Game Review: SteamWorld Dig 2 Excavates the Fun in Gaming

What it is:

As Image & Form’s fourth installment into the SteamWorld games, this Metroidvania-style adventure takes players deep below the Earth’s surface.

The game released on September 21st on Nintendo Switch for $19.99.  You can also grab it on Steam.

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While I had a Wii U, I wasn’t as keen on it (and especially the indy fare) as I am on the Switch, so sadly, I missed out on this series.  This sequel picks up shortly after the first one ends and this game does such a great job with story and pacing, not spoon-feeding you everything that happened before, but peppering in just enough to inform your actions as you go.  So if you, like me, are new to this world, fear not, for the story is expertly told, and you’ll soon be captivated by the unique gameplay.

The world is set on an alternate Earth where technology was rapidly advanced in the 19th century through the works and brainpower of British scientist Charles Babbage.  Computers are created, which eventually leads to robots, A.I., and weaponry that summons the Apocalypse.  Now, humans live deep within the Earth as primitive beings and steam-powered robots rule the surface in a unique take on the Wild West.

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Story:

The original SteamWorld followed the mining robot Rusty as he attempts to save a disparate mining town from a crazed robotic fiend.  In the process, Rusty is taken over and influenced by said fiend, and disappears to parts unknown.

The sequel finds the player taking control of Dorothy, or Dot, who was a minor character in the original.  While searching for signs of Rusty, she stumbles into a mining town that is being plagued by Earthquakes and decides to investigate, hoping to learn of Rusty’s whereabouts in the process.

Along the journey, Dot stumbles into the den of the humans, the lair of an insane robot cult, and a series of bizarre, below-ground situations before discovering Rusty’s fate.

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Can I just say, I think this story route is brilliant for a sequel.  To my knowledge, I’ve not played another game that uses this kind of creative license, though I have a game I’d like to create one day that comes close to this.

Controls/Actions:

Dot jumps, climbs walls, and swings a pick-ax in many directions: up, down, and side to side.  Through the game’s various power-ups, she eventually learns to fire bombs, jackhammer through harder rock, and even hookshots to hard-to-reach areas.

In addition to the face buttons, the shoulder buttons are employed frequently, which tends to throw me off.  I have been known to get caught up on the controls every so often, but at the end of the day, they do work.

Being a mining game, naturally you collect rocks and minerals in your travels and trade them in to upgrade your gear, allowing you venture further and deeper between pit stops.

Art/Animation:

The game is pretty.  The use of in-game lighting is a plot point and limitation throughout much of the game, which it should be for a game that takes place 90% underground, and the lighting effect is used to great effect.  I can’t say I ever felt necessarily claustrophobic, but there were plenty of times where I was trapped and panicked maybe a little.

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The environments are often times moody and dank (read: atmospheric), but the ever optimistic Dot is ever brighter by contrast.

Why you should play it:

 sw8From start to finish, this game is just fun.  Going in, I was a little hesitant, but I’d played worse-looking games, so thought it was at least worth a shot.  My goal was to give it ten minutes before going to bed.  Two hours later, I was fighting sleep, but couldn’t put the controller down.

I meant to put this review out on launch day, but I was having so much fun playing the game, it was hard to stop and write about it.  Last night, however, I got to what I assume is the last level in the story (though it is clear there is still MUCH more to explore), and it was kicking my ass with these giant, linebacker-like golem-esque robots trampling me like a game of “Smear the Queer” (can I still say that?).  So I may be stuck in that spot for awhile, and it seemed like a good time to share with you, lovely Minions, my love for this product.

The map is giant and consumed by fog of war that reveals as you discover new territory.  The enemies aren’t overly tough, but they are plentiful, and the pitfalls and dangers abound.  Plus, as I said before, there are upgrades to discover which allow you to venture back to previously visited places to unlock new items and gear.

There is a TON of stuff to uncover and explore, and (in case you didn’t hear), Image & Form revealed on launch day that the biggest treasure to find is buried deep, which means that completing the game 100% unlocks post-game content.  If that isn’t fan service, I don’t know what is.  Not only is the game great, but the guys that made it exist to service the fans.

With a game this sound and deep and a creative team that embraces its players, I would expect big things to continue from Image & Form and hopefully a long and lucrative legacy.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Oh, and speaking of fan service, let me make a request: put Dorothy in the next Smash Bros game.  Her skillset is perfectly suited for the party brawler and with the game being a Switch (console) exclusive, it would just make sense!

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Let us know what you think of SteamWorld Dig 2 in the comments section below!

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