SteamWorld Build Review – Robot capitalism at its finest

Reviewed November 28, 2023 on PC


Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


December 2, 2023


Thunderful Publishing


The Station

When robots want to leave a dying planet, they must use the power of capitalism to dig up ancient artifacts. These artifacts are long-lost rocket parts that must be excavated from the ground, with the whole endeavour funded by robot work. Despite the survival of robot-kind hinging on building that rocket, the insistence on using capitalism to survive stands out. That’s the premise of SteamWorld Build, where robots must expand and work to leave a world that has little value.

Your simulation experience takes place on two fronts: city-building and excavation. You must carefully balance both fronts to give yourself enough resources to thrive or everything comes crumbling down. It’s nice to manage multiple operations at the same time and give yourself a challenge by balancing priorities. However, the game doesn’t break new ground by itself and plays similarly to other city builders. If you enjoy the theme of Wild West capitalism, it’s fun trying out the new maps and testing your skills. But it can get repetitive after a while even as you dig deeper and fight the threats underground.

SteamWorld Build starts with robots dreaming of a new future since the world they live in is dying. They know of new planets they can settle on, but they don’t have the technology to reach them. An old robot knows of ancient technology underground that can be used to construct a rocket. Digging up the technology will take time with dangerous threats, and the robots need cities to prepare.

Compared to other city builders, SteamWorld Build has a deep story. You aren’t creating a nice city or a strong empire, instead working to build a way off the planet. As you venture further underground, you uncover secrets that elaborate on the technology you dig up. Even though it’s just rocket technology, it’s clear that something more nefarious is going on.

The story is intriguing enough to make you explore the different maps and dig through the layers. Even though you don’t have a choice if you want to win, you are still interested in uncovering the underground secrets. Whatever you uncover doesn’t change the fundamental goal but it does make a nice reward for you to look forward to.

The theme of Wild West capitalism with robots is new and interesting to investigate. Robots have needs just like humans, requiring entertainment and luxuries to motivate them. You must conquer new frontiers above and below ground if you want your city to thrive. There’s a constant hunger for resources and you must prepare yourself against native threats.

“It’s an intriguing dynamic that makes you care about your robots and plan for their safety.”

On one hand, you feel like a pioneer exploring the unknown and motivating everyone towards a common goal. On the other, you are a capitalist trying to maximise resources and ensure you don’t go bankrupt before you succeed. It’s an intriguing dynamic that makes you care about your robots and plan for their safety. Or you throw caution to the wind and work everyone to the bone because you want to leave.

The first half of the gameplay is similar to other city builders as you start from the ground up with regular workers. You build residential areas, resource gatherers and basic luxury options. As your city grows, you begin your underground mining expedition which provides access to more resources. These resources help create a new class of workers which lets you dig further underground, repeating the cycle.

The tutorial for SteamWorld Build is thorough, making sure you understand each step before you proceed. It’s nice to have a strong tutorial that guides you through, especially when new concepts appear and you are balancing everything. You can also refer to previous tutorials in the menu if you forget or miss something, though they aren’t as in-depth.

The second gameplay half consists of mining underground. It’s not too different from the city-building aspect as you create mining facilities underground to generate workers and excavate for resources. As you dig, you encounter creatures that fight back which requires creating security forces. You can’t control the forces but you can bolster their numbers or create turrets.

One of the best aspects of SteamWorld Build is the interconnectivity of the city-building and mining operations. While the focus is primarily digging up technology to create the rocket, there are underground resources your city needs to grow. Your city also provides funds and equipment that lets you dig deeper underground.

Having the two systems work together is great because you don’t feel that you are playing two separate games. You can’t win simply by focusing on mining because neglecting your city prevents you from getting further. The reverse is also true; ignoring mining operations quickly halts your city’s development and prevents you from growing. You must be strategic about your expansion and operations, carefully considering how your actions affect future growth.

As fun as it is to manage both systems, there isn’t anything new for a city-building veteran to latch onto. If you aren’t enamoured by the theme of robot capitalism, SteamWorld Build can feel repetitive after a while. The foundations are solid and it still offers a good time, but there won’t be much incentive to play on other maps.

SteamWorld Build stays true to the Wild West theme even with futuristic technology in the mix. Deserts are dry and nature is rare, with most life retreating underground to survive. Robots start out as simple workers, but some will work their way up to higher tiers of society and get visual improvements.

Digging underground is a nice break from the Wild West theme and it becomes a futuristic mining operation. You build technology to harvest resources and break down walls for resources. The game’s audio comes alive when you start discovering enemies and build security forces. Seeing the dangerous wildlife and hearing the wild shrieks isn’t too different from a horror game. It’s not uncommon to hear an inhuman cry and feel the fear seep in as you wonder if you bit off more than you can chew.




  • Wild West robot capitalism theme is executed perfectly
  • Visuals and audio are great for immersion
  • Solid fundamentals with a good tutorial


  • Nothing new to the city-building genre
  • Can feel repetitive even with additional maps

SteamWorld Build sets up a fantastic environment for Wild West robot capitalism to thrive. You must create workers to build enough resources that support your mining operations, which in turn helps develop your city. Expand your operations above and below ground to get more workers and new resources. While there isn’t anything ground-breaking in this game and it can be repetitive, it still offers good fun for people who enjoy city builders. If you are looking for a strategic challenge that makes you balance two types of city building, SteamWorld Build is a great game to try out.