SteamWorld Build

SteamWorld Build

We've been uncovering alien technology and growing a town in The Station's strategy title.

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I can't put my finger on whether it's the Wild West theme, the robot population, the fact that the town's mayor is a child named Astrid, or that we're digging for alien technology that makes this unique. The Station has really worked hard to find an interesting setup and keep the player engaged. You could say that the title is divided into two components, one is a classic take on the genre not unlike The Settlers or Anno and the other is a Dungeon Keeper-inspired approach. Both of these interact with the narrative and together create an interesting whole. It exists in the same universe as any other title called SteamWorld.

It starts with you building your small town around an old abandoned mining town. By placing houses, roads and other necessities, you can grow the population. This allows you to upgrade residents to more specialised roles, with new skilled specialists allow you to develop the city even more. It is a must for your city to be able to access the most advanced buildings. An early example of this is that engineers are needed to repair the mine so you can start digging for technology. A lot of your time will be spent compensating for the loss of residents in specialist roles. When you upgrade a resident, it disappears from its existing category, you must then compensate by building more houses to regain the inhabitants, with these also having different needs to be kept happy.

SteamWorld Build
The new mayor is called Astrid.

If you want to upgrade the inhabitants, they need to be happy in their current situation. To do that, you need to build certain buildings which in turn need certain resources. Just like in The Settlers, it's not enough to build one building for one resource, rather you need several buildings in a row. If the town needs timber, you build both a sawmill and a building that cuts down trees, and you then need a building to store the resources near the work site. Setting up these chains is rarely difficult if you've played similar titles before, as you'll recognise them. The user interface makes it easy to find the buildings you need in the menus. They are categorised in a structured way and I never felt that I had to work against the user interface, and in my book, that's one of the most important things about a game.

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At your town there is always a railroad where trains pass regularly. Using it, you can buy and sell items. These can be used in buildings to increase production and other items of interest, with the artefacts you buy varying in function and price. I did not feel that they were a necessity for the success of my city.

The story gives you context for everything you do and it's both a little different and charming (you can turn it off in the main menu when you start a new map if you want). You're not controlling humans, but robots playing the Wild West, and they speak with an accent and use typical words we associate with that theme. Their whole worldview is one big stereotype of that time period and I thought it gave the robots a bit more humanity. If you've played any SteamWorld adventure before, you know exactly what to expect.

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The maps open up after time and you usually get a little more space to expand your city. In terms of size, it doesn't come close to Cities Skylines or the Anno series.

The most interesting part of the project is neither the story nor the construction above ground. I found that it was underground that the title really took off. Using a Dungeon Keeper-inspired approach, I built mine tunnels and dug for gold. You mark walls for your workers to mine, and by creating surfaces, you can build resting places for your miners, or other buildings. The underground is not always stable and collapses can happen, so to protect your workers, you can build pillars to strengthen the walls and reduce the risk of collapse. You have to be careful because not everything down there is just dirt and treasure, there are enemies and other dangers you need to protect yourself from. This means there are battles going on underground.

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I feel satisfied after digging my last mine. There is very little to complain about. Switching between the underground and your city is seamless. The graphics are pleasing and the layout is entertaining. You won't find an advanced city builder but a light-hearted narrative-driven experience with tight game mechanics. All the characters do a good job and the gameplay is simple but works. I don't even mind that the music is barely a factor. Sometimes that's enough for me, especially when what's on offer is otherwise good. While criticism can be made that you only get five maps, they are varied enough to keep you busy for at least 10-15 hours. They can range from dry prairie to an area full of dinosaur bones, and the maps are very quick to complete if you know what you're doing.

SteamWorld Build
When the residents are happy enough, you can upgrade them to a new class. They in turn have their needs to meet before you can upgrade these again.

Although it lacks the complexity you find in Anno or The Settlers, it stands on its own with a unique setting and well-crafted game mechanics. Although the music doesn't shine, it looks visually inviting and the humour is enjoyable, however, in its current state, it cannot offer the same replay value as its competitors. Still, it is a nice and well-made city builder. Should you get tired of the somewhat lean content, you have probably still got enough hours out of it. I can recommend it to those who are new to the genre or looking for something a little different, but you won't stay long if you're looking for complexity and challenge.

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07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
Great user interface. Easy to pick up. Polished. Fun layout. Great design and nice humour.
Lacks complexity. Low replay value. Only five maps.
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REVIEW. Written by Patrik Severin

We've been uncovering alien technology and growing a town in The Station's strategy title.

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