[Review] SteamWorld Build – An accessible city builder

Earlier this month, the SteamWorld Build was released. XBNL editors asked community member DM4S to take on this role. You can read his review here:

The SteamWorld franchise is an odd one, with the first part dating back to 2010. It started out as a tower defense game, but with 5 entries, it’s already entered more genres than editor Jeffrey can give an A for Forza games. So you could almost say the franchise is suffering from an identity crisis. But nothing is less true. Despite the many different genres that the series moves into, the games are highly regarded by media and fans alike. This is impressive to say the least. With the latest installment in the series, Swedish studio Image & Form once again ventures into new territory, this time with the management/city builder meets dungeon crawler genre as a starting point. You can read below whether they hit the mark this time too.

Rocket into space

In SteamWorld Build, your task is to build a busy mining village with an associated mine. Your first choice is whether you want to do this in a story-driven mode or a sandbox mode, where the goal in the former is to launch a large rocket with which you can escape the dying planet you’re on. You can complete this quest by finding the remaining parts in the caves below your village. But who or what left these parts there? And why? The answer to these questions becomes clearer towards the end. It’s not groundbreaking writing, but it’s a nice addition to the justification for building the rocket. So it’s a shame that every level offers the same story. I would have liked to see the story spread out a bit more across the five different maps, coming to a head in the final set level. This would have ensured that you had a reason to go through the different levels in story mode, which is not the case now. Now you can unlock a special building that gives you additional rewards in your next play session.

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Each game round starts with a train station, some money, and a pile of wood. Your first task is to make sure there are houses to house the workers, because without the workers your village will not grow to great proportions. Employees come in different shapes and sizes, such as workers, engineers, aristocrats, and scientists. Each class category has its own requirements that must be met. It’s natural for the working class to want to do manual labor, so you have to create various job opportunities, such as a lumberyard with an associated sawmill. On the other hand, the scientists’ class wants a research facility to show off their brains.

Of course, you realize that it is very important that you set up your village properly, because in order to promote your employees to the next level, you must make sure that you meet all their requirements. Buildings have a limited range they can support, fortunately the maps are spacious and you don’t have to worry about your buildings not connecting properly. It doesn’t sound very complicated and it’s not. If you still can’t figure it out, SteamWorld Build has an excellent tutorial that teaches you the tricks of the trade step-by-step. Before you know it, you’ll be building epic villages with a vibrant economy.

Miner

Once you have a well-functioning village, you will be given the option to renovate the mine shaft. Here begins the second part of the game. In the mines you will have to dig for different minerals, gas bubbles, oil fields, etc. Here too, it is important to find a good balance between different workers. They all need their own working space, but unlike the surface of the Earth, space is limited by some types of rock that cannot be extracted. So you have to choose the employee you need most.

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The mine consists of 4 depths and each layer presents different challenges. Locked doors, a deep abyss, and various enemies are among the obstacles you will face. Using towers you can protect yourself against these enemies and create a defense to protect your workers and rooms from enemy attacks. As you unlock more missile parts, enemies will attack you in larger numbers and more frequently.

Here I noticed that depth is lacking, as if you were playing a light version of Dungeon Keeper, a game that kept me entertained for hours of dungeon building. This brings me to one of the game’s drawbacks. Everything about it feels like a lightened-up version of the two genres it combines. For me as an ordinary city builder, this is not a problem, because even I am able to create a well-functioning economy. But for the seasoned veteran, this might be a bit easy.

Beautiful graphic style

Graphically, the game is nice looking. With a beautiful and colorful cartoon art style, the game knows how to captivate you, especially when you zoom in, the details appear clearly. However, if you zoom in and move around, it will create a kind of blurry effect around the focus point. This really bothered me because it was very annoying to watch. I also thought it was a shame that there were so few major differences between the two worlds. Aside from a few scenic objects, the worlds are almost identical. In my opinion, there should have been more difference here. As for the soundtrack, it could be short and sweet: it is more than excellent.

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Conclusion

SteamWorld Build has become an excellent game in my opinion. It is an easy game where you can create a well-functioning mining village in a short time. It might be a bit easy for the veterans among us, but novice city builders are sure to enjoy this for about 20 hours. It is therefore a shame that the story is so limited, because the playtime could have been extended.

Winton Frazier

 "Amateur web lover. Incurable travel nerd. Beer evangelist. Thinker. Internet expert. Explorer. Gamer."

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