SteamWorld Dig 2 Switch Review

Back in 2015 the original SteamWorld Dig debuted on 3DS with little fanfare. Through word of mouth alone it amassed a fanbase that fell in love with its simple but addictive gameplay. Due to the uncomplicated nature of the original it may have been an easier task for Image & Form to craft a sequel using the same mechanics as before. SteamWorld Dig 2 however instantly legitimizes itself by reinventing all ideas born in its first outing. The end result is a sequel that’s bounds ahead in all areas when compared to it’s already doted upon first entry.

For the uninitiated; what exactly does a SteamWorld Dig game consist of? You start with a pickaxe, and use it to smash blocks to get deeper underground. Some blocks have materials within, which you collect and bring to the surface to sell. Those added funds let you upgrade your tools to speed up the rate of mining. That’s the core loop of the game, a loop which will last for multiple hours. SteamWorld Dig 2’s main success comes from the fact it executes simple ideas really well, and due to the level of polished gameplay it remains enjoyable from start to finish. It’s a great feeling to get a new pickaxe and smash rocks in one hit when it used to take three. Taking a jackhammer to once unbreakable rocks feels even better.

Anything that could ever become a hassle can be upgraded or unlocked as you advance. If you get tired climbing there is a hookshot available a few hours into the adventure. If that is not enough; something a bit more special unlocks closer to the end game. There is a fast travel system introduced within the first 30 minutes of play – so it is always easy to move about the large map. Projectiles become available early; letting you target once out of reach areas. There are even upgrades that make the game harder, but offer better rewards as a result, if you are into that masochistic sort of thing.

There’s more afoot here than just mining. There are enemies to battle at every turn. Combat is not highly complex – you just thump your adversary with the pickaxe until they die. Whilst the game may lack fancy combos the range of enemies on show help keep the fights varied. Boss battles are also dabbled with but less than a handful are interspersed throughout the adventure. This was the one area of the game I wish was expanded upon some more.

The other side activity is a search for cogs and artifacts (which also aid in upgrading). Many of these are hidden off the beaten path in secret areas. Most of the secrets are well hidden, but not totally obscure – awarding vigilant players without causing annoyance to those wanting to mainline the adventure. Other cogs and artifacts are held in named puzzle rooms. The puzzles within are never hugely complex, but engage your brain in an alternate way than the rest of the gameplay. The few moments spent in these rooms is a welcome change of pace.

There is also a well penned tale developing alongside the dig. It stars feisty protagonist Dorothy McCrank. Her mission is to find Rusty – who was the star of the first game. The story is clever, although won’t win any awards for originality. Everyone you meet is a talkative robot, living on what looks to be a post apocalyptic earthlike planet. It is a mostly colorful, cartoony post apocalypse so there is no need to be sad. This cheery style extends to almost all areas of the game. Locations are diverse and detailed without feeling overbearing. I played most of the game with the Switch undocked, and the bright, vibrant style is a great fit to handheld play.

One trick I did not expect from SteamWorld Dig 2 was a section of the game to build tension and execute horror-like elements well, but one destination even accomplishes that. It is a game that is full of surprises the further you delve into it.

Death in SteamWorld Dig means losing much of your unsold minerals. In later trips down the mine the storage of the backpack grows – which means the possibility of losing resources totaling $400+ can hit at any time. Such an occurrence is as heartbreaking as a loss of souls in Dark Souls. SteamWorld Dig may not be instantly comparable (and offers no ‘corpse run”), but believe me I have shouted at it in the same way I screamed at Dark Souls many times. As with From Software’s efforts I always want to come back for more, and that’s the most important take away in this comparison.

SteamWorld Dig is certainly comparable to many other titles; and as a result seems expertly suited to fulfilling many of my personal wants from a game. It has the slow grind to improve seen in an RPG. The pleasure of solving environmental puzzles akin to Zelda is there too. The joy of traversing a lavish world with adept controls seen in a top notch 2D Platformer may be the most direct one-to-one connection the game has with its peers. It does not conform to copy any of those aforementioned games and genres; instead squishing the collected pieces together into its own unique entity. It’s fitting that SteamWorld Dig is an amalgamation of highlights from gaming’s history, as it perfectly fits under the quasi-genre moniker that is Metroidvania. Where the first game was having a brief flirtation with Metroidvania elements; SteamWorld Dig 2 is instead enjoying an all out passion filled relationship with the genre.

SteamWorld Dig 2 is one of the greatest endeavors in excavation gaming has ever seen. It takes the core gameplay loop seen in the original and adds layers of extra ideas atop that make it a joy to play. If you play for 10 minutes, or choose to settle in for a whole hour or more, there is always a feeling that progress is being made. That’s a great bullet point for any game to boast yet few actually possess.

I conclude this review with some parts of SteamWorld Dig 2 still unknown to me – even though I’ve already spent well over a dozen hours with the game. I have seen the credits roll – and have been graded on how I performed – but I still want more. I return looking for hidden areas and other miscellanea I may have missed on my original trek through the world. I have an ongoing, unending urge to dig my way to every secret corner of the map, and I will once again embark on this journey the moment I stop writing. I highly recommend you start your journey as I continue mine.

9 out of 10
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