SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Developed By: Image & Form
Published By: Thunderful Publishing
Category: Adventure, RPG
Release Date: April 25, 2019
The SteamWorld series has been one of my favorite series since its inception from developer Image & Form. It seems like they can do no wrong with the series, even changing up entire genres for every title released. Each game seems to be an improvement over the next and it’s a testament to the developer that every genre they try and tackle they succeed in making fun and enjoyable experiences that work surprisingly well. This is also the case in terms of SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech and Image & Form have yet again crafted a world worth exploring.
SteamWorld Quest takes place in a medieval setting where there is an evil dark lord sending his minions out around the world to destroy settlements. He also has been kidnapping guild heroes that were meant to protect the people. With towns being burned down and no heroes left, you take control of a group of misfit heroes who are tasked with taking matters into their own hands. As you go along your adventure you’ll gain new allies to join your mission and each one is unique with their own backstories and motives for joining in.
Each character often creates these humorous interactions even in serious moments and in true Image & Form fashion the writing was spot on. The narrative still feeds into the other SteamWorld games and I appreciated how they all interconnect in some way. The gameplay from game to game might be different, but the cleverness of the stories still present. Needless to say, I had a lot of fun being a part of this adventure and the writing continues to be solid.
This may be the most approachable, yet complex gameplay system in a SteamWorld game. You have to forget what you know from previous titles outside of their stories and lore because the gameplay is completely new. The main premise is SteamWorld Quest plays like a turn-based RPG, complete with dungeon exploring and an intuitive card based system.
You control your team of heroes that continuously grows in size as you continue on your adventure. The journey is perilous, but on your way you will encounter all types of different terrains from forests and snowy mountain peaks, to grand caverns. Each setting acts as a dungeon with new types of monsters to fight and puzzles to solve.
Much like may RPG’s, combat comes down to running into or attacking them on the field. The puzzles mainly focused on finding a missing item or activating a switch of sorts to get something opened. While I enjoyed the exploration aspects, it would have been more rewarding to have more events on the overworld, but it’s a small gripe nonetheless.
Where SteamWorld Quest truly shines is in its gameplay with its card mechanics. When entering a battle you’re presented with your deck at the bottom of the screen. Each card is tied to a specific character, with each color corresponding to one of the characters. Every character also has their own health stats and if one falls in battle, then their cards are cluttered until they can be revived.
Each card has a number on the upper left and this tells you how much gear pressure you need to activate them. Gear pressure is built up by using lower tier cards as they fill up the gauge at the top of the screen. This may sound complicated, but let me tell you, it’s a very fun system that is intuitive and free-form in execution. It ends up creating engaging strategy of packing on lower level cards so you can combo together more pressure to use higher level cards. Furthermore, using three cards from the same character creates a chain that unlocks bonus effects, such as a shielding effect or another attack.
This continues on with clever RPG mechanics due to having to craft these cards on your own. Using different materials and money that you gather from chests and battles, you can create brand new cards in shops to be added to your deck. It’s another part of SteamWorld Quest where you have to manage because each character can only have eight cards active at once. This means that you have to carefully manage each part of your deck to make sure you don’t end up with hands that only require high gear pressure.
SteamWorld Quest features a storybook presentation that really sells the imagery of everything being hand drawn in beautiful fashion. The environments are made up in multiple layers to add depth to the locations with things in the background being blurred and objects in the foreground in focus. The attention to detail is elaborated in how the characters and settings are drawn too. The combination of this artistic design, along with the subtle lighting effects really make this game stand out.
Along with the fantasy adventure setting is a soundtrack that wonderfully meshes well with the environments. Walking through the forests give off this warm feeling with calming flutes and lutes going well with the bright lights. Leisurely making your way through bright locations contrasts beautifully with the slower paced drum beat of being in a deep grotto. All of this mixes together to create something special and never became old to listen to, even after playing for 20+ hours.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech is another shining example of how great a developer Image & Form is. Being able to take vastly different genres and still somehow nail the SteamWorld take is a skill not many game creators can fulfill. The story adds a welcome layer of mythology to the series lore and the gameplay is presented very well with an addictive card-based system that is approachable, yet complex for many players. SteamWorld Quest comes highly recommended and is a definite must-play.
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