Image & Form Games have done great things with their SteamWorld games, with the two main Dig games being wonderful adventures, especially Dig 2 which I took a look at last year. So, when I saw their new release was going to a card based RPG, I was quietly confident that it would be another hit, even with my so-so history with card games.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, to give it its full title, takes place in a time before the Dig entries. Robots roam the lands, but this is a world of heroes, villains and a dusting of magic. You take your band of merry wannabe heroes on a quest to find out why your village has been overrun with nasty folk who have kidnapped the not so heroic Guild who had one job – protect the village.
As you start adventuring across a beautiful hand-drawn world, more heroes will join your quest through dungeons, magical forests and other well-crafted tropes of fantasy games. While some of the broader plot points might be more cliched than the fresh adventures of the Dig games, everything is delivered with the same wit and charm as we have come to expect from Image & Form.
Wit and charm are one thing, but some action and drama is needed to balance out the hijinks. This is where the cards come into play, every battle is fought with cards that you collect from treasure chests, earn from adventuring or craft at the magical shop that appears where needed.
Your characters fall into broad archetypes of warrior, healer, spellcaster and suchlike, with the abilities conferred by their cards complementing them accordingly. As you progress through the game, your understanding of how to use them develops accordingly. No longer will you just be throwing out card after card trying to inflict damage or heal your fellow heroes, you will see the intricacies of status effects and card combos coming to light.
Even if you are used to card battling games, I would suggest you start playing Quest on Easy mode, to start with at least. While working out your strategies, some of the early battles on Normal difficulty can be quite frustrating. Knocking the difficulty down a touch to get to grips with the mechanics and to develop your understanding the types of cards you want in your hand are sensible approaches to take.
There are some fun dynamics going on outside of the combat. Every now and again, as you explore the various Chapters and Acts, you will find a nice statue. Activate this, and your party will be restored to full health, a welcome reward after some hard battling. However, in the vein of Dark Souls, using this healing statue will lead to enemies in nearby areas re-spawning.
It isn’t all doom and gloom when it comes navigating your surroundings. When you see an enemy, you can land a pre-fight blow to inflict some damage, or if you are smart enough with your movement, you can even avoid some of the battles against inconsequential enemies. That won’t always be the best plan though, as when you come across the bosses, you will wish you had defeated the lesser foes to help you level up.
My one frustration is that some battles can drag on for quite a while. It isn’t too bad when fighting bosses as you always have to keep on your toes, but against the lesser enemies, it can turn into a bit of a grind.
That shouldn’t take away from what Image & Form have done here though. They’ve taken the beloved SteamWorld Dig games, and managed to both expand the universe, and introduce a new genre to their growing series.
If you own a Switch, then you really should own this.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available/Reviewed – Switch
Review based on review code. Please read this page for more on our scoring policy.