SteamWorld Dig 2 is the latest and greatest title to come from delightful developers, Image and Form. Taking place in an alternative reality set on good ol’ Planet Earth, SteamWorld Dig 2 explores a world where in the 19th century people have already built upon and embraced the ideas and blueprints made by British inventor Charles Babbage. This means that the people of this time and going forward have embraced the idea of mechanical beings to do their work for them. Sadly, this leads to a full-scale war due to particularly advanced weapons being produced and used upon each other, wiping out most of the human race and leaving the world to the steam-based mechanical lifeforms, lovingly named Steambots. This also leaves the remaining humans to have devolved into rather simple cave creatures and makes them potentially dangerous to Steambots. Our adventure in SteamWorld Dig 2 occurs when our protagonist, Dorothy, searches for her lost friend, Rusty, of SteamWorld Dig.
My first impression with SteamWorld Dig 2 is that I really love the visuals. I can’t say steampunk has ever been my favourite style nor would it be my first choice for a video game but I just love how well incorporated the visual style is to the mechanics. Everything you encounter just feels enhanced by seeing how well the world reacts so perfectly to anything you do. The fact that your metal exterior gleams when you go closer to a light and how you robotically move when you swing your pickaxe make things really stand out to me and make me feel like SteamWorld was a universe I would want to adventure in as much as possible. Some of the NPCs also have little steam clouds coming out of them and one of them even expels small amounts of fire from an exhaust pipe. Furthermore, the clang your body makes when you fall from a great height is incredibly satisfying, even if Dorothy may not agree with you on the matter.
I also love the fact that the game takes cues from western films to add a certain element of familiarity and fun to the game world. The town of El Machino has a charming array of characters such as Steambot crab Barnacle Jones who owns a pawn shop, and will buy ore from your daring descents into the mines, or Mayor Mic Yonker who turns a blind eye to the various goings-on in El Machino. These small nods to the western era of cinema really make the game stand out because there’s a lovely amount of humour that comes with it, from the stereotypical big city gal who moves to the small and dusty town for a “change of pace”, to the casino that caters for the gambling habits of many in these trying times. These references further enforce that this is more than just a game, it’s a living experience.
The play style and mechanics were not what I expected in the slightest. Being a newcomer to the game series, I didn’t really know what to expect beyond what I saw in the trailers but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. The controls are simple as they are essentially dig, run, jump and an extra action button to start with (these are also customisable in game via the main menu). There’s a certain element of tactical digging that made me want to unearth more and more information about our missing friend Rusty. Slipping my way past some enemies at while at low health, digging sideways to avoid being crushed by a huge boulder and even just because I saw something shiny were reasons enough to keep me occupied for quite a few hours. Plus, the challenges in the hidden caves are really fun to complete because they will keep you wondering how best to use your abilities, such as bombs or even just the sprint function to your advantage.
The menu interface is also refreshingly simple to use as you can just scroll across to find your map, resources, mods, artifacts and settings all in an easy to access place. This meant I could keep track of everything I had with me and how far down I was digging while on the move. Additionally, this let me plan out which upgrade I could work my way towards (Including making sure that I could afford it!) Also, even though you have a map at your disposal, the game asks you quite early on if you would like to make use of the marker function to keep you on track on your expeditions. I kept this feature on initially while I adjusted to the gameplay style, but of course some people may like to use it sparingly.
Overall, I would say that I thoroughly enjoyed this game and as much as I’ve enjoyed taking the time to write out my thoughts and feelings towards my deep love for this game, I can’t wait to get back onto playing. I never expected that a game about digging to find a lost friend would be so engaging but I am positively hooked and this will have me playing for many months to come. Plus, the portability of the Switch makes this a must-have for on the go as I love the fact that I’ll be able to tactically traverse a mine on long journeys. I would rate this game a lovely 9/10. It’s a real wonderful piece of gaming art that Image and Form have created and I would suggest that everyone take some time to dig into this expansive game.
SteamWorld Dig 2 releases on Nintendo Switch on Thursday September 21, and is priced at $19.99/€19.99/£14.99. In order to write this review I received a copy of the game from a PR representative. This had no impact on my writing or opinion at all.