It is uncommon for Indie Gamer Team to look at the same game twice. It’s unprecedented for the same writer to give a game a second look here. I took a look at SteamWorld Quest once before. That look was unfair, and biased. Everything I wanted to hold myself higher than as a critic. I let it flood into that review. You may be familiar with Cathy’s ‘Second Chance with the Chick’ series of re-reviews. I felt this game deserved it’s second chance. So what do I think of SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech (Quest)?
Quest is the latest game in the beloved SteamWorld franchise. This game takes the form of a card based RPG. I don’t have much experience with the SteamWorld franchise, but I do have a decent understanding of how it works. Usually, games are split up into short runs for you to try again, and again. Quest is a fifteen hour, full-length adventure. It is also the first full RPG developer Image&Form has worked on!
The story starts with Armilly, a bot who just wants to be accepted as a knight! When Armilly and her friend Copernica return to their home village, they find a town set ablaze. Armilly decides to defeat those responsible for such misdoings, and save dozens, with many quirky characters you meet along the way. I want to refrain from any sort of story spoilers as I found it the most endearing part of Quest.
Even when gameplay had me at points of exhaustion, the story pushed me forward. The writing is simple, and the jokes overdone, but it has a charm that kept me going. I didn’t want to stop, and after a decent break, I was ready to finish the fight, and see how the story ended. SteamWorld is known for its world building, and joyful writing! Quest certainly keeps that bar in place, if not raising it higher!
Quest’s main gameplay revolves around a randomly drawn deck. You decide what goes into the deck, but not what order things are pulled. This random element really took me out of it. There were times in the late-game where I’d become entirely screwed. All because the game just decided to deal a bad hand at a bad time. With proper team management, and deck building, this should be avoidable right? Well that’s Quest’s biggest fault. I never felt the need to use more than the first three party members.
Each party member specializes in something different, think of it like Final Fantasy classes. The game wants you to experiment with different team builds. You have your basic attacker, a mage, a healer, an all around, and a black mage-like character. However, the base trio of party members has such a dominating force, that I got worse results when experimenting. Once I found a deck that worked, I steamrolled until I hit a wall. If I could make a suggestion, I would recommend enemies have more varied weaknesses. The first trio was enough to snap them all in one or two hits each.
Over time, it created something very fatiguing. I was just using a singular strategy for every basic enemy, and when I hit bosses, they usually fell quickly to the same exact strategy. When I would hit a boss that wasn’t weak to this strategy, it was basically a roll of the dice. I either felt overpowered, or underpowered throughout my entire playthrough. I got sick of it around five hours in.
Outside of battle, you can buy items in a traveling shop, or walk around exploring the chapter. The story implies that these worlds, and locations are right next to each-other, but the game splits them up in a way that broke my immersion (Editor’s Note: The game is presented as a book with each location being a new chapter, that’s why it’s not a seamless flow from place to place). You get a lot of freedom, but only in small areas. At times, it felt claustrophobic. When traversing the world you can find, and buy, new cards to use in battle.
In the end, I found exploration to be lacking in many ways. There were few puzzles, and they were all either stupidly simple, or a pain in the neck. I would’ve liked to see this aspect improved and expanded upon. It feels like an afterthought compared to the battle gameplay. That’s not to imply it felt terrible, but I would’ve much preferred a world like 2D Zelda than the levels we got, even if that world was gated during a chapter.
Quest has an amazing presentation. Graphics are simple, but ultimately very pretty. Music always felt perfect for the moment. Boss themes were epics that caught your attention, while forest traversal was much more ambient. Sound effects often got on my nerve in longer battles, but I suppose that would be unavoidable.
All in all, Quest is a very average package. Honestly, the fact it feels so average makes me dislike it more than if it was blatantly bad. The foundation is here for something great, but it doesn’t capitalize on anything to make it different. In my original review, I felt like I just needed to hate something. Unfortunately, this game became that something. I feel Quest is the weakest of Image&Form’s work. That does not mean I think it’s bad, Quest is painfully average. The IGT Seal is all about if I had fun. Unfortunately, this game bored more than it entertained. I’m glad I gave it the second chance it deserves, but it didn’t change my mind about its rating. Quest does not gain the IGT Seal.
A Switch review copy was provided by the developer
supiroguy has not awarded SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval