2013’s Steamworld Dig was a massive hit. Combining spelunking with platform-adventuring, it just worked. Its long-awaited sequel has just landed, and surprise, surprise, it’s even better than the first.
While 2015’s Steamworld Heist was dubbed a sequel to Steamworld Dig, it was a very different style of game, swapping platforming and mining for turn-based strategy. Steamworld Dig 2 is the true sequel fans have been waiting for, building on the foundations laid by the original but making everything bigger and better. The gameplay is fundamentally similar, but a more in-depth upgrade system and a much bigger map to explore mean this is, in pretty much every way, a more refined — and much more enjoyable — experience.
Where the first game put us in the metal-clad shoes of Rusty, a steam-powered robot, Steamworld Dig 2 sees his friend Dorothy as the protagonist. Rusty’s gone missing, and Dorothy’s taken it upon herself to find him. That means, of course, mining her way deep underground, exploring caves, coming up against a myriad of critter-like foes, and collecting minerals and gems in order to pay for upgrades to her system.
If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Steamworld Dig 2 doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, and it’s all the better for it. Developer Image & Form had a solid formula with Steamworld Dig, and — rightfully so — hasn’t attempted to shoehorn in any massive changes that might have upset the balance. Instead, the larger, sprawling map, refined platforming gameplay, somewhat more solid narrative and wider range of character upgrades means that there’s a lot more to get out of the sequel, and if you enjoyed the first game, that should hopefully be music to your ears.
There are a lot of minor changes to the game which means Steamworld Dig 2 is just much more fun to play than its predecessor. For instance, every time you return to town your health, light and water instantly refill — there’s no need to waste your money on replenishing them. Exploration feels better too, with no materials taking quite so long to break through, and environments that are better structured, guiding you to new areas rather than being a straight dig down through layers of increasing toughness. The biggest changes, though, come in the form of upgrades.
As in Steamworld Dig, each weapon can be upgraded a number of times, making it more powerful. Higher level pickaxes allow you to more easily break through layers of rock, for instance, and upgraded armour offers you greater protection against foes and environmental hazards. This time, though, a cog system allows you to buy a myriad of specific upgrades for Dorothy. Much like a typical skill tree, you can exchange cogs earned as you play for new skills that tie into your roster of abilities. For instance, one specific skill that becomes available later into the game means your lamp never drops below 50 per cent, and another means your inventory slots can hold two gems instead of just one.
Many of these upgrades can easily be missed if you don’t wander off the beaten path. While you will come across some cogs in your natural progression, most are hidden within optional caves and secret areas laden around the map. The campaign can be completed in about five or six hours, but if you want to fully appreciate everything that Steamworld Dig 2 has to offer and upgrade Dorothy to her full potential, you’ll be able to eke at least twice that out of the game. And you’ll really want to, because it’s in the optional content where Steamworld Dig 2 really shines.
Spread throughout the map are a number of caves, each holding cogs to find as well as additional collectible artefacts. Finding both requires solving a puzzle and, often, sleuthing around to find a secret area. Each cave feels a little like a Breath of the Wild-style shrine — each has its own specific theme and its own unique puzzle to solve. While they start out fairly easy early on in the game, they quickly get rather tricky, requiring you to use a clever combination of your skills to be successful. It’s a nice touch, though, for a game otherwise about digging and platforming to require the use of your noggin. It adds a good mix to the gameplay as well as providing plenty of challenge for even the most seasoned of gamer to sink their teeth into.
In terms of visuals, Steamworld Dig 2 continues the crisp 2D art style set up by its predecessor, but heavily expands on it by adding a plethora of new environments into the mix. This time, there’s a brand new underground jungle to explore; the reds and muddy-browns of the usual dug-out locations giving way to luscious greens and colourful flora and fauna. It’s a particularly fiendish section, but one that stands out as a highlight of the game thanks to its beauty. It reminded me a lot of Rayman Legends in terms of style — and that can only be a good thing.
If you didn’t like the gameplay loop of Steamworld Dig, then there are probably not enough changes here to massively alter your opinion. But for those of us who did enjoy it, then Steamworld Dig 2 will happily suck us right back in, the refinements made creating the perfect balance between familiarity and freshness. Now, I’ll just wait here patiently for Steamworld Dig 3…