Full Steam Ahead
The SteamWorld series has never been one for complacency. What once started as a tower defense franchise, transformed into a procedurally generated platformer, metamorphosed again into an XCOM-lite adventure, and changed once more into a Metroidvania adventure. This time, SteamWorld Quest wonderfully reinvents the franchise into a turn-based roleplaying card game that’s as fun as it is endearing.
SteamWorld Quest offers a story-driven adventure, leading a party of aspiring heros through their increasingly dangerous plunders. The story quickly introduces a hodgepodge of unique characters where some join your party, others provide the conflict, and a few simply build out the world. Throughout the adventure, I was happy to see the humor and whimsy of the SteamWorld franchise still in tact and continue to flourish.
Unlike the others in the series, SteamWorld Quest presents itself as a medieval-like world, full of strange creatures (both robotic and biological), knights, and magic. The hand drawn designs of each background, character, and action are artfully meticulous and offer a phenomenal job at blending the steampunk-vibe with the mystical-medieval-vibe. In typical fashion, the adventure starts off simple and graduates to a grandeur adventure that I certainly won’t spoil here. Though at times the dialogue can be a little hit-and-miss, I found myself engaged with the storyline and surprised by the powerful finale that ensues. There’s a clear beginning, middle, and end – presenting a much more encased and concluding story compared to other SteamWorld games.
In addition to the more story-focused adventure, SteamWorld Quest has a simple level-based exploration where players can find all the secret-goodies and chests in contained levels. Don’t worry, if you miss something, you’re able to explore the level again. However, SteamWorld Quest focuses the gameplay (and for good reason) on it’s card game battles. Each character in the party has an eight-card deck where each card represents an ability for that character. At the start of the battle, cards are all shuffled together and players are presented with six cards in their hand. During each turn, players can choose up to three cards to use, the enemy team also chooses their cards, and then all the action proceeds. If both sides are still standing, then another round begins and continues until one side is victorious.
In order to balance players just simply adding the most powerful cards, SteamWorld Quest layers the challenge with players building up a Steam Pressure gauge; a gradual buildup of power when certain cards are used. Balancing your decks to ensure there are enough gauge-filling cards and gauge-using cards is a fun trial-and-error loop that I kept toying with, even up to the final bosses. This, paired with upgrading your cards, buying new cards, and adjusting your weapon loadout to find the perfect combination shines as a tentpole to the game’s homage of the RPG genre.
I’m a sucker for card based games (shoutout to Lost Kingdoms), and SteamWorld Quest certainly excelled in this adventure. Each card is unique to the character and offers a myriad of variety. Some cards attack, others boost, some offer protection, while others could leave your team vulnerable. I absolutely love exploring the over 100 cards, figuring out which style of offense and defense works best for my play style as well as what would be best for specific enemies and bosses. Balancing the strengths and weakness, chaining status affiliations, and perfecting the best approach to my favorite cards continues to be enjoyable, even after the credits rolled. Even the attention to detail on the cards; some creative pop-culture references, beautiful drawings, and unique punch-outs on the bottom of each card just further justifies my love of them.
It is also worth noting that there are a slew of customizable options to assist players in how they want to play. From customizing buttons, adjusting how inputs are operated (hold button vs tap button), offering difficulty skews, and even the speed of actions – it’s very obvious that Image & Form Games wants to ensure that all players can play SteamWorld Quest the best way they can.
Pacing throughout this 15-hour journey was a bit inconsistent with varied length of levels and there is a surprising difficulty spike right at the end of the story. Despite these minor qualms, I continued the adventure to push towards the next battle and story beat, all the while enjoying the fantastic score and rock-inspired battle music.
The Verdict: 9.0 out of 10
SteamWorld Quest is an amazing adventure full of comical dialogue, engaging characters, and a stellar gameplay mechanics. Throughout this journey, I continue to find little details here and there that just give me a bit more to love about this game. If you’re a fan of SteamWorld, RPGs, or just amazing games, SteamWorld Quest is what you should be playing!
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with the code provided by the publisher. For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.