Review: SteamWorld Dig 2

SteamWorld Dig 2 opens with players controlling Dorothy, a robot looking for her friend Rusty, the starring robot from the first SteamWorld Dig. Dorothy meets a parade of different robotic townsfolk who live in a dusty Western mining town troubled by a recent spike of earthquakes after Rusty disappeared deep in the mines below. With the knowledge that Rusty is somewhere underground, Dorothy sets off digging her way deeper and deeper into the world with the hopes of finding her pal and hopefully stopping the quakes as well.

The mechanics of SteamWorld Dig 2 are dirt simple. Wielding a pickaxe and a lantern, players dig up, down, left, right one block of earth at a time, mining a path through the dark subterranean environment. Along the way, rare minerals and gems can be collected and brought back to the surface to sell and fund the purchase of upgrades. Various enemies throughout the mines pose an element of combat, which in turn provides the opportunity to earn XP to level up.

Dorothy also soon discovers several equipment upgrades, which provide some wonderful enhancements to gameplay. Initially, she only has her trusty pickaxe, but eventually her arsenal of steampunk gadgetry expands to include a grenade launcher, jack hammer, hookshot, and jet boots. All of these items provide a robust way to navigate the player-dug underground map. Several boss-type encounters make clever use of the various pieces of equipment that Dorothy acquires. As the story unfolds and more of the mine is explored and uncovered, Dorothy also uncovers secret rooms. Some of these rooms hide the aforementioned items, while others simply provide gear bits to activate enhancements to the equipment, such as the ability to have the rare gems and minerals sort of magnetically fly to Dorothy (so players don’t have to walk over items to collect them), or to keep the lantern fuel from draining below 50%.

Like the first game, there’s a layer of strategy to not only mining the map, but also managing dwindling supplies and inventory capacity. As the game takes place in a steam-powered world, several of Dorothy’s pieces of equipment are powered by steam and thus require water as an energy source. The grenade launcher lobs grenades so long as she has water in reserve. Her jackhammer’s use of water is diminished over time instead of in blocks. Water can be sucked up from underground pools or by drops sometimes left by killing enemies, and the amount of water that can be carried at a given time can be upgraded. The upgrade system also provides a few perks where health, lantern fuel, and water supply pick-ups may drop, enabling Dorothy to stay deep underground for a longer period of time to collect more minerals and gems before needing to return to the surface to sell and resupply. Health, water, and lantern fuel replenish any time Dorothy returns topside.

As precious ore is collected, a limit on the amount of stuff that Dorothy can hold means that players must return to the surface fairly often. Fortunately, one of the available upgrades expands the bag size (carrying gears can be used to better stack rare gems). Early on, returning to the surface is almost a necessity, because fuel will fairly quickly run out, which in turn makes navigating the mines a potential risky proposition. Without the warm light of the lantern, players may not be able to see enemies lurking ahead or notice a large boulder hanging above, which could easily dislodge and squish poor Dorothy into a robot pancake. Additionally, story objectives and character building unfold as Dorothy speaks with different citizens of the mining town, so it’s always fun to return above ground to restock and see what the townsfolk are up to.

SteamWorld Dig 2 builds upon the formula originally established in the first game with not only a deep and rewarding upgrade system and a broader set of platforming mechanics, but also with a fairly wide ranging set of environments. While most of the game is set underground, players will visit a number of other unique locations to explore and dig items out of. A fluorescent mushroom area gives a nice change of pace to the standard browns found in the main mine shaft. A scary cybernetic wasteland also makes an appearance for a short period, and naturally a game about platforming and digging underground wouldn’t be complete without a section filled with piping-hot lava.

For as wonderfully diverse as the different areas of the game are, the world wouldn’t feel as distinct without the enhancement of the wildly varying music that helps to further distinguish each new section. The soundtrack in SteamWorld Dig 2 is absolutely fantastic. Jazzy, electronic, trance beats with poppy hooks and rocking guitar shreds fill out the spectrum of music created by El Huervo, Pelle Cahndlerby and several other extremely talented musicians. It is easy to get lost in a digging groove because the music just works so perfectly to complement the gameplay.

The storyline is full of charm and whimsy, a tone befitting every other aspect of the gameplay. Puzzle rooms offer a nice break from simply digging for minerals, while meeting new robots and other creatures deep underground provides a wholly lived-in atmosphere that welcomes the player back time and time again. Like the mined treasures Dorothy unearths, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a wonderful gem of a game that should not be missed.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Deep and rewarding upgrade system
+ Charming characters
+ Fantastic music
+ Nice variety in world design

Cons:
Nothing

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PC, also on Switch, PS4, and Vita
Publisher: Image & Form
Developer: Image & Form
Release Date: 9/22/2017
Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1

Source: Code for SteamWorld Dig 2 was provided to VGBlogger.com for review purposes by Image & Form.

Buy From: Steam, Nintendo eShop, and PlayStation Store for $19.99.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.