SteamWorld Build Review

I'm going deeper underground.
Steamworld Build

The end of the world is coming and there is only one hope of survival: getting off of it. That’s the premise of the city building and dungeon crawler hybrid SteamWorld Build. It is the latest entry to SteamWorld series, picking yet another new genre compared to previous entries, and challenging you to build a town that satisfies everyone’s needs while mining for resources and rocket parts to get off the planet.

You can pick from one of five maps to play on in SteamWorld Build, each changing the surface level on which you build up your bustling frontier town. The first thing you will need to do is get some workers by building some houses and a road to link them to a train station – in fact, everything you build needs to be connected to a road that leads back to the station.

Workers are the first group of citizens you unlock and they have quite simple demands. All they need are places like a general store, service station, and a cactus farm, while being provided work at a logger, lumbermill and charcoal factory. Those are your first main resources for your town. However, as the town grows, three more groups of citizens are gradually unlocked: engineers, aristocrats, and scientists.

The way to get these groups into your town is not as simple as just building them some houses. They’ll only come when their specific needs are met and the resources are available that can upgrade homes to the next group in turn. You’re effectively gentrifying your town from worker homes to engineer home, aristocrats and then scientists in turn. As each group is unlocked more buildings are unlocked that create new resources, as well as provide for the needs of the people. However, these buildings need raw materials to create resources, and those resources are found underground.

There are three underground levels in which you’ll have miners, prospectors, mechanics, and guards living and working. The top level is a safe zone, where you can establish a mine by knocking down walls and expanding. You can’t just leave your miners to dig away and go do something else. Instead, it is safer to monitor them and construct support pillars in the areas highlighted as they dig – if you don’t then mine collapses will occur and they will destroy your workers quarters and workshops, as well as crush your citizens.

As you expand and unlock more tech you can reach new areas of the mines, and improve efficiency. Mines have areas that have gaps but you can build bridges to cross them, and eventually you also get conveyor belts that can move items faster from an extractor to the mineshaft, making resources available faster on the surface. Eventually, instant transporters get unlocked meaning workers can be zapped from one point in the mine to another in seconds.

SteamWorld Build Mining

Mine collapses are not the only dangers. As you descend further down below, you will encounter nests of enemies. Nests cannot be destroyed, and enemies will attack on a regular basis. To counter this you will need guards and various turrets to hold the hordes back.

Everything ties back to the train station at the heart of your surface settlement. Every few minutes you can tap into it to trade for resources you might need, as well as buy bonuses to improve production, reduce the number of workers needed, equip guards with flamethrowers, and more.

SteamWorld Build has a satisfying gameplay loop as you expand your town, and delve further into the depths to harvest those much needed resource, but it is not quite perfect. For example, when you are looking to place extractors for resources you can press a button that will move the cursor to the nearest place such a machine can be place, but the same convenience does not apply to support pillars. After an attack there are normally areas that are suffering from falling rocks, and instead of being able to quickly move between these areas you are manually scrolling around looking for the areas that need a pillar. Not so bad in a small mine, but when you have expanded right to the edges it can be a frustrating time sink.

Additionally, while all of the pieces come together well the latter stages of a level can feel a bit dull especially once you have worked out how to repel attacks, which do not change much in pattern after the first ones. Once everything is ticking on the surface too with production, you are just waiting for everything to culminate into the final rocket launch.

Aesthetically, SteamWorld Build has a really nice look to it . The different maps have their own little landmarks and the buildings have fun designs that also show what they are at a glance. The different worker and miner groups have their own looks too, so you can see who is where. This is needed more in the mines than on the surface, as it helps to see where your miners are and where your guards are repelling enemies.

SteamWorld Build will scratch that itch of town builder and dungeon crawler alike. It's an easy game to pick up and play, gradually introducing each layer of society and underground mining at a steady pace. A few elements could be improved to help levels flow better, but overall it's a very good experience that digs up yet another new genre for the SteamWorld franchise.
  • A fun blend of city builds and mining
  • Has a nice visual aesthetic
  • A nice and steady pace and progression
  • Not much enemy variation
  • Can become a bit slow towards the endgame
  • A bit frustrating looking for where to place pillars manually
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From the heady days of the Mega Drive up until the modern day gaming has been my main hobby. I'll give almost any game a go.