Each game in the SteamWorld series has a very different feel. SteamWorld Dig is a Metroidvania style action exploration game. SteamWorld Heist is a strategy RPG. SteamWorld Quest is a turn based, deck building RPG. No matter the game, the setting is always in a world full of witty robots and gorgeous backdrops. Quest is no exception, but how does it differentiate itself from a genre full of quality stories and innovations?
SteamWorld Quest follows the story of a loosely connected team of adventurers. Through circumstances ranging from an army attacking a small village, discovering a partner locked up in a cage, and even befriending the duo of thieves who were once semi-evil, you assemble your team of heroes. An overarching story involving the mythical hero Gilgamech and an invading army drives the narrative forward, along with some subplots and character development thrown in for good measure. The overall story of SteamWorld Quest isn’t entirely unique. It feels like you’re treading on familiar terrain, only this time everyone is a robot instead of another race.
The real differentiating factor comes in the form of the battle system. I’ve said before on DownStab how I am a sucker for card based RPGs, and was I happy to hear this game was just that! Up to three party members can participate in battle, and each member brings with them a deck of 8 cards. These cards are all shuffled together at the start of each battle, and you’re dealt 6 at random. Each round you can use up to three cards to attack, cast spells, or otherwise interact with your team and the opponents. A character can only use the cards from their specific deck, and there is a bonus if you use all three cards in a round for one character. As you progress through the game, you’ll discover more cards, upgrade your existing cards, and rotate out characters and decks as necessary. Since the decks are relatively small, the management isn’t stressful and the synergy between characters and cards becomes apparent the more you play.
Visually SteamWorld Quest is a joy to look upon. The game itself is presented as a fairy tale, being narrated by someone reading out of a literal book of adventures. Whimsy and fantasy abound. The characters, enemies and backgrounds are all gorgeous. There are colorful towns and forests, dark dungeons and caves, and details drip from every corner. Something I didn’t notice until writing this review is the cards you use to attack have binary code on the bottom, denoting how the robotic characters execute each program! Something I’ve always enjoyed about the entire SteamWorld series is its sense of style, and Quest delivers as expected.
I played the game on the Nintendo Switch. The portability of this game is awesome, as it is quite easy to play in short spurts or longer sessions. Being an RPG it isn’t as fast paced as prior entries in the franchise, but it doesn’t have to be. You are able to take your time, plan your attacks, and execute the best round possible, something I greatly enjoy from a turn-based RPG. Though I don’t feel like Quest does anything particularly new for the genre, the mashup of several ideas all performing well together creates a game that is a real joy to play.
My only major complaint comes from the story. With past SteamWorld games, I feel like they all excel at one specific goal. Dig is all about exploration and adventure, and Heist is about strategy. This makes me think Quest must be about story, as it is implied this is a fairy tale being told to someone else, and the real driving force behind character motivation to keep going is story. It isn’t a bad story by any means, it just feels a bit cliche. There were a couple twists I could see coming from a mile away. Perhaps it is just my personal experience reading and playing lots of fantasy media, but the story left me wanting more.
SteamWorld Quest is a great game. It offers up a fun and engaging battle system combined with a gorgeous visual style. Though the story left me wanting more, it is hardly a reason to not play and enjoy this game. Quest has the same sort of charm and sense of humor that’s found in other games in the SteamWorld series. I am always down form more games in this series, and I am excited to see what the future holds for this indie franchise!