SteamWorld Dig 2
Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Release Date: 21 September 2017
Reviewed By Phil Myth
Steamworld Dig 2 is one of those rare games where a quick half hour play through turns into a 4 hour marathon without you even realising it.
The follow up to Image and Form’s 2013 release maintains the same core gameplay mechanic of digging in the dirt, but eschews procedural generation for superb level design. As you burrow through the earth, you’ll have to take on enemies, solve puzzles, negotiate platforming sections, and harvest crucial resources to power up Dorothy’s various abilities.
Down Down, Deeper and Down
Dorothy is the robot at the centre of Dig 2, as Rusty, the protagonist from the first game, has gone missing in the mine. There’s also some strange earthquakes that are annoying the cash-hungry mayor, but that’s about as elaborate as the plot gets. Frankly, it’s all the incentive you need to start digging because once you do, traversing the mines is stupendously fun.
You are, of course, only going downwards, but there’s enough width to the area to really encourage you to spread out and explore. That exploration is rewarded with resources, hidden items, and caves that act as self-contained puzzle rooms. Successfully planning a route through the dirt to find these is unbelievably satisfying, and often provokes a wry smile at your own ingenuity.
The puzzle rooms themselves are a real highlight as they often rely on a certain item or gimmick in order to get through them and find all the treasures they have to offer. One such room for example sees you basically playing ‘the floor is lava’, utilising Dorothy’s hookshot to get through the room without touching the floor, lest you trigger one of the myriad switches, shutting the door at the end and having to go back and start again.
Getting through each section is devilishly challenging, but incredibly rewarding. Each of these rooms essentially has two objectives as well, the obvious one which usually nets you an upgrade cog, and a hidden route that rewards you with an artefact.
Searching For Cog
Cogs and artefacts are used back in town to upgrade Dorothy’s various abilities and equipment. There’s plenty of variety to those upgrades too, allowing you to customise your load-out to suit your play style. So if you’re going hunting for resources, you can use the cogs to expand the amount of gems you can carry. Or if you’ve come across an area particularly laden with enemies, upgrade your axe to do more damage and earn more XP.
Each of the cogs can be equipped and unequipped as you please, letting you tweak your abilities according to the task at hand. This adds a tonne of variety and challenge to the gameplay, and it also means you can ramp up the difficulty yourself if you choose, leaving all the various upgrades unequipped.
The act of mining resources, selling them for gold and then using that to purchase upgrades makes every trip below the surface worthwhile, even if you don’t progress towards your objective. It also encourages that exploration, and provokes you to think about a less straightforward route in order to add a little gold to your coffers. It really is ingeniously designed.
The different areas and baddies add variety too. I was met with new challenges and enemy types fairly regularly. Some of them made for seriously difficult sections as well, with enemy burst attacks destroying platforms I’d carefully crafted to ensure easy traversal. The way the environment changed in light of these battles meant I never moved through an area the same way twice.
The same fundamental principles apply whether you’re in the mine, a mysterious jungle area, or a temple, but each locale throws up different hazards and foes to test your skills against.
Each area looks great too, and the game’s art style as a whole is pretty impressive. The character design especially deserves a mention, with the various bots back in town all having unique looks and characteristics that were great fun to interact with. Dorothy’s sarcastic (and slightly psychotic) sidekick Fen is especially entertaining.
All in all then, Steamworld Dig 2 has a fairly simple mechanic at its core. But the way it goes about throwing different challenges at you, ensuring you use all of the items at your disposal, makes it an absolute joy to play through. After a little over 9 hours I’d finished the main game, but was still massively hungry to play more, and I’ll be going back to find every cog and artefact it has to offer. It’s a superb game who’s only discernible flaw is that I just want more and more of it.
Pros & Cons
+ Immensely satisfying gameplay loop
+ New challenges throughout
+ Superb presentation
- Fairly simple narrative
- Abrupt ending