SteamWorld Build First Impressions

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SteamWorld Build’s demo gives the impression of a fun introduction to the city builder franchise.

I was asked to give my First Impression of SteamWorld Build’s demo at the perfect time. Lately, I’ve been really craving a city builder game, but I’ve been having trouble finding one I really want to get into. While SteamWorld Build’s demo hasn’t exactly become my new obsession, it was definitely super satisfying to play.

SteamWorld Build opens up with a charming little cutscene that summarizes the plot of the game pretty well. Two robots, a young ‘girl’ and her ‘father’ (I am not at this point sure if the Steambots have any gender, as they are robots) leading a caravan of other Steambots in search of an old mine in the desert.

The reason for this becomes clear as a mysterious mechanical orb, laying in the back of the Steambot’s covered wagon, reveals that it needs ancient technology buried deep under that mine. Unable to dig itself, the strange machine needs the Steambots to do the manual labor for it, and in turn, promises to use the technology to take them to the stars.

I immediately didn’t trust the orb, as its sarcastic nature and vague promises reminded me too much of Wheatley from Portal 2. I am 100% sure it is the villain of the game but I don’t have any spoilers to back that up.

The introduction to each character in SteamWorld Build is short and sweet, as they don’t need very much dialogue to get their character across. At the start of the demo, we’ve got our old and kind Dadbot, the Daughterbot who wants to be a hero, a wealthy Aristrobot who looks down on the workers and a sarcastic orb who looks down on all of them.

The actual game opens up here via a simple tutorial that walks you through building your city. It is here that I immediately became aware of the fact that this game was using the Anno formula for city building. To be fair, most do, but it seemed especially apparent in this game for whatever reason.

In SteamWorld, you build houses to generate Workforce and Income. You then use both to create production facilities to build even more houses, or amenities and needs to improve the output of the houses you have made. Everything needs to be connected to the train station via road and you need warehouses to collect the materials produced by your production facilities.

Steamworld Build 1 ImageSteamworld Build 1 Image
Image: Thunderful Development

With the similarities in the gameplay and the cutesy nature of the game all around, I would say that SteamWorld is pretty much just Anno, but for kids (or at least, less experienced city builder players.) The game plays very similar to Anno 1800, but with a seriously lowered difficulty curve.

I found the needs of my houses met very easily, allowing me to progress through the demo really fast. This isn’t a bad thing, really, as not every city builder game needs to be a desperate rush for resources and it was pretty relaxing to just keep plopping houses down.

SteamWorld build seems to be, at least at this point with the Demo being released, a chill little city builder for all ages to enjoy. That being said, I think this game will do especially well with children, and can be a great introduction to the city-builder genre of games for a younger audience who can’t quite handle the difficulty of some other big titles.

This impression is just based off the demo, however, and there is clearly more to come. When the full game launches, it might surprise me and turn out to be one of the hardest difficulty curves in city builder history, thought that’s just not the vibe I got from it.

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