SteamWorld Dig 2 Review

Should You Dig It?

SteamWorld Dig 2 builds upon developer Image & Form’s growing SteamWorld universe and is the first direct sequel in the series. Although the game shares the first title’s core gameplay of digging down and exploring caves, a few tweaks change the game’s flow, ultimately for the better. Taking place after the first SteamWorld Dig, the game follows Dorothy, a robot shopkeeper who has taken it upon herself to discover the source behind mysterious earthquakes plaguing the steampunk, robotic city, all while searching for the missing protagonist of the first game, Rusty. During her adventure, she meets Fen, a sprite with electric properties and an attitude, and together they delve into the treacherous underground.

Here’s the Video Version for your viewing pleasure… if you can DIG IT!

As in the original, the game revolves around digging through penetrable layers of dirt and rocks with your trusty pickaxe so that you can progress further down the long, vertical cave. Think of it like an adventurous version of Dig-Dug, where you excavate a large, mostly interconnected mine. I say “mostly” because the map is actually split up into about three different areas, which is slightly disappointing.

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Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho!

Along the way, you can mine and collect gems to sell for upgrades back at the city, provided you don’t die and lose half your loot before then. Occasionally, you also find new powerups such as the ability to dash or use a projectile pressure bomb, allowing you to explore further. In other words, it’s a Metroidvania experience. One additional touch is that tools now have special abilities that you can turn on and off by inserting the appropriate number of collectible cogs, sort of like how Paper Mario’s badge system works. I can select which hazards I’m resistant to as I upgrade my armor, or choose which resources are likely to spawn when I power up my pickaxe. The new skill customization delivered satisfying in-depth progression, and it encouraged me to seek out the numerous well-hidden cogs.

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The underground is much more open this time around.

The biggest difference from the original is that while the first game featured procedurally generated caverns, SteamWorld Dig 2 has a clear, consistent level design – a change that leads to big differences in gameplay. First of all, the underground map is more cohesive and has more clearly defined pathways, lowering the likelihood of getting lost or stuck without a way back up. Additionally, there are more open spaces and distinct locations to traverse, compared to the original’s dull claustrophobia-inducing dirt-covered world. These areas are imbued with puzzles and challenges, giving this even more of a Metroidvania sensation as opposed to a loot-based mining game.

I enjoyed these open temples and caves, thanks to their expertly designed challenges that tested my item mastery. One scenario had me hookshot from wall to wall to avoid touching dangerous switches, and another had me blow up boulders to create stepstools. I grew to appreciate how tight the tool control was. I was very impressed and pleased by the game’s more pronounced focus on platforming and environmental puzzles, as well as the bigger emphasis on stage elements like bouncy mushrooms and fire-powered golems.

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Am I the only one that sees a Bob-omb in the right side of the picture?

On the contrary, as a result of the shift in gameplay, SteamWorld Dig 2 loses some of the original game’s charm with regards to the actual excavation. In the first SteamWorld Dig, the digging mechanic complemented the randomly generated world, and I felt like I was carving my own custom path. With the preset pathways in the sequel, the exploration feels less organic; I’m not creating a path, but rather, following one. And as a result, digging through hundreds of blocks isn’t as fulfilling and instead, feels tedious. I’m not saying that I hate the mining segments, but they were better implemented in the original. Here, they’re more of a means to reaching the next destination.

Since you’re largely limited to very short range weapons like your pickaxe, combat ends up feeling clunky, especially when most enemies rush at you or fire projectiles. I can’t fault the game too much on it, since it’s more of an adventure than a proper action game, but it is consequently annoying to run into foes. I enjoyed the bosses, at least, which were more about dodging bullets and exposing weak spots as opposed to close combat. It’s a shame that I can count the number of bosses on one hand. A few more encounters would have been great.

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Who knew there was a jungle underground?

Overall, the game is short. I clocked in at five hours to beat it, but you could easily spend more time if you seek out all the secrets, fill out the map, and obtain all upgrades. The adventure shines brightest once it opens up and lets you visit anywhere with all major powerups intact. It was a joy to find hidden passageways, and I appreciate that caverns were only checkmarked if they were 100% complete.

The visuals are very fluid and well-animated. The steampunk robots, or Steambots, have a special charm to them; their robotic mumble and facial expressions convey their personalities well, despite no voiced dialogue. Additionally, the world, both above and underground, is very colorful and stunning, highly improved over the first game. And there are more distinct locales, including a fire temple and a poisonous jungle, which are far cries from plain old dirt. The mix of soft western riffs and ambient music fits well but easily fades away into the background. Though I did love the main town’s theme, a wind-heavy track that sounds like it came out of Donkey Kong Country.

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The most colorful steampunk robots ever.

Conclusion

SteamWorld Dig 2 is a sequel that does more than simply update the original. It creates a larger world structured like a Metroidvania by adding more mazelike corridors and open rooms. On the flip side, the digging segments feel more tedious this time around, especially when compared to the excellently designed challenge caverns and environmental puzzles. Regardless, the constant progression loops and enticing upgrades carry the game along, keeping the adventure interesting. And the prospect of uncovering the secret truths underground remains alluring throughout. If you enjoy games like Metroid, you’ll likely dig this game.

Score: 8/10

Review copies of the Nintendo Switch and PC version were provided by the publisher for this article. The PC version was used for the video footage. The game’s Steam page is here. This review is also published on Darkstation.

What are your thoughts on the SteamWorld series? Have you played the first one? Does SteamWorld Dig 2 look like something you’d pick up? What is your favorite game within the Metroidvania genre? Please share any thoughts and questions you have in the comments section below! Thank you so much for watching and reading!

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26 thoughts on “SteamWorld Dig 2 Review

  1. Great review as always! I like the visuals of this game and the puzzles look really cool. I can see how the digging would get pretty tedious, especially when each block takes more than one hit to break. I think I’d still prefer having a set path that’s well designed rather than a procedurally generated labyrinth. I guess it depends how much exploring you want to do on your own. I still need to play Metroid for real (Samus Returns!), but this game seems like a gem that Metroidvania fans would gladly unearth! I can dig it! 😉 Like my puns?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I did enjoy your puns! 😛 Thank you as always! ❤ I know you didn't actually see my playing any of it, so I'm glad you enjoyed what you saw. Of course, I recommend you play Metroid first! And yes, Samus Returns! Maybe we can play it together! Then after that, we should try out all of the Metroidvania games, like more Symphony of the Night (Alucard!) and SteamWorld Dig 2! :D

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Whhhhaaaaat! How did you get this already?! It’s only out in the UK tomorrow. Curses! I loved the first one, big time, one of the few games I’m exceptionally good at. It has a Donkey Kong quality for me, like in the King of Kong documentary – I get into a metronomic trance with SteamWorld Dig. I take this ship seriously! Glad to hear the sequel is a winner.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had to dig underground just to uncover it in the darkest depths in the center of the universe, is what I’d say if I were as awesome as Rusty or Dorothy. Image & Form was kind enough to send over a review copy, and I was all over it. I liked the first one, though it left something to be desired. SteamWorld Dig 2, on the other hand, has a more robust Metroidvania design. I’m sure you’ll love it, like you’ll super love it as a fan! By the way, I think it’s awesome that you’re exceptionally good at the first game! Have you spedrun the game? I bet you know it inside and out!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, I got addicted to speedrunning it. It’s procedurally generated, but once you’ve got the knack you can wrack up the three gold medals well under 90 mins. No deaths etc. It’s one of the very few games I’m particularly good at! I thought I’d gloat about my genius right here, but don’t get me started on other titles. Muh.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That’s amazing! What’s your fastest time? I bet you’ll be a pro at the sequel too, especially since it’s no longer procedurally generated. You’ll have everything memorized within a month, I’m sure!!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. 25 seconds!!! (did he noticed I lied?!) Actually, I’ve not played it in a year so I can’t remember. I’d probably be a bit pants playing it now, but getting back into the sequel is the perfect tonic. Innit.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks pardner! 😉 I can see the plot being the same. We just need more bananas and minecarts, and boom DKC2. Also needs more helicopter ponytail! That got me thinking: a DKC game done in the style of Metroid would be interesting. Kirby did it, why not DK?

      Like

    1. Thanks for your comments Matt! I would definitely recommend finishing Return of Samus first since these are both similar games. I haven’t yet played through that one since I’ve been caught up with this and some other games, but I know it’ll be great. How have you been enjoying it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am loving it. I never played the original, so I am not sure how it compares to it and what has changed (save for some new abilities), but it’s a great game, for sure! It’s more linear than some of the other games of the franchise, but it has plenty of challenge and exploration.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s awesome! The original is pretty hard to play. I think it was designed to be linear because the backgrounds all blended together on the Game Boy. Good to hear the remake is fun so far!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU for checking it out and commenting! What did you not like about the first one? For me, it was having to constantly go back and forth between underground and surface. Also, everything looked way too similar (maybe because of the procedural generation), and the game was a kind of short. The fact that the developers changed focus to making it more like a properly designed Metroidvania title is what drew me in to the sequel.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Of course, always a pleasure 🙂

        Pretty much the same issues. The game got dull t look at after a bit and there was enough tedium in the core gameplay that I didn’t feel like finishing it (even if it is rather short). This looks far more engaging however and your comments have me wanting to check it out at least.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think the major difference of more refined Metroidvania level design may ease your issues about it. Yes, the tedium in digging is still there, and it may stand out more since it’s more of a means of travel as opposed to the core gameplay. But it’s surrounded by more rewarding areas to explore and environmental puzzles this time. Whether or not that’s enough is up to you, but I think the shift was well done. Still short, though. I’d definitely be interested in hearing what you think if you decide to check it out!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea, it takes away the fun from the digging, but the rest of the game more than makes up for it. The Metroidvania elements are so great that I almost wish that Image & Form just made a straight-up Metroid game. They could so do it! Thanks for your comments! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks as always for your kind words! 😀 I enjoyed the game a lot. Though there’s one thing we’re forgetting! There should totally be amiibo for both Dorothy and Rusty! I could see that happening sometime. After all, it launched on Switch FIRST!

      Liked by 1 person

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