XP to grind and have more XP, the loop becomes even easier. In SteamWorld Quest I found even the most basic battles against repeating enemies that were captivating because of the randomly generated elements for deck building. Sometimes the cards just are not in your favor and you have to learn to work with what you have. It also helps that the AI is smart and will take full advantage of its movements. I never felt like I could turn off my brain during the fight. I found myself constantly working on my deck, depending on the challenge. I theoretically do my builds as I write this sentence. Luckily for the game, the tuners are so well tuned that I feel encouraged to experiment with all the opportunities I'm offered, rather than trying to find the best all-purpose deck.
SteamWorld Quest feels like a thrifty game. They often walk through corridors where exploration is easy. There are some NPCs, though not many, and you often fight against the same enemies. The story is classic "good against evil". In another game these would be shortcomings that affect the overall experience. SteamWorld Quest knows exactly what it is and what it wants to achieve. Quest like other SteamWorld games, has a basic idea – in this case turn-based battles with deckbuilding – and builds on it tooth for tooth until the machine takes on the satisfying complexity of a watch.
SteamWorld Quest was released on Nintendo Switch for $ 24.99 on April 25th. The game was reviewed by Switch with a final "Retail" download code provided by Image & Form. Further information on the Polygon Ethics Policy can be found here .