Steamworld Dig 2 achieves what all good sequels should, giving us more of the same while also delivering necessary and welcome evolutions that improve the overall experience.
The platform action-adventure follows on from the 2013 3DS original and carries on from where Rusty left off. To give a brief overview, the robot dug down as far as he could until he confronted an evil artificial intelligence in a bid to save his town. That was the last anyone heard from him.
Now in the wake of some mysterious earthquakes, players are cast into the shoes of his friend, Dorothy. Once again, players will risk digging down into the depths of the unknown to find riches and wealth beyond their wildest dreams, but also to discover what happened to the scarf-wearing cowboy.
You’ll recognise the likes of Spelunky, Metroid, and Terraria all jumbled up in here and for all the right reasons. Dorothy will get to use all manner of neat gadgets like hook shots to reach higher platforms and sledgehammers to pound through brick. Some areas can’t be bypassed until you’ve acquired a particular item. But you’ll also be able to upgrade and modify each gizmo by selling the gems you collect and cogs you find.
By first selling your loot to Barnacle Jones, you can then approach Turtle Bucket’s workbench and start tweaking just about anything you like. For instance, you could increase the durability and strength of your standard issue pick axe, improving its digging efficiency and adding XP bonuses to it, or you could increase backpack space, add stronger body armor or even upgrade some of your special items.
Of course, by venturing deeper and deeper underground, you’re going to need a source of light. The further you go, the quicker your lantern will start to drain, so you’ll also need to think about increasing the light radius, or by improving your luck and dodge-chance away from falling rocks and debris.
To further emphasise this, later on in the game Dorothy will need to absorb water in order to use some of her gadgets. Without it, they’ll be rendered useless. Which begs the question, do you just go back to town to replenish and start afresh when you come back or do you take a risk and keep going deeper in order to find more secrets?
It’s a scenario that repeats again and again, giving you a lot to think about in Steamworld Dig 2. You’ll often find yourself planning your next steps strategically rather than digging away blindly into the night. Do you take back the gems you’ve already found with the one heart you have left, or do you greedily try to fill the final slot and hope for the best? Do you risk venturing toward a secret cave knowing it’s surrounded by dangerous exploding barrels and enemies, or do you ignore it completely?
Unlike its predecessor, SW2 has much more going for it in terms of options, choices and decision-making. This genuinely looks, feels and acts like a bigger and better game with greater rewards.
But perhaps the games’ secret weapon is its infectious charm. Because of the endearing cast of characters and the quirky nature of the universe, you’ll want to keep exploring, keep finding secrets, collect everything you can find. Image & Form Games carefully bait you in very early on, making the first few caves relatively easy to conquer and the initial stages manageable. The game does a fantastic job of bringing out a completionist nature and you won’t even feel mad about it.
For instance, there’s extra blueprints which can be redeemed for secret artefacts, and tons of hidden caves with one-of-a-kind gems worth a pretty penny.
Add to that the head-scratching puzzle solving and laugh out loud humour exchanged in dialogue. Steamworld Dig 2 has something for everyone and is such a refreshing change of pace in a year that has been full to the brim with heavy and exhaustive gameplay experiences.
That’s not to say SW2 is lacking in content or variety. You’ll find yourself traipsing through tombs overflowing with lava and mystical caves with bright lights. Not to mention the intense boss battles and narrative twists and turns, but there’s a relaxing feeling of just picking away at blocks, making gradual progress and discovering more about this unique world. It does such a wonderful job of working its way around every other thing going on in your life that you’ll want to make time for it.
Having tested SW2 on both PC and Switch, I can also say that the game performs just as well whether you’re playing on a crystal clear TV/ monitor, or you’re taking it on the go. I didn’t encounter a single performance issue, the game is that polished.
The nature of SW2 is such that you could very easily find yourself digging away for hours on end, but it’s never too demanding, overwhelming or isolating if you’re only able to drop in for an hour or so at a time.
On this merit and many others along with it, SW2 is truly Image & Form Games Rennaissance Moment. As much as I loved its predecessor, as much as I adored Steamworld Heist, I am absolutely enamoured with Steamworld Dig 2. Wherever you buy this game, not only are you guaranteed hours of entertainment at a bargain price, you’ll also have one of the finest experiences of its kind.
This is a game I could quite easily and happily see myself going back to time and again for enjoyment and presenting an example of getting the genre right. Steamworld Dig 2 is glorious in practically every way.
+ Beautiful to look at and listen to
+ Extremely addictive and entertaining throughout
+ Nice upgrade and environment variety
+ Full of memorable gaming moments
– Very occasional harsh difficulty spikes create some frustration
Steamworld Dig 2
9.5 out of 10
Tested on Nintendo Switch and PC