Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech Review – Nintendo Switch
June 29, 2019
Developed By: Image & Form
Published By: Thunderful Publishing
Reviewed By: Tyler Higgs
Thank you so much to Image & Form for providing a review code
The Steamworld series is really starting to move it’s way through different genres of games. What once started out as ‘Metroidvania” style platformer has evolved into a turn based strategy RPG and now a full fledged heroic RPG adventure. Now that I’ve own all the Steamworld series titles I’m happy to have the chance to review the most recent one in the series. Let’s see if the Steamworld series translate well into a more traditional RPG adventure.
Steamworld Quest is a story about three friends and what being a true hero is all about. Your adventure is told from the perspective of a history book being read aloud. This book tells the story of three hero’s Armilly, Copernica/Coco and Galleo. One day the group finds their village under attack from the Dark Lord and his Void army. The villages guild hero’s have been taken away and held captive by the army. Armilly has had a dream of one day being part of the guild and is willing to do anything to prove her worthiness. Armilly and Copernica convinces Galleo to come along with them to save the day, but they soon learn that was has happened to there village is a part of a plan that’s bigger than anything they could have ever imagined.
The story that is told here isn’t the greatest RPG story ever told. What this story does offer is a somewhat interesting narrative with charming and personable characters. As I went through the adventure I couldn’t help, but smile at the gangs quirky personalities. Armilly is so upbeat while Copernica is very focused and intuitive and Galleo is just so indifferent towards everything. You also get to meet up with other characters that join the party and while they’re with you for a little less time the developers did a great job at giving them their very own personalities as well. So while the story is a typical hero and villain style story with a few twists, the characters are enough to make up for it and make the whole journey genuinely enjoyable.
Steamworld Quest is a turn based RPG centered around card based mechanics. Every part of the game is broken up into 19 chapters. Every chapter is its own 2D with different sections to explore. Essentially, most chapters boil down to the same mechanics, fight through some battles, solve puzzles and fight the chapter’s boss. Some chapter’s actually only involve a boss fight or a sequence of fights and that’s it, so there’s no level to explore. There’s a nice balance between the chapters with levels and the ones that are only battles. Every chapters level is worth taking some time to explore, because there’s hidden treasure to be found in everyone. Enemies also appear on the map so you can actually choose to fight them instead of having a random encounter system.
The combat system in Steamworld Quest is an interesting mix up of traditional turn based mechanics with a card based attack system. There are 5 playable characters in Steamworld Quest, but you many only have 3 in your party at any given time. Every turn your party is given the ability to perform 3 attacks. These attacks are chosen from the hand that you’re dealt at the beginning of every fight with 2 more cards being pulled at the start of every turn. Luckily, if your hand is lacking some of the cards you needed, you have the option redraw two of the cards in your hand every turn. Cards are equipped in the start menu before every fight.
Your party members may each only have 8 cards equipped in their deck, adding up to a total of 24 cards. Each card has its own value assigned to it, that’s displayed in the top right corner. This value is represented by a cog and these cogs are essentially the mana bar for your whole team. There are some attacks that don’t take any cogs to use and these are your basic strike cards. You gain a cog for every strike or upgrade card you use.
While there are a huge variety of cards to obtain, all cards are essentially broken up into three categories, strike, upgrade and skill. Skill cards are the one’s that usually require cogs to be used, but are also some of the most powerful cards in your arsenal. Skill cards can be very powerful attacks, cause status effects, or used to heal teammates. Upgrade cards usually give stat bonuses or provide one of your characters some type of passive bonus.
It’s important to pay attention to how you’re choosing your 3 cards every turn. If you can match up 3 cards from the same hero it will trigger a heroic combo. A heroic combo allows a character to use a 4th card that is dependent on whichever weapon they’re carrying. For example, if I decide to use 3 of Armilly’s cards, it will trigger a heroic combo. Every weapon has a heroic combo card attached to it, so that card will also be activated this turn. Some cards also combo with other teammates forming a tag tam combo. That means if Galleo has a card that has a team combo with Copernica, then if I used Copernica’s card and then Galleo’s, Galleo’s will have an added bonus to it. It makes combat a bit more strategic and helps the player prioritize how they should use their cards.
Steamworld Quest’s combat system may vary a bit from the traditional formula, but it still holds many traditional components as well. Leveling up happens the same as any other turn based RPG where EXP is gained and a specific boost to one of your stats is given upon reaching that next level. The 5 main stats for every character are health, strength, magic, luck, and critical hit chance. Each of your characters will also have their own resistance to each element. A character cannot increase their resistance to elemental attacks from leveling up, but they can from equipping accessories
Similar to many other RPG’s before it Steamworld Quest offers a simplistic 3 item equipment system. Every character can equip one weapon and two accessories. Weapons mainly increase stats that contribute towards your damage output, which are magic and strength. Accessories on the other hand can provide many different bonuses such as stat boost, elemental resistance and status effect immunity.
While there are many cards to be found and bought every player is bound to find their personal favorite cards. If you haven’t found your favorite cards to use you can upgrade them to make them more powerful. In almost every chapter there’s a traveling shopkeeper who will let you not only buy items, but trade in materials to craft or upgrade new cards. These materials can mostly be found from defeating enemies and it takes quite a bit of material to upgrade them at later stages.
Steamworld Quest manages to slightly tweak the RPG formula and create something truly amazing with it. Each chapter is unique and enthralling, especially with your gang of lovable heroes. The card based mechanics that were molded into the turn based RPG style of game work fantastically together to create an absolutely solid experience.
My only true complaint with the gameplay is the extra characters that join your party. I was happy to see that even the characters that were out of combat received some EXP, but I felt like it wasn’t necessary to have other characters included. It was easy enough to just stick with 3 characters and not have to go back and forth to level everyone together. This is especially true, because the game’s difficulty is very fair so you don’t really need to grind at all unless you play on Legend mode. I appreciate the addition of these characters to the story, however I wish there would have been a good reason to actually train and use all of them.
The main extra I wanted to talk about here is the Colosseum that appears in the late game of Steamworld Quest. The Colosseum let’s you go and fight a number of battles in succession to win prizes and is very good for grinding. This was a really nice addition and while I myself didn’t complete it I feel that it would be very useful especially in hard mode for late game grinding.
I thought it was also important to mention that there’s an option to speed up combat by holding in the ZR button during the battle animations. I personally find quality of life additions like these very important and I was happy to see the developers at Image & Form add this.
Another point I will mention is the lack of side quests in Steamworld Quest. While I didn’t have a problem with this some RPG fans may be turned off by this.
If you loved the visual style of each of the other Steamworld series titles then you’ll most likely fall in love all over again with Steamworld Quest’s visual design. The world of Steamworld Quest is vibrant and radiating with colors. Each one of the enemies and characters look great and you can truly tell how much work was put into crafting the visuals. The environments in each chapter were engrossing and the level designs were really nice, but some felt like they could have been a bit more creative with. The soundtrack was great and only further bettered the games already stellar presentation.
I can happily report that I experienced absolutely no technical issues with Steamworld Quest. The frame rate held up well in both handheld and docked, and I experienced no bugs, glitches or crashes.
As far as I’m concerned Steamworld Quest is the best RPG of this year and the RPG that I’ve had the most fun with in quite some time. Between it’s likable heroes, solid gameplay, and beautiful visual design there’s not much Image & Form could have done to improve Steamworld Quest. A few level designs lacked a bit of the same creativity others had and I still don’t see a reason to use all 5 characters in your party, but these small issues are trivial in the grand scheme of things. I’m so excited to see where Image & Form goes next with the series, because I know wherever they decide to go, they’ll do a fantastic job. With all that being said Image & Form’s Steamworld Quest gets my personal first 9/10 rating since I began Switch Atlantic.
Combination of Turn Based & Card Based Mechanics Creates Solid RPG Action
An Abundance of Cards to Choose From to Create Unique Battle Strategies
Beautiful Visual Design
3 Difficulty Options
Ability to Speed Up Battles
A Perfect RPG for Newcomers and Veterans
Unnecessary to Take Time to Level Up More Than 3 Party Members
Some Level Designs Lacked The Same Creativity as Others