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Building a Perfect City in SteamWorld Build – My Review

As a kid, I fondly remember playing the early SimCity games in my school’s computer lab. I loved using the cheats and seeing what kind of shenanigans I could get into. I was at EA when they released the disappointing SimCity in 2013, but I have never tried the City Skyline series, so it’s been a while since I played a city-builder. However, when I heard that the long-running SteamWorld series was releasing one, it looked so fun that I just had to get my hands on it. While I’m still unlocking content, I’m having a lot of fun.

The Work Residential being built in SteamWorld Build

A different take on city building

In SteamWorld Build, the core gameplay loop is twofold. Yes, you’re building, expanding, and managing a city’s growth, but there is more to that. At the same time, you’re also in charge of digging into the game’s earth to uncover additional resources, and most of all, the parts necessary to build a spaceship.

The spaceship parts are located in the different levels under the ground. To get to them, you’ll need to expand your city and increase your production of different resources. Everything is connected. You’ll begin by building homes for your workers. Those workers will allow you to build your basic buildings, such as warehouses, foresters, and the like.

Once you’ve satisfied that need, you’ll be able to upgrade those workers to engineers. Now, with the engineers, you’ll unlock new buildings. By this time, you’ve also probably found and restarted the old mines, which then opens up another set of things for you to build and manage.

A section of the mines in SteamWorld Build

The mines are where it’s at

When you unlock the mines, the game gets even more expansive with the things you can do. The first floor of the mines lets you start by building space to employ workers, mechanics, and more. You’ll find and collect resources such as gold, oil, and so much more. At the same time, you’ll eventually uncover more secrets including the previously mentioned spaceship parts.

There are multiple levels to the mine, but it does take a while to unlock those lower levels. You might be digging for a while before you have enough space to expand your work quarters for the different staff that are needed in the mines. This can be a bit frustrating since you’re also managing the ground level, which also requires you to expand and upgrade the different facilities.

A close up of a city in SteamWorld Build

Slow progression will frustrate some

My only real gripe with SteamWorld Build is the speed at which you progress and unlock the next set of content. To upgrade workers to engineers, then engineers to aristocrats, then aristocrats to scientists, requires a lot. You need to hit 100% satisfaction, which entails having the necessary buildings within proximity of their homes to do so. Getting the money to build those sites requires you to find the necessary resources in the mine.

As you get further into the game, space for the city starts to get smaller and smaller. You’ll start to have mini-cities within your big city, where you’re trying to build what is required to progress. At the same time as you’re expanding on the ground, you’re also trying to manage your underground expansion. So, it becomes a juggling act of trying to get as many resources as possible to upgrade where you can when you can.

At the start of the game, your town starts to grow from the train station, and it plays an important part in making things a bit easier for you. The train allows you to “trade resources”. If you have an abundance of oil, you can trade it for something you might need. This can be incredibly beneficial later in the game when you might need a specific item that you aren’t able to collect on your own.

A section of the mine in SteamWorld Build that is marked for digging

After 10 hours, I’m still unlocking content

At the time of this review, I’ve played about 10 hours of the game. I’m nowhere near finding all the spaceship parts and there are still levels of the mine I’ve yet to discover. There are also different ways to play the game. While the story mode is the main game, you don’t have to play it if you’d rather just have fun building your own town.

Also, there are five different destinations, but outside their distinct looks, very little separates them. You’re picking a different location simply for the aesthetics, not for what they offer over the others.  For people who want a more sandbox approach, there are a few options available to let you tweak some things to give you a bit more freedom. It’s not very expansive but it does add some replayability.

For some, the slow/inconsistent progression might feel annoying. There were times when I was letting the game run for a few minutes while I went and did something else. Since I needed more funds and other resources to build something my town required, I was stuck until I had enough money. This isn’t new for city-builders, but I can see it being frustrating for those who need a game to flow.

A saloon being built in SteamWorld Build

Can’t recommend this enough

You don’t have to understand the lore or have played any of the other SteamWorld games to enjoy SteamWorld Build. This was my first real experience with the series, and I am really enjoying myself. This is a fantastic game that you can play for a few minutes or a few hours. I cannot wait to go back and see what else I can unlock and discover.

A review code was supplied to me prior to the game’s release.