It Runs Out Of…

HIGH Elegant card system, lots of charm.

LOW Not enough depth, gets repetitive too soon.

WTF How does the little bird steer the body?

SteamWorld Quest is the latest in developer Image & Form’s shared universe series populated by autonomous robots. Like the other entries, it features common themes and imagery, but nearly every one is a reboot of sorts, essentially unconnected from the rest and offering new spins on genre, gameplay and ideas. We’ve already seen tower defense, 2D turn-based strategy and platforming action. This time, the team has crafted an RPG-style adventure with a card-based deckbuilding combat system. If nothing else, they gets props for never getting stale.  

The story in Quest is lightweight stuff — it begins with a group of heroes being kidnapped, and a rookie who’s been wanting to join their ranks gathering some friends to rescue them. It’s fine enough to get the gameplay rolling, but at no point should anyone come to Quest for the story. No, the meat of the game is the deckbuilding and turn-based combat, and it’s both elegant and clever.

Quest asks the player to put together a party of three characters and each one has eight cards equipped, which means the player will have access to 24 cards (total) when in a battle. This tight, reasonable number keeps things simple and while also giving flexibility in role and function.

For example, the froglike Galleo can function as a potent healer, but can also deal bruising amounts of physical damage. I didn’t find that mixing both functions worked well since focus and careful card selection is needed to get the most out of him (and of anyone, really) but with each team member having at least two roles, the mixing and matching in team composition is great, and Image & Form get a lot done with a small number of moving pieces.

Unfortunately, while the devs have nailed the elegance and approachability of the deckbuilding, SteamWorld Quest isn’t as strong in other areas, and it starts to feel repetitive and tiresome before the adventure is over.

The levels are bland-looking hallways and doors, and if I blinked, I couldn’t tell which way I should be going since one room is indistinguishable from another, and nothing eventful happens – they’re just a series of battles to get through before getting to the next series of battles without sidequests, puzzles, or anything significant to break up the combat.

While the characters are charming (the colorful visual design does a lot of the heavy lifting) there isn’t much to them apart from their cards. I was hoping for skill trees or other nuanced aspects that might add just a bit more depth to Quest. The simplicity is great, but it’s perhaps too simple and feels like it’s missing a layer or two.

Also, it’s not a major thing, but it was disappointing to see characters who are not in the active party earning less experience than those that are. That’s a bad habit that many RPGs have learned to avoid these days, and I was surprised to see it here, especially considering that it’s possible to play for long stretches without a reason to switch characters.

SteamWorld Quest is cute and colorful, I’m a fan of the developer and their IP, and the deckbuilding is a genuine strength deserving of praise – something this polished, restrained and approachable is a joy. On the other hand, the overall experience doesn’t offer enough variety or depth, and I struggled to stay engaged before even reaching the halfway point. I’d love to see an enhanced sequel, but the current iteration just runs out of… Well, you know.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Image & Form and published by Thunderful Games. It is currently available on Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. This game is utterly harmless. The violence is gore-free sword-whacking of robots, there’s no sexual content, and I have no idea what language the warning refers to. This one is safe for players of any age.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled, the subtitles are not adjustable, and there are no audio cues necessary for successful play. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Brad Gallaway
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