SteamWorld Heist (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Brandon (Michael) Howard 09.12.2015

Review for SteamWorld Heist on Nintendo 3DS

SteamWorld Heist is the third title from Swedish developer Image & Form to grace the 3DS eShop, after SteamWorld Tower Defense, and the highly acclaimed SteamWorld Dig. A definite departure from previous SteamWorld titles, SteamWorld Heist takes on turn-based strategy this time around, adding its own unique twists to a genre that's found much success on Nintendo's handhelds in the past. Does it have what it takes, or does it simply run out of steam?

SteamWorld Heist doesn't exactly stick to conventions familiar to other 3DS strategy games. The base objectives are all there: move a team through a map, overcome the enemy without being defeated. Instead of individual characters fighting turn-based, incidental battles across a large map, however, it has available a small team of steam-powered robots fighting a tactical shootout against the enemy squad.

Battles take place on 2D maps that use a simple grid system. Each of the robots has a movement range they can move in before either switching into combat or sprinting to get a little extra distance out of their turn. Combat itself is based around each character's specific style of gun, which, ideally, they aim in the direction of the enemy team. Controlling this is very natural, as a single trigger-press arms the weapon, while the trajectory and the camera can both be controlled with the D-pad and the Circle Pad, respectively.

Screenshot for SteamWorld Heist on Nintendo 3DS

It all feels extremely fluid and very natural to use. The trajectory of the gun determines how bullets fire and bullets can ricochet off of floors and ceilings, giving reach to out of the way targets, or large enemies hiding behind shields. There's nothing more satisfying and rewarding than bouncing a bullet halfway across a map, just to explode a powder keg right next to the boss guarding a resident loot cache.

Aside from a main weapon, up to two extra items can be equipped on each robot deployed. These range from health kits to patch up in a fight, to powerful explosives that can decimate an enemy squad. Finding what combinations best fit a given play style is definitely a lot of fun, and there's a ton of room for unique and unusual combinations.

Screenshot for SteamWorld Heist on Nintendo 3DS

SteamWorld Heist's missions are relatively quick, ranging anywhere from five to fifteen minutes, making it great for fixing up a quick strategy craving. There's a lot to be found if the time is taken to dig a bit deeper, however, as completing side objectives in missions gives opportunities to recruit new teammates, or chances to obtain rare and unique weapons. There's plenty of value in replaying missions, whether going for that perfect score, looking for some extra resources, or if there is just that need to level up newer recruits.

Missions themselves also have adjustable difficulty, ranging five stages from 'Casual' to 'Elite.' Casual is mostly tailored to a lack of experience with strategy games, but it's enjoyable if story progression or mastery is the main goal. Harder difficulties do reward extra experience, so it's worth taking time to perfect the various actions and strategies of the crew at hand.

Screenshot for SteamWorld Heist on Nintendo 3DS

Missions and a fair bit of the game's score also contain musical selections from Steam Powered Giraffe, whose style definitely fits the steampunk, robot space pirate aesthetic. It adds a lot of atmosphere to the levels, which while fitting in their visual design, do begin to look the same very early on. Combat and atmosphere blend extremely well, with neither detracting from the other.

The story is told through the exploits of smuggler captain Piper Faraday and her crewmates. After a refilling mission goes awry, Piper finds herself without a crew and must rebuild her team if she plans to stand up to the other dangerous forces in SteamWorld. The characters she meets and recruits are all pretty charming and unique, so it's easy to find reasons to like them aside from their battle strengths.

Screenshot for SteamWorld Heist on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

While not a narrative that would be found in a larger-scale RPG, the story is engaging enough to make keeping track of all the various factions and personalities not only worthwhile, but entertaining. By itself, the gameplay is enough to keep the action moving at an excellent pace, and the mission length is perfect for long grinds, or quick sessions on the go. The adjustable difficulty curve and "easy to learn, hard to master" combat makes it a great starting point for those just getting into turn-based strategy titles, and a point of mastery for genre veterans. Image & Form really showcases its ability to tackle new styles of play, and succeeds on nearly every level with SteamWorld Heist.


Image & Form


Image & Form





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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