SteamWorld: Build, the newest iteration in the video game series, was released on Dec. 1, bringing the resource-grinding, post-apocalyptic steampunk worldbuilding game to console and PC gamers alike.

After a few days of playing SteamWorld: Build on console, released immediately on Xbox Game Pass for subscribers, it is clear that the game’s two different modes bring enough variety to keep users engaged in what would otherwise be a one-dimensional management simulation game. The game is a city builder above ground, and a dungeon-building miner below ground, requiring strategizing in two different ways, and keeping the game interesting beyond the first few hours of play.

The originality of SteamWorld: Build in a gaming genre filled with a plethora of simple tycoon games allows a short, simple game to remain intriguing enough to bring users back for more. Set in a world with gear-like robots in a wasteland, the concept of the game is that there is ancient technology buried deep within the earth that needs to be recovered in order to escape a desolate planet. It is up to the determined main characters — a parent and daughter-like duo — to find this technology, running a Wild West inspired boom-town with bots including engineers, workers, miners, and prospectors. There are four different destinations, or world layouts, to choose from. I chose “Highroller Dunes.”

There needs to be workers to maintain the lumber mills, saloons, and service stations. When those workers can be upgraded, they become engineers — from there, aristocrats. You need all three of them to maintain the above-ground world, with these supplies used to continue the underground mining simulator. Here, there are miners, prospectors, mechanics and guards. 

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As the game continues, there are different sections to the underground mines, such as the marshy ruins, which have their own problems to overcome and resources to collect. In all, it guarantees constant variety to the game as one progresses. 

the text SteamWorld Build is seen in the upper left corner. A card that rhas the text Giddyup Gorge overlayed on a wild west type train is seen on a blue background

There are four different “destinations,” or world layouts, to select from when creating a new game in SteamWorld: Build. Photo: Screenshot of SteamWorld: Build

In any world building game, there is some experimenting as to how to create the grid systems, while the workers are near what they need. There is no easy way to test sometimes and then go back to how it was — everything must be manually moved again, and all roads must be deleted. 

While this may not sound that huge a deal, it becomes a crucial part of the game relatively early on. To meet the needs of the groups above-ground — workers, miners, and aristocrats — there will need to be separate neighborhoods made for each, and there is some trial and error needed to find the perfect setup. All buildings must be connected by road to the train station, and the road will illuminate in blue during build mode to show which bots the building will reach. 

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Fortunately, buildings can be moved at no cost, but beyond this, it is not an easy feat to create the layout needed.

The build mode in steamworld: build. It show purple and blue tiles.

The build mode in SteamWorld: Build, where the blue shows how much reach a need will have — the need will service those who are attached to the roads in blue. Photo: Screenshot of SteamWorld: Build

There is only one tool that the game is sorely missing, that would likely solve a lot of these errors of layout: an undo button.

In my experience so far, the left trigger button does nothing in build mode, and it would have been much easier to work on my resource management if I was able to try out different setups and undo them with the press of a button. It is not needed per se, but it would be exponentially easier to design my world if there was an undo button, similar to that found in the build mode of Sims 4.

After playing every day since its release, SteamWorld: Build has yet to become boring to me. I am at the point where organization, which was initially impossible as I was simply trying to get all my resources and learn the same, is crucial. For those who love strategy games with a twist on traditional world building, SteamWorld: Build can be found for $29.99 on Xbox and $26.99 on Steam, as well as on other consoles.

SteamWorld: Build was developed by The Station and published by Thunderful Publishing.

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