SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Adam Riley 03.01.2018

Review for SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

After the resounding success of SteamWorld Dig, rather than jumping the gun and diving straight into a sequel - which did eventually arrive and was absolutely amazing - Image & Form decided to take the visual theme and setting, then overlay it onto the strategy genre. Fans of Final Fantasy Tactics, Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, et al, saw the team take its unique spin on the theme, changing from a top-down view to a 2D side-scrolling affair for SteamWorld Heist, and it worked sublimely. How does it hold up on Nintendo Switch, though? Spoiler alert: it is the best version so far!

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Set a few hundred years after the events of the first SteamWorld Dig outing, Earth has been destroyed, forcing Steambots into space. Captain Piper Faraday and her - now severely depleted after an unfortunate turn of events - ragtag group of explorers / pirates are roaming deep space, gathering gallons of water (the in-game currency), and ridding the galaxy of pesky Scrappers, beings that are made up of leftover parts of other, now defunct and discarded 'bots, as well as taking on the scourge that is the Royalists, led by the nefarious Red Queen. Starting off as just a small team, others can join Captain Faraday's crew along the way, normally if the reputation levels of the current crew are high enough when encountering them - with reputation levels increasing by completing enough missions, collecting plenty of treasure, and not losing members of the team to the perilous foes met whilst doing so.

Navigation around outer space is done in a similar vein to classic Mario titles, whereby it is a flat map with numerous locations branching off, and Piper's ship is simply directed along a designated path to the next place of interest, with more pathways revealing themselves as progress is made. Some specific roadblocks are in place that can only be removed after accruing sufficient reputation points, but for there is room for completing handfuls of objectives in any order the player desires to prevent this being too linear overall. The better you do in missions, the quicker you up the team's standing to open new areas, as well as gaining more experience for each member of the gang taking part in specific operations. That is the incentive for doing as well as possible in each mission, rather than merely blasting away to reach the goal as quickly as possible.

Screenshot for SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Every ship boarded has a varying star rating to indicate the complexity of the randomly generated stage your crew is about to step onto. Some places are always the same, no matter how many times they are visited, but the majority are indeed fresh each time they are tackled, which certainly spices things up as going back to re-do missions definitely becomes a necessity if playing on higher difficulty levels!

Depending on the star rating of a ship about to be plundered, more or less crew members will be required to join the escapade, whilst some are even (not always so simple) solo ventures. As experience at the end is equally spread amongst those involved, it means that players are encouraged to swap personnel around on a regular basis to prevent only a handful from becoming strong, whilst others remain weak. It does not matter much on the lower difficulty settings, as you can probably get away with just three or four really powerful folk with the latest weapon, armour, health, and sub-weapon power-ups added to their inventory (there are also a plethora of hats to collect - some that can be collected by shooting off enemy heads, others purchased - but they serve no tactical purpose, just looking quite snazzy when dashing around levels). However, as only certain characters can use certain weapons, and different 'bots have differing capabilities, such as how far they can move in one turn, and even special abilities (like one that can take a second shot if achieving a kill shot when it is their turn), on the tougher settings, a more tactical approach is imperative for success. Given how inventory space is limited, as well, sometimes a lot of thought needs to be given to how to organise things before heading out for battle.

Screenshot for SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Each character can take a turn moving around the ship that has been boarded. Blue dotted lines indicate how far they can run, whilst orange dotted lines show how far they can travel and still get a shot off before the turn is up (those with heavier, more awkward weapons sometimes cannot even shoot after running a short distance, which needs to be factored in). Each member of the current team gets a chance to make their move, sometimes strategically claiming loot as quickly as possible, whilst others pick off enemies, and perhaps one scout scurries off to open new doorways, and so on. After that, the opponent has its turn, and the back and forth continues that way until either all enemies are defeated, or specific objectives are completed - sometimes taking out generators, silencing alarm systems, gathering up key treasure, taking out key opponents, or many other takes on the looting, pillaging and killing theme (more structure does come into play after the earlier haphazard missions are done away with, and the story develops further, but not always as much as hoped).

There is almost a Worms-like feel to proceedings at times, given the 2D navigation and re-adjusting of weapon trajectories (sometimes being able to bounce shots off walls for clever trick-shots, or blowing up paraphernalia knowing full well its blast radius will take out a few pesky foes in one fell swoop). Everything certainly works seamlessly with the Joy-Con or Pro Controller, but the best way to play is most definitely with touch controls, especially when using weapons that have line-of-sight features to view exactly where shots will go, even when ricocheting off walls. More games need to take this approach on Switch as it feels absolutely perfect, and the great thing with Heist is how there is no need to change control settings in-game all the time. Fancy taking a break and using the Joy-Con attached to the Switch screen? Not a problem! Simply do it, then tap back on the screen if wishing to revert to utilising the intuitive touch system.

Screenshot for SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

The best part of SteamWorld Heist is that not only is it thoroughly engrossing for the main adventure alone, but it already includes all DLC content from the previous versions' releases, including the fleshed out extra missions of The Outsider, which introduces by far the most intriguing character of all, Fen, who many will recognise from the fantastic SteamWorld Dig 2. Whilst the Steampunk style works really well, giving off the vibe of shows like Firefly or Westworld, and there is no doubt about the charm of the numerous Steambots featured throughout, it is actually when the world collides with the more technological side that everything moves up a few gears and events get really interesting. There is something eerie about meeting the Vectron, a Borg-like race that share the same mindset, feeding off one main source. Fen is actually an outcast of the Vectron, low on power when first found, and hazy in memory, unsure of his origins but certain that he wanted to stop Vectron's uprising. The whole story slant draws players in, wanting more than offered here, and although there was indeed more fed to eager gamers in SteamWorld Dig 2, it is hoped a future Heist 2 delves deeper into this thread.

To complement the adventure, the game even features full-length songs from a band called Steam Powered Giraffe, who released a new album to go along with the game's release, aptly titled Music from SteamWorld Heist (which you can listen to here). It certainly is a nice touch to stop off at Space Bars and see characters playing instruments in the background, not just silently, but with proper music kicking in, but it somewhat clashes with the general tone of the soundtrack at times. The unusual style continues with some of the story layout, though, as it seems Image & Form wanted to try out an alternative method of presentation, mixed in with the normal gorgeous hand-drawn characters and settings. Therefore, cut-scenes are voiced in an old fashioned "intro to a TV show" way, with comic-book visuals used to convey what is set to happen at the start of each main section. The rest of the missions have more of an ominous feel to them, which feels more natural, but it is understandable why a more light-hearted ambience was brought to the table, preventing the whole atmosphere from being too serious and, potentially, turning some players off.

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There is a lot to work through thanks to the inclusion of The Outsider DLC from the off, and with a wide array of difficulty settings, SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition makes itself accessible to all levels of gamers, but do be warned that some encounters can still be harder than expected even when played on the lowest, 'Casual,' setting. After all, most ships boarded feature alarm systems that countdown after each round of turns taken, and lead to more enemies swarming the vessel, along with gun turrets popping up, and even foes with special shields later into the journey. Tactics for what doors to open will start to come into play sometimes, as there will be a need to clear one deck before opening the floodgates for potential enemies to come charging through once disturbed and attention brought upon your team.

Gain more water, gather as much loot as possible from missions, keep your team rotating to ensure everyone gets some experience points on the board, stop by to purchase essential wares, and be sure to use a modicum of patience in battle, so as to not just get obliterated extremely quickly. Also, be sure to talk to crew mates back at the home base when they have exclamation marks above their heads, as they will sometimes have great snippets of back-story to share, something that could have been developed a bit more, to be honest, especially as some never actually develop, simply standing around the ship, looking into space. There is just so much to love about SteamWorld Heist, though, that it is hard to find many, if any, faults with it. Cubed3's review of the PS4 version picked up on some other matters that should be addressed in an eventual sequel (multiplayer support would be on the wish list, as well, actually), but for now, this Ultimate Edition on Switch is indeed aptly titled and an essential purchase.

Screenshot for SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition brings together everything that made the original release such a breath of fresh air in a crowded turn-based strategy field, and adds in all the post-release content to well and truly make this live up to its name. With perfect touch-screen controls throughout in handheld mode, added to the already excellent controller support from other iterations, this is easily one of the most accessible games in the genre, and definitely one of the most enjoyable on Nintendo Switch, full stop.


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 Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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