Since the inception of the SteamWorld universe, we’ve been treated to games across different genres, such as SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Quest. Thunderful now explores the City Building genre with SteamWorld Build, and I think it’s one that is worth a pickup for both casual and expert citybuilders alike.
Jumping into SteamWorld Build for the first time, you’ll be greeted by the Steambots players have come to be accustomed to, with Wild West charm that mixes in Steampunk design.
While the game launches with 5 different maps – the story remains the same between each, and you can skip it as you play the additional maps.
Your goal: build up a city, explore the 4 levels of mines below it, and launch the rocket to explore space. Sounds simple, right?
Progression on each map feels incredibly fluid, and the above-ground city building is simple, but offers complexity to use 100% of the map’s real estate. Grow a population of 4 different Steam Bots, each of which have different resource and amenity needs, and growing your city too fast can lead to overstretching.
The connection of roads, homes, and amenities is important to ensure you’re generating revenue to build more. SteamWorld Build does a great job of highlighting how the placement of a building will impact the area around it, hinting that you may need to place it elsewhere for maximum effect.
While you’re growing your city above, you’ll also be exploring 4 different mine levels below with your miners, engineers, prospectors, and guards.
Initially, there are 2 layers of the world – your city and layer 1 of the mines. As you expand your city and unlock new SteamBots, delving deeper into the layers of the mine unlocks new resources needed for the buildings above.
For me, this is where the game got incredibly engaging – switching between multiple layers and making sure that production above was running smoothly while my bots below continued to expand the mine kept me focused and reduce the amount of “idle time” a lot of citybuilders have.
While the first layer of mine is purely just mining and resource gathering, the deeper levels come with danger. Digging into the walls will spawn enemies, and the further out you expand in each layer, the more frequently your Guard Bots will have to defend.
While this sounds tedious to have to maintain, as you progress it DOES get easier, and you can automate a lot of what’s going on in the mines.
Here’s how it works: Miners will break down walls and expand your reach in each layer, and Prospectors can be used to automatically mine certain resources and take them back, while Engineers build and repair turrets, extractors, and other bots.
Once you delve deep enough, you’ll find a blueprint for Conveyor Belts, and you can completely automate the resource collection of your extractors, putting layers completely “on rails” while your guards and turrets handle any enemies!
Now, that’s the basics – build your city, mine deeper to collect resources, and defend your bots from attack. But there’s a bit more to this game than that!
The “Town Hall” of SteamWorld Build is the Train Station, which has a train coming to and from your city every few minutes, and it has a few benefits to the gameplay.
First, you can sell or trade resources via the Station, allowing you to swap items you’re abundant in for others you may need, or purely just money if you’re struggling to earn enough.
Second, every time the train returns you can purchase items that enhance buildings with faster production, additional revenue generation, and more. These items can be assigned to different buildings, allowing you to get more out of each one so you don’t have to keep building new resource creating buildings.
Now that we’ve gotten through the well-designed basics of the game, citybuilders can sometimes fall flat in replayability, so how does SteamWorld Build hold up?
In short – quite well. With multiple levels of difficulty (4 in total), you can replay each level in sandbox mode if you want to build a massive town, or take on “Difficult” which has much stricter resource management and even more enemies in the mines.
Completing each map on Casual or above also gives you a bonus building for subsequent replays, with bonuses like free roads and conveyor belts, or faster miners. This makes completing each map before tackling “Difficult” much more worthwhile.
On average, I beat each map in around 6-8 hours, so you’re looking at a good amount of time you can sink into the game, especially if you’re chasing achievements or future DLC adds more maps.
SteamWorld Build Review - The Verdict
SteamWorld Build is a citybuilder I’ve been excited for since it was announced, and after beating every map – I have to say I was not disappointed. With randomized mine maps, and the unlocking of buildings that speed up progression, tackling each map on Hard is absolutely in the cards.
The SteamWorld series continues to impress me title after title, and SteamWorld Build is no exception. If you’re a citybuilder noob or expert, this is a must pick up game as we close out 2023.
SteamWorld Build was reviewed on PC with a code from the developer over 33 hours of gameplay. All screenshots in this review were taken by the reviewer during gameplay.
- Good Map Variety & Difficulty Options
- Satisfying Gameplay Loop
- High Replayability
- Soundtrack and Design match what players expect from SteamWorld Games
- May disappoint players who want incredibly deep city builders