SteamWorld Build is a resource-gathering city-builder with lite dungeon-crawling and mining aspects incorporated into its robotic steam-powered cowboy-themed gameplay. Your ultimate aim is to build a rocket to help your robot citizenry escape a dying planet and reach for the stars. To do so will require you to gather, mine or trade resources and tech from one of the five possible starting maps.
Initially you need to focus on developing your town and population on the surface to a sufficient level so as to unlock different building types. These will unlock different robots, which in turn allow resource gathering, storage or production, increase populace satisfaction or increase your population. All of this will eventually lead to you unlocking the ability to enter the mines where you will be tasked with clearing each level and locating the necessary ancient tech to help you build the rocket up on the surface.
The surface is devoid of danger, allowing you to focus solely on building and mining. The surface also features a train station where a train arrives regularly, allowing you to purchase or trade various resources or upgrades, adding another way to acquire necessities and improve your city. You need to keep an eye out for upgrades as these can improve various in-game mechanics, such as population % increase, mining or resource % increase, mining or resource-gathering speed–to name just a few.
There are 4 different citizen types: Settlers, Engineers, Aristobots and Scientists. Each of these robot types require their own unique residence buildings, and each of those buildings require their own combination of resources and surrounding support buildings. All buildings must be connected via roadways in order to ensure your citizens can reach their respective support buildings and maintain their needs. When employed in the mine these different citizen bot types become Miners, Prospectors, Mechanics or Security bots.
The first few levels of the mine you clear are devoid of enemies, and the only real danger seems to be from cave-ins, which can be avoided by placing support pillars evenly throughout larger chambers as you excavate them. Once you reach the 4th level of the mine and each layer below you will find enemy spawn areas which will require you to have security bots or defensive turrets to deal with them.
All of these game mechanics are easily learned by following on-screen prompts which appear as you progress and grow your above ground city and the mine below. Just make sure you keep an eye on the types of bots you employ within your mine as these bots subtract from your bot population in the city above. If a certain bot population type goes into the red or negative numbers on the surface, when you try to employ more none will appear. This means you will need to build more bot residences on the surface from time to time as you progress deeper into the mine.
At the time of writing, there are 5 different starting map locations you can choose, but that only changes the look of the starting locale. You will still be gathering the exact same resources, building the same structures, regardless of starting location. I would have liked to see some actual reason for trying each of the different maps, maybe a unique resource in each map, or a certain resource was more abundant in certain maps. I must report that I had the game crash on me twice, but this was during the 20-plus hours I played over 2 different maps. Other than that the game seemed quite stable, with no other noticeable glitches.
At the start your town will be solely supporting the mine, but that seems to switch to co-dependency as you delve deeper into the mine and grow your city. The more advanced bots require resources which you can only obtain from the mine below, so you will find your focus switching between the city and mine quite often as you progress. SteamWorld Build is, in my opinion, quite fun to play, a good entry point to the genre, and worth the £22.49 asking price (and it's on Game Pass as I write.) However, there doesn't seem to be as much complexity and variation as other city builder games offer, or much incentive to replay.