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SteamWorld Build Is Your New Dwarf Fortress Addiction (Demo Impressions)

Key art for SteamWorld Build
Image Source: The Station
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SteamWorld Build Is Your New Dwarf Fortress Addiction (Demo Impressions)

This town ain’t big enough for both of us.

Since the release of SteamWorld Tower Defense in 2010, the series has consistently changed with each installment, where every game offers a new experience for the player. While SteamWorld Dig allows you to be a hard-working miner, SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech lets you take on the role of a mighty warrior. That said, now that the demo of SteamWorld Build has been released, fans of the series are introduced to yet another change of pace that has an intricate city builder system both above the surface and deep below the ground.

As a newcomer to the franchise, the tutorial was easy enough to go through, so beginners can easily dive in without many drawbacks. You’ll be introduced to several robotic characters, including the quirky father-daughter duo: Jack and Astrid Clutchsprocket, who have a dream of traveling to the stars and making an out-of-this-world home in the boundless galaxy.

Jack and Astrid Clutchsprocket
Image Source: Screenshot via The Station

The only way to make this desire a reality is by digging up the ancient technology underground, as per the instructions of a mysterious Core robot with similar chaotic characteristics to HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey or AUTO from WALL-E. However, SteamWorld Build’s core aspect is the diverse gameplay mechanics, from the Tetris-style city builder layout to the intricate management system.

Like the simulated world of Dwarf Fortress, players will need to work from the ground up to create a thriving network of resources and a stable community. You’ll start with a broken Train Station and a mission to place down workers who will do all the hard work for you. Each establishment must be connected through roadways and trading stations, or else they’ll have no means to transport the goods.

SteamWorld Build City
Image Source: Screenshot via The Station

As the manager of the steampunk world, you must ensure the staff’s happiness with essentials, like a marketplace, and luxuries, such as a bar saloon and moonshine dispensary. I guess everyone has their own vices, and robots are no different. Nonetheless, out of all the game’s features, I enjoyed this relationship system since it makes it more personal by letting players interact with the crew while simultaneously boosting their performance.

On the other hand, residents can leave the facility when their needs are met, and I, unfortunately, went through this at one point. I’ll admit that it caused me to fall into a downward spiral for a minute, but then I remembered that these are fictional robots. Yet, with this in mind, you can see how SteamWorld Build is different than other strategy games because you must be mindful of the resident’s emotional state rather than simply expanding the world without the risk of employee turmoil.

Employee Satisfaction
Image Source: Screenshot via The Station

Players will also need to keep track of the buildings since establishments display their current status, showcasing the workload and inventory balance. For example, when the Mill hasn’t been getting enough wood, you must set up more Foresters in areas filled with trees to ensure stability. Furthermore, a few properties must be close to one another, where delivery times can be affected whenever a destination is too far away.

The more time you spend expanding and fulfilling the requests of your workers, the more likely you are to get new materials and locations. As a result, it makes the experience extremely compelling since players will never know what they will obtain next, and they can pat themselves on the back once they reach various Milestones, including an increase in population or the discovery of a new resource.

Then, as time goes on, you can unlock a trading system with the Train Station or view the overall statistics of the land. Players can purchase materials and upgrades for a single area through the useful operations of the Trader. In particular, you’ll get the chance to acquire speed enhancements to increase the workload and receive much-needed items quickly.

The statistics overview is essential to the whole process because it helps players see if there are any locations in the red zone, indicating that it needs more of this product for the land. Therefore, those who like management-style games will have a lot of fun multitasking and watching your world take off as long as you continuously sustain the residents and inventory.

Yet, just when you thought you’d seen it all, SteamWorld Build takes the gameplay down under with the extensive Mines. Despite it still holding true to its city builder elements, it brings a new concept where players can dig up minerals with their trusty tools. When I first saw this aspect of the world, I was astonished by how it gives you not just one base of operations on the surface but a facility underground as well.

The operations work differently around here due to the miners living quarters that can basically take over the entire sector. The central aspect you need to watch out for is stability, in which you need to place pillars to avoid cave-ins, a mechanic that I haven’t seen before, especially as a Minecraft player. Moreover, one little thing I appreciated about this gameplay was how vocal these robots were, whether they were singing or possibly talking themselves, giving life to a somewhat dark and mysterious place.

The Mines
Image Source: Screenshot via The Station

Of course, players will need to be aware of both locations since they are connected. For instance, when you need minerals above ground, you can travel back and forth to maximize the state of the land.

Besides the wide variety of gameplay, SteamWorld Build is very user-friendly since players can fast-forward during slow building times, and the construction mechanics are relatively smooth compared to other installments. I’ve had some experiences where the movement speed was extremely sensitive, and I rarely had that problem with this game.

Even if it is a demo, it is a reasonably long one because I spent more than four hours and even went back to play it all over again to see how I would structure the layout this time. Nevertheless, cozy gamers should definitely join in on the fun due to the absence of fighting gameplay and enemies, as well as its calming wild west-like background music.

Those who do get addicted to the demo, as I did, can look forward to its full release sometime in 2023, which will undoubtedly feature even more content and possibly make its way on the Switch like previous games.

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