SteamWorld Build Review: A Blend of Citybuilding and Dungeon Digging

SteamWorld build developed by The Station and published by Thunderful, this game presents a premise that sets it apart from the typical city-building experiences. Available on platforms like Steam, GOG, Epic Games Store, and Xbox Game Pass, SteamWorld Build offers a refreshing take on the genre.

SteamWorld Build Review: A Blend of Citybuilding and Dungeon Digging

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A decade after the success of SteamWorld Dig, Image & Form has reimagined its core ideas in SteamWorld Build.

The game tasks players with managing a rustbucket town on the surface while simultaneously exploring the depths of an abandoned mineshaft for treasure, resources, and rocket parts to escape a dying planet.

The juxtaposition of city management and underground exploration creates a dynamic rarely seen in city-building games.

SteamWorld Build stands out for its relaxed and easy-going gameplay. Unlike other city builders obsessed with profit and defense strategies, SteamWorld Build focuses on balancing the economy without pushing players into high-stakes scenarios.

The consequences of imbalance are minor, with angry robot faces appearing above houses being the extent of the repercussions.

This approach distinguishes SteamWorld Build in a genre often characterized by intense challenges. The game’s aesthetic charm is evident in its visuals and attention to detail.

The bustling streets of the robot-populated town are filled with animated characters, from scurrying couriers to cowbots.

Each building carries its own personality, with activities like giant sawmills tearing up logs and saloons with chrome-plated proprietors. The developers, The Station, have infused love and care into every detail.

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While SteamWorld Build offers five maps with different terrains, some players may find the lack of variety in these settings a drawback.

The different maps, the gameplay remains consistent, leading to a sense of familiarity. The buildings and milestones across maps are identical, impacting the game’s long-term appeal for seasoned city builders seeking more variety.

The true challenge and variety in SteamWorld Build lie beneath the surface. The randomly generated underground mine maps introduce an element of unpredictability to each playthrough.

The progression from the dusty rock layer to the cyber layer, encountering different threats along the way.

Balancing the workforce, resources, and defenses between the surface and underground layers becomes an aspect of gameplay.

The game introduces economic challenges tied to the happiness of the robot population. Staff shortages, influenced by residents’ happiness and needs, can create sudden shortfalls in workers.

The game’s approach to population dynamics, where the number of bots varies based on happiness and fulfillment of needs. Some players may find it frustrating when facing unexpected shortages.

SteamWorld Build incorporates safety nets to prevent complete failure, such as the ability to trade resources for cash and items or demolish buildings for partial refunds.

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The free move tool facilitates easy rearrangement of buildings, enhancing the game’s accessibility. While some may view these concessions as soft compared to more challenging city builders, they contribute to the game’s approachability.

The game’s pacing intensifies in the later stages, especially during rocket part excavation, where timed hordes pose threats.

Fending off attacks and managing multiple fronts adds a tower defense element to the gameplay. The connection between the surface and underground layers, with resources to both.

The sense of familiarity across maps and the lack of incentives to try different approaches may limit its staying power.

While the game offers items and randomized underground layers, it might lack the creative spark needed for engagement over time.

In a review by IGN, SteamWorld Build is commended for its original premise, marrying city-building with dungeon excavation in a frontier boomtown inhabited by retrofuturistic steam-powered robots.

The game’s simplicity and well-established visual palette contribute to its charm. The loop of expanding both above and below ground, recruiting various bot professions, and defending against threats adds to the overall enjoyment.

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