SteamWorld Heist 2 Could Be the Best Entry In An Underrated Indie Series

Robots on the high seas!

key art from SteamWorld Heist 2
Image & Form

The latest Nintendo Indie World showcase ended with an unexpected announcement about one of the most exciting indie sequels coming this year. No, not Silksong. No, not Hades II either. The show’s grand finale was the reveal of SteamWorld Heist II, a deep cut that likely confused plenty of viewers. But fans one of the most inventive indie game series currently running are thrilled.

For those not in the know, the original SteamWorld Heist launched in 2015 on Nintendo 3DS before being ported later to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. It’s a side-scrolling turn-based strategy shooter — about as rare of a combination of gaming genres as there is — starring a cast of colorful robots fighting bandits on a series of spaceships. Doing away with the percentage-based hit chances of games like XCOM, SteamWorld Heist requires players to precisely line up their shots to score a hit. Bullets bounce off the ships’ metal hulls, allowing for trick shots that ricochet through levels to avoid allies and hit enemies’ weak points even if they’re in cover. Each playable character can be upgraded and specialized to create your perfect robo-heist team.

SteamWorld Heist II got its surprise reveal at Nintendo Indie World.

SteamWorld Heist II takes the original shootout gameplay but reinvents basically everything else about the game. Instead of the void of space, SteamWorld Heist II takes place on the high seas, with a playable crew of robot buccaneers. And unlike in the original, where players simply selected new levels on a map and moved there automatically, this time the crew gets a pirate ship that can be controlled on the world map. That allows players to uncover secrets between battles and also fight other ships in naval combat.

Otherwise, SteamWorld Heist II looks like an evolution of what made the first game great. Its reveal trailer shows plenty of well-designed stages that enable tricky ricochet shots, with the robot crew battling against new enemies including undead pirates and steampunk mechs. It features a soundtrack by the band Steam Powered Giraffe, just like the original did, and the same distinct hand-drawn art style. Developer Image & Form is also adding a new job system to expand on SteamWorld Heist’s character customization.

SteamWorld Heist II trades the original’s space setting for steampunk pirate ships.

Image & Form

All that is great for current SteamWorld fans, but frankly just the fact that a new game is coming to the series is enough to get excited about. For anyone who’s so far been deprived of the series, now would be a great time to get caught up before the launch of Steamworld Heist II on August 8.

Image & Form started the SteamWorld series with SteamWorld Tower Defense on the Nintendo DSi, but it really took off with 2013’s SteamWorld Dig. Unlike the original’s tower defense gameplay, SteamWorld Dig challenged players to dig deep into the earth to excavate ore while battling enemies and buying upgrades to improve their character. Dig started the tradition of each SteamWorld game taking on a new genre and making a game so good you’d think they spent a decade of experience with it.

SteamWorld Heist II will be the second direct sequel in the series’ history. After the original SteamWorld Heist, Image & Form released SteamWorld Dig II, which is currently the developer’s highest-rated game according to Metacritic. If that’s any indication of what kind of improvement players can expect for the sequel to SteamWorld Heist, it has a good shot at being one of the best games of the year.

The SteamWorld series hops from genre to genre and nails it every time.

Image & Form

Despite the series jumping from genre to genre with each release, it’s built a solid identity by setting each game in the same universe and maintaining the same quirky sense of humor across releases. There’s absolutely no need to play previous games in the series to understand the latest one, but doing so gives you a better idea of what SteamWorld is all about and, just as excitingly, lets you watch how Image & Form takes lessons from each of its games to improve their vastly different successors.

SteamWorld Heist is my personal favorite game in the series, but even if it weren’t, a new SteamWorld game is always worth getting excited about. Just like Unicorn Overlord developer Vanillaware, Image & Form’s ability to reinvent itself over and over by genre-hopping with each game makes it one of the most impressive studios in gaming. In many ways, SteamWorld Heist II looks like its most ambitious project yet, and I can’t wait to set sail with its hopefully rust-proof crew of robotic swashbucklers this summer.

Steamworld Heist II will be released on PC and Nintendo Switch on August 8, 2024.

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