Reviews October 2, 2017

SteamWorld Dig 2

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Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.
System: PC (Also on Switch, PS4, PS Vita)
Genre: Platformer/Adventure
Rated: E
Players: 1
Cost: $19.99
Release Date: 09/26/2017
Publisher: Image & Form
Developer: Image & Form

SteamWorld Dig was one of the better games released in 2014 and Image & Form’s follow up to it offers more of the same. Addictive gameplay mechanics (some of which were inspired by Metroid/Castlevania),  a charming world that encourages exploring, tricky puzzles, colorful characters, and deadly enemies that are all besieged by a great soundtrack. Yeah, SteamWorld Dig 2 is easily one of the better games released this year.

Picking up where the last game left off, SteamWorld Dig 2 centers on a stream-driven robot named Dorothy. Things have been peaceful for the inhabitants of Tumbleton. With the mines made safe by Rusty (the first game’s protagonist) they could seemingly thrive off the precious jewels found below. Since then though, Rusty hasn’t been seen; rumors have it that he went off mining in a different area and never came back. This prompts Dorothy to seek him out. Her search takes her to an old mining town and upon inquiring about Rusty, she finds out that someone who resembled him did journey into the mine. Unfortunately, given the slew of recent earthquakes, the mine is much too dangerous for any would-be explorer…

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The game’s plot isn’t the most complex, but unraveling the mystery surrounding Rusty’s disappearance does prove to be entertaining. The real pull comes from the familiar gameplay loop. Players will venture into the mines, searching for clues. While down there, they’ll dig into the soil using Dorothy’s pickax, exposing new locations and alternate routes. A dwindling light source and inadequate gear demand frequent trips back to the surface. The precious stones collected along the way help to alleviate these problems; stronger pickaxes, better armor, more hearts – these upgrades and more are purchased using money gained from trading ores and such. Every so often, a major upgrade will come via large machines hidden in caves deep below ground. Once acquired, these needed abilities make it possible to access previously blocked off areas and hard to reach secrets.

All of these things were present in the first SteamWorld Dig. Most of them have been refined to offer a better experience though. For instance, upgraded gear can now be augmented with different perks using hard to find cogs. Dorothy’s armor perks can allow her to deflect projectiles, bump enemies away upon contact, and negate some instances of damage (among other things). Each of these passive abilities would require a different number of cogs to be slotted. None of them are permanent once applied (the cogs can be inserted/removed at will), which lets the player pick and choose what’s most important at any given time. Ideally, one would want to acquire them all given how some are basic upgrades from the first game. That said, because they are made optional, it’s possible to pick better enhancements sooner than the game expects you to.  

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There is also a bigger emphasis on the world this time around. Not only in terms of size (the map is huge) but also on the placement of enemies and such. It feels as if Image & Form chose to forgo the procedurally generated elements – there is still some of that in the location of resources but that’s about it. The choice to have more stagnant level designs actually enhanced the environments by providing platforming segments that are imaginative in scope. Getting across a lake of lava using a grappling hook while dodging exploding bats is as entertaining as it was difficult. One section was designed using survival horror tropes. It came complete with eerie music, stormy weather, and a few chase sequences with multiple indestructible enemies.

The creativity extends to the platforming puzzles as well. The trickiest ones are found in the caves. All of them have prizes like cogs and/or collectables that are gated away by pressure based switches, crumbling structures, or shifty minecarts. They range in difficulty, from “oh, that wasn’t so bad” to the “good grief, that was frustrating”, but in a good way! The main campaign was neglected for hours at a time as I tried my best to solve every puzzle I ran into.

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SteamWorld Dig 2 certainly benefited from more of the same. More items, enemies (they gave us three bosses this time), locations, and so on. There is a point, however, where I think things should have been scaled back. The plot calls for Dorothy to find and destroy machines in hopes of staving off some disaster. The thing is, each one is in a far-off corner of the map. Even with heavy exploration, most will be way out of reach by time you get to that point; because the game sends you to specific locations, there’s no reason to venture near the areas where the machines are early on. This adds a few needless hours to the campaign, forcing the player to grind towards each machine. To be fair, there are quick travel points to help you get around. Still, this part felt like padding. It made sense from a narrative standpoint but was ultimately a tedious endeavor.

Image & Form outdid themselves. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a nearly perfect sequel. I really enjoyed my time spelunking with Dorothy. I also liked how the story connects the Dig games to SteamWorld Heist – another awesome title. Basically, SteamWorld Dig 2 is one of Image’s best games yet!

Gameplay: 9
SteamWorld Dig 2 is more of the same but in a good way. There is a bit of padding late in the game, but it doesn’t mar the experience.

Graphics: 10
I love the colorful, charming world and interestingly designed characters.

Sound: 10
The music and sound effects are great.

Replay Value: 9
The base gameplay is super entertaining. What’s interesting though is that Image added extra content for players that  complete100% the main game (find all of the collectibles, max Dorothy’s levels, etc.).

Final Score:

9.5