Did you hear? A new SteamWorld game was announced last week called SteamWorld Build. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, seeing it was a city builder damped my initial enthusiasm. Look – I don’t have anything against city builders per se. It’s just that every time I try to play one it’s either too simple, or too complex. I’m out here feeling like Goldilocks, except I can never find a title that is juuuuuuuuust right.
While I don’t always get on with city builders, the prospect of playing one that is fused with another unrelated genre does pique my interest. That’s where SteamWorld Build is aiming to situate itself: it’s a genre blend of city building, with real time strategy elements. You’ll manage a mining town topside, while commanding the mines much in the same way you would in titles like Dungeon Keeper, or Oxygen Not Included. Your workers will do all the excavation, while you provide facilities to support them, and instructions about what to do next. It’s very much a division of labour where you’re the brains, and your lackies are the brawn.
With my existing affinity for SteamWorld titles, and the promise of a unique genre blend, I was back onboard the hype train. As luck would have it, a demo dropped alongside the announcement trailer. This allowed me to immediately satisfy my curiosity about the title. I have some thoughts after puttering around in the demo for about an hour, so here’s my initial impressions of SteamWorld Build.
The very first thing I noticed is the artstyle, curtesy of the opening cutscene. I always love seeing how the SteamWorld titles mix old-timey Western visuals with a Steampunk theme. The result is always so delightfully goofy. Just as an example, look at the panel that introduces our main characters: the older one has a big ol’ metal beard, the small one is wearing a poncho, and the ox have exhaust pipes. None of this makes any sense if you think about it for too long, but it’s just so damn charming. 10/10 . No notes.
While I was head over heels for the artstyle, the same couldn’t be said for the actual city building portion of the game. The demo does a great job of introducing everything at a fairly brisk pace, but it’s all very standard stuff. You place a couple residential buildings down, and then you plop a few service centres nearby to keep all your steam-powered denizens chipper. This is followed by setting up some basic industrial sites to harvest what little natural resources exist within the arid desert wasteland you’ve decided to colonize. So far, so basic.
I know this demo was only a taste of the full game, but I found it criminally easy to balance my economy here. It wasn’t long before the whole game was running itself, and I was exporting massive amounts of excess resources so I could purchase a swath of upgrades to further raise everything’s efficiency. I get the feeling that’s exactly how SteamWorld Build was designed though. It wants to be easy so you get the thrill of constant improvement. That’s admirable, but I didn’t find it particularly satisfying myself.
By the time I’d managed to automate the entire town, the mines opened up. I then took to the underground maze of tunnels to see what they had to offer. Unsurprisingly, the gameplay in the mining section also felt rather straightforward. I built an area for some miners, and started having them carve out tunnels while trawling for resources. Shortly thereafter, I unlocked prospectors, which could harvest more advanced material types than the basic miners. This set me down the rabbit hole of building up the mines, while accumulating a handful of upgrades in the same way I had topside with the village.
If it sounds like I wasn’t too impressed by either aspect of SteamWorld Build, that’s because I wasn’t. Both were dead simple. Not every game has to be a death march, but I was hoping for something a bit more involved. As it stands, what the demo showcased felt really polished, but it didn’t have that X factor. Nothing about it made my say, “damn. I really want to play more of this!” There’s a lot of potential there, but I can only write about what I played.
However, you don’t have to take my word for it. Perhaps you’re onboard for the chilled vibes that SteamWorld Build is aiming to deliver. If so, you can try the demo right now on Steam for yourself. Make sure to wishlist the game if you enjoy it, so you receive an alert later this year when it launches on PC, Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox.
Was it more simple than just throwing down poison and kiting every enemy through it till they died?
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Not particularly, but it was far less punishing.
All jokes aside I think what’s there is well put-together. I’m sure there is a market for the game, I just might not be apart of it.
I completely missed this announcement somehow, despite being a big fan of the series and Image & Form. Sad to hear it isn’t really meeting your hopes though.
Perhaps they’ll iron it out and balance the game better for the final release.
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This is the second time I’ve heard (or I guess read?) that today. Apparently it wasn’t very well publicized, which is…well not great. One thing to note, which I didn’t touch on in the article, Image & Form over the past 3 years have become Thunderful publishing when they merged with Zoink, and are acting as the publisher for this title instead of the developer. The Station, one of the acquisitions Thunderful made in the last 3 years, is the developer on this one. That doesn’t make a whole lot of a difference, but it came up while I was going through press related info on the title while writing this article – it just didn’t fit nicely anywhere without sounding like a mouthful lol.
Maybe. I get the impression that maybe the release isn’t really *for* more, which kinda just is what it is. Still – if you have a pc that can run the demo, give it a looksie for yourself. No accounting for taste, and you might enjoy it more than I did.
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