SteamWorld Build is the latest title in the SteamWorld series, marking the sixth entry. The franchise is known for the varied gameplay of each iteration, throwing tower defense, platforming, strategy, and deck-building into the mix along the way. SteamWorld Build continues this tradition, introducing us to a simulation title for the first time in the series.

As with previous entries, SteamWorld Build follows the adventures of steam-powered robots in a post-apocalyptic world. This time around, we’re working with Jack Clutchsprocket and his daughter, Astrid. This robotic family is trapped on a dying planet. Their only chance of escape is finding an ancient technological artifact that’s buried deep underground.

Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of simulation games. Yet I’ve always enjoyed previous SteamWorld titles. Could this entry be a way to introduce fans of the IP into a new genre? I was wary going in, even though I expected high quality from the developers. It’s safe to say that I was not let down.

SteamWorld Build - Nintendo Switch - screen 2

Simulation titles can be complicated, and while there are a lot of options in SteamWorld Build, I appreciate the tutorial that explains it all. As it eased me into building residences, factories, stores, and more, I didn’t feel overwhelmed. This is an important way to keep players of all skill levels interested and engaged. 

It’s also quickly obvious how super satisfying it is to build houses and watch your little robo-workers trundle about carrying out their business. The series is known for its charm, and this continues in SteamWorld Build. When your town is unhappy about something, it’s not only simple to fix, but I want to fix it quickly! I don’t like the thought of my villagers being unhappy.

The controls are intuitive. You swap between the edit and view modes with a simple tap of the Y button. In edit mode, your tools are neatly lined up in categories at the bottom, allowing you to scroll through and select one with the A button. The grid-based layout of the land itself shows you exactly where buildings can be placed, with an obvious red/blue color system to show when something can/can’t be built there.

SteamWorld Build - Nintendo Switch - screen 3

A few control quirks could be improved, like the way you enter mines. To do so, you have to hold the R shoulder button and press down on the D-pad to enter, then R and up on the D-pad to get out again. It’s not exactly difficult, but it’s not particularly intuitive, either. A simple “enter mine?” box when you click on the mine might have been easier. Having said that, you can enter the mine at any point, and it loads quickly.

Thankfully, as your town becomes bigger and more complicated, you can zoom in and out to see what’s happening. The thing is aesthetically pleasing, with bright and colorful visuals that keep things light-hearted despite the threat of robo-extinction. Things aren’t as sharp as they could be when you zoom in, however the good performance compensates for this lack of detail. And you’ll be zoomed out most of the time anyway.

The other main feature of SteamWorld Build is the variance in gameplay. Yes, a lot of your time is spent building and upgrading your town, encouraging more and more robots to move in. But that’s only half the story. There’s also an in-depth mining element, which changes up the gameplay enough to keep things from growing stale. 

SteamWorld Build - Nintendo Switch - screen 1

While you’re in the mine, you have different types of robots to work with. These little guys are, naturally enough, the miners, and they dig up all sorts of items to help the town above. It expands rapidly, with lots to do. Apart from the obvious mining, there are shelters to build, special structures to stop the ceiling from caving in, and even a combat element. At some point, you’ll come under attack from various creatures, and you’ll need to defend yourself somehow. This shift in gameplay compliments the sim aspect, creating a fun outing all around.

Overall, SteamWorld Build is another great entry in this long-running series. I love that the developers change up the genre each time (SteamWorld Dig 2 aside), keeping us all on our toes. This latest outing encouraged me to give simulations another go, taking a series I enjoy and introducing me to a genre I’m not usually fond of. The relaxing style, and intuitive and varied gameplay make this an accessible and interesting title for all players.