SteamWorld Build Review: City Planning Meets Underground Adventures


It’s a rare delight to stumble upon a gem like “SteamWorld Build.” This latest offering from Thunderful, developed by The Station, is an intricate dance of city-building and dungeon crawling, set in a world where the whimsy of steampunk meets the grit of the Wild West. “SteamWorld Build” is an ambitious attempt to fuse two disparate gaming genres, and it does so with a flair that’s both commendable and, at times, slightly jarring.

The game sets its stage with a simple yet intriguing premise: a caravan of robots wandering a desert on a dying planet seeks to escape their doomed world. Guided by a robot with an uncanny ability to sense old-world technology and a sentient robotic eye, players embark on a journey to build a town capable of supporting this grand escape. This narrative backbone, though not deeply complex, provides just enough context to propel the game forward.

“SteamWorld Build” begins with the player choosing from several distinct maps, each presenting unique challenges and shaping the gameplay experience. The game cleverly incorporates elements from its predecessors – the “SteamWorld” series’ penchant for mining and exploration is evident here as players dig for resources to bolster their town’s growth. This mining mechanic doesn’t just serve as a nod to the series’ roots but stands as a pivotal aspect of the gameplay. The town above ground and the mines below are intricately connected, each relying on the other for resources and progression.

The game shines in its city-building aspects. Starting with basic worker domiciles and expanding to accommodate different citizen types, players strategically place buildings, ensuring they’re connected by roads and linked to the central train station. The progression from simple beginnings to more complex town planning is satisfying, though it’s not without its challenges. Maps can be restrictive, and resource management can become a meticulous task as player satisfaction must be 100% to upgrade workers. While functional, this aspect can sometimes test a player’s patience, especially when juggling the myriad needs of a growing population.

The underground mine, a stark contrast to the city above, introduces a different gameplay dynamic. Players build rooms for various types of workers and direct their actions, from mining resources to defending against threats. The mines are tiered, each level offering new challenges and resources, all critical to the town’s survival. The switch between managing the city and the mine can feel like toggling between two different games, adding a layer of intriguing and occasionally overwhelming complexity.

“SteamWorld Build’s” vibrant art style breathes life into the town’s bustling streets and the depths of the mines. Robots of various types scurry about, performing their tasks with a visually appealing charm. The attention to detail in the game’s graphics – from the animated buildings to the lively inhabitants – adds a layer of personality and engagement to the gameplay experience.

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However, the game has some design elements that feel undercooked, and the blend of city-building with dungeon crawling doesn’t always feel seamless. Certain progression requirements can seem arbitrary, and managing the balance between above-ground and underground activities can at times, feel more like a chore than a challenge. Yet, despite these hiccups, “SteamWorld Build” remains a strong contender in its genre, offering a unique experience that’s both familiar and new.

“SteamWorld Build” is a valiant effort to merge two gaming worlds into one cohesive experience. Its early hours are a delightful exploration into a well-executed city-building mechanic, complemented by engaging underground mining operations.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5.

SteamWorld Build is available for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series S/X on December 1st, 2023.

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  • Luis

    Wish I could watch these movies everyone else gets to see but I'm too busy playing games 24/7. Thanks Dad for the trust fund!

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