SteamWorld Quest: The Hand of Gilgamech is the newest entry in Image & Form’s SteamWorld universe. Travel through a whimsical land filled with fantasy and steamboats, swords and magic, dragons and snoody guild members who have forgotten what it means to be a true hero. The combat is familiar turn-based RPG, much different to what Image & Form have ever done in the past. The implementation of cards adds an extra level of depth, but whether that layer is welcomed or not remains to be seen.
The card-based battle mechanic provides plenty of variety, keeping the battles from going stale (as can often be the case in turn-based RPGs). Each character has their own unique abilities, with each card forcing you to keep your wits about you and not just button mash your way through. Some stronger cards require steam combustion, which is built up from using basic attacks. To me, this seemed like a perfect way to keep the variety in check whilst not having to keep track of a tiresome MP gauge.
As you progress through the game, new party members are added to your party. These heroes bring with them new strengths and weaknesses, perfectly balancing the combat. On top of this, you are only allowed three party members fighting at any given time, and the party member(s) that aren’t currently fighting don’t receive XP to level up. Whilst this may seem frustrating at first, this is SteamWorld Quest’s way of encouraging the player to experiment with new abilities, keeping the gameplay fresh and interesting throughout the entire game.
Towards the latter chapters of the game, it’s one thing to say that a game gets difficult, that’s a given, but the frustration immediately jumps when a string of boss fights require specific cards. The preparation required before these boss fights are crucial to the player’s victory, but it becomes a matter of trial and error as it is impossible to know prior to engaging in the fight.
The plot itself carries an overtone of dark trickery, however it’s all taken in its stride with light tones that doesn’t seem to steer too heavy into the seriousness of it all.
The dialogue is charming and witty, just as you’d expect from an Image & Form game. We know how clever the dialogue can be in the SteamWorld games and the RPG nature of StreamWorld Quest allows for this aspect to come out in full swing.
The world design is where SteamWorld Quest tends to full short. Every aspect of moving around the world takes place like it would on a stage, with a backdrop and some room to move around on what may as well be a 2D plane. There are some objects that you can hack your sword at in order to find loot, but it certainly gets a little repetitive after a while. This choice can also make depth perception tricky when needing to strike at enemies to gain a pre-emptive strike in battle.
However with all that negativity said, the basic design layout does help to reinforce the card-based battle mechanics and story aspect, so I suppose it’s a case of beggars can’t be choosers.
Graphics / Art Direction
As is the theme of SteamWorld Quest, the game looks to have be torn out of a fairy tale picture book. Every scene pops with vibrant colour, making the entire game a joy to play through.
Oftentimes, you’ll notice steambots interacting with each other in the backgrounds, creating a much livelier feel to its presentation. For instance, seeing a couple having a romantic picnic in the background as you fight to save the world is oddly comforting.
Music / Sound Design
SteamWorld Quest’s soundtrack is as whimsical and charming as it’s visual presentation. Great RPGs are always accompanied by highly regarded soundtracks and SteamWorld Quest is no exception.
Just like in Image & Form’s previous games, the inaudible mutterings of the characters when they speak is delightfully charming. It appears to be a tactic that the developers are sticking with and it just works. Not once did I get tired of it during the game’s 15-20 hours.
Final Score: 76%
SteamWorld Quest is a whimsical RPG adventure that unfortunately falls victim to a lot of the genre’s old pitfalls. It’s a shame as the game’s presentation hits the mark on almost every turn. That isn’t to say that the gameplay isn’t fun and engaging, it absolutely is, however it puts a sour note when the cherry on top is slightly crooked.