Developer: Image & Form Games
Publisher: Image & Form Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS Vita, PC, Mac, Linux
Genre: Adventure, Platformer,
Ever since the SteamWorld franchise began, Nintendo has shown support to Image & Form Games, a developer that has been launching their games on Nintendo platforms first ever since SteamWorld Tower Defense, the first in the series which came to the DS and 3DS. The same is true for SteamWorld Dig 2, but fans won’t have to wait very long this time. Dig 2 is coming to the Nintendo Switch on the 21st. Thankfully, PC players will only have to wait extra day for the 22nd while Sony fans have to wait a few more for it to release on the PS4 and Vita on the 26th.
I shared some of my personal history with the franchise in my review of SteamWorld Heist, which happened to be one of the first reviews when I first joined the Geeks Under Grace staff. A few weeks ago I did get to demo SteamWorld Dig 2 and talk with a few of the developers at PAX West 2017, which was a great experience since I had already been a fan of their work. They keep telling their fans that this is their biggest game yet, and after my time with the game I can say that there is truth to that statement.
The SteamWorld franchise has been very family-friendly, though it has yet to be rated by the ESRB. I’d say it falls somewhere around E or E 10+. Players will spend their time digging for resources and helping the character meet her goal, but there are plenty of creatures that stand in the way. The character’s pick axe, projectile bombs, and jackhammer ability are the closest things to weapons that players will be using.
One area worth noting is home to a group of humans called “shiners” who once lived above ground until they were mutated by radioactive waste. This is handled in a way that is very cartoonish/comic strip-like rather than being grotesque like it could potentially be.
Most western themed forms of media usually have some kind of alcohol reference. I was surprised that there is actually no saloon in the hub town. However there is a casino; players can’t actually go in but it seemed fit for this content guide as a reference to gambling.
SteamWorld Dig 2 is set in a post-apocalyptic world with a western/steampunk theme. The first game had a bot named Rusty in the starring role who goes to a small mining town after receiving a deed to an old mine. Rusty is missing in action after the events that take place in SteamWorld Dig, which is where this sequel begins. In SteamWorld Dig 2, we take control of Dorothy (a.k.a Dot), who is on a mission to find out what happened to Rusty. During her journey she comes across the city of El Machino. The townsfolk tell Dot that they have seen Rusty go down to the mines, but unfortunately the recent earthquakes have closed them up. Dot braves the perils in search of her friend and digs up more than she expected.
The town of El Machino acts as a hub town for Dot to sell resources and purchase upgrades. Players will have to return to the town often to heal, refill their water tanks, and restore light to their lantern. Along with upgrading, I spent my time playing around with the new cog system. These cogs can be applied to various perks which are unlocked after an upgrade is purchased for any tool in Dorothy’s arsenal. These perks range from decreasing fall damage to pick-ups shining for increased visibility and discovery. Cogs can also be applied to a category that makes the game harder, such as removing objective markers or having all enemies explode upon their death. The cogs used for this system are found in various locations down in the mines. Each perk costs a varied amount of cogs for players to apply and subtract to their preferred playstyle.
The mines themselves have received a major overhaul; platforming elements are front and center in SteamWorld Dig 2. Digging through to the objective is still an important part of the experience, but there are many more rooms and caves to explore. These caves are a well-crafted blend of stage and puzzle that require players to think and utilize their tools in various ways—easily one of my favorite improvements. At the end of these areas are usually cogs waiting to be collected, but they also contain various hidden paths that contain artifacts. These artifacts can be turned in to unlock bonus perks when enough of them are found.
I realized I’ve mentioned the use of “tools” more than a few times by now, but I use that term very loosely. Tools were consumables in the first game such as ladders, dynamite, and placeable lanterns; all of that was scrapped from Dig 2. Dot is fully upgradable like a steampunk version of Samus Aran. These games obviously fall into the metroidvania genre—the fact that she gets her modifications from mysterious chambers is clearly a nod to the Metroid franchise. My favorite tools are the projectile bombs and the hookshot. With these tools, I was able to zip around the mines and destroy blocks from a distance with ease. A few of Dorothy’s abilities do require the consumption of the water meter, just as Rusty’s did.
The developers were not lying when they said this was their biggest game yet. The main story of SteamWorld Dig 2 is twice as long as the first game and even longer if you plan to find collect everything. The presentation has been dialed up to an even greater level along with movement and actions flowing seamlessly. There is a small section that I am not particularly fond of that required some stealth in order to avoid being spotted. It was slightly frustrating when I was unsure of how to get through it at first. It is a neat design in concept, but in practice it feels too different from what had already been established.
Image & Form as also been able to recruit some outstanding musical talent for their past few games. A band known as Steampunk Giraffe composed an amazing soundtrack for SteamWorld Heist. For SteamWorld Dig 2, our ears will be pleased with the sounds of El Huervo, the composer behind the Hotline Miami games. I had “New Heights in El Machino” stuck in my head the entire weekend I played through the game. I can honestly say that there is no shortage of great music once again.
Image & Form has definitely struck gold once again. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a vast improvement over the last few entries to the series. Though I would love to see more of SteamWorld, they really tie the last three games together in the end. Image & Form has the potential to work on something even bigger, and I would love to see that happen. Brjann Sigurgeirsson (CEO) did mention that they are working on something that everyone is going to love, and there’s no telling what that could be at the moment. I may have reviewed the game on PC, but I guarantee that Switch owners are going to adore SteamWorld Dig 2.
Review copy kindly provided by Image & Form Games
The Bottom Line
SteamWorld Dig 2 is much bigger and bolder than its predecessor with an improved level design. The recruited musical talent also successfully adds to the atmosphere of the world. Despite an odd segment that departs from the established formula, Image & Form strikes gold once again.