SteamWorld Build is a very pleasant surprise
I’ll be honest: When I heard that the new SteamWorld game is some kind of city builder, I was a bit disappointed. I love this series and wanted more of SteamWorld’s core games. I wanted to venture out and dig deep into the ground, uncovering secrets and earning upgrades.
This isn’t SteamWorld Build – or at least not initially. Thunderful announced this as a cross between SimCity and Dungeon Keeper. I uploaded the demo build and started placing worker buildings and connecting them with roads. I trotted along for five minutes thinking, Is this SteamWorld? For real?
I should never have doubted. One of the great things about this series is their willingness to mix things up. One minute it’s kind of smart Metroidvania. Next minute, it’s a turn-based tactics game with a bit of billiards. Then it’s a card fight. It only took me about ten minutes and I realized: SimCity and Dungeon Keeper? In the SteamWorld universe? Yes, please.
So I start in a desert with an abandoned train station. All buildings I place must be connected to the station with roads. So when I build workers housing I need to connect it to the grid if I want to keep building.
Workers also need shops and repair buildings, and I also need to start harvesting resources. I build mills and connect them to the electricity grid and build in warehouses so that the wood can be stored. I’m starting to grow cacti for water and I’m starting to mine some coal. I’m learning all the time how to keep the workers happy, how to keep the various resources flowing, and how not to drain my economy when I want to build a new upgrade.
Milestones help give things a bit of structure early on by tasking me with meeting certain criteria to unlock new buildings. But the thing is, I’ve started looking around the map a bit. Two things stand out: I can fix the train station to allow goods to flow in and out if I meet certain criteria, and then – and then there’s an abandoned mine at the very edge of the map. I want to know what it’s all about.
That’s a nice thing – I’m always working toward interesting goals and always making sure people are happy enough for me to risk expanding. It’s SteamWorld too, from the rattling sounds as I move through the UI to the blueprint art styles in the menus and the adorable robotic workers jingling from one building to another. These city builders live and die on how much fun it is to zoom in and see everyone bustling about. SteamWorld Build is filled with all the characters you’ve come to expect from this series.
But that’s mine! When I finally get it working again, I find myself deep underground and suddenly we’re in Dungeon Keeper territory. I have to get people to dig through blocks of earth to excavate space and free up resources. Space means I can build housing to get more people digging, while the resources allow me to go back to the town above and build new stuff – new stuff to help me down here.
It’s a beautiful pairing of objectives – bright sunshine on the surface and steady expansion, and then below it’s moody and slightly medieval – gold glittering in the dark and a sense of menace.
So that’s SteamWorld Build: Build a city and a mine to keep resources flowing while working towards the main goal of building a rocket that will allow you to escape the planet before it falls apart. An hour later and I think I’m about to uncover the first setback – enemies down in the mines who were alerted by my digging. You know what? After all the uncertainty at the beginning I can hardly wait.
There is now a Steam demo.
https://www.eurogamer.net/steamworld-build-is-a-very-pleasant-surprise SteamWorld Build is a very pleasant surprise