SteamWorld Build PC Review

SteamWorld Build could be one of the next best city sims on Steam.

By SkulD, Posted 27 Nov 2023

SteamWorld Build comes to us as the second title of developer The Station and is published by Thunderful Publishing. As The Station’s second title, you can tell they've taken time and emotional energy in the production of this mining builder adventure. It's clear to see they enjoy out-of-the-box concepts that have both an eye-catching aesthetic and complex mechanics. Mixing both city building and mine shaft defenses, SteamWorld Build could be one of the next best city sims on Steam.

The plot of this story centers around a family of robots settling in a city with the intention of mining out ancient equipment. Assisted by a strange robot that seems to be a master intelligence unit, your community is tasked with managing three levels of interest. First, there is a surface-level city which is connected to the railway. By expanding it and allowing your citizens to upgrade and become better, you can master the landscape around you. The second aspect is the construction of mining shafts that can dig deeper into the earth. Finally, you'll have to defend your mining assets in tower defense-style gameplay using machines and troops.

SteamWorld Build, PC, Review, Screenshot, Gameplay

All of this ties into the idea of getting to the bottom and acquiring the ancient technology of a lost civilization. Given a wild Western vibe with robots and saloons, you'll have access to some comical gameplay and a heart-filled story. Following a father and his daughter in their quest to reach the stars, the dialogue and characters are not only charming but a breath of fresh air. Because of this, SteamWorld Build could easily find itself as a child-friendly civilization or Dwarf Fortress. Being a game for all ages, SteamWorld Build is bound to leave an impression on everyone who gives it a chance.

Firstly, when starting up a game of SteamWorld Build, there are several world types you can choose from for different atmospheres. While these are mostly cosmetically inserted, they can give you a different vibe from the dusty Wild West. Some of these include worlds like Fossilized Bones, old movies, and many others for players to enjoy. This can really make a refreshing difference in replayability as each has a different set of aesthetics given to them. You will still be in a Wild West world but with slightly different backgrounds behind them.

As previously stated, SteamWorld Build is broken up into three different aspects of gameplay. The first will be city planning and population management, including building roadways and trade routes. This aspect of gameplay is most important in the grand theme of things as it attributes to your resources and what you're capable of. Populations in SteamWorld Build are made up of robots who can go from workers to aristocrats through a level of upgrading. You'll need to be careful about how you handle this aspect of the game, as you need a good mix of every population type for success. Additionally, you'll need to keep a good supply of stores and medical areas available for your people to stay happy and healthy.

SteamWorld Build, PC, Review, Screenshot, Gameplay

The second aspect of gameplay is mining company simulation. This is building more structures like mining quarters in order to dig further into the ground. In this way, you have more management, but it's more directed than what's on the surface. A good tip for this gameplay is to Make sure you have more than enough miners available before you go any deeper. Once you've hit the second level of the mine, you'll be introduced to the third aspect of SteamWorld Build’s gameplay.

Finally, the last aspect of gameplay for SteamWorld Build is combat, which acts as a tower defense game. Using your workshops and minor construction, you'll gain the capacity to build towers that can defend you from incoming creatures. You'll get ample warning of the attacks in order to prepare, but once you reach a certain point, you may encounter a hive. Tower Defense combat is automated, so once you've made a good parameter, you can watch your work pay off. However, you'll need to keep in mind that your towers are only capable of so much and can be broken. So, make sure to have multiple layers of defenses for optimal success.

All of these come together to create a competent little management game that's not only rewarding but entertaining to play. Like a lot of other titles, the intrinsic need to plan out your cities can both be the easiest and hardest part of your playthrough. Mixing this with charming character design and a world that actually makes you want to explore it, you have plenty to enjoy. Because of this, you could easily throw a few hours into SteamWorld Build and not have to worry about a hyper-stressful situation. Compared to games like Civilization or Factorium, the real work is in completing the story, not managing for success.

SteamWorld Build, PC, Review, Screenshot, Gameplay

In this way, SteamWorld Build attempts to become a more casual title that is more friendly for all ages. It's perfectly fine to add these levels of complexity to your games, like army management or competitors, but none of that exists here. SteamWorld Build attempts to give you a truly isolated experience where you can focus on objectives and how you'll succeed over the risk of another person. Widely, this goes through all of the different modes and maps, leaving you with a relaxing experience over a stressful one.

Combat mechanics are a great homage to some of the old city builders, where forces are more about defense than conquest. It's nice to see a game where you don't need to focus on aggressive combat because your guard towers will do the work. That being said, hopefully, in the future, they'll add more different types of enemies and towers that we can use or even digging scouts. The combat can come on suddenly despite the warning, so it would be nice to know if we should prepare for conflict or not. This is why you should always have a larger than needed number of miners when you descend deeper.

Instead of a traditional experience system, you'll need to keep your population happy and healthy through repair shops and stores. The more resources and trade you have available, the more access to higher-level stuff you'll get. Keep in mind that if you have too many of one kind of population or another, your total population won't be as effective. It's good to create districts or equal populations of different tasks needed. This way, you can keep all of the side buildings and construction projects nice and tidy. All three aspects of gameplay have this feature in mind, which allows you to upgrade populations with more resources.

SteamWorld Build, PC, Review, Screenshot, Gameplay

The best aspect of the progression system is the need to keep buildings and structures connected to roadways and the railway. You can't just build wherever you'd like, as a sense of urban planning is put into the game. Roads are an integral part of society, dictating where buildings can go and how they'll be supplied. You don't want your industrial sites like lumber yards far away from the roadway of the factory, or else they won't be supplied as often. Due to this, you'll really need to pay attention to what you do and how you're presenting your city structures in SteamWorld Build.

If I were to critique any aspect of SteamWorld Build’s experience system, it is that they should be more assertive on the need for diversity. From the playthroughs I've gone through, everything was all for immediate upgrades. The downside of this is that once you do this, you'll need to immediately expand to build new workers and engineers. It's a careful balance that could be better explained to the player. That being said, once you've figured this issue out, SteamWorld Build is a home run of a game!

To put it lightly, SteamWorld Build has a charming aesthetic that keeps the player entertained and calm. By no means is this a title that's trying to showcase itself as some kind of serious hard-core strategy builder. Instead, you are welcome to have fun, to enjoy the character design, and to put a smile on your face. Using cartoonish robot charm mixed with a wild western settler vibe, there's something for everyone. Harkening back to the idea that a game should be relaxing and fun, SteamWorld Build is a superior choice for the builder genre.

SteamWorld Build, PC, Review, Screenshot, Gameplay

Character design follows some of the most interesting choices for robots I've seen in a while, from an aristocrat robot that looks like a Southern gentleman to a trader who is made from a slot machine. Each of these fits well with the general flow of the game itself. Meanwhile, the basic decorations and structures have a charming atmosphere to them. Personally, one of my favorite aspects of the game was the ability to put a cat on a bench for no reason other than because it needed to be there. The charm reminds you of old Facebook games that come from the Flash era, with a better graphics overhaul and gameplay mechanic.

Music in SteamWorld Build is both well done and atmospheric to what you're doing. You'll be followed throughout the gameplay with a sense of wonder and inspiration, given their music. Beyond this, the voices and actors of SteamWorld Build are remarkably on point in their roles. It's easy to see that everyone who worked on the title enjoyed the story behind it and wanted to bring it to life. And in their work, the game really does feel like something to be proud of. Tearing through each level of the mines, the new characters you'll meet will have their own personalities and goals in mind. With the voices behind them, SteamWorld Build feels less machine and more alive.


Sound effects and combat will sound as futuristic and science fiction as the plot itself can employ. With clever use of creature noises and comic-friendly weaponry, you won't be treated to something as serious as something like Civilization or Tropico. Additionally, the language is toned down enough that every age can truly enjoy it, free of the vulgarities some titles include. Overall, SteamWorld Build has done a wonderful job with sound design and keeping their work well mixed with the atmosphere of the game. 

Michael VanDine
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Switch
Publisher(s): Thunderful Group, Thunderful Publishing
Developer(s): Thunderful Group, The Station
Genres: Simulation
Themes: Strategy, Base Building
Release Date: 2023-11-27

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