Don't Let the Cute Art Fool You: SteamWorld Quest is Hard (And Really Good)

Don't Let the Cute Art Fool You: SteamWorld Quest is Hard (And Really Good)

Image & Form returns with an extremely interesting RPG for Nintendo Switch.

Image & Form Games has been absolutely killing it lately. The surprisingly unheralded indie dev from Sweden is basically batting a thousand with its terrific SteamWorld series, which takes the light rumor of its robots and applies it to different genres. SteamWorld Quest is its latest effort, and I'm happy to say that it's looking every bit as strong as SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist.

Where SteamWorld Tower Defense, SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist were respectively a tower defense game, platformer and tactics game, SteamWorld Quest is a turn-based fantasy RPG. Like SteamWorld Heist, SteamWorld Quest looks quite simple at first, but its hidden depths are soon revealed through its complex deck-building mechanic. You will find yourself having to use all of the systems at your disposal to achieve victory. If you don't, you will be quickly defeated.

On that front, I felt like the representative from Thunderful Publishing, Image & Form's development partner, was trolling me a little when they dropped me into a boss fight near the middle of the game. Given a mostly offense-oriented deck to work with, I found my attacks repeatedly bouncing off the armor of my opponents while they rapidly ground down my HP with poison and other attrition effects. It felt like SteamWorld Quest's way of saying, "If you don't take the time to build up the right deck, you will be punished."

The basic gist of the gameplay is this. You get three characters per party, who are drawn from a much larger pool of characters recruited as the game progresses. These characters all have access to different cards, and you can choose from those cards to build up a deck that best exemplifies their role (mage, support, attacker, and so on).

In combat, you choose from up to three cards, which consist of attacks, buffs, and so forth. Regular attacks buid up a steam gauge, which is required to access more powerful attacks. If you use three cards from the same character, you get a unique ability that will either buff your party or do large amounts of damage to your opponents. Card draws are random, but you can reshuffle and draw up to two additional cards per round.

It's not all that complicated on paper; but in practice, the interlocking components offer a lot of interesting opportunities. Depending on which cards you choose, and how you choose to power them up, you can potentially fashion any number of interesting roles for individual party members. You will have to think had about your approach too, because attrition from even normal encounters is high, which makes brute forcing your way through even basic enounters pretty high.

Into this wonderful stew of interesting mechanics, Image & Form stirs in its trademark humor and high-quality art. SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist were both very nice looking games in HD, and SteamWorld Quest is no different. Characters like Armilly, a rather dumb but energetic warrior, all have distinctive designs that play off the fact that they're ramshackle robots, and personalities to match. Image & Form has perfected this approach over the course of multiple games now, and SteamWorld Quest looks like more of the same in that regard.

SteamWorld Quest features some complex deck-building mechanics. | Image & Form Games

With all that in mind, I'm very excited to play the final version of SteamWorld Quest. I was a massive fan of SteamWorld Heist when it came out, and the RPG genre seems like an incredible fit for a developer with such talent for intricate systems. At around 20 to 25 hours, it may come off as a little short to some, but there are plenty of amazing RPGs that clock in at that length. After all, Chrono Trigger was only about 20 hours long.

With only about a month to go before release, SteamWorld Quest is definitely on my radar, and it should be on yours as well. Look forward to my full review when it comes out on Switch on April 25. And Image & Form, if you're reading this, hurry up and make a sequel to SteamWorld Heist already. We all need more SteamWorld in our lives.

Disclosure: USG is owned by ReedPop, which also owns and operates PAX East.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

Read this next

Starting Screen | PAX East 2019 Wrap-Up: From Borderlands 3 to Cyber Shadow, It Was a Busy Weekend for Games

The USG team hit the showfloor of PAX East 2019 to bring you the latest and greatest in gaming.

Doom Designer John Romero Has Some Harsh Words for Looter Shooters

"The more weapons you throw in there, the more you're playing an inventory game."

The Artist Who Led Movie Sonic's Redesign Has a Long History With the Hedgehog

Tyson Hesse is no stranger to these blue quills and red kicks.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Patch is Trying to Address Your Thundering Footsteps

Also, Piccadilly should hopefully be less of a circus.

Disco Elysium Has Modding Now, So You Can Create Your Own Inner Demons

Be sure to check Nexus before your next visit to Revachol.

More Opinions

Death Stranding, Explained: Breaking Down the Complex Relationships, Mysteries, and Ending of Hideo Kojima's Sprawling Epic

There's a lot to unpack in Kojima Productions' Death Stranding. That hasn't stopped us from having a crack at it.

Axe of the Blood God: The Death Stranding Spoilercast is Here

Kat, Hirun, and Eric get together to talk about everything that happens in Kojima's confounding new blockbuster.

A Devolver Co-Founder Makes A Plea For Publishers To Rethink Predatory Microtransactions

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Devolver Digital co-founder Mike Wilson likens addictive titles to crystal meth.

More on Switch

Doom Designer John Romero Has Some Harsh Words for Looter Shooters

"The more weapons you throw in there, the more you're playing an inventory game."

The Artist Who Led Movie Sonic's Redesign Has a Long History With the Hedgehog

Tyson Hesse is no stranger to these blue quills and red kicks.

Nintendo Has No Plans to Reduce the Switch's Price Point

President Furukawa says they'd like to sell the Switch at its current price point for as long as possible.

Pokemon Devs Respond to #ThankYouGameFreak Hashtag: "Sending the Love Back at You"

Pokemon fans flooded Twitter with positivity, and it was super effective.

The Last Japanese Trailer for Pokemon Sword and Shield Keeps its Reveals Short and Sweet

Blink and you'll miss two more Pokemon Game Freak wants to show you ahead of release.

The Outer Worlds Companions List

This is our guide on all the Companions in The Outer Worlds, including how to find and unlock each one.

More Role Playing Games Games

Disco Elysium Has Modding Now, So You Can Create Your Own Inner Demons

Be sure to check Nexus before your next visit to Revachol.

Red Dead Online Legendary Bounty 12/11: How to Catch Red Ben Clempson

Here's how to catch Red Dead Online's notorious new train thief.

Pokemon Devs Respond to #ThankYouGameFreak Hashtag: "Sending the Love Back at You"

Pokemon fans flooded Twitter with positivity, and it was super effective.

How the "Last Living Soviet Video Game Developers" Recruited Chapo Trap House for Disco Elysium

ZA/UM Studio and Virgil Texas of Chapo Trap House tell us how they became comrades for a video game.