Thanks to Image & Form for the review code
Title: SteamWorld Dig 2
Release Date: 09/26/2017
In this sequel to the hit Metroidvania game, you take control of Dorothy, an NPC from the first game who is out on a quest to find her friend Rusty after he mysterious vanished during the climax of the first game. Unlike the first game, the story in this one is a lot more detailed, connecting it to Steamworld Heist while also using the extra focus on story that title brought to the series.
While some visual elements that were shared between Steamworld Dig and Heist continue here, giving the series a consistent artstyle, the overall quality of the presentation has seen a massive boost from the original Dig. Environments are much more detailed and varied than they were in the previous game, and the randomized nature of the first game is now gone, which allows the developers to make different parts of the game stand out and be memorable, instead of just hoping the random generator would do the job. It truly is refreshing to get unique backgrounds and landscapes for the different areas this game has to offer, and ultimately this is the best-looking Steamworld game yet!
The music also got a boost in quality, and while the game still contains plenty of middling tracks that just exist for the sake of it, (with nothing memorable about them at all) there are also several tunes that quickly became memorable for me, most notably the themes of Yarrow and Evil Caves, which bring up the moods of purity and tension respectively.
Not long after starting the game and ending up in the tutorial dungeon, it’s made apparent that Steamworld Dig 2 is no copy of the first game, as right off the bat you’re introduced to a boss fight, something which the original game only had one of! Outside of this boss there are only two others, but it’s still an improvement over the first game, and overall the bosses come off as being the indicators to the start, middle and end of the adventure you’ll be embarking on as soon as you exit the tutorial dungeon and head to the main hub town of the game, which acts as the place where you can sell items and purchase upgrades to install at the workbench.
In my original Steamworld Dig review, I praised the game’s sense of progression, and how you can slowly grow strong enough to blaze through earlier segments of the game in no time at all, while also lamenting the slow start and the very short nature of the game. Well, while the core goals are the same, (gather resources, sell and then upgrade) I’m happy to say that this sequel has significantly improved in nearly every possible way thanks to the aforementioned removal of randomized environments. No longer will the first part of the mine be a slow drag until you grind for money to upgrade your axe, but rather it’ll be moving at a reasonable pace as you work towards clearing challenge dungeons and finding secret artifact items that’ll unlock blueprints and special abilities for your purchased items.
This makes anything past the first half-hour of the game (When the tutorial is over and you’re in the town) a total joy to play, from clever puzzle caves that require you to think outside the box to find every last secret, to a world that’s more than happy to allow for sequence breaking once you get a couple items, the world of Dig 2 is far more enjoyable to explore than the original’s world, and you’ll be having a lot of fun messing around with several of the cool items and upgrades this title has to offer, from a really fun Hookshot that pulls you around to a Jackhammer that can make you smash through blocks at breakneck speed.
Enemies are also a lot more interesting than before, with a lot of enemies that require you to be careful with until you grow stronger, mostly due to the fact that some enemies are immune to some of your items like the jackhammer, while others will explode or counter-attack if you don’t get out of the way in time, leading to a lot more variety compared to the boring defenseless enemies of the past, and each area of the game has their own unique sets of enemies to add to the mix. More areas and items also means more game time, which is a major improvement over the original as that game could be beaten in only 2-4 hours if you tried upgrading everything, while for me it took nearly 11 hours to beat the game with 100% secrets, and that doesn’t count the insanely difficult challenge dungeon that tests your learned skills to their absolute limit with some devilish puzzles and mazes.
So, with the core concept of the game improved and a lot of variety added, what else is there to talk about with this sequel? Well, while it pretty much makes the first game entirely obsolete outside of the story, there is still a very minor issue that might make some would-be completionists frustrated. You see, when you die, you tend to lose some or all of your resources depending on the circumstances, which makes sense, but after a while you will run out of resource tiles to mine, and if you’re aiming to upgrade and purchase every item in the game and happen to die a ton while doing so, then you’ll have no choice but to hunt down enemies in the hope they might drop a rare gem upon defeat, which in turn becomes the only way to earn money once everything runs out. Part of me wishes would randomize the lost ore and hide them in random tiles around the map so that way they aren’t really lost forever, as it would prevent this issue from being a pain to deal with.
Outside of that though, the sequel does a fantastic job at taking the simple, addictive concept from the original game and bringing to life a lot of much-needed creativity to benefit the world being built with this adventure.
Steamworld Dig 2 is by far the biggest surprise from 2017, and while it took a while for me to get to this title in the queue, I’m really happy I eventually did, as this quickly became one of my favorite games to come out during the entire year of 2017! Expanding a concept that I saw great potential in three years ago, and letting it grow into a behemoth of a Metroidvania with lots of love and polish makes this game an adventure that everyone really should give a shot, even if you haven’t played the first one. The Playstation 4 version that’s the subject of this review is especially recommended as it throws in a few nifty challenges for the player to complete for some tough achievements, which are totally absent from the Switch version of the game, (but are in every other version) giving that version a sacrifice for the sake of portability. Still, if you’re even moderately into Metroidvania titles, you owe it to yourself to check out Steamworld Dig 2 if you haven’t already, and I’m pleased to say that this game was really damn close to being my game of the year for 2017, right after I thought I already had made my mind up on which games were the best! I give Steamworld Dig 2 a 10 out of 10, and give it the ultimate recommendation for metroidvania fans!