Steamworld Dig 2

I am a big fan of Steamworld Dig as I might have shown in my last review. Despite it being a tad short, I had a blast with it as it had a fantastic focus on playing with your greed to see how far you were willing to go. When Steamworld Heist came along and shifted the gameplay to an interesting, side-scrolling, turn-based shooter, I was very pleased to think that each installment would offer something different and fantastic. However, that was not the case. Steamworld Dig 2 was announced and I was incredibly excited. The last game ended on a cliffhanger and it was nice to see the previous concept getting expanded upon. When it came out, you bet I was ready to dig in once again.

Interesting, but why include Navi?

Searching for the last game’s protagonist, Rusty, you take control of Dorothy. Having traveled far and wide in search for her friend, she eventually stumbles upon a town that is troubled by earthquakes. Many seem to also have witnessed the robot you are looking for, but few are sure if his motives are good or not. Still willing to find her friend and help those in need, Dorothy sets out into the mines to find the answers she is seeking. There are some nice fillers for a story and even includes a species called shiners, which is a fun take on a creature you should be familiar with, and a cult praising these earthquakes are interesting as antagonists. 

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What destroys this, however, is Fen. I don’t understand why some games need another Cortana or Navi as it is hard to make them appreciable companions with a good connection and Fen is sort of just there. There are some decent conversations between him and Dorothy, but it seems like the story is just there for giving a reason for the sequel to Steamworld Dig 2 to exist, making me wonder why they went the extra mile without adding anything interesting? Usually: a simple story like this doesn’t go overboard with dialogue, but this tale tries to be more, when it is really less.

Story Score: 6/10

Dug a bit too deep

Similar to the first installment, Steamworld Dig 2 is a mining-game where you dig to find treasures, secrets, and try to get to the bottom of this journey, both figuratively and literally. Dorothy sports a pickaxe for digging through and making tunnels, and the ability to wall jump to make ascending faster and possible, as you only need one wall to jump on. There are plenty of treasures that can be found in these caves, which can be taken up to exchange for gold. With gold, you are able to upgrade your set, but while this is satisfying, it is way too easy to do so. This is because enemies also give treasures this time, making it hard to really be engaged to get every hidden treasure in the caves. Not just this, but you must kill enemies for being able to upgrade your tools fully and for getting more gold for your treasures, showcased by a level-up bar. 

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A different approach certainly and it would be fine if the game was designed with this in mind. However, it is not. You rarely have big spaces for jumping around and hardly any tools to deal with these creatures, making it bizarre that combat is even a huge part of this game when none of the common enemies where fun challenges. This destroys a lot in the game as you need to fight enemies and some can take a good amount of hits to defeat. It is so weird that they changed the concept of leveling up the city and increased focus on combat, but kept Dorothy as limited in combat as Rusty in the last game. You do have a gun, but it uses a heavy amount of the limited water you have on you, making it a tedious grind when you just want to find a pool of water to restore it or just get above the ground. 

Speaking of which, getting up restores not just the water-bar under your health this time, which is used for two tools you will acquire. It will also restore health and light, making the threat the game could present gone, as it is easy to get back to the town above thanks to plenty of warp-areas. It makes backtracking quite tedious despite this, as it really breaks the immersion of being inside a dangerous cave. It rather becomes an annoyance thanks to suddenly running out of water or having too much treasure on you. I often even forgot I had a light source, which is important to see treasures to find because I never cared for it. Greed is not what keeps you in these caves, just the hope of being done with them, which is sad.

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Despite this glaring issue, exploring the caves is still important as you can find cogs to modify your tools for some extra uses, such as one for making your lamp shine brighter. You can also locate artifacts that can get you blueprints to find more ways to mod a tool, which adds to the exploration. They are well hidden as well, which makes the discovery of either that more satisfying. There are also smaller caves inside the main ones that function as obstacle-courses and they are fantastic. They make use of every ability Dorothy has, and when grappling-hook is introduced, they become a blast. Some even include clever puzzles and it is a huge shame the game couldn’t have just focused on these parts.

The most entertaining obstacle-course caves are those that give Dorothy a new ability to venture further with, such as the mentioned grappling hook and gun. Both have great platforming-uses and can make navigation easier and more engaging, especially in the restricted platforming/puzzle courses. While fighting the common enemies is a chore, the boss fights are incredibly fun, focusing on platforming in huge environments and areas to dig through, making these more like the mentioned obstacle-courses than direct fights.

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Adding to the game’s length, are the caves you will explore, each being different with tiles they have, such as some that will reconstruct and have acid-traps. Despite enemies being more of a chore to fight than anything, at least they have varied abilities, such as being explosive or have ranged attacks. Though there is a huge lack in challenge when you are near the end of the game and you will gain abilities to make you overpowered, and others that are just useful for opening doors. Not to mention some areas can be downright annoying, with the worst being the part with bouncing mushrooms all over the place, and a robotic graveyard where you will not stay for long and which tries to break the fourth wall in a not so convincing way.

Because of fighting enemies, the lack of voluntary treasure-hunting, and the tedious backtracking, Steamworld Dig 2 becomes a tiresome game to play through. Despite being about as long as the original Steamworld Dig, I was drained when I finished it. It has some fantastic obstacle-courses and I did enjoy parts of the exploration, but there was no real reward to it. It, unfortunately, took one step forward and two steps back with every new addition.

Gameplay Score: 6.5/10

Tech over simplicity

The confusion of how to expand or make better use of what the original had, can also be seen in its presentation. The remake of the intro still has the long tunes of echoing instruments similar to its predecessor, but more focus on techno and el-guitar trying to be stronger and action-oriented. It could be fitting, but also feels odd as it does not convey a clear mood on being isolated and afraid, or ready for the things to come. It showcases a return to a previous concept, but also confusion.

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Though let’s start with the new and slicker artstyle. Everything is shinier and has a clear attention to make everything seem more detailed, but the animations are more limited, making everything seem more like cheap puppets from a phone-app. All the characters seem more like plastic than metal and can oddly enough become stiffer than a rusty piece of hardware. There is a lot of creativity to the creatures, with the Shiners especially being deranged, scrummy, and almost unpleasant, but the robots are a mix of original concepts, such as the crab-salesman, and stereotypical ones, like the granny-robot. All are colorful and looks nice, but some parts both technically and artistically feels unfinished. It also bugs me every time when Dorothy’s head is in front of a mud-piece instead of leaning into it inside one of the caves.

Though I still think the game has some great visuals and they all come from the caves themselves as the variety is fantastic. The water-cave having different colored lights giving it a fantasy-vibe, or the temple with odd statues and filled with hot lava, are just a few examples of the diversity these areas can contain. The enemies in these areas are also based on the constructions, so you will meet cultist in the fire-cave, but might stumble upon dangerous plants instead in the water-cave. The multi-layered backgrounds give a sense of depth, making some areas feel huge or claustrophobic depending on their uses, and they are filled with details, which makes each area mysterious and interesting. These places also show the best attention to detail such as when light blue grass lights up and waves as you pass it by. 

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The music, unfortunately, does not always add to this charm. We have some great composers, with even El Huervo on board (who is known for his contribution to the Hotline Miami-games), but they don’t always have a good tone that represents the stages throughout the game, making it a mess. It is a beautiful mess, however, with the town-theme being peaceful and the big open desert having a guitar that echoes and gives a sense of loneliness, but others can be more atmospheric with too low or lack of tones. Because of this, it is hard to determine what kind of atmosphere the game wants to go for.

Presentation Score: 7.5/10

Already got my hands dirty

As for what else to do after the game is over, there is a rank at the end showcasing how many of the secrets and amount of items you got, amounts of death you suffered, and the time it took you to beat the game. This is a nice extra, but due to how much the game drags, it feels hard to recommend a second playthrough. Though artifacts are a nice extra to give exploration a more centered focus and includes nice lore that is a fun read. This also unlocks Trials of Skills that unfortunately is hit and miss, depending on when it focuses on tight platforming or enemy-management. A cool extra for sure, but as mentioned before: going through these caves can be tedious, even if you go for the more interesting loot.

Extra Score: 6/10

Verdict

I just want to declare that I am totally fine if a game wants to distinguish itself from its predecessor or try to expand on the original formula, but Steamworld Dig 2 oddly enough has trouble doing either. If they just had more focus and especially neglected the need to destroy enemies and the easier treasure-hunting, we could have had a fantastic game. 

As it stands, this is a solid game, but hard to fully recommend unless you need another Steamworld Dig. Besides, there are many other positive ways to get 6 feet under. Terraria for example.

65/100

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