SteamWorld Dig 2 – Review

I just want to thank Image & Form for sending us an early copy of this game. I felt truly fortunate and I hope this game does really well.

When you think of ‘Nindies’ Image & Form are often one of the first companies to come to mind. They’ve been supporting Nintendo with their Steam World series since the DSi and their games have always felt right at home on Nintendo platforms. So, when the Switch was first announced there was no surprise that a new SteamWorld game was on the horizon but, in a surprise twist it turns out this time we get a direct sequel with SteamWorld Dig 2. The first sequel game by Image & Form, it is time to see if they struck gold with this game or if it’s as useless as a pet rock.

Story

As said before, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a sequel and so the story continues off from where the last one left off. The hero of the first game, Rusty, has gone missing and his friend Dorothy, who owned a shop in the original, is searching all across the world for him. Her search takes her to El Machino, a city on top of a big mountain. She meets Fen, a small blue flame and the two of them learn about these strange earthquakes that threaten to destroy the city and its inhabitants. Worse yet, it seems Rusty may have a connection to this and so it is up to Dorothy to dig up the truth!

The story in this game is very well told. While it is all done through text boxes and no voice acting, the dialogue itself is engaging and quirky enough to keep me entertained and the story itself actually has a few twists and turns along the way. One thing I enjoy is the options presented with the story. Some people don’t play platformers for their narrative so it is a good thing that a lot of the deeper lore is entirely optional. Only very few scenes are mandatory and it is entirely possible to beat the game without engaging in extra chatter with the locals.

Options are a big part of the experience this time. As a Metroidvania style game, it is entirely possible to sequence break later on and freedom is truly highlighted with the ability to remove quest markers and directional hints from the hud. If you want to just mine in your own time and find things along the way, you can. I am a big fan of options and this just works to appeal to all players.

Gameplay

SteamWorld Dig was a Metroidvania crossed with Minecraft to provide a unique take on the genre. The only set path is down but the actual route you take is all up to you. As you work your way down you break blocks, fight enemies and mine ores that all slowly help you progress in different ways. SteamWorld Dig 2 is exactly the same in this core premise, although there are more times when backtracking and exploring is the focus.

Dorothy’s kit this time around is a bit different from Rusty. They both carry their trusty pickaxe for mining and attacking but Dorothy also comes equipped with a sticky bomb, a jackhammer, a grappling hook and a jet-pack which can all be upgraded with additional properties using upgrade cogs. These tools are found at special areas across the maps and allow Dorothy to feel more agile and maneuverable than Rusty ever did help in part by her natural wall-jumping ability and her sprint.

By using the ore you mine, Dorothy can exchange it for money in the games shop which allows her to upgrade her kit and in turn unlock more skills she can equip. There are a lot of options available here for many different situations. If players are preparing for a battle then create a load-out that helps you tank damage and deal it back. Want to hunt for treasure? Use those cogs to increase the amount of ore you can carry and help you locate it on the map. You can really pick and match and more options can be unlocked by trading in artifacts for blueprints as well.

The gameplay of Steamworld Dig 2 can be summed up as the first game but more. More enemy types, more bosses, more abilities. Surprisingly there are fewer items and tools to use however each one feels more important and offers more gameplay wise. All this leads to a game about twice the size of the original, both in scope and time, and that is certainly a good thing.

Presentation

The SteamWorld series has a distinctive style and I don’t just mean the steam-punk, robot, western theme of the game. Rather than pixel art, SteamWorld Dig 2 CG images to create the look of a drawing walking and coming to life. It really allows the game to feel unique and Image & Form manage to avoid the issue of the background melding with the foreground by cleverly using depth to create the image of a 3D world. It all comes together beautifully and leaves one of the most visually pleasing games this year.

This is reinforced by the variety of levels. SteamWorld Dig 2 expands its world by providing multiple mines to explore. This ranges from a typical mine to an underground forest to a lava-filled ruin. Each area feels unique with their own enemies and traps and it increases the experience of exploring the deepest parts of the earth and it really helps to immerse the player.

You can’t just rely on visuals for immersion though, the sound is also important and SteamWorld Dig delivers in this regard as well. Every musical track matches its area perfectly as well as the situation. A slow western-tune for the cowboy folks of El Machino to the more upbeat and fast-paced boss music. Some tracks even sound like they could have been from Donkey Kong Country, especially the Eastern Temple theme. I’ll be listening to that a lot in the future.

I can’t find anything wrong with the presentation. It fits the game perfectly and is pleasing to all the senses. There are even neat little background details, like arrows that help to subtly guide the player. The level of detail is apparent and I give it top marks for that.

Verdict

If it was not obvious I really, really, enjoyed this game. In fact, this review nearly didn’t make it in time because I just could not stop playing the game. I just wanted to mine and explore a little bit more. I wanted to Hookshot around and just embrace my surroundings while chilling to the music. I enjoyed both Dorothy and Fen and watching them grow throughout the game. I just enjoyed this game so much and I know you all will to. If you like platformers or Metroid games then you need to get this game. You will not regret it.

 

Joshua 'NantenJex' Goldie
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Joshua 'NantenJex' Goldie

Video Content Lead at Source Gaming
If video game historian was a career that would be my goal in life. I have spent a lot of my life studying various histories and so I am super familiar with sourcing, which is pretty essential for this site and just a good thing to do in general so you do not spread lies. I have a huge fascination with the old days and ips with Nintendo. There is so much potential for old franchises like Balloon Fight, Marvelous, Nazo no Murusame Jo and more to come back in the modern age. At least Smash celebrates those games! My focus for source gaming are the Dream articles and working on Project Omega. I hope you enjoy reading my work.
Joshua 'NantenJex' Goldie
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