SteamWorld Heist II Shows Off Final Fantasy-Inspired Classes In A New Trailer

This strategy sequel just got more exciting.

I didn’t need much convincing that SteamWorld Heist II, a game about robot pirates battling an imperial navy on the high seas, would be worth checking out to begin with. As a fan of the original SteamWorld Heist, a sidescrolling turn-based strategy game released in 2015, just seeing the sequel’s reveal at Nintendo Indie World was enough to get me interested. Now that developer Image & Form has shared a trailer showing off some of the changes coming for part two, I’m even more confident that SteamWorld Heist II could be a bigger hit than its predecessor.

If there’s one big concern I have about SteamWorld Heist II, it’s that it could feel too similar to the first game to really grab me again. Just like Hades developer Supergiant Games, Image & Form has become one of the most fascinating indie studios around by jumping from genre to genre with each release. And with both Hades II and SteamWorld Heist II, there’s a chance that the second time around might fail to capture the same magic.

SteamWorld Heist II is shaping up to be one of this summer’s most exciting indie games.

After seeing some of the ways Image & Form is shaking up combat for the sequel, that fear is already dissipating. In a five-minute trailer dropped on Friday, game designer Robert Olsen runs through how SteamWorld II will handle character classes for your party of robo-pirates. As opposed to the first game, which locked each character into a single class, it seems the sequel is making character building far more flexible and fun.

This time, classes are tied to weapons rather than characters, meaning you can change a party member’s class just by changing the weapon they’re holding, much like Final Fantasy XIV’s job system. Characters will level up in whichever class they have equipped as they complete missions, but those skills don’t just go away when they switch weapons. The abilities that characters learn with each job will stick with them even when they swap, making it extremely easy to multi-class and develop custom builds for each character. Some examples, Olsen points out in the feature trailer are using the accuracy bonuses from the Sniper class to make the explosive-oriented Boomer more precise or boosting the Brawler’s speed with skills from the Flanker class. That again reminds me of some of Final Fantasy’s job-crafting mechanics — this time from Final Fantasy Tactics’ custom jobs — as well as similar systems in games like Bravely Default.

On top of making classes more flexible, it looks like Image & Form is getting more creative with their skills as well. That’s most evident in the Engineer role, which focuses on buffing allies while debuffing enemies. The Boomer class — which doles out explosives the way real-world Boomers dole out Facebook memes — also sound particularly crafty, with an ability that lets them set off remote detonators to get surprise attacks on enemies in cover.

SteamWorld Heist II’s custom classes look like they’ll enable some chaotic combinations on the battlefield.

Image & Form

The original SteamWorld Heist won me over nearly a decade ago with its clever turn-based combat that emphasizes ricochet shots and clever positioning. That seems to be completely intact for the sequel, but improved with new ways to make characters feel unique. Lining up shots and effectively using each character in your squad already felt like a satisfying puzzle in the first game, and the improvements coming to the sequel look like they’ll be adding even more twists to expand your range of options.

What’s more, the biggest change coming to SteamWorld Heist II is still yet to be shown off. Where the original didn’t feature any sort of exploration outside of battle stages, the sequel adds a world map to explore on your crew’s ship. Given how much thought has clearly gone into building on what made the first game’s combat system so good, I’m eager to see how this new map exploration layer fits into the game. As Olsen notes at the end of the trailer, the next preview coming down the line will focus on the game’s characters and story, and hopefully that will fill us in on some of the details of the wider world. Either way, SteamWorld Heist II’s clever customization systems should make it a game for strategy fans to keep an eye on when it launches this summer.

SteamWorld Heist II will be released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC on August 8.

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