SteamWorld Dig 2 Review

Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Platform: Windows 10
Version: None Available (latest patch – unknown)
Copy purchased

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Having played and enjoyed the first SteamWorld Dig game I went into SteamWorld Dig 2 with high expectations. Luckily my expectations were met with the sequel. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a Metroidvania style game where you take control of a steam powered robot named Dorothy (or Dot for short) and dig for treasure. The core gameplay loop will see you heading underground, filling your trousers with as much loot as you can, and then traveling back to the surface to sell off your spoils to purchase incremental upgrades that further increase your spelunking prowess. In addition to the basic gameplay loop, there are a number of character upgrades you’ll find that expand your capability to explore such as sprinting and use of explosives, as well as collectible cogs that can be used like skill points to gain new passive abilities. While the core is still very much the same as the original, SteamWorld Dig 2 expands on many of the concepts of its predecessor to make for a good sequel.

The Good

As with the previous title, exploration plays a massive part in SteamWorld Dig 2. Wherein the first game players were made to dig down crafting a network of tunnels until they reached the bottom, Dig 2 takes a slightly different approach. A large bulk of the game still sees to you digging through the crust of the planet, but you also have detours into areas with more horizontal focused puzzles and environments. One wouldn’t expect this to add much, but changing the direction of exploration, as well as the way the player moves through each area kept things from becoming overly repetitive. This also allowed for the addition of more interesting platforming challenges within the later environments as they weren’t limited to just vertical level design. Because of how horizontal and vertical challenges were implemented throughout Dig 2, I found it more enjoyable and less repetitive than I would have were the level design to be strictly vertical.

In addition to the change in level design, the upgrade system feels designed around encouraging players to explore. As you carve out the earth from under the town of El Machino increasingly more valuable gems can be excavated and brought back into town for a hefty payday. The real reward, however, is finding items known as cogs, which can be spent on passive power ups unlocked throughout the game. The power ups are, for the most part, huge game changers that greatly improve your proficiency to fight baddies, explore, and mine. Cogs can be uncovered from hiding places throughout the game, and as rewards for completing platforming challenges in caves. Getting increasingly more powerful skills to invest these cogs into made exploring every corner of the game feel rewarding, as I was always one step closer to obtaining some new ability. Having a sense of reward when I would venture off the beaten path helped to make exploration in SteamWorld Dig 2 much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

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Thirdly, a big component of Metroidvania games for me is what new abilities are unlocked and how they are implemented into exploring the game’s world and I think SteamWorld Dig 2 does a great job of this. Each of the power ups found throughout the game greatly improve Dot’s capability to explore both in and outside of the tunnels. This helped to make them all feel rewarding to find, which gave a greater incentive for me to continue exploring within the game’s world. There was never a time where I didn’t think of several potential uses for a new ability upon gaining it, which always made uncovering what that next tool was to be so exciting. It also helps that some of the later skills are really fun to use. To avoid spoilers I won’t elaborate, but I really enjoyed the movement based power you receiving around the midpoint in the game because of how much momentum it added to your exploration and platforming. Unlocking neat new abilities coupled with varied level design, and a rewarding upgrade system really helped to aid in giving SteamWorld Dig 2 a greater sense of exploration.

While it isn’t necessarily my favourite part of the game I also think the story deserves a mention as well. The narrative in Dig 2 is not ground breaking, but it does help to contextualize what you are doing. Instead of digging simply for profit, Dot is on a journey to find Rusty (the protagonist of the previous game). This leads her to chase after him in several different environments under and around the mining town of El Machino. The narrative is always delivered in quick bursts, and never drags on with mountains of dialogue. I found the narrative delivery worked really well as it never dragged the player out of the game for too long, but also, as stated, added context to what we were doing and why. While it may not be something appreciated by all players, I found the story added a nice extra layer to the game.

The Bad

The first of 2 minor gripes I had with SteamWorld Dig 2 comes from the skills that accompany the cog upgrade system: some of them feel woefully under powered. While certain powers from the earlier part of the game still have relevance into the mid and late section of the games some do not and I question why they were even included in the first place because of this. Heck, some skills can replace the need for others and that felt really weird given that wasn’t the case for the majority of them. Perhaps it was done as a way to indirectly sway players toward choosing more optimal abilities without blatantly telling them that certain powers were better, but it still kind of bugged me. It’s a minor nitpick as I otherwise really liked the addition of the upgrade system.

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The other problem I had is a recurring one from the previous game: the bosses aren’t great. In SteamWorld Dig 2 there are an expanded selection of bosses to fight when compared against the first game, but they still feel half baked. The boss battles all feel underwhelming as the game’s core mechanics don’t mesh well into any of the them. Two of the three bosses are also complete pushovers, and as a result of this the fights didn’t really feel up to par with how enjoyable the rest of the game is. Like my gripe with some of the cog upgrades, my distaste for the boss encounters might come down to personal preference, but I found the bosses really underwhelming to fight.

Conclusion

SteamWorld Dig 2 didn’t light my world up like Hollow Knight did, but I still really enjoyed the game and would absolutely recommend it to fans of metroidvanias, or platforming games. Its focus on exploration through varied level design, a rewarding upgrade system, and unique power ups all push players to comb every inch of the game in search of treasure, which is very enjoyable. The story not being overbearing, while providing additional context to what was going on was also appreciated. My minor gripes with some of the upgrades being under powered and the boss fights leaving me wanting are not enough for me to advise people to steer clear. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a good game and if anything I’ve written above has you interested you should look into picking it up.

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