Site layout weird? Try Ctrl-Shift-Refresh   |   Report a bug

Review: SteamWorld Dig


Share this story:

Tony Ponce

Contributor

5:01 PM on 08.21.2013

Dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig in your mine the whole day through

On paper, SteamWorld Dig sounds like the most mind-numbing slog that you could possibly imagine. The object of the game is to dig, exchange the minerals you unearth for better equipment, then dig some more. And when you think you've dug deep enough, you start punching the rocks and pick up the pace.

Being forced to perform a singular action ad infinitum can severely impede fun and enjoyment in a videogame. Ironically, the cornerstone of many popular games is the repetition of seemingly mundane tasks with the goal of discovering ever more efficient ways to accomplish said tasks.

What makes the grind in SteamWorld Dig so exhilarating is that each upturned patch of soil is another step towards some grand new discovery. That is, as long as you don't mind digging. A lot.

SteamWorld Dig (3DS)
Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Release: August 7, 2013 (EU / AU) / August 8, 2013 (US)
MSRP: $8.99

In a steampunk Wild West populated by robots, young Rusty has inherited his Uncle Joe's mine. Ol' Joe apparently lost his life plunging the depths of the mine for its secrets, thus its up to his nephew to take up the pickaxe and continue the journey.

SteamWorld Dig is sort of like an open-world Dig Dug. You must chisel away at the soil to create paths that descend ever deeper, all while avoiding underground obstacles such giant insects, falling stones, and pools of acid. Your field of vision is regulated by how much light you have remaining, so you must use your wall-climbing ability to regularly return to the surface and refill your lantern to avoid fumbling around in the dark.

Topside is a mining town where you can exchange any ore you find for cash and in turn use the cash to purchase new items and upgrades. Sturdier pickaxes will allow you to break through tougher soil in fewer hits, pouch expansions will allow you collect more ore, and so on.

Along the way, you'll enter special caves which offer more straightforward platforming challenges. Here you'll earn upgrades, like as a super jump, a drill arm to break through rocks that your pickaxe can't crack, or dynamite to blow away obstacles from a safe distance. Many of the upgrades are steam-powered, thus you must also mind your water reserves, which can only be refilled in underground pools or by picking up refills from fallen enemies.

That's the gist of it, really. What keeps the journey so thrilling is how customizable it is. Rusty can dig in either of the four cardinal directions but only when he's standing on solid ground. Therefore, you have to chart a path that not only allows access to ore deposits but also provides a clear route back to the town. Do you wish to dig straight down, thereby missing out on money that could be spent towards simplifying your journey, or do you perform a more thorough job and waste precious lantern light?

What results is a root-like labyrinthine of tunnels, chutes, and open expanses entirely of your creation; no two players' excavation work will be identical. How each person digs speaks volumes about their individual traits -- efficiency, curiosity, patience. It almost makes me wish that the game allowed for online progress sharing so that we could compare maps and play methods.

It is actually possible to trap yourself should you dig without concern for your equipment or surroundings. Certain items such as ladders and teleporters can be your saving grace, but should your supply be exhausted, your only option is to self-destruct. You will respawn on the surface, but you'll incur a 50% cash penalty and any ores you were carrying will have to be retrieved at the site of your death. The total amount of ore in the game is limited, so though there's more than enough to purchase every upgrade, repeated carelessness could end your shopping spree.

There's a lot to track and observe in SteamWorld Dig, but you can only understand its brilliance if you push forward through the grind, which may be easier for some than others. The first hour is definitely the hardest -- several swings are required to break through the soil using your weak starter pickaxe, and without the support of Rusty's later upgrades and techniques, progress is as slow and laborious as a real-life mining dig.

Then there's the need to return to the surface. The further down you dig, the longer it takes to climb back out to refill your light or go shopping. Aside from the teleporters you purchase from the shop, you'll find a scant few pre-installed at specific depths. Though they make returning to town a lot easier, you'll still be forced to backtrack a significant stretch as you create distance between yourself and the most recent teleporter. The best you can do is make sure that the return path is as streamlined as possible.

I admit that I felt pretty fed up with the game on a number of occasions precisely because of these shortcomings. Even so, the allure of what lay hidden beneath the surface compelled me onward. Soil gives way to a long-lost subterranean civilization, which then gives way to evidence of a world much more advanced then the one on the surface. Every hundred meters is some new surprise, some new revelation.

There is a genuine allure to SteamWorld Dig, you just have to clear out the rubble to find it.


7.5
SteamWorld Dig - Reviewed by Tony Ponce

Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.

Check out more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.




Get comment replies by email.     settings



Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our comment moderators

Can't see comments? Anti-virus apps like Avast or some browser extensions can cause this. Easy fix: Add   [*].disqus.com   to your security software's whitelist.


More SteamWorld Dig  updates:

review ( ! ) news ( 21 ) galleries ( 4 ) videos ( 4 )

SteamWorld Dig is worth investigating if you enjoy the super-fun drilling action of Mr. Driller but stink at the game or otherwise get overwhelmed before long. Image & Form is bringing its robotic Western adventure to yet...
SteamWorld Dig is hitting the Wii U on August 28th, and if you happen to live in the EU, AUS, or NZ regions, you'll get a 25% off discount for owning the 3DS version. But wait -- why isn't this cross-buy discount availab...
This isn’t the first rodeo for SteamWorld Dig -- the cute mining adventure game first arrived last year on the 3DS eshop, followed by a Steam release. Now it’s making a comeback to the Wii U this week on August 28...
Image & Form started SteamWorld Dig off on the 3DS eShop and has since brought its mining adventure game to Steam, PS4, and PS Vita. It won't be much longer now until the studio comes back around to Nintendo -- the Wii U ...
SteamWorld Dig is a great game, and worth completing multiple times over. But is it worth double, or even triple-dipping for? For some, no game is worth that much. One such fan is frustrated that he can buy the game for ...
Steamworld Dig is on its way to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita this month, and we now have a firm date to expect it's arrival: March 18. Prepare your pickaxes and anticipate a $9.99 entry fee. This was a delight...
I can't say enough good things about SteamWorld Dig, a platformer centered around mining that first launched on the 3DS eShop. It's since come to Steam in high definition, and that expanded version was excellent. Now, Image &...
Originally released on the 3DS eShop several months ago, SteamWorld Dig has now come to Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam. This port of the 2D mining adventure has a fresh coat of paint thanks to new high-definition art, and ...
There are a number of great 3DS eShop games I've managed to miss this year, with SteamWorld Dig easily topping that list. As much as news of the game coming to Steam (PC and Mac) on December 5, 2013 has me wanting to get the...








Back to Top