SteamWorld Build

Posted:  Jan 21, 2024
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SteamWorld Build was provided by Thunderful Publishing for review. Thank you!

This game was tested with a Steam Deck LCD. OLED testing is coming soon.

I hadn't had much experience with the SteamWorld franchise before reviewing this game besides playing SteamWorld Dig on the PlayStation Vita many years ago. As it turns out, playing SteamWorld Dig did not prepare me in any way for SteamWorld Build, because whereas "Dig" is a 2D platforming adventure, "Build" is a 3D city builder. And I love city builders!

The game challenges players to build a functioning economy in the desert

SteamWorld Build takes many cues from other games in the city-building genre, namely the Anno series. It has the same citizen "class" mechanic as Anno, where you start with Workers with fairly basic needs. Once those basic needs are fulfilled, you can upgrade them to Engineers, with more complex needs requiring more production lines and economical management, and you can keep upgrading them further. It also uses an identical "warehouse and road" system as Anno, where your warehouses will store all your economic goods, and production buildings need access to one to work.

As you upgrade your citizens, new buildings and production lines will unlock, creating a satisfying loop with rewards of new opportunities and the ability to progress further to create more complex production lines.

One of the first production lines you'll tackle in SteamWorld Build is logging.

It's not just the surface you need to worry about in SteamWorld Build, as you must watch out for the underground. As you might expect with a SteamWorld game, mining plays a large part in the economy. This means you will have a complete underground section of the game, utilizing miners, prospectors, and mechanics to excavate and harvest any resources your town may need.

The transition between the surface and the mines is seamless, and it's a cool addition to the game. Creating your mine network is both satisfying and rewarding.

A lot of the game takes place underground, where enemy threats and resources await

Speaking of "satisfying" and "rewarding," those two words sum up my time with SteamWorld Build. It's a game that rewards the effort you put into it, and the rewards you receive are suitably satisfying. The constant unlocking of new production lines and economic requirements keeps you trying out new things and forces you to push the limits of your logistical network. The visuals are both pleasing and charming despite the world being in a desert that could often be seen as a bland environment.

SteamWorld Build - Steam Deck Performance

My first impressions of SteamWorld Build are good. The game boots with a 16:10 resolution, 1280x800 to be precise, and you can fully navigate the menus with a controller.

In the game itself, the controls are just as good. Rather than making you use a touchpad to move a cursor around the screen, you instead use the "X" button to switch between managing UI elements and "cursor" mode, where the cursor is locked to the middle of the screen, and you can move the camera with the analog stick to select buildings. This works well and is much more preferable than using a touchpad to move a cursor around the screen.

There are also a few UI scaling options for tooltips and more. I recommend sliding all of the "scale" options to the max, as that makes them perfectly readable on the Deck's display, and they still don't take up an obnoxious amount of space on the max either.

We don't have too many graphical options to choose from, but there are a few, and they do offer some scalability, so I have two different preset settings that you can choose from, depending on your preference.

Recommended Settings - 30 FPS

First, we'll set a 30 FPS / 60Hz lock in our SteamOS settings, then put a 7W TDP limit on. This 7W Limit holds a pretty constant 30 FPS for us, and we get to set some pretty nice visuals because of the lower framerate.

For these settings, we keep our resolution at 1280x800, turn off V-Sync, and set our Shadow Quality, Texture Quality, Bloom Effect, and Ambient Occlusion all to "High." I'm disabling Motion Blur and Depth of Field out of personal preference, and it also saves some performance. Enable Soft Particles and keep Lod Quality at 50%.


This creates a nice-looking game, with the bloom effect looking especially nice when all the lights on the buildings are lit up. Plus, with our low TDP limit, we still get a decent battery life of just over 3 hours. I can't complain about that!

Framerate Settings - 60 FPS

Given the slower-paced nature of this game, I'm recommending the 30 FPS settings that save battery life and allow higher visual quality, but if you're all about that smooth life, here's how you can achieve it.

First set a 60 FPS/Hz lock in SteamOS, and set a TDP Limit of 10W.

We're keeping our resolution at 1280x800, disabling V-Sync, setting Shadow Quality to "Off", Texture Quality to "High", Bloom Effect and Ambient Occlusion to "Off". We're then disabling Motion Blur, Depth of Field, and Soft Particles, and we're keeping Lod Quality at 50%.


We can just about hold 60 FPS in a fairly large city using these settings. In my experience, FPS increases when underground, so if your city runs well, your underground areas should be fine. Our battery life does take a hit for trying to hold 60 FPS, though, and you shouldn't expect much more than 2 hours out of a full charge.


SteamWorld Build has an accessibility menu that has a few options for you. It allows the disabling of screen shaking, changing between Xbox and PlayStation buttons, camera movement speed, and the UI scaling settings that we recommend you set to 100% for Steam Deck. You can see how I had my settings set below.



SteamWorld Build doesn't revolutionize the City-Builder genre, but it does put another feather in its cap. This isn't the best game in the genre, but it's worth checking out if you want a city builder that's perhaps not as complex as Anno or as performance-intensive as Cities Skylines. This game is a treat to play on the Deck. The controls work well, the graphics look good, and the gameplay loop is satisfying.

As of writing this review, it holds "Mostly Positive" user reviews on Steam and has a Steam Deck compatibility rating of "Playable". The only reason it isn't "Verified" is because of small in-game text. However, I think the text is pretty readable with the UI scaling set to 100%.

So, if you're looking for a city builder to sit back and relax with on the Deck, give SteamWorld Build a spot on your list!

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

SteamWorld Build doesn't revolutionize the genre, but it's another solid city-builder that plays great on the Steam Deck


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Oliver Stogden
Oliver began playing video games at an early age, starting with the SNES console and Commodore Amiga computer. Nowadays, his interest is in the future of portable technology, such as handheld gaming systems, portable power stations/banks, and portable monitors. And seeing just how far we can push these devices.
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Other Builds
60 FPS Settings



Refresh Rate




TDP Limit


Scaling Filter


GPU Clock


Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Resolution: 1280x800

V-Sync: No Sync

Shadow Quality: Off

Texture Quality: High

Bloom Effect: Off

Ambient Occlusion: Off

Motion Blur: Off

Depth of Field: Off

Soft Particles: Off

Lod Quality: 50%

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

17W - 18W

70c - 75c

~2 Hours

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