SteamWorld Dig 2 Review: Just Keep Digging
If you are familiar with the anime Gurren Lagann then you know this quote: “If you're gonna dig, dig to the heavens. No matter what's in my way, I won't stop! Once I've dug through - it means that I've won!”
This inspiring call to courage tells you to forge ahead for unknown depths just like SteamWorld Dig 2. The direct sequel to Image & Form Games' SteamWorld Dig, Steamworld Dig 2 follows in its predecessor's footsteps to create a Metroidvania-style game with outstanding visuals and an intriguing world.
You Don't Have to Dig Far for the Story
SteamWorld Dig 2 begins a few years after the events of the first game when our new main protagonist, Dorothy, a steambot with a heart of gold, takes up the quest to uncover the meaning behind the strange earthquakes plaguing the old mining town of El Machino as well as search for Rusty, the protagonist of SteamWorld Dig who mysteriously vanished after the previous game's final boss fight.
While the story is on par with other games in the SteamWorld universe, there is not much to it. The main thing you need to know is that there are earthquakes in the area and that the search for Rusty is still ongoing by your character. Though the game features two main antagonists to combat, only one has even some depth to their character. The other, Ronald, who leads a doom worshiping cult, felt like a simple throwaway character. Players only face his forces a handful of times, which felt a bit sparse and unnecessary. The ending similarly felt lackluster. Again, this is typical for the SteamWorld universe, but lackluster is still lackluster.
The world that this story takes place in, however, is brimming with character. Reminiscent of old western-style lore, El Machino and its population of humans, cult members, and steambots embody the legends of cowboys and cowgirls. Even the environment itself feels like a character, with each new mine you explore possessing a unique feel. One might be dusty, while another is fairy-like. The Temple of the Guardian in particular features traps reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. Enemies even behave differently in these different biomes, adding an additional layer of freshness to each area.
Gameplay Is Dusty But Fresh.
An interesting take on the Metroidvania genre, SteamWorld Dig 2 takes that formula and flips it vertically. Simply put, you have to dig to get where you are going. Starting out with just a pickaxe, you dig your way through the ground to find gems needed to buy upgrades for your tools. Also within these deep mines are enhancement sites that grant you access to new tools, like the hookshot.
The game manages to improve upon its predecessor to enhance the already-fun gameplay experience. In the previous game, for example, double-jumping and wall clinging were abilities that had to be bought and then upgraded. While the new game lacks a double-jump, players are now able to wall cling immediately, which is a great tool when trying to climb up long mine wells.
Likewise, you can now obtain a much-needed jetpack for those times where you end up in a deep open pit with no feasible way of escape. Even some simpler items like transport tubes, which act as a fast-travel system, make it much easier to frequently replenish you health and sell your wares. These simple additions help take out a lot of unnecessary hassle and allow players to spend more time just having fun.
What SteamWorld Dig 2 does retain, however, is the addicting resource gathering and exploration of the first game. Even as someone who does not 100% games, I could not put it down. The depth of the semi-open world is simply immense and I wanted to complete it all. The map is handcrafted to show off the depth of the game and enable full exploration, giving the player the option to systematically mine everything on the map. This makes the loop of digging, selling, and upgrading much more efficient.
Digging further and further uncovers more secrets. Caves open up to different challenges that test your abilities, often with puzzles that require the use of one of your many tools. One such cave was a puzzle involving a finite number of mining carts. Completing these caves earn the player cogs, which are used for upgrading blueprints, and each cave also contains secret areas that hide artifacts which can be traded for more blueprints.
As you sell your various finds, you can use your hard-earned cash to buy upgrades to your core abilities. Each upgrade can be then be modified with the aforementioned blueprints. These blueprints can then be further enhanced with cogs for different purposes that fit your need. A fascinating part of this upgrade system is that cogs are not locked in, allowing you to mod and re-mod your abilities to better suit different activities. For instance, when facing the final boss, I changed my cogs to focus on health and attack to better tackle the challenge. By mixing and matching these enhancements, players are able to take better control of their own game experience.
All in all SteamWorld Dig 2 is a fantastic game that you don't want to miss. The story is sparse but fair for a world that seems to be alive. The gameplay improves on the last game to enhance players' experience, but still retains the addicting cycle of looting, selling, and upgrading. I hope Image & Form Games can keep on creating such fun games for years to come.
SteamWorld Dig 2 is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC and will be available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on September 26.
[Note: A copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.]