Steamworld Dig

Steamworld Dig is a 2D platformer adventure game available on the 3DS eshop. I know it’s also on Steam and possibly on other devices, but… this is the version I’ve played. The main plot is that Rusty is given the deed to his uncle’s mine. He goes to the western town to talk to his uncle about it, but he finds his uncle dead in the mine. It’s now your job to continue the mining not only to bring prosperity back to the town but also to find out what is so special about your uncle’s mine. You start the game with basic abilities like being able to mine dirt, jumping, and fighting off enemies with your pick. You can find precious ores underground that can be sold on the surface. Selling these ores gives you money and unlocks new upgrades and shops in the town. You can buy upgrades to all of your equipment here as well as refill your health and lantern. You’ll need a fueled lantern to see underground. As the fuel drains you’ll slowly lose vision, which makes finding underground paths and ores more difficult. Along the way you’ll buy better picks to dig faster and deeper. You’ll also obtain new powers and equipment that give you the ability to progress further. In some ways it’s also very similar to the metroidvania genre.

The exploration through mining out your own paths is really neat. You can choose to try and explore all of the area maps or simply make fast work to the key areas. It’s very addictive mining ores and bringing them back to get more upgrades to make your mining easier. Seeing all of the new powers and upgrades to them slowly makes you become more powerful, and you can really feel it. The townsfolk also tell you stories of your uncle as you go along which gives you some neat backstory to this character you never get to meet. Also, when you get items that give you new abilities you’ll generally be required to get a handle on them in order to leave the caves where you found them. It’s also pretty vibrant visually even though it’s mostly underground with dirt and rocks. It’s pretty simple, but very addicting… at first.

Getting new abilities is fun, but the fun of the rest of the game turns into tedium. Go into the mine. Dig through rock and dirt. Find ores. When your light runs out, return to the surface. Sell ores. Unlock more upgrades. Buy upgrades. Rinse and repeat. Most of the upgrades are just making your equipment work better which will really just feel like keeping up as the dirt gets tougher, the enemies get stronger, and areas get larger. Some of the things you get feel like you should’ve had them from the start as the game is annoying without them. The more you want to explore, the more annoying your lantern lighting limit becomes. You shouldn’t be punished for wanting to explore more, no matter how realistic the effect might be. The music isn’t anything to write home about either, which is too bad since you’ll spend a lot of time just running around those mines. The areas aren’t terribly big either so there aren’t a whole lot of new things to explore. The worst part is that the game ends with a boss battle. There’s only ONE boss battle in the entire game. Sure, there are minor enemies to kill throughout the game, but no other bosses. The game simply does not build up your skills for this boss. This boss battle just kind of happens because… it’s the end of the game. And if you’re not a gamer it can be hard to jump into this without the game ever training you.

The overall experience… really isn’t worth much. The mining and upgrading is very addictive. The new abilities are genuinely fun to get and use. The boss battle is actually fun too. With some more bosses and better level design this could’ve been a pretty good game. However, the lack of these things, the inclusion of an unnecessary end boss, and the tedium in repeated tasks all make for an underwhelming experience. I could see paying maybe five dollars for it, but unless you’re really into the simple and short amount of content presented here then just get it cheap or steer clear. Steamworld Dig is more or less a bland, middle of the road experience. 

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