SteamWorld Build – PC Review

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Thanks to the publisher, Thunderful Publishing, we get a look at the next entry into the SteamWorld franchise. Created by the development team called The Station. They give SteamWorld a new approach with SteamWorld Build, a management sim coming in early December this year.

The planet’s dying, but not our hope

I enjoyed some of the previous games in the SteamWorld universe, for example, the SteamWorld Dig games and the turn-based game SteamWorld Heists. I’ve eagerly been waiting for SteamWorld Build since I enjoy a good Management game. If you’ve ever played any previous entries, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

A shot from the opening cinematic. There are large cliffs in the distance with the sun peering out from between the furthest and closest. the environment is a barren waste with various wrecks and ruins scattered around. One of the main structures seemed to be an oil rig.
I smell the start of a new journey.

Gameplay

SteamWorld Build starts off with our protagonists, Jack and Astrid Clutchsprocket. They are looking for a way off the planet. A core that journeys with them explains that Astrid has a unique ability to understand ancient technology and that it’s the key to the stars. Now, we can begin creating our town. Firstly, the player will have to make residential homes for workers to inhabit so that they can collect resources. 

A shot of my small town. the building my cursor is currently over is highlighted blue. There is Jack in the top right giving a brief explanation and a map just below.
The start of my small town.

Once you’ve made enough houses for your workers, you’ll need to collect additional resources for the town. Some buildings function better in specific areas, such as the foresters working in woodlands. Around the map are tumbleweed-like scraps that you can get small rewards from.

Mining & Minerals

Mining is another way to get essential resources in SteamWorld Build. Miners dig through dirt and rubble, and while you can upgrade their equipment to break through harder rocks, you will need other types of units to progress. Prospectors dig through tougher minerals such as scrap veins and Ironium veins. Mechanics build machines in the mines and repair broken-down units. Bodyguards are red units that defend others from bug-like enemies.

The shot is me building a conveyor belt so that the extractor I previously built can send resources to the surface.
Let’s get this operation moving more smoothly.

When trying to dig, squares appear. While blue means safe, red means the area is unstable, which means it’s dangerous and will cave in. Players must place a pillar near those red blocks to ensure the roof holds. Players also have to build underground structures to make mining quicker and safer. For example, the surveillance facility shows you what minerals are on the mine floor you’re on. It also allows you to scan further away for minerals you haven’t got access to. A workshop enables you to build extractors that gather resources faster, such as oil, dirty water and minerals. The armoury offers various defences against enemies. While mining, your goal is to find Rocket Pieces, and on each floor, you must find three coloured switches to open a gate that grants access to the next mining floor. When you find a Rocket piece, it takes time to unearth it. Until your units finish digging up the Rocket Piece, you’ll have to defend it from enemies that will attack you.

Upgrades, mods and the train station

As you progress in SteamWorld Build, you’ll eventually have to start upgrading your people. Once you have fulfilled all the Needs of your Workers, they can level up to an Engineer. Upgrading to Engineer will unlock new Needs and buildings for you to manage, such as the Cattle Ranch for food and the Saloon for entertainment. Only the homes of your Workers are upgradable. A steam vent is buildable later to help with production efficiency, and mods are also available before that.

This is a shot of me building a more complex structure. Below is the bar displaying all the boxes opened with the top bar being the final one. My town has grown a lot since I started. The left blue box displays the current Needs I have to fill before being able to upgrade that home.
Look how far we’ve come.

The train station in SteamWorld Build allows you to trade resources or money for various goods. It also sells three mods per visit for you to purchase from. These modifications can help improve the well-being of your town or provide bonuses to units while mining. Some of the perks buildings can use consist of more space for materials or faster production. The underground workers get faster mining speed or flamethrowers.

Graphics & Audio

Despite its dust and rusty setting, SteamWorld Build is brilliantly vibrant. The starting map has a beautifully highly saturated colour palette to bring out the sun-soaked desert hues. The buildings and bots are all very brightly coloured, with blues particularly standing out in the orange landscape. In dark areas, the soft glow around fluorescent fauna and neon lights draws your eyes to them.

Amongst the vibrant and cartoony colour palettes are equally bright and cartoony characters and overall design. The voice acting is fantastic, both well-executed and light-heartedly funny. Additionally, the art style of the character’s portraits made the dialogue scenes even more enjoyable. I love the resident’s silly walking animations as they navigate the city, and I find the robotic farm animals adorable. I also loved that Astrid is carrying around a toy of Rusty, the protagonist of SteamWorld Dig.

Longevity

There’s plenty to sink your teeth into in SteamWorld Build. Besides the campaign, there are multiple maps to try out and a sandbox mode for infinite management. To complete the story, it took me just over 8.5 hours. I believe there’s enough here that you can keep going and have fun until you feel satisfied with what you’ve done.

Final Thoughts

SteamWorld Build is an excellent addition to the franchise. The management isn’t too hard for you to learn and doesn’t go out of its way to become challenging. This is thanks to SteamWorld Build not punishing the player with endless tabs, unlike other management sims. The cast of characters’ voices and designs are delightful and well-made for the game. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. The story isn’t complex, which makes a nice change as I find too many games are trying to make their story too philosophical or so complicated that I end up looking at a wiki to grasp some understanding. 

The mining aspect of SteamWorld Build is where I spent most of my time, as it felt more engaging than the city-building. Building up small teams to drill and explore the depth below was great, and it reminded me of the Dungeon franchise. 

I highly recommend the game to anyone who is looking for simple management and is looking to try the franchise. I award SteamWorld Build the Thumb Culture Platinum Award.  

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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About Author

I've loved gaming ever since I was a kid. I always found myself diving into new games and getting lost in the many different worlds. I would say Ratchet & Clank 2 is my all time favourite game. I cannot wait to see what the future of gaming has in store.

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