The Good, The Bad, And The Rusty
SteamWorld Dig's name betrays it.
To be blunt, the name itself is kind of boring and leaves nothing to the imagination. The “SteamWorld” part of the name implies some sort of steam mechanic and gives clues as to the premise of the game while the “Dig” part is quite obvious: You're going to be digging.
The old adage “Don't judge a book by its cover” applies here, but in the form of “Don't judge a game by its name only.” SteamWorld Dig may have a boring name but the game itself is vibrant, full of amazing ideas, and is the furthest from boring that you can get.
SteamWorld Dig is another entry into the popular digging genre that Minecraft gave birth to but adds so many unique features that the only similarity between both games is that you dig. The best comparison is that SteamWorld Dig is a more polished Super Motherload, expanding on all the aspects that Super Motherload fell short of. If you're familiar at all with Mr. Driller, the popular Namco digging series that predates Minecraft by quite a few years, you'll instantly know what SteamWorld Dig has to offer.
If you loved any of the above series, stop reading and start purchasing. If you're only familiar with this genre through Minecraft, read on to see why SteamWorld Dig is not only a good alternative but in many ways, better than the game that popularized this genre.
Subtle Stories Make the Best Stories
SteamWorld Dig's premise is one that instantly sets it apart from almost every other game, as the game has a Wild West setting. It's a setting you don't see in many games, so it's great to see SteamWorld Dig not only tackle this setting but pull it off with flying colors. The text has that Western charm to it with proper in-text inflections and you'll instantly find yourself immersed into the Old West.
To further make the setting unique is that the world is populated by robots that are steam powered. You'll take control of Rusty as he explores his uncle's mine below the town of Tumbleton, frequently returning to Tumbleton to sell ore and talk to the inhabitants. Outside of the story-based intro, SteamWorld Dig puts the focus on digging and action and not so much on text (outside of a few lines every hour or so) and cutscenes (of which the game has maybe three). The game is all about gameplay with no filler. The characters themselves have great designs and are memorable despite the limited interaction.
One of the main things that sets SteamWorld Dig apart is that it features a story with a clear beginning and end. This was true of Super Motherload as well, but SteamWorld Dig's story is more subtle and, to be blunt, better told. If you're just concentrated on the digging, the story may go right over your head, but take the time to look at your surroundings and talk to every character multiple times and you'll start to see a very interesting plot unfold.
The world of SteamWorld Dig isn't quite as straightforward as you're led to believe when you first start the game. Part of the game is exploring and seeing everything the game has to offer so we'll steer clear of spoilers here, but we'll just say that the mine is only the beginning of your adventures. Right when you start to think you've got a handle on how the game works, you're thrown a major curveball, and if you're anything like me that's when you'll get hooked.
Gameplay That Constantly Evolves
SteamWorld Dig starts out simple enough, as Rusty is armed with only a pickaxe as his primary means of burrowing deeper into the mine. Early on, the game introduces you to its flow: dig deeper into the mine, gather ore, return to town to sell your ore and upgrade your equipment, rinse and repeat. It's through this flow that you're gaining the tools necessary to dig further and further and smartly, SteamWorld Dig's story steps out of the way so you can concentrate almost fully on gameplay.
Occasionally this flow is broken by the appearance of caves. Caves come in two varieties: puzzle caves and upgrade caves. Puzzle caves are caves that house a puzzle which, when solved, leads you to ore and orbs, also used as currency when upgrading your equipment. Upgrade caves also provide a few puzzles to solve that revolve around the upgrade found within said cave.
The upgrades themselves are very reminiscent of the items found within Super Metroid. You'll find dash boots, stronger items to dig through rock and new offensive weapons. You'll start the game relatively weak, relying on items such as ladders to help you traverse the mine. At the end of the game, Rusty will be able to navigate without the help of any items and will be a veritable drilling machine. The transformation Rusty goes through becomes a focal part of the game not just in gameplay but also in story.
The game culminates with a boss battle that not only fits within the gameplay confines but is a blast to play as well. We won't spoil any of it here.
SteamWorld Dig takes anywhere from four to seven hours to complete on your first playthrough, depending on how thorough you are in exploring the environment. However, thanks to procedurally generated environments, the replay value is far more than those initial few hours. While the upgrade caves, the order you receive the upgrades, and the story doesn't change, the layout of the mine changes with every game.
If you're a trophy hunter, the trophies themselves will entice you to play again and again as it's unlikely you'll get every trophy on your first playthrough. There are trophies that invite you to explore every inch of the mine, trophies that require speed and trophies that require the utmost carefulness when exploring the depths. SteamWorld Dig is a game you don't finish on your first playthrough.
Patience Required Ahead
Casual gamers who are drawn to SteamWorld Dig via the colorful graphics and the excellent setting may find a roadblock as they explore the depths under Tumbleton. When you die, you lose half of your collected money and have to pick up your dropped ore again, which in and of itself doesn't seem so bad until you realize that ore is a finite resource. Losing half of your on-hand cash could be a big setback; if you're unable to upgrade Rusty, you're unable to dig further into the mine.
This can be alleviating by simply upgrading Rusty as much as you can every time you sell your ore, but just keep in mind that if you die often, you will need to restart the game and try again.
Your average gamer shouldn't have this problem but just a word of warning to gamers unaccustomed to 2-D gaming that frequent deaths are going to lead to a restart.
The PlayStation 4 Advantage
SteamWorld Dig takes advantage of the PlayStation 4 in a few subtle ways:
- The graphics are slightly sharper on the PS4 than on any other system
- The game features load times that border on two seconds and are extremely rare
- The DualShock 4's touchpad is used to access your inventory
These little touches make the PlayStation 4 version of SteamWorld Dig the best version available.
An Added Bonus
SteamWorld Dig supports Cross-Buy functionality, so purchasing the PlayStation 4 version will also entitle you to the PlayStation Vita version as well. The game plays just as good on the Vita as it does on the PlayStation 4, and it's always great to see developers embracing the Cross-Buy functionality.
The Final Verdict
SteamWorld Dig is the PlayStation 4's first game in the “Dig” genre and the system couldn't ask for a better representative. SteamWorld Dig has great atmosphere, amazing gameplay, replayability, and is one of the best indie games you can buy on the system. While the game's difficulty may be off-putting for casual gamers, it's worth sticking with it because SteamWorld Dig offers a unique, one-of-a-kind experience on the PlayStation 4.
We can't wait to see what else comes out of Image & Form Games!
Final Score: 9/10
A copy of SteamWorld Dig was provided to PS4 Experts by Image & Form Games for review purposes.
Article by - Joshua Phillips