SteamWorld Quest is the latest game in the SteamWorld series and just like the games that came before it, this game is in an entirely new genre. It’s cool to see the world that has been built in the last several games coming to life once again, albeit in an entirely new way. SteamWorld Quest is a role-playing with card based battle mechanics. While that doesn’t seem like it would work, it does and does so well.
I don’t want to get too much into the story of the game itself, but the game is filled with gold, dragons, vivid worlds, magic, knights in shining armor as well as XP, turn-based battles and all that good RPG stuff. The game is split into chapters and each of these chapters you control your character in a side scrolling world. The game uses the game mechanics of action RPGs in that battles aren’t randomly generated so you’ll physically run into enemies to start battles. In that way you can choose to dodge around enemies and avoid battles if you want.
Of course why would you want to do that? That’s the heart of the a role-playing game.
The meat of the game are the battles themselves. You can have up to three members in your party at one time and, as I said before, the game uses card-based mechanics in the battles. Each character can have a total number of eight cards in their deck and these cards are character specific, meaning that when you play a card you are also choosing which character is acting in battle. The only downside to this specificity is that, if your character is downed in battle, you’ll be unable to use their cards but they will still appear in your draw step. The solution to this is simple – don’t let your characters die.
You’ll play three cards total per turn during battles. You can either choose to play cards from each character individually or you can play three cards from the same character. Doing this creates a chain which will play a bonus fourth card in the turn, which is based on what weapon you have equipped. These bonus cards can do things like heal your party, give you an extra card to play in the next round, or unleash an added attack. There are also some cards which will combo between players, meaning that if you play some cards in a sequential order you can get an added boost.
Attackign cards that you can play can do physical damage or elemental damage. Each character that you encounter in the game has an affinity and a specialty for a specific element. So if you’re having a tough time in battles you can swap out one of your characters for another that may have the elemental advantage against a boss or series of enemies.
Cards can be found in chests around the world, be obtained as part of the flow of the story, and can also be crafted and upgraded by a travelling merchant. There’s some fun skill and satisfaction in building a deck which compliments another character and having them team up in battle.
Some cards in the deck cost points to play. In battles you charge up a “gear” meter by doing basic attacks. Some of the more powerful cards require that you spend these gears to use them. This forces you to make sure you have a good balance in your decks between basic attack cards to charge up this meter and strong effect cards to help propel you to victory.
Some people can be very wary of card-based battle systems especially with the randomness that it can throw at you, but SteamWorld Quest does a good job at keeping the system feel clunky.
At the beginning of the battle you get an opening hand of six cards. In each turn you’ll have the chance to discard and redraw up to two cards. (Some cards’ abilities let you increase this at times.) If you’re trying to pull off a three card combo or play a set sequence of cards for a boost this can give you a chance to do that. It’s helpful since it doesn’t leave the battles all to chance.
One thing that I appreciated in the game is that it gives you the option to grind. What does that mean? Well when you clear an area the enemies don’t immediately respawn and won’t do so unless you want them to. Each area has a special statue that you can click on to restore the health of your party for free. This will save you some healing items, but doing so will cause all of the defeated enemies to return to the area. It’s a nice trade off though as if you want to really level your character up you’ll need these battles, but if you want to get on with the story you don’t feel bogged down in endless battles.
The game also has a nice auto-save feature that kicks in when you transition between screens. This is a great asset when you’re taking the game with you in handheld mode.
SteamWorld Quest has an nonintrusive soundtrack that has the vibe of the fantasy world that it’s in but isn’t overpowering. The art style of the game mirrors that. It’s soft and stylized but isn’t in your face. All of the characters are robotic and the game is full of clever and funny references to that fact but it’s not over the top. The game has a lot of subtlety in both the gameplay and the style of the game.
One character is humorously named Gilgamech, a play on the fantasy character Gilgamesh.
SteamWorld Quest is a simple and clever card-based role-playing game. With small and simple decks to build the game keeps a good pace and doesn’t become bogged down in what could have been an over complicated deck system. You won’t be overwhelmed with building a deck to battle and it’s a fun game to play.