SteamWorld Build review – relaxing fun with a cerebral edge

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There is nothing I like more than a game that I can curl up with and play while sipping a cup of tea. SteamWorld Build is just that – a relaxing game that requires critical thinking but not enough that it will ruin your fun. While this is my first SteamWorld game, I could easily see myself enjoying them based on this city builder. 

SteamWorld Build features a pretty simple plot about robots wanting to escape a dying planet and the terrors that lie beneath the surface of the planet as they try to make their dreams a reality. Over time, the colourful steambot characters create depth to the story while at the same time keeping things light and playful with witty banter.

SteamWorld Build review - player selecting engineer residence to see needs.
Captured by VideoGamer

Worker bots build the foundation of everything that you need to escape. With them I was able to progress, building engineers and expanding my civilization deep into the earth. In a place so cramped is where the game really starts to open up. SteamWorld Build is broken down very well to the point where everything is easy to understand. At first, you have workers. They lay the groundwork for your civilization and are the backbone of your society. Through them, you can start gathering materials and utilising the local landscape to your advantage by harvesting wood and creating planks. From there, you can upgrade your workers into engineers. These bots require more resources but they come with the return of being able to create more resources for you. 

After a while, the game becomes a bit too complicated for its own good. Engineers turn into Aristobots that require even more production and goods to satisfy their needs. After that, there are scientists and that is a whole other can of worms. 

There is a balance that must be struck between all of your workers and, if you don’t think ahead, you can easily screw up your city, forcing you to rebuild. I ran into this issue a few times and needed to rebuild my society by moving multiple buildings to really utilise the space I was given. 

More responsibility came when I delved into the mine. Here, the game opens up and becomes more strategic – requiring you to act in different ways than you would on the surface. While the surface is more structured and based on increasing societal roles, the mines focus more on collecting and developing resources – a nice shift from the hustle and bustle of city life on the surface that helps keep things interesting and not stagnant. 

SteamWorld Build review - robots digging up old technology in a dark mine.
Captured by VideoGamer

The mine is where disaster struck and I needed to save my workers from creepy crawlies coming up from the depths. It was here that I perilously built contraptions to fend off the encroaching threat in a way that felt reminiscent of tower defence games. Defending my little robot citizens made me feel the pressure and gave me a reason to escape this planet that wasn’t the arid landscape and lack of scenery of the surface world. The different weapons and upgrades made this defence portion strategic but not to the point where it felt overwhelming or I lost track of what I was doing. 

As you progress your society more upgrades unlock allowing you to more easily gather resources and fine-tune your steambot civilization with tools that make them work harder. During this time, the game becomes more difficult as you need to juggle at least three different levels of workers if you want your society to function correctly. 

In came the scientists and I began my look to the stars. The journey that led to this point was long and arduous but well worth the reward at the end. Seeing my city stand proud in the desert, knowing that I crafted everything and figured out the various connections that the buildings required to operate efficiently gave me a sense of accomplishment that few games do. 

Between all of my advancements, I hit different milestones that let me know my city was progressing the right way. As I learned the different mechanics such as the several buildings required to make a Gunsmith, the song and dance of societal crafting became easier. Soon, I nearly felt as though I had mastered it but that could have been easy mode talking. 

Steam World Build Review - top-down view of old west city with robots.
Captured by VideoGamer

As I mentioned, once you reach the level of aristocracy, things become a bit more difficult and that song and dance becomes much more laborious to maintain. While still doable, I wouldn’t recommend the game for anyone who doesn’t like to think five moves ahead so that their city doesn’t ultimately crumble or hit a severe roadblock. 

This city-building art project of a game feels more unique than others in the same genre. The funny and lovable characters have their own personalities that stand out as they tell a larger story that unfolds as you craft your town. The secrets that are hidden within the ground hold the key to a much bigger world than you might think. 

The colourful buildings mixed with the dusty landscape and design of the Old West made everything stand out and set it apart. No wonder SteamWorld titles have received praise for their art over the years.

While I had fun crafting my society and felt good when I finally hit a groove that worked for me, I felt there was needless complexity in the later part of the society building that might ultimately deter people. This could be remedied by either showing these advancements earlier in the game and giving players time to prepare or by simply planning a better society in the future. The more I dug into the earth, the more fun I had. I found myself wanting to explore deep within the mines and avoid my responsibilities on the surface so I could fight the vermin. 

About the Author

Aden Carter

Aden Carter is a guides writer for VideoGamer with a focus on action RPGs and adventure games. When he isn't busy writing, he is spinning tales with his friends at the local game shop.

A serene desert painting with a captivating sunset.

verdict

SteamWorld Build is a relaxing city-builder with a strong strategic edge. Whether it is crafting the Old West town of your dreams or mining deep into the earth to discover long-lost relics and technology, there is plenty that will keep your mind active while you think of a way to escape the dusty rock. Just make sure to think about your actions carefully.
8 Fun, engaging story with comedic characters In-depth city-building gameplay with tons of options for customization Interactive fights that make you feel pressured if you’re not prepared Too complex for those who don’t like to think 10 moves ahead Slow build-up that can feel like a bore