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SteamWorld Build Demo Impressions

Thunderful and internal development studio The Station recently unveiled a brand-new entry in the SteamWorld franchise with SteamWorld Build. This is described as Anno meets Dungeon Keeper, and now having played the demo as part of Steam Next Fest, I can certainly see why. This easy to play game features a multi-level city-building experience that tasks you with constructing a thriving town above ground, while mining resources and dealing with monsters below. SteamWorld Build will release on PC, PlayStation4/5, Xbox One/Series X|S and Nintendo Switch later in 2023.

In SteamWorld Build, you must escape a dying planet by building a mining town to dig up vital long-lost technology from the ground. The tutorial is easy to follow, and the graphics are cartoonish and aesthetically pleasing. We have a railway station that is broken down, and we need to raise houses to start a population of steambot citizens, keeping them fed and happy, and start harvesting nearby trees for wood and turn them into boards at a mill.

Sometimes in building games like this, the tutorial will tell me what to do but often it doesn’t tell me how to do it, or it gives me a short, abridged set of instructions and if I didn’t pay enough attention, I would find myself scratching my head. To its credit, the tutorial prompts for SteamWorld Build is excellent and gives very clear instructions, and objectives are outlined well. The placement tool is very good as well, glowing red if you cannot place a building and blue if you can. More importantly though, when placing a resource-producing building, it will show its area of influence by highlighting the connected roads and buildings. This helped me a lot knowing how many service shops, bars and other such buildings to add as I grew my population.

Our aim is to harvest trees and charcoal such that we can get the railway station running and trains bring in trade opportunities that can give a decent boost providing you have enough cash and rubies. Each new train comes every 5-minutes and will have a new set of three possibly trades on offer. Our next goal is to repair the old mine shaft, and this requires us to convert some of our steambots to engineers. This involves upgrading existing houses, but engineers like to party and so require a moonshiner and saloon to party hard.   

Once we gain enough engineers and repair the mine shaft, you’ll venture down into the abandoned mine sitting under your town and it’s here where the dungeon keeper comparison comes into play. We effectively need to operate above ground as per normal, and then mine resources and build housing for the mining bots to live. We then use a mix of the natural resources above ground and the abundant ores buried in the mine to expand your town further. The demo lasts a little bit longer past that point and it was enough for me to be interested in the full game when it releases later this year.

One big thing I do need to say is that there is no save feature in this demo – no auto or manual saves at all. My first play session was a quick one before work for about 30-minutes. I logged back in that afternoon where I had to start again. I thought maybe I hadn’t got far enough for auto-saves to kick in. Naturally though I was much more efficient, and it only took me 5-minutes to get back to where I was. Then once I had worked enough to get down into the mine shaft the first time, I logged out there and then was super disappointed to see it didn’t save my game at all. An odd thing for a demo, and I hope they implement saves for the full game.

Overall, I had a great time with the SteamWorld Build demo, but I wish we could have saved our progress. I know it’s just a demo but as a father of two girls under 5 years of age, having several hours of uninterrupted gaming time is like finding the holy grail. Gameplaywise this is easy to learn and a lot of fun to progress through. The mix of above-ground and below-ground gameplay was exciting but also challenging, and I am keen to play more.

SteamWorld Build will release on PC, PlayStation4/5, Xbox One/Series X|S and Nintendo Switch later in 2023.


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