SteamWorld Heist and Zombie Vikings are two of 2015’s highly anticipated games. You may be familiar with their previous releases, SteamWorld Dig and Stick It to The Man! We are excited to share this action packed piece with you:
As I nervously approached the hotel, I took a deep breath and pinged the elevator to head to the 4th floor. I was greeted with gigantic SteamWorld Heist and Zombie Vikings banner stands and even friendlier hosts. During my one on one session, I was honored to get a demo and play with CEOs: Brjánn Sigurgeirsson of Image & Form and Klaus Lyngeled of Zoink Games.
While we settled in, Brjánn explained how the hotel had promised that they were going to provide a tv with an HDMI connector. After a long flight, Brjánn and Klaus learned that their request had not been fulfilled so the two CEOs were switched around to different rooms. In the end, they were able to acquire a large projection screen to showcase their games. And let me tell you, it was worth it.
We started with a demo of SteamWorld Heist that showcased its core gameplay mechanics. As a big fan of SteamWorld Dig, I had high expectations of Heist and was excitedly waiting to see what new content the team had developed. In this new game, Heist ties its players back into the SteamWorld universe by bringing back our trusty steambots and reintegrating the grungy, steampunk signature art style. A few hundred of years have passed and our cowbots are forced to flee to space after “The Earth Shattering Event.” Because the Earth we know it was destroyed, cowbots must battle against bad guys to acquire vital resources to stay alive.
SteamWorld Heist is a turn based, strategy game where your crew, the cowbots, explore and scavenge the remains of a destroyed world. You can also board enemy ships and engage with enemy steambots called Scrappers. In the Heist demo, we skipped to a battle scene aboard an enemy ship. You have a movement turn and a shooting turn for each character. The yellow dotted lines indicate the areas where you can move and shoot while the extended blue lines allow you additional movement spaces but forfeits your shooting turn. If a shield appears above the dotted lines, your cowbots will be able to take cover behind objects like barrels. But be careful where you hide as bullets can be shot through floors, gangways and will ricochet off of walls. Certain barrels can be shot at to make them explode, which makes for some explosive, space shattering scrap metal.
Captain Piper and Seabrass are under your command. You run around, shoot enemy Scrappers, pick up loot and open hatches to proceed to the next level of the ship. If you keep your cowbots together, it offers you the best chance of survival. It is easy to compare the game’s structure to XCom. For the crew members that don’t make it out alive, death comes at a steep cost. When Captain Piper perishes, your team is punished in a similar fashion to the penalty presented in SteamWorld Dig (you lose half your money if the main character dies). If any of your cowbot crew members meet their makers, you will need to recruit the same models again and re-upgrade them. Because of this, formulating strategies are important when being surrounded by imminent danger. Not only are your crew members lives on the line but your chances of survival are at stake.
Each gun varies with range and abilities. For example, if your cowbot is manned with an uzi, it is best to aim a bit lower since it has a bit of a kick. Captain Piper has a sight on her gun, which makes aiming a little less tricky. The best bit of advice came from Brjánn: “A good ole fashioned headshot is the best way to go.” I wondered if getting hit in the front or the back increased the attack damage but interestingly enough, it doesn’t. Fun fact: getting shot in the leg does less damage than getting shot in other parts of the body. During one stunt, I got within melee range and was able to pack some punches into a Scrapper. It felt pretty good to get into fistacuffs with some bad guys. Go Captain Piper!
The yellow bars displayed under each robot indicate their hit points and how much damage they can take. When you destroy a Scrapper, they collapse into tiny metal parts. Unfortunately, you cannot pick up these parts to upgrade your cowbots but you can pick up any fallen hats.
Hats are highly treasured and can be shot off of Scrappers to add to your inventory. With these new accessories, you can equip them onto your cowbots and make them feel pretty. Your cowbots’ hats can also be shot off, which only the original owner can pick up. To add these valuables to your collection, I had to avoid damaging the Scrapper as only the hat can be picked off. Wondering about this hat craze, Brjánn explained that robots are “crazy for hats, it’s like beards for dwarfs.”
As the game progressed, Brjánn advised me on locations to place my cowbots so they could avoid the most amount of damage and gave me tips on how to aim better at Scrappers. He gave me words of encouragement when I missed my mark and celebrated when I turned each Scrapper into dust. It’s great to see a CEO as passionate about their game as Brjánn does for SteamWorld Heist and his love for the game is quite apparent.
Towards the end, I carelessly moved my cowbots into perilous zones, which resulted in Captain Piper and my new uzi loving cowbot being put down. Ferociously charging into peril and wanting to exact revenge for his fallen comrades, Seabrass confronted the last Scrapper in a head to head face off and barely made it out alive with two hit points left. With his last bits of energy, he opened the final door and I was greeted with a congratulatory end of demo message.
As someone who was fortunate to play both Dig and Heist, you can find many similarities between the two games. For example, one of the Heist characters has the same voice as the boss in Dig, which is hilariously awesome. The darn tootin’ lasers make a comeback and you can shoot at them once they have unrolled. The familiar steambots robotic dialogue is present and it is easy to immerse yourself into both games.
And of course, there are many differences between the two games. In Heist, you have control over your main character and additional crew members while in Dig, you have your main character that interacts with other folks. In Heist, everyone takes turns to attack while in Dig, the enemies are always in perpetual motion. The futuristic tone plays a part in how the steambots dress whereas in Dig, your steambots have more of a Wild Wild West theme to them.
Heist is a very colorful and deep thinking game where the stakes run high and tensions mount. Unlike Dig, Heist is meant to be an intellectual, chess like game where each move brings you one step closer to success or failure. Although we weren’t able to cover any space progression, upgrades, etc, I am highly anticipating that these features will be just as amazing when the game is officially released. Thanks to Brjánn and his team, I was given a glimpse of SteamWorld Heist and I wanted more.
As the demo for Heist finished, we all geared up to play Zombie Vikings. Although Zoink Games’ previous game, Stick It to the Man! has a very different game play than Zombie Vikings, the team tried really hard to keep the same storytelling aspects and quirky voice acting that fans have come to love.
If I had to describe Zombie Vikings, it’s like Little Big Planet mixed with Super Mario Bros and oozes bits of a Nightmare Before Christmas played upon a sillier tone. Our main storytellers, Loki and Odin, are acting like brats while they argue about Valhalla. While the dispute between the two Norse gods escalate, Loki steals Odin’s only eye. Furious, Odin conjures several souls of well known warriors to retrieve his most valuable possession. Here, we are introduced to our four fine warriors: Seagurd, Caw-kaa, Gunborg and Hedgy.
Seagurd, who is played by the same actor that portrayed Ray in Stick It to the Man!, has a live squid in his stomach called Inky Pinky. Next, we have Caw-kaa who was raised by crows. Although she is able to speak crow, Klaus pointed out that she is unable to speak raven and that ‘they are very distinctive languages’. Third, we have Gunborg, a strong woman who is obsessed with ‘söccer’. When she was alive, she used to be part of a söccer team that threw gnomes at dragons. This is a sport that I could get into. Lastly, we have fearless Hedgy. No one really knows who he is and his background remains a mystery. Our spiritual guide, Wade, is also a zombie who helps navigate your boat to the next leg of your journey.
Each character has a unique story and each background carries a different set of ultimate abilities. Seagurd will unleash Inky Pinky who violently attacks anyone in its way. Gunborg will bulk up and explode at enemies but at the cost of losing some health. Caw-kaa can attack from the air and Hedgy spews up a non moving army of skeletons.
In this story brawling game, you can play with up to 4 players as you travel throughout the lands that connect to each zombie’s backstory. With each new level, you can choose which Zombie Viking you want to play with. You run around, collect loot, fight bad guys and toss people and objects across the screen.
You can pick up other players by balancing them on the top of your sword and it was entertaining to see everyone piled up on top of each other’s swords like the leaning tower of Pisa. When you’re done with giving free rides to your friends, you can toss your Zombie Viking friends and instead, pick up enemies. At one point, I picked up were these silly, plump looking chickens. They looked so adorable that I just wanted to take them home.
When a Zombie Viking dies, their heads separate from their bodies. You can either reattach it to the body or you can use the head as a weapon. The player who controls the severed head can vomit onto enemies, which, with these animations, make it far less disturbing and more of a hilariously spectacle. During our missions, Brjánn and Klaus were kind enough to resurrect me more times than I could count.
If you try to leave a friend behind, the game will not progress until all party members move forward. When your party members are close by, the camera zooms in. If everyone runs off in different directions, the game intelligently outlines each character so you could find yourself more easily. Because there were so many layers of art in the game, this little feature was greatly appreciated or my character would blend into the background.
If you stumble upon any treasure chests, you can pick up the dropped coins to spend at little shops that appear throughout the game. Some treasure chests dropped brains which increase your health. When I was told that I could either split the loot or steal it all for myself, everyone whined as I decided to hog all the treasure. Everyone for himself!
Odd and eccentric quests make the game highly entertaining. During one part, we got to play as a fused monster and only had control over certain parts of its body.
During another quest, we were asked by a blind old lady to escort her. If you hit her by mistake, she would attack you in retaliation because she couldn’t see who she was hitting.
Of all the death scenes, my favorite was when Brjánn’s character died and Klaus exclaimed that he was going to run around with Brjánn’s character’s head for a little while. Like a diabetic man on a sugar high, Klaus attacked enemies with the vomiting head sitting atop of his sword. When he had cleared the wave of enemies, Klaus expertly threw the head and it skillfully landed on the body.
We progressed to the end of the demo where I got a glimpse of one of the bosses. All I can say is that teamwork is highly encouraged and the boss is one ugly monster.
Coming down from all the excitement, I got to chat more with Klaus about the game. When I asked him about his inspiration for the humor in Zombie Vikings, he said that he and Andreas would brainstorm in a room to outline the basics of the story. When they had the background bits sketched out, they would bring in Zack to add language and personalities to each character. Because the formula used to execute Stick it to the Man! was so successful, the team wanted to create more adventure games for their audience. With such a talented CEO, Zoink Games will go very far and the team is lucky to have Klaus on board.
Alas, the demos were done and we parted amicably. I had quite the adventure hanging out with these two fantastic and down to earth game developers. For those of you interested in playing the games, SteamWorld Heist and Zombie Vikings are being released for 2015. As these studios have proven, not only do they have successful titles, they will keep on creating more amazing games that people of all ages will continue to enjoy.
If you want to learn more about these games, you can follow their Twitter accounts: @imageform and @zoinkgames or you can stop by their websites: SteamWorld Heist and Zombie Vikings. Thanks for stopping by and game on!