Format – PlayStation 4
No matter how many times I write the name SteamWorld Dig I can’t help but think of Valve. Probably goes a long way to show how popular their service is.
What is it? Well, boiled down to its barest bones it’s another addition to the “Like Minecraft/Terraria But” category of games. In this particular case SteamWorld Dig is like Terraria but with a greater focus on resource gathering and exploring, rather than crafting. You play as Rusty, a steam-powered robot cowboy (?), who pretty much shows up at his uncle’s mine one day and takes over the place. Simple enough, gets the job done, just don’t expect any BioShock Infinite level writing depth here.
The music is pretty stellar too, but if I were forced to make a criticism, it can get mildly repetitive after a while. It changes based on the environment, so different layers tend to have different melodies, but if you chose to boot this up on Vita during a long train ride I doubt headphones would be considered a must-have.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk gameplay. The first thing you will notice within a few minutes of digging into your newly inherited mine is that, if you fall too far you will lose health. They putting falling damage in their motherfucking 2D platform game?! (Any excuse to quote the always great JonTron.)
The entire goal of the game is to collect gems and orbs to take back up to the surface and sell for some cold hard Benjamins. You have a limited inventory though, so you’ll have to make frequent trips to the bright side of the world to trade in your gems for experience points, upgrades, and better equipment. There are some teleporters along the way, but they are sparse, so expect to be doing a lot of runs to the land of the sun.
Upgrades are quite linear: upgrade pickaxe, upgrade light sources, more health, larger inventory – that sort of thing. It’s a basic system but it gets the job done. The real killer is you need gold from selling gems and special orbs that are scattered throughout the mine, and the special orbs are not easy to find. Not every upgrade needs orbs, but once you’re about half way on levelling up, they become damn near a necessity. Numerous times I found myself sitting on 2,000+ gold but only 2 orbs. I highly recommend scouting for secret areas. Wink!
More interesting elements come in the further you dig. Layer after layer the scenery and enemies change, as well as certain environmental hazards (personally I was a fan of the zombie layer, but I’m a Romero nut!).
The coolest mechanic by far is that the mine you dig is permanent. Meaning as you traverse deeper and deeper your path above shall remain. This can be both a positive and a negative, depending on how well you are able to plan a route for travelling up AND down. You can wall jump though, Super Meat Boy style, nearly infinitely – so that can be a major time saver.
It all comes to a climactic finish with a final boss battle, which I will not spoil, but it’s a right kick in the teeth. Timed puzzle platforming along with a lot of obstacles and enemies being flung at you. Think N+ cross-bred with Stealth Inc.. Pretty fun battle, but damn if it doesn’t kick your ass the first few times. It’s also (partially) randomised, which makes it more challenging, and adds value to your game replays.
I do feel that, if more, smaller, bosses had been spread throughout the game that it could’ve broken up the game a bit more.
The one thing I will add is that this feels like far more of a PS Vita game than a PlayStation 4 game. It was fun sat down in front of a console for the time it took to complete it, but being able to pick up and play this for 10-30 minute bursts strikes me as a better way to play it from my experience. Especially on second or third play-throughs. GOOD NEWS, however: SteamWorld Dig is cross-buy. Meaning you get to pick your favourite for yourself. The Vita version is my pick, but both are excellent.
Areas for Improvement
- Perhaps more, smaller, boss battles sprinkled throughout the game.
- Cross-save functionality between PlayStation 4 and PS Vita.
Technical Competency – 8/10
Graphic/Sound Quality – 8.5/10
Network Stability – N/A
Overall – 8/10