Archives by Day

July 2024

SteamWorld Heist II

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Thunderful
Developer: Thunderful
Release Date: Aug. 8, 2024


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Steamworld Heist II'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 26, 2024 @ 7:00 a.m. PDT

Join Captain Leeway and his ragtag crew as they uncover the enigmatic menace threatening the Great Sea.

Steamworld Heist is probably one of my favorite games. It's a dark horse, but it's an incredibly fun and breezy tactical game that is easy to pick up and play but difficult to master. The Steamworld series tends to go for new genres with every game rather than returning to the well, so I wasn't sure Heist would ever get a sequel. That's why it is such a delight to see the same great gameplay returning with a new cast of characters.

At its core, the combat in Steamworld Heist 2 is the same as the first game. The easiest way to describe it is a 2D XCOM. Your bots go into various missions where they have to complete objectives and take down enemies, all while moving from cover to cover. What separates it from XCOM is that all aiming is done manually. Rather than relying on RNG, you have to eyeball the shots, but certain weapons have aimlines that make them easier and more accurate. Most importantly, anything that is bullet-based can also perform trick shots, so you can have your sniper pull off a series of ricochets to headshot an enemy across the map.

In our preview build, we saw a few of the balance changes, almost all of which seem like big improvements. For example, snipers are now significantly more mobile. After they shoot, they have to spend one of their actions on reloading before they can shoot again. However, you can balance that by moving and reloading or reloading and firing in the same turn, which neatly solves the mobility issues from the first game. Almost everything has receive a nice upgrade. Tanks are tankier, mobile units are more mobile, and it generally feels like a strong upgrade to the original.

The biggest change from the first game is the new class system. Each weapon type is now divided into one of a handful of classes: boomer, brawler, engineer, flanker, sniper, reaper, and , which roughly corresponds to bazooka, melee, pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle and SMG. When equipped with a specific weapon, you'll gain experience in that class, which unlocks new skills for your characters. Snipers can unlock the ability to do a "perfect shot," which gives you 100% accuracy and a perfect aimline. Flanker can gain a bonus damage when shooting enemies from behind, and a boomer can make thrown grenades no longer deal friendly fire.

Aside from the innate abilities of the class, any skill you learn on one job can be transferred over to another. Take the aforementioned perfect shot skill. Stick that on a boomer, and you have a perfectly accurate bazooka capable of sniping across the map. The reaper's skill allows you to gain extra movement in every turn that you kill an enemy. That works wonderfully for a sniper, who can sit in the back, take down enemies, and use their newfound boosted movement to rush to a new position. While characters will be strong in a single class, it's clearly going to be important to balance different jobs.

On top of that, each character also has at least two unique skills to unlock. Daisy, the plucky sniper you start the game with, can unlock a stun gun that has two uses per stage, which is great to use on enemies who get in her face. However, that same skill can be brutal if you make her a flanker, since she can rush to deadly enemies and stun them. Dame Judy Wrench (yes, really) is a boomer who unlocks the ability to use harsh language to deal three unblockable damage to any enemy in view. Make her a sniper, and you have someone who can sit in the back and finish off any foe.

The other large change from Heist 1 is how the map screen works. The map is now a fully explorable ocean populated by islands, treasure, and enemies. To enter a stage, you have to find it on the map, and there are areas you can't access without upgrading your boat. The first upgrade was a speed boost that allowed the submarine-turned-ship to easily cross rapid rivers. At least one other is going to be an air tank that lets your ship submerge, but what that means in the long run has yet to be seen.

Combat is a different beast from the main combat in Heist 2. Your ship can equip weapons that target the side, front or back. Once you get in range of enemies, the weapons activate and fire automatically, but you must have your ship facing in the correct direction for them to target enemies. Enemies function the same way, with specific weapons that target specific areas; if you can get behind an enemy, you can wear down their HP. Once an enemy is defeated, they might leave treasure behind, but the most important thing you earn is safety.

Safety is important because your crew has limits. Your game is divided into days, and every day, you start with a fully repaired ship and a healthy crew. However, any crew you send on a mission is exhausted afterward and can't be deployed again that day. Likewise, your ship gradually takes damage from handling basic map enemies, and if you go down, you lose a bunch of resources. Fortunately, all of the resources can be easily recovered by going to a local tavern and taking a nap. If there's any sort of hard time limit in the game, it didn't appear in our preview build.

Why not just kip back and take a snooze after every mission? That's where the bounty system comes into play. At the end of each day, you're rewarded with bounty points to spend on rare items or resources. The more you do in a day, the more bounty points you earn. Every day, those bounty points are tallied up, and you can use them to buy things. The points aren't saved from day to day, so if you want high-end items and rewards, you'll need to plan out your "day" to hit the maximum number of levels using your limited crew. This also seems like it'll encourage rotating through your cast rather than sticking with one favorite — a genuine problem with Heist 1.

I came away from the preview build of Steamworld Heist 2 feeling incredibly pleased. Almost every change I encountered felt like it was for the best, with combat feeling smoother and more enjoyable than ever before. The new customization options allow for more diverse characters. The only thing I'm unsure about is the world map combat, which I'll need to play thoroughly before I can decide. If you enjoyed Steamworld Heist, it seems all but certain that the sequel will live up to the original. I can't wait to see the full game when it hits Aug. 8, 2024, for every console and the PC.

More articles about SteamWorld Heist II
blog comments powered by Disqus