Space Cowbots

Time to scrap the Scrappers!

SteamWorld Heist is an incredibly enjoyable tactical RPG offering the same charming art direction and quirky personalities present in SteamWorld Dig, but a departure in mechanics, presenting an adventure through turn based combat in mission sized bites, which is just as fun as the prior instalment but definitely more challenging. It’s the sequel that isn’t a sequel, which builds on the story of the SteamWorld universe but doesn’t require any previous experience to be immediately playable. It’s actually surprisingly intuitive in every way.

There’s a simple complexity in many of the mechanics.

Such as the characters themselves. Each is unique and named, with some sharing classes, but few sharing bonuses, and each has a signature ability that defines their role in combat. Every character has the capability to fight, but support and healing abilities are evenly distributed to help you develop effective party compositions to meet the challenges you’ll face.

Besides their innate abilities, characters can be equipped with a weapon and two utility items to provide statistical bonuses and further improve their effectiveness in combat. Utility items cover all sorts of bonuses such as bolstering health, providing retaliation damage, increasing damage, restoring health, or even some quirkier options like improved jumping. There are some that are best suited to certain characters which provide bonuses that fit their signature ability. Weapons come in a variety of destructive flavours, with everything from your standard revolver to an incendiary cannon which wouldn’t be out of place in the Worms universe. They’re enjoyable to use, too. They also feature ridiculous trick shots.

I feel as though an ancient evil has been unearthed.

Unlike other tactical RPGs which rely on calculated percentages to determine a successful hit, these weapons require you to manually aim (often with sights) to land a hit which make them a little more skill based than you might expect. With this comes ridiculous ricochet angles that allow you to land nearly impossible shots. These mechanics and varying mission objectives prevent repetition and stagnation in later missions. You should always keep a few extra weapons on hand, though. Some are definitely better suited to certain missions than others.

Be sure to stock up on Storage Units when and where you can, too.

Those will be important for carrying all of the equipment you’ll need to explore Deep Space. Which is a scary place. It really is. Levelling your crew will also be crucial to your success, which is handled via standard missions or particular solo missions which are designed to help you farm experience. Not to mention loot. So it’s a fairly comfortable experience overall.

One of the greatest successes of this title is the flexibility in everything from difficulty settings to optional content. It’s rare to have such control over how, where, and when you’ll progress with the story or with the optional content. Unrestricted access back and forth through maps gives you the opportunity to level up, recruit companions, visit vendors, and more at your own pace. Without fear that it will be locked out when you move to the next portion of the story. It’s refreshing to have options. I’d best describe Steamworld Heist as memorable and enjoyable. Something that’s fun to play, with an interesting story, and a unique cast of characters which are equally useful in the myriad missions you’ll encounter.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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Interstellar Blues

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Rasputin.

Derelict, rusty, lacking in every way, and liable to fall apart before we reach the next space station. By the power of duct tape and holding our breath in zero gravity we shall prevail! Either that or we’ll suffocate. Imagine going into warp and seeing your rear engine float away tethered loosely by a strip of duct tape, realising you’re now tilting heavily on one side, and that if anything should hit the other engine you’re stranded in this harsh abyss. I wonder if we have some kind of suit to fix exterior errors. Or if we even know how.

Sweet baby lambs- the Rasputin is a floating death trap! I’m not a qualified anything!

Even my pilot license expired four years ago. That said, no-one has asked to see my license yet. Then again- no-one has asked to see anything- they’re usually too busy trying to pepper me with missiles or tear a hole in my hull with their lasers. It’s a good thing I installed those deflector shields. Else, I would be the space debris that I frequently crash into.

Rebel Galaxy is a relaxing space adventure that has provided quite a different experience than I was initially expecting. It’s quite tough, too. The above account is a literal description of the ship when we first get it- no deflector shields, no tractor beam, no secondary weapons, and an engine that barely runs. Not to mention the random events range from slightly annoying to absolutely brutal. Within seconds you’re descended upon by a dozen ships, each with better ordinance, and each with the capability to weave in and out of turret fire. However, this is one of the reasons that Rebel Galaxy is growing on me. There’s a lot at work which isn’t readily apparent when you’re getting this ol’ rustbucket from mission to mission.

We drove a long way for ice cubes.

We drove a long way for ice cubes.

There are also a lot of different ways to play it out. You can be friendly, you can resort to piracy, you can smuggle resources between stations, you can join guilds, or you can simply float around the universe doing who knows what. It’s definitely got a very laid back feel to the progression. Sure, there’s a story- but who has time for a story? There’s a distress beacon over here, a delivery over there, a small trade convoy carrying valuable cargo to the south, and a few stations between here and there. It’s quite the change of pace for me.

Which is the entire reason I decided to pick it up in the first place.

I wanted to do something a little different. RPGs and ARPGs have always been the two staples of my library, with many of my favourite titles, such as Chrono Trigger or the Final Fantasy series, falling into one of those categories. But I’m looking to add more staples to my library.

Staples, unlike glue, also tend to keep things held together. Glue usually degrades over time and things fall out all over the place. I can’t say that I’ll always enjoy the different titles I try, nor can I guarantee I’ll play them multiple times in different ways- but I value the experiences. Playing different things. Having to learn whole new sets of mechanics because you’ve never played something like this before. It also helps when I’m not in the mood to play a particular genre as now I have so many genres to choose from. In any case, we’ve had a lot of creative posts recently and I figured I’d do something a little different for those getting burned out looking at my scribbles.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Endless Space

You are now contractually obligated to populate the stars (efficiently)!

While the meat of the game is that of taking colony and scout ships across the galaxy looking for new star systems, new colonisation opportunities, or generally just to see what’s out there in hopes of finding the other player(s) there are several paths to victory to consider. You can win the game in a variety of ways including: a point victory, conquest via military power, achieving scientific excellence, diplomatic freedom, economic boon, and so on. These are things that you must always keep in the back of your mind as you can have as many as seven players with you. Either real players or AI controlled players (who thirst for blood).

Why is this so important? Well, the AI (and hopefully other players) will also be looking to achieve a victory of some kind.

There are so many things happening on this screen it's ridiculous.

There are so many things happening on this screen it’s ridiculous.

While it can be very relaxing to listen to ambient soundtrack and casually build your fleets of death, or research new technologies, you are on the clock as it were. There is little time to waste and with that comes the somewhat gruelling challenge and/or difficulty level to playing this kind of game for the first time. So, don’t feel too bad if you’re first shot goes awfully awry.

The bulk of your time will be spent colonising new worlds which is a two step process. The first is having a scout ship find the star system and the second is having a colony ship land, populate, and get the ball rolling. There are many different resources available in the game and some planets have better gains than others. There are also rare materials which can appear on planets (I do believe at random), as well as natural and unnatural anomalies which make some planets highly profitable or not so, and you have to think about the happiness of the population on each of your planets. Not every planet type is initially available at the beginning of a game so you’ll need to unlock some things through research to get that going on.

The four core resources are Food, Industry, Dust, and Science (FIDS for short). Food and Industry are star system wide while Science and Dust are empire wide.

What this means is that if a planet is producing a lot of Food (for population growth) or Industry (for building time reduction) it only affects that star system. While if a planet is producing good Dust (global currency) or Science (for research time reduction) it goes into the entire pool for the empire. So, rule of thumb, don’t produce more Food and Industry than you need and produce as much Dust and Science as you can. It takes a bit of time to get the hang of it but once you do you’ll be fine.

If you’re a fan of combat, as you really should be, as you never know what the other players will be doing, you can also spend some time outfitting ships with neat things.

Initially the number of ships you can have in a fleet, the variety of upgrades, and so on is all fairly small. But through research you can have many more ships and much more powerful upgrades as the game progresses. Therefore, regardless of strategy, research and use of Science is crucial. While all of your ships will have a Dust upkeep cost so that’s just as important. There is an awful lot to do with the fleets as well (such as assigning heroes) so that is a pretty big, encompassing, and viable strategy if you so wish.

Speaking of, heroes are individuals you can hire at different times in the game. I do believe that through military research you can get more in a shorter space of time. However, they’re not just for combat- they can be assigned to star systems as well. When covering a star system they have different benefits for you to invest in to those available when leading a fleet.

As you can probably tell the game is huge and has an incredible number of things to do. So, unfortunately, I can’t cover that all here- but I do recommend it. Highly.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie