SteamWorld Build Review – A Charming City Builder

Another casual journey in the SteamWorld universe.

SteamWorld Build Review
Overall
3.5
  • Story And Setting
  • Gameplay
  • Visuals And Performance

Verdict

While not particularly challenging, SteamWorld Build is nonetheless a charming city-builder that you can kick back and relax with.

Pros

  • Streamlined City-Building
  • Strategic Town Development
  • Charming Visuals
  • Engaging Gameplay

Cons

  • Lackluster Story
  • Lack of Character Depth
  • No Challenge

SteamWorld Build is a city-building venture set in a mechanized world with a Wild West twist. Like all other games set in this universe, the developers have crafted a metallic frontier where steam-powered robots navigate urban development and subterranean mining. 

Key Takeaways
  • Developer: The Station
  • Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
  • Release Date: December 1, 2023
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
  • Game Length: 15 Hours
  • Time Played: 20 Hours
Editors Note: Our reviewer was already familiar with the SteamWorld franchise.

So let’s Join these robotic pioneers in their steampunk odyssey, where the line between engaging aesthetics and technical execution may not always hold firm.

Story And Setting

SteamWorld Build Review Story and Setting
Story And Setting. (Image By eXputer)

In customary SteamWorld fashion, Build forgoes a direct connection to its predecessors, opting instead for a standalone tale that attempts to contribute to the overarching series narrative. Players find themselves in the shoes of a group settling near an abandoned mine, guided by a mysterious robotic companion.

Its narrative setup echoes familiarity, aligning with past entries in the series, as it has frequent nods to established lore and a looming planetary threat. Despite its initially attractive setup, this game’s progression is hindered by its paper-thin plot.

One of the most glaring issues that bugged me is an almost nonexistent story. While this series hasn’t been known for deeply character-driven stories, each installment injected meaningful reasons for players to explore its steampunk universe.

The “why” behind settlers’ actions becomes inconsequential as the few cutscenes offer just enough exposition to serve as a means to an end.

Unfortunately, Build has taken a notable step backward in this regard. A lack of notable characters, compelling encounters, or imaginative events contributes to this void. The “why” behind settlers’ actions becomes inconsequential as the few cutscenes offer just enough exposition to serve as a means to an end.

SteamWorld Build’s setting, a combination of surface town and subterranean mines, provides an intriguing backdrop for storytelling potential. However, it falls short of capitalizing on these opportunities. Underground mines, with their potential for mystery and discovery, are underutilized throughout its run.

There’s a missed chance to delve into the past of these abandoned mines or introduce dynamic events that breathe life into them. but a lack of environmental storytelling and lore-rich elements leaves this world feeling underdeveloped.

SteamWorld Build Review Interesting Backdrop
Promising Backdrop (Image Captured By eXputer)

And the disconnect between gameplay and narrative becomes even more apparent as players progress through the campaign. The overarching objective of escaping this dying planet is clear, but an emotional investment in this journey is conspicuously absent.

SteamWorld Build’s setting, a combination of surface town and subterranean mines, provides an intriguing backdrop for storytelling potential.

This lack of notable events or memorable encounters within its story makes the plot merely a conduit for players to unlock new gameplay elements rather than a compelling tale that enriches a player’s experience. Overall, I found the plot to be the Achilles’ heel of an otherwise enjoyable gameplay experience.

A familiar setup and potential for an engaging account fall short due to a lack of character depth, and missed opportunities to leverage its setting. As I navigated through this delightful city-building and RTS hybrid, the narrative remained a backdrop rather than a driving force, leaving me with an unfulfilled desire more.

Gameplay

SteamWorld Review Gameplay
Gameplay( Image Credits: eXputer)

The core gameplay of SteamWorld Build revolves around city-building, and it excels in delivering a straightforward yet satisfying experience. Upon starting a new game, players choose a theme and name their town, kickstarting a journey from a humble train station to a bustling frontier settlement.

I liked that it employs an intuitive approach, guiding players through the construction of various structures to meet their resident Steambots’ needs. A much-needed inclusion of paved roads and other enhancements as the town evolves also adds a layer of strategic planning.

Another distinctive feature is the tiered structure of its residents. Beginning as basic workers, they gradually advance to engineers and scientists as the town achieves specific milestones. Each tier comes with its own set of needs and contributes differently to the town’s functionality.

I liked that it employs an intuitive approach, guiding players through the construction of various structures to meet their resident Steambots’ needs.

Managing this progression is crucial, as overbuilding or underbuilding can disrupt the delicate balance required for the town’s prosperity. SteamWorld Build masterfully introduces complexity over time, keeping one engaged in evolving their settlement.

Despite missing their full potential, underground mines are still a notable introduction. Here, players adopt an RTS-style approach, assigning tasks to miner, prospector, mechanic, and guard Steambots. These areas bring a refreshing contrast to the city-building activities on the surface.

Underground Mines
Underground Mines. (Image Captured By eXputer)

Balancing both environments’ needs becomes a captivating juggling act. Whether it’s fending off pests, harvesting resources, or building machines, I found myself enjoying the dynamic layer it added to the overall gameplay.

SteamWorld Build also excelled in presenting me with strategic decisions that impact the town’s growth. From proper placement of service buildings to creating an efficient road network, every choice affects the overall well-being of their settlement. Their implementation cleverly nudges players toward effective planning.

SteamWorld Build masterfully introduces complexity over time, keeping one engaged in evolving their settlement.

However, one notable aspect that bothered me was its overall lack of difficulty, which may leave players yearning for more. Throughout the game, there is no discernible way to lose, and success is primarily determined by how efficiently you progress through the campaign. 

Underground Base Defense
Underground Base Defense. (Image Credits: eXputer)

Difficulty does ramp up slightly near the end as new challenges and endgame scenarios are introduced that can somewhat elevate the tension, like how I had to mine specific relics for a rocket, coupled with timed events and the need to keep the highest-tier scientists content all at the same time.

Visuals And Performance

SteamWorld Review Visuals
Visuals. (Image By eXputer)

From the moment players embark on their city-building journey, the delightful and distinctive aesthetic of this game becomes immediately apparent. The steampunk-inspired world is brought to life with meticulous attention to detail, featuring charming robot residents and a Wild West-themed frontier town.

Each building exudes personality, from the giant sawmills to the chrome-plated saloon proprietors. Their visual design seamlessly blends the robotic elements with the rustic charm of the Wild West, creating a world that feels both familiar and fantastical.

Charming Building Designs
Charming Building Designs. (Image by eXputer)

Players are also introduced to five different maps, each set in an orange desert either during the day or night. While these environments may seem familiar, subtle variations and thematic elements are incorporated to distinguish each map.

Whether it’s old-timey movie drive-ins, Jurassic Park gates, or neon casino signs, these additions provide a touch of uniqueness to each setting. Grand Gully, with its Grand Canyon-esque gorge, stood out as the most ambitious to me, showcasing the game’s ability to create diverse and visually interesting landscapes.

Despite the diverse settings and thematic elements introduced in different maps, the game maintains visual cohesion and consistency throughout.

Despite the diverse settings and thematic elements introduced in different maps, the game maintains visual cohesion and consistency throughout. All buildings share a cohesive design language, contributing to the game’s overall aesthetics. This consistency in visual elements enhanced my sense of familiarity while exploring new maps.

From scurrying couriers to swaggering cowbots, every character is also animated with a delightful fluidity that adds life to the bustling streets. Even the mundane tasks, such as disappearing inside conveyor car washes, are executed with a whimsical flair. 

 
Underground snapshot
The underground is an entirely different world! (Image by eXputer)

Beyond its aesthetic charm, SteamWorld Build demonstrates technical solidity in its performance across various platforms. It maintains a consistent and smooth frame rate, ensuring a seamless experience for players.

Verdict

Charming Building Designs
Verdict. (Captured By: eXputer)

SteamWorld Build, with its distinctive blend of city-building, tower defense, and real-time strategy elements, offers an enjoyable and accessible experience. The streamlined mechanics and intuitive controls make it accessible for newcomers to the genre, while its charming visuals add personality to its world.

However, a lackluster story and rigid final objectives in the campaign contribute to a somewhat tedious experience, and the absence of significant challenges may disappoint players seeking more complexity.

Despite these drawbacks, the game’s core loop of managing a Steambot town and exploring underground mines provides moments of satisfaction, making it a worthwhile experience for those looking for a relaxed city-building adventure.

This has been our SteamWorld Build review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles. 

This is box title
Get This Game
You should get this game if you are looking for a relaxed and unique city-building experience.
Dont Get This Game
If you are looking for a hardcore base-builder where stakes are high, this game isn’t your cup of tea.
Do I Need To Get This Game
The game is accessible to newcomers to the genre, offering an easy simulation with user-friendly controls.
Alternative Games
  • SteamWorld Dig
  • SteamWorld Heist
  • Jurassic World Evolution
  • Frostpunk
  • Anno 1800
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Asad Ahmad is a Games Reviewer on eXputer who’s combined his passion for writing and gaming into a sweet blend of content for his audience to enjoy. He started off his gaming journey in the RTS genre but settled on RPGs like Skyrim as his go-to games. Asad has a substantial amount of writing experience in reviewing and writing for games, which is backed up by his extensive gaming library on Steam.

Experience: 2+ Years

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