Developed and Published By: Thunderful Category: Simulation, Strategy Release Date: 12.1.23 Price: $29.99 *Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of review.
Five years ago I played Steamworld Dig for the first time and I fell in love with the concept. I loved the gameplay and when I learned that Steamworld Build was going to be a similar concept AND a city building game, I knew that I had to try it out. The theme of the game is building a town so that your workers can dig up long lost technology that would allow you to escape the planet before it dies.
The first few hours will be complex as you learn the basics of how to design and build your town while also learning about things like citizen needs and trading. Once you get the hang of things, the game throws a wrench in your plans by revealing that in order to progress, you need to upgrade your workers into different types of workers. For example, you’re going to need a lot of engineers but upgrading the workers will require a lot of coal. Getting a lot of coal requires getting a lot of wood which requires your production building to be in a place that has lots of trees.
But things get further complicated because you also need wood to make logs which are just as important as coal so you need to balance out how much of your wood is getting converted to the type of material you need. If you have enough money and materials, you can fill up the entire map quickly but meeting all the game requirements has a steep learning that’s constantly changing. Once you unlock the mine, the digging aspect of the game begins to take center stage and you unlock new types of workers, resources, and gameplay mechanics.
I personally felt like the digging aspect was even more complex than the building because there were more details that you had to focus on. For example, before you can start a big digging operation you need to have workers quarters laid out and you need supports so that the mine doesn’t collapse. If you don’t set up supports and you see areas that are starting to crumble, you will hear a loud rumbling noise in the overworld that will annoy you non-stop until you put up supports. I accidently had my workers dig too far so some tiles that were crumbling were outside of the area that I could reach so I was stuck with the sound until I unlocked that area.
Doing specific things in the mine like building bridges or unlocking better tools also requires things that require your town to be bigger and better, so balancing the two areas is a huge aspect of the game. The mechanics for both are easy to learn but if you want to get far in the game or you want to build the best town possible, you’ll need a decent amount of both practice and patience.
The game also looks, sounds, and runs incredibly well on the Switch, which is something that I was a little worried about when I first started playing. I’ve played a lot of tycoon style games that ran poorly on the Switch so I’ve had a bit of skepticism at first. I love Cities Skylines but once you have built up a massive city, the Switch version starts to lag. The same thing happened with Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe. After playing Steamworld Build for a few hours, I had a massive town with lots of buildings and many workers running around but the game still ran fine.
From the sound aspect, the game is really good. I already mentioned the rumbling sound that the mine makes, which is pretty immersive and there’s some solid voice acting as well. Between the gameplay mechanics and the way the game runs, the final product is a game that offers lots of enjoyment. If you aren’t too keen on keeping up with the different mechanics and the learning curve, you can always play the sandbox mode and just get right into the game.
My only concern with the game was that it was very difficult to stockpile resources early on. After playing for a little more than an hour I had three districts across the map that were producing wood and coal so I was acquiring them pretty quickly. I would go into the mines to work on digging and support for only five or so minutes and when I would return I’d see that I had already reached the storage cap for those materials.
I was forced to spend them immediately on random upgrades and buildings if I wanted to produce more. Had I spent any more time in the mines, all that production would have gone to waste. I had to make sure that I would go back and spend these resources every five minutes. This became a pain during the first few hours when I would spend large chunks of time in the mines or planning out roads. When I unlocked paved roads the cap became a bigger issue because I finally had a better use for coal but I would constantly run out after laying down 60-100 tiles and then have to wait for more.
Steamworld Build is a really big game because you have three distinct gameplay aspects. The city building aspect itself is pretty big because of how spacious the map is and how many options there are to work with. If the game didn’t have other aspects, it would be pretty comparable to a small city building game. The second aspect is mining, which requires just as much planning and strategy. I would call this side of the game smaller in scope than the city building but with more complexity.
The third aspect is simply the story. There’s a decent amount of content and lore behind the town that you’re building in and the characters. Put the three aspects together and the end product is a game that has a ton of content. This doesn’t even include the fact that there’s five different map layouts and four difficulty levels for you to choose from. For a game that only costs $30, the amount of value and content that you get out of it is definitely worthwhile.