Review: SteamWorld Dig 2 (Switch)

A great game gets a better sequel.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 10/11/2017 18:30 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Successfully combines the unique mechanics of the original with more rewarding platforming and exploration; beautiful and atmospheric 2D world; fantastic soundtrack; lots of ways to tweak gameplay and difficulty options.
Poison Mushroom for...
Early combat feels somewhat limited and imprecise; no New Game Plus option.

When SteamWorld Dig burst onto the scene back in 2013, the gaming industry took notice and developer Image & Form became a studio to watch. They followed up the 3DS hit with the radically different, yet equally acclaimed, SteamWorld Heist. Now, the developer has headed back to the mines with SteamWorld Dig 2, a follow up that confidently exceeds the high expectations set by its predecessor.

SteamWorld Dig 2 is a direct sequel to the original, returning players to a wild west inspired world inhabited by steampunk robots. This time around, Rusty, the first game’s protagonist, is missing, so one of his old allies, Dorothy, sets out after him. This leads her to a brand new town sitting atop its own massive mine filled with valuable minerals, vicious monsters, and ancient mysteries. In fact, the game’s story actually kept me surprisingly hooked. While the plot is fairly simple and the writing is often humorous, there’s also an unnerving sense of foreboding as the game moves along and the stakes begin to become apparent. Also, I won’t spoil much, but an interesting connection to the space-faring adventures of Heist eventually becomes apparent as well.

In terms of gameplay, Dig 2 maintains many of the core concepts of the original but re-contextualizes them in a way that feels much more compelling and ambitious. The first game clearly focused on mining your way through randomly generated levels while finding and upgrading gear to make your way through tougher terrain. The new game changes things up with a set, developer designed map that places a much greater emphasis on more specific challenges built around unique obstacles and platforming. This shift in focus, as well as the interconnected nature of the map, has clearly pushed Dig 2 into the Metroidvania subgenre. However, the process of mining your way through the world square by square means the game still has a very unique feel that seems like a reasonable progression from the first game.

The shift in design has also opened up the opportunity for plenty of new toys, as well. The pick axe remains your primary tool for both combat and digging, but Dorothy will eventually get her metal hands on incredibly enjoyable items like a Hook Shot and Jet Pack, among other goodies, which significantly change how you mine and move your way through the world. Furthermore, every item can be upgraded and altered throughout the game. Money earned by picking up valuable minerals dug out along the way will allow you to increase the efficiency and basic effectiveness of your gear, while upgrade cogs found in secret areas or earned through specific challenges unlock special modifiers that allow for some nice customization to your preferred play style.

Another nice customization comes in the game’s difficulty. Beyond a simple option to switch between “Easy” and “Hard” modes, there are certain things you can turn on and off to tweak your experience. For example, if you’d rather embrace the full spirit of adventuring into the unknown, you can turn off your objective marker. Also, having a full arsenal of upgraded gear makes things rather easy, but there are also additional hidden modifiers scattered throughout the mine that can make the game significantly harder. Assuming you choose to play things normally, a play through should take about eight or ten hours for the main campaign, while hunting everything down will likely add a few more hours. Unfortunately, there is currently no option for a New Game Plus, something that would have been nice to have, given the various difficulty options you can tweak.

Though the mining and movement mechanics remain the central focus of the game throughout, combat also pops up frequently but unfortunately doesn’t fare quite as well. Most mechanics serve dual purposes, often covering both mining and combat and they rarely feel quite as effective when it comes to the latter. As a result, most fights feel less strategic, as your best option is to get close and start bashing away while hoping you don’t get hit too much. Thankfully, these issues lessen as the game progresses and you grow stronger and acquire greater mobility through new gear and upgrades. Still, early combat can be somewhat frustrating, though never enough to be a major nuisance.

Even with so many gameplay advances, the biggest change between the first game and this sequel is actually in the visuals. While SteamWorld Dig‘s sprite graphics were plenty charming, the sequel is absolutely gorgeous. The 2D style is still firmly embraced but everything looks so much better. Animations are incredibly smooth and detailed while the world feels much more diverse and vivid. The improved art direction and fidelity generally give the mines a great sense of atmosphere that changes from area to area; in fact, there are a couple spots of the game that feel legitimately creepy.

Helping this experience is the game’s soundtrack which evolves nicely from area to area while having a very consistent style throughout. Overall, the music has an interesting feel that is heavily rooted in classic Hollywood and Spaghetti Westerns, but almost as though it were re-imagined through more contemporary instrumentation and production. The theme is especially memorable as it feels iconic yet unique.

With its SteamWorld games, Image & Form have created an interesting universe united by common aesthetics but surprisingly diverse in terms of gameplay. Despite SteamWorld Dig 2 being a sequel, it retains this concept by adapting its predecessor’s unique mechanics into the otherwise familiar Metroidvania genre. This strange combination has resulted in a surprisingly successful and creative marriage of ideas that is made all the more appealing by the compelling atmosphere created by the beautiful visuals and pitch perfect music. For fans of previous games in the franchise, SteamWorld Dig 2 is an absolute must play that lives up to its siblings, and for everyone else it’s a perfect opportunity to see why these games have garnered so much praise.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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