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SteamWorld Heist II Trailer Shows This Turn-Based Sequel Is About More Than Combat

There’s more to a pirate’s life than swinging sabers.

screenshot from SteamWorld Heist II
Image & Form

The cult hit SteamWorld series is getting a new entry this year, as we learned at a recent Nintendo Indie World. What’s more, it’s a direct sequel — only the second in developer Image & Form’s history — to the best game in the series’ cheery robot-filled world, in my opinion. SteamWorld Heist II looks like it will take the best parts of the original game and put an open-world twist on them, and a new trailer takes a deep dive into how that looks in action.

Like the first SteamWorld Heist, the upcoming sequel follows a crew of steam-powered pirate robots as they engage in turn-based tactical battles on a series of enemy ships. This time around, the game trades the vastness of space for the high seas as its setting, and it lets players loose in an explorable open world, rather than just hopping from battle to battle like in the original game.

SteamWorld Heist II’s new trailer offers an extended look at life on the high seas.

My biggest question after SteamWorld Heist II’s announcement was just how this more open-ended structure would change the game. SteamWorld Heist excels in the thick of combat, but in more peaceful moments, what would its world have to offer?

The answer, as a new gameplay trailer shows us, is a better sense of exploring a vibrant world and the opportunity to score some top-tier loot along the way. Narrated by art director Brandt Andrist, SteamWorld Heist II’s new trailer starts with a brief look at the crew’s upgradable ship before diving into a mission. To start a mission, you need to physically pilot your ship to the right location, but it’s not always as straightforward as that. The ship encounters an enemy vessel on the way and engages them in combat.

Ship-to-ship fights look pretty simple. Your crew automatically fires at enemies as long as the guns are pointed at them, and none of the ships shown in the trailer posed much of a threat. At least at this stage of the game, they seem to mostly exist to limit how long you can spend on the high seas each day — since each encounter will chip away at a bit of health — and offer another way to gather loot. It’s possible that these encounters get tougher later in the game, though, which could be a good way to encourage some of those ship upgrades that we saw at the beginning of the trailer.

An open sea offers more opportunity for adventure in SteamWorld Heist II.

Image & Form

The system reminds me of the wandering enemies on Unicorn Overlord’s world map, which you can defeat just by running into them as long as your party is strong enough. In both cases, the presence of strong enemies could keep you from getting into areas you’re not prepared for yet, while feeling like a more organic barrier than a simple invisible wall or having your path blocked by story progression.

Once you arrive at a mission site, you can choose how hard it will be on the fly, with a handy custom difficulty option that lets you adjust enemy damage, accuracy, and more. It’s a nice touch that looks like it will allow players to decide whether they want to go for maximum challenge or breeze through individual missions if they’re in a hurry. Missions can even be replayed if you want to ramp up the difficulty and go for extra loot after clearing it on a lower level.

Ship upgrades will let you explore the seas for longer.

Image & Form

Combat looks like a refined version of battles in the original SteamWorld Heist, which we’ve covered previously. One big change for the sequel is that not every stop along your way requires you to pull out your weapons. After showing one combat mission, the trailer follows the crew as they investigate an abandoned pirate outpost off the beaten path. There, they find a member of the game’s Navy faction unconvincingly covering up some illicit activity going down at the base, along with a tiny bit of treasure. But by exploring the area around the base, players can also discover another bigger cache of buried treasure. By opening up its world for exploration, SteamWorld Heist II could offer more of these opportunities to both expand on its story and give players a little bonus for their trouble.

To be honest, more SteamWorld is always a good thing in my opinion. I would have been pretty satisfied with just more of the same, but I’m glad to see that Image & Form is building on its previous work for SteamWorld Heist II. One of the studio’s signatures is the quirky sense of humor built into its games, and a wide-open environment to explore seems like a great venue to pack tons of personality into its upcoming game. It may not be the best-known game that players are currently waiting for, but SteamWorld Heist II may well be the most exciting indie game of the summer.

SteamWorld Heist II launches on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC on August 8.

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