The first SteamWorld Dig is a steampunk western that focuses on taking a steam-driven robot deep into the earth to dig up valuable resources to sell in a run-down mechanical Old West town. Robots vs mutants, finding strange technology, and exploring bizzare caverns - these are the things I loved about the original SteamWorld Dig.
I was delighted that its sequel, SteamWorld Dig 2, retains all of those great features while roping in some new rpg elements and fun puzzles. All of these elements have combined to make a magnificent game.
The biggest and most obvious change is in the removal of the procedurally generated world featured in the first game. This game is literally “deep” and the placement of hidden areas (more on that in a bit), enemies, and tunnels show that a great deal of work and design was done. As you go deeper, the world around you becomes darker. A sidekick of yours lights up your surroundings, but only for so long. This adds a layer of difficulty to your traversing and perhaps a layer of unnecessary frustration. While you can upgrade the effectiveness of your sidekick’s light, it seems like too often I was having to backtrack to the surface just to get light returned to my luminous buddy.
While digging into the earth, you’ll often come across hidden areas and caverns. These hidden areas can contain precious resources, which you can then sell back in town. The caverns feature clever puzzles which offer a nice break from the action of digging and exploring. You go from exploring this huge, cavernous world to a more confined space which features a puzzle with a very specific solution, providing a cog for successfully completing it. The puzzles are never extremely difficult but they are satisfying and do a nice job in changing the pace of the game.
A cog is used to implement augmentations and upgrades to your protagonist Dorothy’s gear. As you progress through the game, Dorothy takes on new abilities which allow her to better traverse the underground world and cogs help upgrade those abilities.
Speaking of traversing the world, SteamWorld Dig 2 offers such a smooth experience, whether it’s wall jumping, bouncing over gaps in the floor, or running through a timed gate. At first Dorothy is extremely limited in what she can do, but after a few hours she’s shooting sticky bombs, jack-hammering huge rocks, and even using a grappling hook to cross big gaps. These abilities were gradually presented to me and spaced out enough from each other, that by the time another ability was introduced, I felt like I had mastered using the previous one.
The loop of exploring, looting, and returning to the surface may sound like an impending bore, but Dig 2’s fast travel system helps keep the game moving along. By finding a “pneumatic tub,” you can return to the surface to sell your collected gems and then quickly return to where you left off. The underground world is vast and finding these tubes really helps cut down the time of backtracking. Plus, returning to the surface also offers full health and light restoration, which is probably the reason why I found myself only dying a handful of times in my first play-through.
The fast travel mechanic isn’t a lifeline that eliminates tense situations, though. A pneumatic tube isn’t always close, which means you’re faced with a dilemma - press on with your light dimming and enemies hidden in the darkness or return back to the tube to regain heath and light. It’s a nice risk reward that makes you constantly stayed engaged with what your are doing in the game.
SteamWorld Dig 2 takes its predecessor’s addictive, resource gathering and hacking-at-rocks gameplay and infuses it with beautiful graphics, great puzzles, solid controls, and a deep upgrade system for Dorothy. I really enjoyed my time in the underground and I suspect that you will to.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.