There's a lot to love about SteamWorld Dig 2, which manages to take what its predecessor SteamWorld Dig started and really refine it. This process creates an experience that provides hours of exploration and puzzle solving, as well as the mining that's been enhanced for this iteration of the franchise. With multiple "branches" of mines and temples to explore, far more danger to avoid, and caves that are filled with puzzles and secrets, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a game that will have you glued to your screen as you mine deeper and deeper.
SteamWorld Dig 2 is a continuation of the story started in the first one - with you playing the role of Dorothy (AKA Dot), a SteamBot who was in the first game. Rusty, the protagonist of the first game, went missing after the events of SteamWorld Dig and your goal is to find him as you make your way through the caverns around El Machino. Rusty is missing, but could he have something to do with the earthquakes that are worsening in the area?
I'd be remiss if I didn't start this review talking about the art style and music. This sequel does as good a job as the original in setting the tone and ambiance of the game with its presentation. SteamWorld Dig 2 takes place in a dusty western-style environment, at least at the start. You'll make your way to the small town of El Machino, which sits above a mine made up of dirt and rock that you'd expect in this setting. When you get into other areas of the game, you'll encounter a sprawling temple filled with treacherous lava and an underground cave bursting with plant life and acid pools. Each of these settings is completely unique and offers different challenges, enemies, and beautifully crafted artwork.
As you meet the different Cowbots, Shiners, and enemies throughout the game, the steampunk, western and pixel art techniques work brilliantly for the environment's aesthetic, with the varied music for each area rounding out the full experience in a fulfilling way. There's no voice acting, which leaves it up to the sound effects and music to really set the tone for you. If you're in a cave and the music switches from the cold and dark" track for the setting, and quickly shifts to a slower and more "exploratory" track - you'll feel the excitement of getting close to a new upgrade. With the music setting the mood so well, and the sound effects being a major step up from the previous game, it's nothing but a stellar experience from start to finish.
SteamWorld Dig had a pretty simple concept when it came to gameplay - dig down, up, left, right, and collect ore and minerals as you make your way deeper into the mine. In SteamWorld Dig 2, the world is much larger, so you'll fittingly have many more tools at your disposal. Starting the game with nothing more than a pickaxe, backpack, and lamp, you'll come across caves as you explore. Some of these even offer upgrades to your arsenal such as a grappling hook, or a steam-powered fist for busting open rocks! As these equipment upgrades are unlocked and you find secrets in the game, which include both cogs and artifacts, you can actually modify your gear further using cog mods. With a number of options for each piece of equipment, you'll be able to add things like bonus experience for enemy kills with the Pickaxe, a bigger radius for your lamp, knockback with the pickaxe, as well as much more powerful modifications acquired with blueprints later on.
What was especially interesting was running into a roadblock at a cave in one of the mine shafts, where I either couldn't reach a secret that I KNEW was there, or just had a hard time completing a task such as a "floor is lava" challenge to get an artifact. Some of these became easier after unlocking either a whole new tool or just modifying what I had with a newly acquired cog. While it didn't make the game "Easy", it meant that I could do anything in the game with the right tools. However, you could also make things even harder with certain cog upgrades if you wanted, with one increasing the amount of damage you take as a starter!
With cogs littered all over the game world and an NPC in the town that sells cogs later in the game, you have the ability to unlock as many modifications as possible, which is just great. Additionally, the fact that this was based on tool level means that you won't necessarily have the same upgrade tree/order every game, letting you easily switch up how you play. In one game, you may upgrade your pickaxe faster, while in another you may upgrade your backpack faster - opening up different cog mods earlier on for each.
Even the HUD is a major upgrade from the last game too, and it's just the right level of simplicity. Lamp level, health, and water levels (which all renew when you return to town) can be found in the top left while your gathered minerals can be found along the bottom of your screen. With a level indicator that pops up every time you defeat an enemy, you can also easily keep track of how far you are from gaining another 5% bonus when you go to sell off your findings. While your tool controls are found on the bottom left, you'll rarely need to reference them as the control scheme is super easy and is handled on the keyboard with just both hands and no mouse. Ten keys control pretty much your entire game! Easy!
Without a doubt, Image & Form took the formula from the first game and improved upon it just the right ways. In the first game, players would have to buy ladders and dynamite to get around, but the new equipment and fast travel system in SteamWorld Dig 2 makes movement feel so much more enjoyable. With players no longer needing to spend gold on lamps, ladders, and dynamite, the focus has shifted to upgrading Dorothy's arsenal of equipment to explore the deep mines of the game in search of Rusty and the many secrets strewed about.
Speaking of secrets, they were a welcome addition that I didn't realize I needed in the first game. I beat SteamWorld Dig 2 in roughly 12 hours and managed to find about 83% of the secrets during that time, and I was still moving pretty quickly! With some of them being pretty tough to acquire, there's a LOT in this game that you can do beyond the base story. Based on my discussions with the developer, there's a special treat for completionists as well, so there's a great amount of replayability. If you want to fully outfit Dorothy, and find everything, you're going to get a solid amount of playtime out of the game, and it's a lot of fun to hunt down the secrets as you find some really interesting artifacts.
It's not often that I'm able to sit down and play a game nonstop for hours without looking at the time, but SteamWorld Dig 2 captured my attention in that way with more of an iron grip than the original did. There's something to be said about taking a concept as simple as mining for resources and amping it up with some really fantastic platforming and ample upgrade options. Add in the obvious "what could be down there?" mysteriousness that comes with the games' secrets, and it's clear that this is just a really fun concept that Image & Form has nailed.
Honestly, the only qualm I have with the game is the difficulty - which at times could just feel *too* easy unless you turned on the cog mods for higher difficulty. While these definitely made the game harder later on in the game, they could only be turned on if you found the "secrets" that unlocked them. For players that don't want to find the secrets - this could be frustrating if they want to increase the difficulty beyond Easy/Normal.
SteamWorld Dig 2 will easily appeal to a wide range of players. The platforming is enjoyable enough that people of many skill levels can play it, with the upgrades making certain parts easier over time. Couple that with a soundtrack that never gets tiring and environments that welcome you to explore them however you please, and you have a recipe for a game that's hard to put down. Improving upon the ideas started in the first game, SteamWorld Dig 2 impresses in every way imaginable and offers an experience that will have you glued to your screen as you dig deeper and deeper into its vast and unique mines.
Our SteamWorld Dig 2 review was conducted on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer. It is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.
Improving upon the ideas started in the first game, SteamWorld Dig 2 impresses in every way imaginable, and offers an experience that will have you glued to your screen as you dig deeper and deeper into its vast and unique mines.(Review Policy)
- Fantastic Action & Platformer Gameplay
- Rich Atmosphere
- Immersive Soundtrack
- Plenty to Explore
- Default Difficulty isn't Challenging