How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. Way more open than its predecessor, making it a ''true'' Metriodvania, except the part where you'll be mining most of the time.
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus
Time to beat: ~7 hours
Review Info: SteamWorld Dig 2 was played using the Twitch Launcher.
Buy SteamWorld Dig 2 if you like…
- Rewarding Exploration and Sequence Breaking
- Puzzle Platforming
- Strategically breaking away level architecture
- The SteamWorld Universe
▼ Review continues below ▼
SteamWorld Dig 2 takes place immediately after the events of the first game, where the previous game’s loot liquidator is turned protagonist and is set out on a loyal journey to find the missing Rusty. If you’ve played the first game, everything will seem immediately familiar. You’re journeying towards a western-style town (this time with more of a Central America flair), you fall down a hole, and you eventually stumble into town where the plot kicks off. Breaking blocks of dirt underground with your pickaxe is tutorialized again, but very subtly, and this sequel quickly starts to change up and expand the formula. The original SteamWorld Dig heavily advertised its Metroidvania connections, but didn’t really deliver on the “world” aspect of the idea. Its sequel wholly rectifies that discrepancy, and turns the idea into a unique and fulfilling masterpiece.
Sequence breaking and autonomy are key to SteamWorld Dig 2’s embracing of the Metroidvania Genre. While the game still guides you along to your next objective, from the very outset you’re absolutely free to completely ignore this direction. Venturing into the unknown, especially one as dark as the underground mines, can be daunting. Besides marking your path on your mini-map, concerned townsfolk and posted notices urge you to follow their advice. Brazenly ignoring warning signs, however, I was surprised to discover early access to treasures and puzzle rooms off the beaten path. Not having the upgrades that I was intended to have in those areas definitely made traversing the terrain much harder, but walking out of them with treasure that I felt like I wasn’t supposed to have was addicting enough that I just had to keep doing it. Later in the game I found myself finishing objectives that the story hadn’t told me to go after yet, saving me the trouble of doing them at that point entirely. Getting to them did require some creative use of the tools I had, which I personally found more fun than using the upgrades the story intended me to use. Layers of depth, tons of secrets to explore, power through discovery – it made me say to myself “this is Metroidvania.“
The core mechanics from SteamWorld Dig are still there, just with a lot of quality of life changes added in. No longer are your best upgrades locked behind a limited supply of orbs. Instead, you find “Cogs” which can be slotted into game changing augments for your tools, and then later removed and re-slotted into other augments at any time. Your favorite augments can always take top priority, but more cogs means more power, making the more hefty secrets that much more rewarding to find. There are also some collectible items that are even more cleverly hidden in the world, which unlock more augments to slot your cogs into – and suddenly the gameplay loop isn’t just about breaking rocks and finding gems, but also about pure exploration.
Finding gems and selling them is still rewarding though. All of your statistical upgrades are still locked behind your cashflow. Upgrading your pickaxe makes you break blocks faster, upgrading your cannon makes it have longer range, etc. You also need to upgrade your tools before you can unlock the slots to put your cogs into. So even digging your way into a dead-end can be fulfilling if you come out of it with a pack full of goodies to sell.
Traversing back and forth to town is also a whole lot easier. Rather than having one single fast travel point at any given time, pipe chutes now behave more similar to teleportation rooms in other Metroidvania titles. You can travel between them freely assuming you’re at any one of their access points. Activating a new one you come across is as simple as clearing its entrance. You’re also given the option of equipping a teleporter that lets you return to town at any given time – assuming you’re not in immediate danger. This makes it a whole lot easier to avoid the consequences of death, and even those consequences have been lightened up a lot. Instead of losing the money you carry, you lose half the loot you’ve found. Given the limited supply of gems in the world, this can still be a permanent setback, but it’s not nearly as big as potentially losing half your bank account.
Strategically digging through the game’s map is still a delight in this game, but the challenge rooms are the primary highlight for me. They range from head-scratching puzzle platforming to tricky action puzzles – though the dexterity required never reaches too high of a difficulty. Basically every side room rewards you with a Cog, but more often than not there’s something extra hidden away for the astute. Conveniently your map will be marked with a green check if you’ve found everything of importance in a given side path, so you’ll never have to worry about wandering aimlessly to find what you might have missed. Combat is still very basic in SteamWorld Dig 2, but the challenges provided by these side rooms provides more than enough engagement that the game doesn’t need to also focus so much on the violence.
Contributing to the charms that SteamWorld Dig 2’s mechanics already provide is the continuation of Image & Form Game’s SteamWorld universe. The characters and setting continue to be a highlight of these games, and like everything else in SteamWorld Dig 2, this aspect has been polished up and improved significantly. The plot follows some pretty predictable tropes, but trope or not the interactions with the Mayor, the Shopkeep, your little Flame Buddy, and the villains are all memorably written. It made me want to spend more time with them, which is exactly what the developers want, I’m sure.
SteamWorld Dig 2 is a fantastic evolution of what the original started. From a gameplay mechanics standpoint, I feel like it has just enough content to provide full satisfaction before the system started to feel worn out. There’s still a little room for growth – such as with the combat or really squeezing some meaning out of the story – but it will still be hard to top this game as-is. I really hope this isn’t the end for the Dig brand of SteamWorld games, and I think every fan of the Metroidvania Genre who feels like they’re up for something different, but still wholly Metroidvania, should give this game a try.
Combat is pretty basic, but it's also basically just a footnote to the game's main attractions
There are both self-manufactured and intentionally implemented platforming challenges, the latter of which are very well designed
While you constantly have a guide, the world is fairly open and you can tackle quite a few goals out of order.
Puzzle rooms are some of the game's best highlights, being as rewarding to complete as the rewards they contain
Continues the world and lore of SteamWorld nicely, while still being accessible to any player.
Characters look memorable, and the hand-drawn art is pleasant
The tunes are catchy and really set the mood
Having a lot of choice on how you upgrade your character allows you to differentiate playthroughs in ways other than self-imposed challenges.,