In the latest entry to the SteamWorld franchise, SteamWorld Quest drops the cowboy hats and pickaxes in exchange for some wizard hats and swords. Image & Form once again take a stab at a new genre as they have with previous titles, and were able to nail what makes this franchise so cool again.
Quest is a turn-based RPG that has you drawing a hand of cards made up of your heroes’ abilities. A swing of your sword, a magic attack, or healing spell are all cards you can craft, find in chests, or earn as you play through the story. Each character has a deck of 8 cards they can bring into battle which dictates what role they’ll play. Some characters are set in stone, like Armilly the knight, who’s all about buffing herself and dealing powerful blows. But some characters you’ll meet as you progress, like Galleo and Orik, are a little more multi-use depending on what cards you put into your deck to bring into battle. Both have cards that can let them be more offensive fighters or more supportive allies with healing and buffing abilities.
Your team composition is important, as with any RPG, but the cards each character has at their disposal is just as important. Each turn you can play up to 3 cards, but the order you play those cards can quickly shift the tides of battle. If you play 3 cards from a single character’s deck, that activates their chain ability, giving them a fourth move on that turn. These moves are decided by what weapon the character has equipped, and can do anything from healing your entire party, or activating powerful finishing moves. Some characters also have combo cards that if you play after another party member’s card you’ll increase the damage or effect of that card once the hero uses it. Cards in your hand can be redrawn up to 2 times in a turn so it’s easy to set some of these up, but almost necessary as you progress into the later stages of the game. And this aspect of SteamWorld Quest is what made it feel really special to me. What felt like cool tricks I could pull out early on eventually became powerful tools at my disposal. Learning how to combo or chain cards became very satisfying as I progressed as it let me fell even the most challenging enemies with relative ease and a little bit of strategizing.
I found myself consistently engaged with the combat and finding fun deck combinations, but I found the overall story and some of the later game somewhat drawn out and repetitive. I completed the game in about 15 hours having missed a few collectibles and with not much else in terms of side quests you could probably complete everything in the 20-hour range. Some of the later chapters felt a little like filler as they didn’t progress much of the story. One in particular kind of just had you fighting bosses you already fought before just with a little more HP. It felt like a weird move since at this point you’re already on your way to take on your true final objective. So it kind of broke up the momentum for me as I headed towards the climax the game had been working towards.
SteamWorld Quest made for a really cool turn-based RPG experience in that it made it easy to experiment with its card-based combat. I always found myself trying to go off the beaten path to find more cards or equipment to mess around with. Even if I lost interest in the somewhat predictable story. I really was surprised by the unique and cool strategies I could implement that I haven’t seen in a lot of other RPG’s up till now. Its art and character designs are some of the best in the franchise but I found myself not super attached to any one character as they fit most archetypes you’d see in modern tales about a band of misfits trying to become heroes. I definitely came away more impressed with the combat and presentation of the game more so than its story and characters. But in terms of RPGs on switch this is a fun ride and not a major time commitment.
This game was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch system with a review code provided by the publisher