It was nearly 4 years ago when Image & Form Games delivered us a tale of a lone mining bot on an adventure in SteamWorld Dig. After being pretty wowed by what it delivered, anticipation has been high for the sequel, with hope that it would be able to take everything that was good about the relatively short first adventure, and build on it in more ways than one. I’m pleased to say that SteamWorld Dig 2 manages to do just that.
Previously available on the likes of PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC, the move to finally drop SteamWorld Dig 2 onto Xbox One is a hugely appreciated one. Sitting back casting a jealous eye the way of other gamers is never good for the mind, and after the huge success of the original SteamWorld tale, it was fast bordering on frustrating to see this second chapter in the franchise constantly skip the Xbox world.
Now it’s here though, there is very little to not like, with SteamWorld Dig 2 proving to be just as big a success story as the one that went before it.
SteamWorld Dig 2 follows the life of Dorothy, a lone steambot who has rocked up into an old desolate trading town – El Machino – in the hope that she can not only re-establish a friendship with the protagonist from the first game – Rusty – but also help solve their issues in the process. See, it is this town which is currently being beset by numerous earthquakes, with the residents unclear as to the real source behind them. With Metroidvania roots holding the entire experience together, and a whole life’s worth of digging and bashing opportunities to come, it’ll be up to you to help Dorothy head underground, hammering away until she has uncovered loot, managed to grab some resources and discovered the reason behind the tremors and terrors that lie beneath. Oh, and without ruining the tale of either this, or the game that has gone before it, an old friend may just be found along the way.
As you may expect, much of your progress and time in SteamWorld Dig 2 will be spent harnessing paths and creating routes to allow Dorothy to head further underground, inching ever closer to understanding what is exactly going on underneath the lands of this town. And even though this digging rarely gets tiresome, thankfully it’s not just all about burrowing, looting and progression of the intriguing story, and scattered throughout the mines are numerous challenge caves, each of which bring something slightly different to the table. Upon completion of each you’ll be well rewarded too and so taking some time out from Dorothy’s main quest is very much called for. They bring a much needed piece of variety from the usual grind of mining too, seeing you calling on a bit of the old grey matter instead of brute force.
Visually things are good within SteamWorld Dig 2. In fact things are great, with bright bold colours ensuring that no matter how deep you are digging, you’ll want to continue going down, round, and across. With multiple areas bringing a variety of different zones, each with their own unique styles, enemies, items, resources and more, the exploration you’ll find yourself partaking in with SteamWorld Dig 2 never gets boring. Yes, the initial throes are a bit slow to get going, with a constant need to head back to the surface in order to unload your backpack and cash in your rewards with the residents up top seeing the action come across as a bit stop/start, but as the abilities of both your character and items start to get upgraded, the less requirement there is to be constantly travelling back. The inclusion of some well placed, cleverly structured fast travel points also help with this.
The audio is very nearly on a par with the visuals too, and whilst I’d have liked to have heard the narrative play out via proper conversations instead of the text based mumble jumble that is at hand, the backing tracks and gameplay effects more than make up for this, accompanying your adventure and really helping highlight the tough situations you occasionally find yourself in.
Of course, and whilst visuals, audio and a clever story are all great, none of this would work without some decent gameplay mechanics. Aside from the odd occasion in which I’ve felt that a hit mechanic against the numerous foes found underground is slightly off, for the most part every jump, fall, thrust and swing of the pickaxe is spot on. And that’s a joy to see as precision is utterly vital to the whole experience.
In order to help Dorothy out, a range of gadgets are called on; gadgets that are essential to everything that happens in SteamWorld Dig 2. Early moments will see this young Steambot struggling along with a crappy pickaxe capable of nothing more than shifting a bit of soil, but it won’t be long before enough upgrade cogs have been acquired and tons of cash earnt from the mining side of things to allow for enhancements galore to really open up the landscape – quite literally. The essentials like a bigger backpack, stronger light source and harder armor will help with the basics, but getting access to the tricky to handle Hook Shot or delightful Jetpack will see the later stages swiftly traversed and a much needed simplicity to backtracking put in place. The water powered Jackhammer is also a much appreciated way of doing away with the pickaxe, helping rid the harder earthen tiles quicker.
With any game that embraces exploration, a reliance on a map is essential and the one found in SteamWorld Dig 2 is brilliant with doors, caves, quests and fast travel tubes all well highlighted. It could be said that the zoom function could be a bit more refined, but it more than does the job intended of it and should ensure that even though going back over old ground is a key part of the gameplay, non essential travel is kept to a minimum. Should you ever find yourself totally lost though – or are just plain stuck – then the addition of the unlockable Portal of Power allows for swift teleportation back to town, whilst self destructing is the last roll of the dice when all else fails. Dying however does cost you a percentage of your resources, although whilst this is felt very keenly in the early stages, the less you rely on digging and uncovering loot, the less of an effect this will have. In effect though, no death is the end of the world, with decent checkpoints saving Dorothy from being pushed back too much.
For anyone who has played the original SteamWorld Dig, there will be an instant familiarity to what is going on in this tale and on the whole they will find a delightfully told story and some brilliant gameplay come together to ensure that Image & Form have once again nailed the whole Metroidvania styled experience. There isn’t a huge degree of difficulty found in SteamWorld Dig 2 on Xbox One either, and even though you will occasionally slip up, usually through failing to take proper care of Dorothy, those who bide their time will prove ultimately successful.
And even when you feel the twisting, turning, well paced story is reaching a conclusion, the offer to still keep searching the mines for every single challenge cave and hidden artifact will mean that you’ll no doubt find yourself spending much more time with Dorothy and this steam-fuelled world than you would have ever imagined.
I’ve got very little but good to speak of in terms of what is available in this steamy sequel. In fact, even though I loved SteamWorld Dig, have managed to find myself loving SteamWorld Dig 2 just as much. It may not manage to bring a ton of new elements to the mining landscape, and the initial scene setting components see early progress a slow one, but once it opens up and the skills and abilities come into play, you’ll find a wonderful Metroidvania themed experience that is well worth taking in.