SteamWorld Dig was a breakout hit for developer Image & Form. Since then, they’ve expanded their games into other genres, but people have been asking for a sequel. Praised for its enjoyable gameplay loop, but dinged that it felt a tad short, SteamWorld Dig was such a hit. SteamWorld Dig 2 addresses that latter concern and keeps the former and even improves upon it. The result is a more lively, dangerous, and intriguing place to dig.
Rusty, the hero from the first game has gone missing. The once merchant, now playable heroine Dorothy is out to find him. You’re taken to a new area, El Machino to begin to look for clues, but are also sucked up into the town’s politics of trying to sweep the frequent earthquakes under the rug. While you’re focused on finding Rusty, you’ll be working to help discover what’s causing these earthquakes and form new relationships, all while upgrading your gear to accomplish it all.
SteamWorld Dig 2 sends you into the mines rather quickly and offers you the ability to be guided to where you’re going, or turning it off for something more challenging. Digging in the game is now done in a handcrafted world rather than the procedural one from the first game, making it feel more permanent and real. As such, you’re creating your own Metroid-like grid through digging and setting paths to follow like in Terraria. As before, you will use up two resources: light and water. Water can be found throughout your digs, but light less so. And around the time your light is about to give out, you’ll have a lot of ore to turn in and replenish at the same time. All around, the resource need seems less intensive than before.
While the game won’t call it fast travel, the closest thing to it is the pneumatic pipes that exist in the world to be discovered and clearing a minimal pile of debris from. These can be used to go from the deepest depths all the way to the surface, making selling ore and making money no chore. One traversal enhancement is the wall-jump, now you’re able to scale walls but continually jumping against it to get back up from areas you’ve fallen into. Other helpful elements of traversal come several hours in, but are worth mentioning because of how cool they are. The hookshot lets you attach to any surface that isn’t liquid or covered by reinforced steel. You can hang there indefinitely while you wait for a hazard or enemy to pass, or use it to traverse areas that might push you around. Perhaps the best, and a bit underpowered at first, is the jetpack. Now you’re able to fly in short bursts up and around areas the hookshot can’t get you to.
Upgrading Dorothy’s gear requires money, and money is quickly gained by any delve into the mines in places you’ve not gone. The upgrades increase the effectiveness of your pickaxe, armor, light, and much much more. You’ll find or earn cogs which can be used to mod your gear based on what you’ve unlocked. These can be changed on the fly, and so long as you meet the requirement of the one or two cogs it takes to power the mod, you can use it. Perhaps the most effective one I’ve found revolves around the jetpack. If I run out of boost, it was carefully let me hover back down to ground, this is equally effective when falling a great distance. You can unlock blueprints for new weapons and items from special gems you find in the world.
From completing objectives to killing enemies in combat, you’re earning experience points. Each time you level up, you will gain a passive ability that improves with each level. Right now, my merchant bonus for selling has gone up that is netting me more money faster with each trip. Also some upgrades or mods are level-dependent, requiring you reach a certain level before it can be used.
Throughout your adventures in digging, you’ll encounter other worldly stuff and see that the game is willing to go to great lengths. There is some light puzzle solving, that just feels really fun to do as it lets you traverse big open areas to try to find a lever, switch, or breakable block that will move something into triggering a door. Bosses aren’t especially tough, but each one feels unique and grandiose.
SteamWorld Dig 2 permeates with beautiful art, excellent music, and great gameplay. Dorothy is a wonderful character to play is, is in incredibly agile and nimble, and the companion Fen is never annoying. Image & Form have improved on everything to make the game enjoyable. The story is full of mystery, the new tools are exciting to use, and the handcrafted mines are a treasure to explore. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a must-own game for whatever platform you get it on.
A pre-release Nintendo Switch eShop code was provided by the publisher for review purposes