Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
I really like the Steamworld range of games. I played both Steamworld Dig games, Steamworld Heist and enjoyed them all massively. Even though they were very different games they both retained key gaming features I like. Simple yet deceptively deep gameplay, great artwork and I especially love the steampunk aesthetic. The games also have a trademark humour streak and never take themselves too seriously and I really like that. On to Steamworld Quest then, this time the game is a card-based, turn-based RPG. Just thinking about it gets me excited, let's dig in.
You control a ragtag group of robots on a great quest for justice. Your village has been burned down and the guild, who protect the town from danger are missing. Shockingly, it's up to you to sort it all this nonsense out. Embark on a quest with many zany characters, a vast variety of enemies and loot galore. Use your wits, tactical nouse and deck building abilities to vanquish an ancient foe and emerge victoriously.
Steamworld Quest, fortunately, retains the great comedy from the other games in this wacky universe. The robots interacting with each other is hilarious. Their blooping, wheezing and hissing when talking is great and some of the writing is superb. I laughed a lot, some of the storytelling and jokes are great and as I said before, I do like a game that does not take itself too seriously. It's a breath of fresh air and a real joy to experience.
Gameplay-wise Steamworld Quest acts as a standard RPG most of the time. The game is split up into chapters and each chapter has a map to explore. This map, dependant on the story has to be plodded through wisely, battling any enemies on the way and collecting resources and treasure. Hacking away at breakable environmental objects yields cash and scattered through the maps are merchants and various mysterious characters. Where the game shines though is when you are required to fight your adversaries.
The combat in Steamworld Quest is superb, I am not the biggest fan of turn based combat but now and again I really enjoy playing a game with this combat system. It gives you time to think about your actions and plan ahead strategically. Plus I can play while watching football and don't miss half the battle, or half of the match. The twist here is that the turn-based combat system is also a card-based battle system. I know, it's unique, I will definitely give it that.
Akin to games like Hearthstone and other popular card battlers, you have to build your deck effectively so when you end up in a scuffle you can vanquish your foes efficiently. You pick a deck for each of your 3 characters and when it's your turn you are dealt 6 of these cards at random. This in itself changes the turn-based combat system of old, adding a random factor into it and it makes your decisions even more vital. You really find out quickly what works and what doesn’t when you're in the heat of battle.
Each turn you get to play 3 cards, any 3 cards as long as you have the power to play them. Normal attacks are free and can be played at any time. Upgrade cards such as buffs and small special abilities are also usually free or at most, cost a very small amount of power. When playing these cards it builds up your power meter one cog at a time. When you have enough power you can play some of your more powerful cards, big specials and deadly attacks. It's all a game of power management, card management and trying to pull off combos to slice through your opponent's health.
There are other nuances to the battle system too to give you strategic leeway and various tactical options. You can recycle any 2 of your cards each turn unless you play a card that changes the rule. This means you can try to wriggle some sort of combo together and turn the battle in your favour. If you play 3 cards from the same character on your turn it activates a chain card, which is dependant on your equipped weapon. These chains are vital in battle and can at times be the difference in winning or losing the skirmish. You really have a lot to experiment with and can create a good team with decent chemistry to flatten your opponents.
Another key to being victorious is your deck building. You start with a modicum amount of cards which can be expanded by finding new cards in chests, new cards during the story of by crafting them. You craft the cards at the various merchants littered through each map, these cards cost gold and a certain amount of resources collected on your travels. As well as playing the correct cards in battle, a lot of the time the battle can be won by having a well built and balanced deck. I had a few battles, especially with new enemies, where I was unprepared and needed to rejig my deck accordingly. I returned to the battle with new cards and new setups and walked through it with ease.
Along with all this unique battling goodness, you do have some of the normal stuff you would expect too. You can take items instead of playing cards, such as healing items or revival serums. The attacks are played out in a specified order, vanquishing the enemies in the correct order can give you an advantage in the field. There are various elements in the game, par for the course in games like this. Fire, electricity, frost and other elements play their role. Some enemies are weaker to certain elements and you can use buffs and debuffs to raise or lower defences to said elements. Using the correct elements when attacking your enemies can make a real difference. Pick your cards wisely and use the correct tool for the correct job.
The whole battle system is about maximising your deck, making sound strategic choices and making sure you have the correct cards for every possible consequence. I really enjoyed this battle system a lot, there is a lot of space for customization and experimentation and a lot of different options to play with. I love the combo system, the chain system and combined with being able to recycle your cards gives you a lot of space to create tactical decisions that may win or lose you the battle.
The graphics, wow, this game really is stunning. The characters, scenery, enemies and everything within this amazing world are so beautiful. The animations, both when exploring and in battle are amazing. The whole look and aesthetic are both so good, I could not get enough of it. The enemies are all so varied, bright and expertly designed. The many varied environments are visually striking and so crisp and clear. I really cannot stress how gorgeous the art style in this game is. It really pops on the Nintendo Switch screen and was a delight to look at the whole time I played. Amazing.
The sound design is also great. The music, especially the battle theme is very well made. I still have the battle theme in my head as I am writing this review. The voice acting, well if you can call it voice acting, is also very well done. The robots make various beeps, bloops and wizzes instead of talking but everyone has there own voice and it really fits the steampunk style to the game and I really adored it. All the battle sounds, enemy sounds and sounds in the world were believable and all sounded very crisp.
The game performed flawlessly. No hiccups, no freezing, no bugs and no graphical or performance issues at all. I expected this though as I have never had an issue in any of the Steamworld games, I fully trust this developer in this regard and wholly expected a flawless performing game. That's what I got, it's excellent, a true testament to a great developer and their various testing teams.