Developer: Image & Form Games
Publisher: Image & Form Games
Release Date: 21/09/2017 (Nintendo Switch) 22/09/2017 (PC) 27/09/2017 (Playstation 4, Playstation Vita)
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC
My favourite kind of video game sequel isn’t one that just simply carries on with the story of the previous entry without offering anything fresh to go with it, but instead one that takes everything great about it and evolves it to offer something that feels new and exciting. We’ve recently seen that in the high profile triple-A release Destiny 2, but it’s also the case with SteamWorld Dig 2 – the sequel to the much-loved cult classic from developer Image & Form Games. It takes everything that players loved about the first game and enhances it to offer a stellar gameplay experience that plays better than ever before.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for story progression – this is still a sequel, after all. Following on from his heroics in the first game, Rusty has gone missing and it’s up to new protagonist (and returning character) Dorothy to go out and find him. This sends her on a journey through the town of El Machino that involves a Doomsday cult, a lot of earthquakes, and even more cave-digging that you can possible imagine. I mean… what else would you expect from SteamWorld Dig 2?
The story adds a nice little incentive to drive you on through the game and the tale has plenty of little twists, though in honesty it plays second fiddle to the excellent digging and exploration mechanics. It’s an appreciated addition and certainly offers a lot more depth than the narrative in the original game though, but SteamWorld Dig 2 is primarily a gameplay-driven experience rather than a story one.
Much like the original game, SteamWorld Dig 2 follows the same process of progression by having the player dig through caves, head back to town to earn cash by selling off the minerals they uncover, upgrade their skills and gear, and then repeat the process to progress even further. It’s a simple yet effective form of gameplay that keeps the player working but also feeling their own sense of improvement as they’re doing so.
The game promotes a real sense of freedom though by allowing the player to decide which path they dig through across each cave, as well as which abilities they want to improve when they head back to town. Do you focus on improving how fast you can dig so you can get more done in a quicker time? Or do you improve you bag so that you can carry more minerals back? You can’t dig for long without light though, so are you better off improving your lantern? Players have to decide what will work best for them, and without an infinite amount of minerals available to spend they’ll have to get their priorities in order if they really want to succeed.
Besides digging, there are plenty of platforming and puzzle-solving elements to the game too. You’ll find that you’ll be able to sprint and wall-jump quite early on in order to work your way across some of the tricky obstacles that come your way, though you’ll eventually also unlock the likes of the rocket boots or the grappling hook that’ll allow you to get to places that initially seemed impossible to reach. The more gear you have though, the more options you’ll have to upgrade stuff; everything in the game can be improved upon and doing so will allow you to delve that little bit further into each cave. The platforming mechanics all feel great though, whilst each item of gear you’re equipped with is always a treat to use. It got to a point where I simply wanted to play around and explore, with mineral collecting and actual in-game progression being forgotten about momentarily when playing around with my little set of toys.
SteamWorld Dig 2 has a real Metroidvania-like feeling to it in that sense, with previously unreachable locations becoming more and more available as you work your way through the game. It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to return to an area and realise that this time around you can actually reach those extra minerals or collectibles that eluded you earlier on in the game.
It’s also worth noting that the game’s world has been fully crafted by hand this time around too; whilst the original game offered procedurally generated caves, the world of SteamWorld Dig 2 is finely created to offer a more meaningful locale that caters to all of the tools and abilities you earn throughout the game. This means there are a lot more secrets to find, be it some additional collectibles, new abilities, upgrades points, or just some tricky challenge to complete that pushes your skills in a whole different way. Whilst the procedurally generated caves of the first game offered a lot more replayability, I appreciated the more intricately thought-out hand-crafted world of SteamWorld Dig 2 a lot more.
It’s not just exploration on offer though, with the player coming up against plenty of enemies when venturing through the caves. Combat never over-complicates things though, so anyone who has played any form of action-platformer will feel at ease immediately. The boss encounters were a bit more imaginative though and often added a nice twist to how you use your abilities or gear. Combat might not be at the forefront of SteamWorld Dig 2’s design, but it doesn’t stop it being highly enjoyable.
It should be noted though that SteamWorld Dig 2 actually gets off to a bit of a slow start. The opening tutorial doesn’t show off the best elements of the game, with the whole experience not really kicking off until your reach the town. It’s one of those games that become more and more enjoyable the further you progress; don’t judge it upon its initial linear half-hour, because once it really gets going it becomes a real blast to play through.
Visually, SteamWorld Dig 2 looks absolutely great, with the game maintaining the impressive art style that has graced the series since its inception. Somehow though, Image & Form Games have managed to improve upon the visuals that we saw in their previous release SteamWorld Heist; the hard-line style stands out a lot more, whilst some clever lighting effects and the fantastic looking environments and fluidly animated characters are simply sublime. The rusty, steam-powered world has simply never looked this good.
It’s worth pointing out that it looked great in both the handheld and docked forms of the Nintendo Switch. Players have often complained about a drop of quality when switching between the two, but in honesty you’d barely notice a difference this time around. SteamWorld Dig 2 really is on-point with its visuals and caters for gamers who are playing in the comfort of their home or whilst on the go.
I initially managed to finish SteamWorld Dig 2 in around about seven hours, which was a nice length for the experience I had; I didn’t venture off the beaten track as much as I could have to find everything that each cave had hidden away, but I did so enough to get a real taste of what the game had to offer. Still, there’s so much left for me to discover and do that there are plenty of extra hours that I could easily spend with the game. In fact, I intend to – the developers have confirmed that there is some hidden extra content for players who manage to hit the 100% mark as far as completion goes. It might take some time, but the fact that playing SteamWorld Dig 2 is so damn fun will make it a fun endeavour.
I was already a big fan of the first game, but playing through the new hand-crafted world of SteamWorld Dig 2 with the all-new abilities that Dot offered was a real treat. Everything about it has seen an improvement from the original, be it the gameplay mechanics or just how the story itself has took on a more important role (even though it shouldn’t take you too long to see it through to its conclusion). With a plethora of unlockables to find and hidden secrets to discover in each cave though, you’ll be spending a ton of hours with the game before you’ve seen everything it has to offer.
SteamWorld Dig 2 is simply a must-play action-packed platforming/digging experience that I had an absolute blast playing through.