Steamworld Heist may be one of the last games to release in 2015, but it's also one of the best. Riding high on Metacritic it looks set to be the highest-scoring 3DS game of the year, and is throwing a spanner in the works of many overeager publication's "game of the year" lists.
We sat down with Brjann Sigurgeirsson, CEO at Image & Form, for a fireside chat that covers all things Steamworld from the game's music, gameplay and whether we will see multiplayer, amiibo, overwatch and DLC in the future - not to mention changes the game needed to get its PEGI 7 rating.
First we wanted to set the record straight about hats - do they have an effect in how well characters perform in the game? "They don't add to your firepower," reveals Sigurgeirsson. But on a meta-level, you should know the enemy robots are nervous when you walk into a room and have a huge collection of hats. It's like the notches on the guns from the wild west. But no, it isn't calculated. We experimented with that but it meant the game quickly became unbalanced."
The game has some unusual and music, with Steam Powered Giraffe providing the game's soundtrack. "They sing songs about existence as a steam-driven robot," explains Sigurgeirsson. "I got this idea that we could have a band of steam-driven robots who were humans masquerading as steam-driven robots. I cautiously asked if they wanted to do it and it turned out they were Steamworld Dig fans, so it was a match made in heaven."
The game doesn't include an overwatch or opportunity fire like we've seen in Code Name S.T.E.A.M. or X-COM. I ask Sigurgeirsson if this was a consideration. "That's a different mechanic. Either you have it or you don't. I like the honesty of 'here's my move, what's your move going to be?'. It's like chess — the most beautiful game in the world. You have to live with making mistakes that can lose everything. If you could save up your move with opportunity you can correct for being overly brave. You have to be true to yourself, I'm going in here now and I'm counting on making this shot. If I don't get a critical I will be in serious trouble."
The game also doesn't include multiplayer, something which Sigurgeirsson would dearly love to include, but it simply wasn't possible at this stage. "If I could donate my left arm for multi-player in heist I would seriously consider it," he says. "It lends itself well to it. We have it picture how it would work - versus rather than co-op. We've developed out own game engine so we would have to write it for scratch. This would take a good 6 months. Maybe a Kickstarter?"
Amiibo would be another popular addition to the game. "We have so many likeable characters that are plausible amiibo contenders," Sigurgeirsson says. "We discussed this possibility with Nintendo quite some time ago about doing an amiibo for Rusty from Steamworld Dig, but you have to licence the amiibo brand to do it yourself. I'm happy that Yacht Club games have paved the way for the rest of us."
Steamworld Heist is coming to other platforms, but is first and foremost on the 3DS. Sigurgeirsson says Image & Form started here because 3DS owners responded so positively to Steamworld Dig. "We were overwhelmed by the attention, response and kindness from the 3DS community with Steamworld Dig so very early on we decided that the next game would debut on the 3DS."
Finally, we spoke about the game's PEGI rating. It was provisionally PEGI 12 but now releases as 7. "There was one word in the game - 'bloody' - used in the context of something that is blood red," reveals Sigurgeirsson. "That upped the rating in terms of language for 12. We changed it around and resubmitted without the word and then it was PEGI 7. Which is nice, because it's robots and there's no blood in the game."