Image & Form Struck Gold A Second Time With SteamWorld Dig 2

8
  • Playstation 4
  • Playstation Vita
  • Switch
  • Windows
  • Action-Adventure
2017-09-21
SteamWorld Dig 2 - Dorothy
SteamWorld Dig 2 Image & Form

2D action-adventure games, commonly known as Metroidvanias, have become something of a niche genre. We occasionally see new additions to the genre, but many feature punishing difficulty curves that make them unapproachable for casual fans. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with SteamWorld Dig 2, the first proper sequel in Image & Form’s Steambot universe.

SteamWorld Dig 2 casts players as Dorothy, a young vendor we met in SWD1, who abandoned the ore trader’s life to track down her missing friend, Rusty. Dorothy’s career wasn’t her only sacrifice either. She’s left Tumbleton, the town where she met Rusty in the first SteamWorld Dig , and moved her search to The City, a larger settlement that’s home to a different batch of Steambots. Some fill predictable roles – there’s a new trader to buy ore found underground, a new engineer to upgrade Dorothy’s gear and a few NPCs who keep the plot moving forward. But there are also new additions, including one resident who seemingly ties the Image & Form’s SteamWorld series together in a more formal manner by the end of the game.

The structure of SteamWorld Dig 2 remains largely unchanged. Dorothy’s search for Rusty begins with relatively brief excursions underground, digging through increasingly dense layers of earth in search of new clues to his whereabouts. Along the way, she’ll recover precious minerals that can be sold in town. And those profits can be used to purchase more efficient lamps, pickaxes and other equipment (as the game progresses). Improved gear allows for longer excursions, giving Dorothy increasingly longer periods of time to complete challenge caverns, unclog the pneumatic tubes that allow fast travel to/from The City and find loot hidden in secret areas across the map.

The familiarity doesn’t mean SteamWorld Dig 2 arrived without any signs of improvement. The map in SWD2 was meticulously created by someone hired specifically for their level design expertise and is more than double the size of its predecessor’s, which was procedurally-generated for each run through the story. There are dozens of hidden areas, each home to loot and/or artifacts that can be traded for new equipment blueprints. These sections of the map are gated in the same tradition as most Metroidvanias: doorways that can only be opened via specific upgrades to Dorothy’s toolkit.

The upgrade tree has grown some extra branches in SteamWorld Dig 2 too. The first game featured a handful of modifications for Rusty’s equipment, but the lamp, pick and water supply upgrades from SWD1 only allowed for more efficient mining. Dorothy has way more options in SteamWorld Dig 2. As your gear improves, a new currency (Gold Cogs) let Dorothy further modify her equipment. New perks run the gamut, from increasing the lighting circumference of your lamp to perks that offer partial payouts if/when you’re forced to discard minerals to make room for better loot. You’ll almost always have access to more perks than you have cogs to pay for them, forcing players to choose those that best fit their playstyle. But players can also swap perks anytime they return to The City, which gives them more control over their journey to the post-game credits.

SteamWorld Dig 2 also benefits from an expanded number of boss encounters. To be honest, we’re not sure who was really mad about SWD1’s lack of extended fight sequences; however, Image & Form CEO Brjánn Sigurgeirsson did cite player feedback about the lack of boss fights as a driving factor in the decision during our Nindies@Night demo last month. We were also impressed by the SteamWorld Dig 2 soundtrack. It doesn’t feature any big names or play a major role in the game, but it’s pleasant and I don’t recall having any sort of opinion on the music in SWD1. The fact that the music still stuck out to me by the time I’d finished the game feels like a win.

The only major complaints we have about SteamWorld Dig 2 both center around the game’s brevity. It’s not hard to tell that Image & Form took a more hands-on approach to level design in SWD2. But the lack of map changes between runs diminishes our desire to revisit the game a second or third time. It does open SteamWorld Dig 2 up to speedrunning – there’s even an achievement for speedy campaign completions – but it also changes the semi-mindless nature of the first game. Part of the appeal of SteamWorld Dig was a mindless, but strangely fulfilling, trek downward while listening to podcasts. There’s still plenty of digging to be had in SWD2, but a bevy of new enemies, traps and other dangers mean the sequel isn’t nearly as great of a podcast companion as its predecessor. We also wish SteamWorld Dig 2 was longer. But it’s also important to remember the game’s six to 10 hour story is pretty lengthy for a $20 indie release.

SteamWorld Dig 2 isn’t just some rush-job sequel with limited appeal outside of the game’s existing community. There are enough changes to the SWD2 formula for the sequel to appeal to those who weren’t hooked by the first SteamWorld Dig without losing what made it popular in the first place. We still see room for improvement, and certainly have ideas for what we’d like to see in a third game, but for now we strongly recommend SteamWorld Dig 2 to anyone on the hunt for something new to play.

SteamWorld Dig 2 is currently available on PlayStation 4, PS Vita, PC and Switch.

Be sure to check back with Player.One and follow Scott on Twitter for additional coverage of the SteamWorld franchise for however long Image & Form continues to support its robo-universe.

  • Action-Adventure
  • Image & Form International AB
  • Playstation 4
  • Playstation Vita
  • Switch
  • Windows
82017-09-2119.99Image & Form Struck Gold A Second Time With SteamWorld Dig 2
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