Friday, September 19, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Steampunk - Steamworld Dig

Steamworld Dig started life as a downloadable title on 3DS, and was later ported to Wii U, Playstation 4/Vita and PC, given upgraded HD graphics and some platform appropriate features along the way. As a game it's a little hard to describe as it takes some ideas from a somewhat random set of games, though the results are undeniably unique.

Steamworld dig is a Metroidvania style platform game, mixed with bits of dig dug and Minecraft or Terraria. Gameplay is based around digging downwards through a semi-randomly generated world in search of ore, which you can use to get upgrades that allow you to explored deeper underground leading to more upgrades for more digging for more upgrades and so on. All of this is accompanied with a simple story, that starts with your robot hero taking over a mine in a old western ghost town out in the desert.
The town is pretty empty when you first arrive
when you're not digging, the game also has a lot of side caves you need to visit to progress in the game, along with a few side areas you can visit for extra resources. These caves focus more or platforming than digging and as a platformer the game is decent. while it's not as good as a straightforward platformer, the game was able to provide a few interesting puzzles and challenges in the caves and there wasn't anything broken or frustrating about the mechanics, though it's clear the game is more focused on digging than traditional platforming.

You'd expect a game about digging downwards to be fairly boring, But Steamworld Dig manages to avoid this. There's plenty of traps and enemies hiding underground. At first it's nothing but the occasional set of spikes in the ground or small critter wandering about but as you get deeper, the game gets steadily more complex as you end up running across things like acid, or explosive barrels. right until the end of the game, you'll be constantly coming across new things to deal with in your quest for more money, so things never get old.
There's all sort of creatures hiding underground.
Of course, all the cash you earn by selling ore in game has to go towards something. and while most of your major upgrades are found in the caves underground, there's also plenty of upgrades to buy in stores on the surface. the upgrades are mostly straightforward things like more health and better pickaxes, or enhancements to things you found in the caves. They are however useful to have and there's also a lot of them, enough that by the time I beat the game there was still some things left to buy. The game also includes some consumables, things like ladders or dynamite that can help with your efforts underground. I didn't use them very much but they were a major help the few times I did.

Graphically, the game is very nice looking, graphics were improved from the original 3DS release and looks perfectly fine on PC. They even did a surprising job of making areas in the game look unique and interesting despite the majority of the game being spent basically looking at dirt.
There are plenty of upgrades to buy with the cash earned in game.
The music in the game is somewhat sparse but does it's job nicely, the title theme to the game fits the game's western setting. The rest of the music is atmospheric, and fits the lonely, almost desolate feeling of mining at an old ghost town nicely. There is a soundtrack available on steam, and while the music fits well with the game, I'm not sure it's the kind of music you can readily listen to on it's own outside the game.

What the game really does well however, is it's sound. this is a game about steam powered robots and everything clangs, whirs and hisses exactly like you'd expect it too. Underground you'll hear dirt crumbling as it's dug away or the rumbling of boulders as they fall into place. Everything is crystal clear and sounds exactly like it's supposed to. This is a very nice sounding game.
The game starts with a nice animated intro
 Everything in the game works properly and I didn't encounter any major bugs. The game does however have one major problem: It's short, very short. I beat the game in just over 4 hours. The game does manage to make the most of this time however, as it felt like there was plenty to do in game, and it quite the trip to reach the end, but it would of been nice if it could of done just a little bit more.

Still, despite it's short length I'd say the game is worth a playthrough. It's a very unique title with it's mix of digging, upgrading and platforming and while it only took a couple of hours, it managed to readily keep my interest the whole time. if you get a chance and want to try something a little different, definitely consider giving it a try.

Steamworld Dig was developed and published by Image and Form. It is available on GoG, and Steam. It's soundtrack is available on Steam. it's homepage can be found here.

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