SteamWorld Quest Review

It’s easy to get instantly charmed by the colorful fantasy world of SteamWorld Quest and the band of cheerful heroes you travel through. Their plight is simple and straightforward, making the adventure of confronting evil and sharpening your grip on the kingdom around you tasty without feeling overconfident. Beneath this capricious veneer, however, is a daunting strategy game that takes advantage of the smart way you take turns tackling card battles to create an evil complex system of decision making. This is our SteamWorld Quest Review.

SteamWorld Quest Review: About

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Classic Mac OS, Macintosh operating systems
  • Developer: Image & Form Games
  • Publisher: Image & Form Games, Thunderful Group, Thunderful Publishing
  • Release Date: 25 April 2019
  • Genre: Role-playing video game, Turn-based strategy, Deck-building game

Gameplay

In terms of gameplay, SteamWorld Quest bears no resemblance to the rest of the games in the series. This is primarily a turn-based strategy game, with a slight sprinkling of role-playing character classes to distinguish each of your five potential party members. Each character has a variety of movements that cause different types of damage and status effects on enemies. Fire attacks cause additional damage to enemies that cause frost; electrical attacks have the chance to stun enemies several times and poison them over time, causing recurring damage.

SteamWorld Quest Review

It’s easy to pick up and play, which helps SteamWorld Quest get you straight into battle without putting in a lot of effort. However, deciding what to do in combat is a little more complicated. It’s governed by a game of 24 cards, put together by your group of three, each of which can bring eight cards. In battle, new cards are drawn at every turn, while your deck is automatically reset once it runs out.

Cards representing the most elementary steps in your repertoire cost nothing to play and, in turn, reward you with cogs once they are placed on the field. These cogs act as a currency that you pay to play more powerful cards – one that causes more damage, attacks multiple enemies, or buffers your party with useful attributes – so you can consider when to hold back and when to go all-in. The process of building a card game that works together is as impressive as the battle itself.

You can powerfully combine several character-specific cards; for example, if you just play all three cards of a character, in turn, a bonus fourth move is automatically performed, which is determined by the weapon you choose to equip the character in question. Some cards will work better when used as a successor to a specific character’s card, increasing damage or adding a fourth bonus move. Your effectiveness in battle is then not just about the decks you build, but about all the ways you use the hands you’ve been dealt with efficiently.

All these options can feel overwhelming at first. Still, the restriction to just eight cards per Character condenses your choices to a level that balances their complexity without sacrificing their potential depth. Combat is accentuated by detailed character models that retain the signature SteamWorld look while also conveniently adapting to the new high-fantasy setting. The vibrant colors on each main character are also aptly used to inform you about what kind of skills they bring to the table.

Armilly’s red-hot knight outfit refers to her ferocious, fire-based attacks, while the yellow and rose petal adorned dress of a mysterious samurai flows with each of his fast-paced electric attacks. It’s handy to be able to tell this information at a glance, and every design looks excellent. Stylish and impressively detailed effects also make every combat encounter feel intense, although it has a turn-based rhythm.

Blistering fireballs explode in a blaze of red and orange glory on impact, and electrifying lightning strikes bounce furiously between enemies as they are swarmed into a static state. Some movements have repetitive effects, with damage numbers and blades lying on top of each other until the attack is over. These often resulted in the frame rate falling to a full crawl from time to time, however, and it was most prominent when the Switch ran in dock mode. It’s not common enough not to interfere with gameplay, but it’s a thorn in the side when it does emerge.

With so many combat options to play with and impressive backgrounds to accompany, it’s disappointing that SteamWorld Quest struggles to balance its difficulty. Each chapter – in small areas filled with tiny treasures to collect or groups of enemies to fight – contains more and more varied enemies to test your decks with. Despite their varying movesets and primary defenses, most regular encounters feel too comfortable, rarely forcing you to consider strategic changes to your built decks or active party members.

At one point, I was just changing out of curiosity and not out of necessity. This can deceive you into a false sense of security, and encourage you to focus on only some of the cards available for each character. This becomes problematic when SteamWorld Quest suddenly introduces discouraging and demanding battle scenarios while offering you few opportunities to correct bad choices from the past. These encounters mainly consist of the nightmarish boss battles of SteamWorld Quest.

They’re much more challenging than the enemies contaminating the areas around them, and act as unfair skill checks that ask you to understand your skills in a way you don’t have to elsewhere. As you can only save one saved game at a time, it’s impossible to go back a few hours and better prepare your game, trapping you in the decisions you’ve made and forcing you to quickly rotate through your available options until a combination (hopefully) works.

It’s also frustrating, as most of these bosses may feel like they’re breaking the rules of combat that all other enemies abide by. They can consistently perform powerful moves one after the other without imposing the same stringent demands on the resources you need, bombarding you with the damage you can’t effectively wrestle with. Since most of these encounters can be lengthy battles, it’s hard to build up the motivation to try again after a loss.

SteamWorld Quest Review: Conclusion

It’s hard to ignore the mistakes of Steamworld Quest review, especially when it transforms from a delightful romp through a light medieval kingdom to a grueling test against dishonest enemies. While most encounters don’t force you to play with new party configurations, building a sturdy deck of moves is still worthwhile when you see your ingenious experiments played out. Quest gives you a lot of complex combinations to play with, while also keeping things accessible enough not to feel daunting.

The uneven difficulty allows you to enjoy the otherwise capricious journey through this new and beautiful kingdom. However, it remains an admirably accessible kingdom, while still deep enough to experience the whole 20-hour adventure.

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Our Verdict

SteamWorld Quest is a daunting strategy game that takes advantage of the smart way you take turns tackling card battles to create an evil complex system of decision making.

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