- Released: 2017
- Played on: Switch
- Also available on: PC, Mac, PS4, Vita, 3DS
- Time to get into: 30 Minutes
- Time to complete: 11 Hours
- Multiplayer: No
The nuts and bolts of Steamworld Dig 2 are built like a classic Metroidvania game. All the elements are here: exploring one massive gameworld bit by bit, gathering upgrades that enable you to reach places previously impassable, boss battles that move the story along, etc etc. As such, it’s at risk of being just another one of these games but Steamworld Dig 2 manages to still feel fresh thanks to two elements. The gameplay may be nothing new but it’s all right out of the genre’s very top drawer and the characters that fill this world are charming and engaging. Even if it doesn’t blow you away, Steamworld Dig 2 will leave you with a satisfied feeling – and sometimes, that is all you need.
Well worn territory
In recent years, I’ve been getting tired of games in the Metroidvania genre. They always seem decidedly retro and limited in scope, like they are easy to churn out and sell so developers don’t bother to be that original. I’m sure there are probably gems that I have missed along the way, but it’s been a while since one caught my imagination in the same way Steamworld Dig 2 did. The Switch is also a console upon which such games can and do thrive, so I decided they were a good combination to have a dip into. In the end, SD2 both confirmed and confounded my expectations. There are no mechanics or plot points or even gameplay elements that are outside of what you’d expect. Overall, it lacks ‘wow’ moments, other than one crazy sequence towards the end. I won’t give away anything through spoilers, but just for a few minutes the pace and danger of the game is suddenly hugely ramped up, only to fall back in line straight after. It’s a shame there are not more sections that change things up like this, but let’s get on to focus on why you should consider playing this game, despite the above!
You play as a little robot called Dorothy who is looking for an old friend called Rusty (I’ve not played the original Steamworld Dig but apparently Rusty was in that). This takes you to the town of El Machino and down, down, down into the mines there in search of him. Every move and action that Dorothy can do feels so smooth and effortless, whether it’s climbing, jumping or digging. The whole game is in 2D and is organised in small blocks, so you can dig left, right and down, but not directly diagonal. This is a great thing as it maintains a sense of order to the environment – it would quickly become messy and hard to manage or navigate if it could be destroyed more freely. Early on you’ll need to continually retrace your steps to return to the surface to gather more light and health but after a bit you’ll find a generous set of fast-travel points, which make doing so much quicker. You’ll want to return to El Machino regularly anyway as selling the resources you gather as you explore gets you some cash to spend on upgrades. Along with discovering new abilities throughout the world the balance between of exploration and upgrades is perfect. I never felt like I was breezing through challenges with an overpowered character but neither did I horribly struggle at any point. By the end Dorothy is, excuse the pun, an absolute machine – blasting through enemies, flying around and digging through the most solid of rock like it is sand.
Dorothy’s other journey
The rest of the game uses this solid gameplay as a base from which to build a fascinating and joyful experience. Dorothy‘s is joined on her journey by a strange ethereal character called Fen. Fen usually travels inside Dorothy, so you are not ever called to manage two characters, rather Fen serves to ensure that the game doesn’t feel lonely by occasionally popping out for a chat. It really surprised me how engaged I felt with these two. They do argue between each other but actually overall, they work well as a team in the face of the challenges, twists and opportunities they face. By the end I was fully on board with them and really wanted them to succeed. I also have to mention the music in Steamworld Dig 2 – it’s fantastic. Each environment has a different feel which fits beautifully with the visuals. It’s all fairly chilled out but still each one is very distinctive. Another reason I didn’t mind heading back to the surface regularly to sell my wares as I could hear the town’s music again! Lots of games have bits of great music but there aren’t many that are as filled with great music the whole time as this. All these slightly more intangible things combine to make SD2 a very pleasurable experience: Dorothy‘s determination – and your own – is well rewarded.
From the characters, to the music, to the animations, Steamworld Dig 2 exudes a simple charm that draws you into the journey of Dorothy and Fen. That it then backs this up with such solid gameplay makes it a game that can connect with most players – a gamer’s game if you will. Well worth your time.