SteamWorld Build isn’t an exclusive gaming platform for the PC Master Race, but an excellent RTS from The Station and Thunderful Games that has the potential to break my reviewing capacity. This type of game made me abandon the PC in the past after rinsing titles like Dune 2Command & ConquerStarcraft, plus many more.

The problem is that gameplay engages with an infinite canvas for city-building opportunities and management tinkering. Set in a future populated by robots, we join some robot settlers seduced by an alien core that tells them to find and locate some abandoned mines.

What’s held within those mines could answer their prayers as resources are abundant to power the city, trade with the outside world, advance their settlement and build… a rocket!

Like a gold rush full of androids, at the start of SteamWorld Build, you claim your land and re-establish a link with the old railroad, hauling in the resources from above and below the dirt. This is where the gaming loop kicks in.

SteamWorld Build PC Review - Real lumberjacks
Real lumberjacks. Source: Steam

SteamWorld Build Review – Paranoid Androids

Early introductions to SteamWorld Build’s mechanics were great. If you’ve ever played an RTS before, you’ll be in familiar territory. It’s not hand-holding per se, but you’re guided through the steps to be a success, but that doesn’t mean you’ll reach it. 

The starting point in the game is to build around the train station as it connects with the outside world, and all roads are essentially linked to it. This becomes challenging as expanding your town becomes restrictive, and you require some foresight into what needs to be built next.

Space appears limited initially, though it becomes clear that roads can extend over most terrain. Networking is key. However, you’re nothing without your workers, so you must build residential areas and cater to all their needs – from stores to saloons and all the associated manufacturing.

Instead of built-up residential areas, you have to mix it up in SteamWorld Build and have a good balance of facilities within close proximity of one another. Planning gets more complex as the new ‘classes’ are introduced, along with their insufferable demands.

SteamWorld Build PC Review - How plastic is made
How plastic is made. Source: Steam

Make Sure You’re Connected

There’s a hierarchy here, from the workers to the skilled engineers and sub-classes to the fat cat aristocrats, which are prevalent throughout. To progress and complete milestones, you often have to have a set number of bots to proceed. Instead of building new homes, you upgrade the existing ones, sacrificing the lower-ranked members.

This causes problems almost immediately. Who will source all the wood? Who’ll carry out repairs? Funnily enough, the silver spoon bots pull their weight to a degree and are somewhat resourceful, though SteamWorld Build is all about balance.

If you think there’s much to deal with on the surface, wait until you look under the rug. The underlying narrative is to seek out some ancient, yet advanced, tech – as per the rhetoric from the alien core. First, you’ll need to establish a sub-section for miners and then locate the required parts.

The mines in SteamWorld Build are multi-layered – the further you go down, the higher the risk, but the greater the reward. As a source for your city, you will send back water for purification, gasses, tools to improve buildings, and more.

SteamWorld Build PC Review - Settle down
Settle down. Source: Steam

Here Comes The Resistance

Up until this point (city-building and establishing resource routes underground), SteamWorld Build was good fun. Aside from balancing the books, establishing trade links via the rail network, and ensuring enough supplies for the residents, it was pretty straightforward.

Then, a new level underground was unlocked with guards. Armed with flamethrowers and the like, they soon come into effect when underground hives spawn enemies that attack your miners and destroy buildings. Worse, these worms sprout and prevent digging unless the guards burn them away!

I didn’t mention that you can suffer collapses if you don’t install support pillars, so if you ignore what is going on underground for too long, you may return to find it all destroyed. That’s what happened to me. Almost.

It’d been chilled out until now, but the swarms soon overpowered my workers, and I didn’t have enough resources to build more defence turrets or guards. This part of SteamWorld Build could have been more forgiving, but hey – I’ve experienced worse with the games mentioned in the intro. 

If You Build It, They Will Come (And Work)

SteamWorld Build isn’t a dedicated combat title, but it does feature some sporadic battles, so just be mindful of that. I’d have been better prepared and cautious if I had known what I now know. I want a bit gung-ho and sold off a lot of structures as a hard reset.

While that part was a slight setback, SteamWorld Build is excellent. There was never a dull moment, and with such a variety of structures, resource mechanics, and customisations to tart up the place, it’s easy to palm off whatever else is on your playlist and live in this game for hours at a time. It’s engaging, challenging, and varied.