SteamWorld Build is complex, colourful, and captivating | Hands-on preview

by on May 29, 2023

The SteamWorld series has always managed to excite me regardless of the genre it’s tackling. Whether I was digging or heisting, I was having such a great time, and after spending a good chunk of time with SteamWorld Build, I can happily say that this is wonderful. The city-building elements are deep enough to provide a challenge, but they’re also accessible and straightforward enough that you won’t get lost, and then, well, then comes the dungeon-crawling.

Although this was only a preview, I still got to experience the pleasant flow of gameplay, both in the tasks at hand and the sheer number of options at my disposal. You need to welcome workers into the town and satisfy their needs to keep them happy. It’s a simple enough task at first, but as your city grows, providing access to water, a general store, and other essentials won’t be the only things they’ll need. Once you have your workers and have set up their residentials, they’ll need to be put to work.

To build, you need boards, and that’ll require you to set up a foresters to collect trees, then a lumbermill to turn them into boards. You’ll need access to a warehouse as well, so that you can store these materials. The various resources for you to harvest or manufacture grows as you reach certain milestones, and when you begin to mine, a whole new world of management opens up, but you’re given plenty of support through in-game tutorials and advice. Everything you build needs to be connected with paths to the railway station, as this acts as the central hub for all hustle and bustle, but also the ability to trade and buy certain perks like upgrading production by 80%.

You can spend your money, but items like rubies will be needed, and this will require you to dig into the mines of SteamWorld Build. Above ground, you begin to slowly improve the general flow and productivity of all resources like water, coal, and moonshine, and your responsibilities won’t just be to bring in workers but engineers, miners, prospectors, and more, all for various tasks both across the city and deep underground. You’ll end up building factories that can craft pickaxes and producing sheet metal, along with other things needed for your work going on in the mines.

I think it’s about time we got onto the other core part of SteamWorld Build’s gameplay. Once you finally get to dig underground, a whole new layer of responsibilities open up to you. It is here where you set up a miner’s quarter to them send out miners to dig and uncover precious materials, veins and ores, and most importantly, old parts of a rocket that’ll help you get off the planet. Gold nuggets and tools help the flow of production, but you’ll also be able to build factories above ground that mass produce tools. There’s a lot to get your head around, but the more you stick at it, the more satisfying the flow of gameplay becomes.

You’ll be able to craft contraptions that can harvest iron and other metals, build radars that scan underground and show you where all the good stuff is, get mechanics to craft these important structures, and lay down speed traps so that workers can move around faster. Bridges can also be built to allow access to previously unreachable areas, but unless you construct pillars, the entire mining operation can collapse due to the unsecure foundations that excessive digging can create.

With so much to manage, there’s a chance it can get a little confusing, but the admin menu allows you to see what is being produced as well as the demand for it. This way, it’s easy to see where your focus needs to lie and how you can quickly get back on track. SteamWorld Build can also be paused so that you’ll have time to take a step back and work out what your next step will be. It has such a satisfying pace to it, and despite there being a lot to factor in, you’ll have the time to get things right and enjoy the process, too.

One thing I love about SteamWorld Build is how gorgeous it looks. The familiar art style of the series is present in every little detail, and the colour is so bright and eye-catching that everywhere you look there’s something to love. The characters are beautifully designed, as is the city itself, especially when you expand it into a large and efficient industrial framework. It’s accessible to all ages, and thanks to a welcoming challenge, you’re not going to want to stop digging, building, and exploring, and saving your miners from the creatures that lurk below.

SteamWorld Build is coming to PC (Steam), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and Nintendo Switch in 2023.