Saturday, February 3

Review: Steamworld Dig - A Fistful of Dirt [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Steamworld Dig 2 has been a runaway success since its release, garnering praise pretty well universally to become one of the most beloved indies games on the system in its first year. With a blend of combat, exploration, action puzzles, and the satisfaction of gearing yourself up in all manner of ways it’s easy to get hooked! For those who never got a chance to check out the original Dig, or who have fond memories and would like to return to it, Image and Form have now released it on the Switch and it looks fabulous!

In the original you’ll be playing as Rusty (fans of the sequel should find the name familiar), a robot who has inherited his uncle’s somewhat rundown mine in the town of Tumbleton. While everything is a bit deserted and quiet at the beginning of the adventure as you get deeper into the mine the town begins to turn itself around, no doubt buoyed by all of the fine gems you will be digging to find. The action loop is simple but satisfying. Dig, kill enemies, avoid being crushed, collect gems, return to surface, cash in, improve your gear, and down you’ll go again. As long as you don’t push too far down too quickly, and keep improving your gear consistently as you go, you’ll be able to keep pace with the increasingly challenging (and even lethal) people and creatures you’ll encounter in the mine.

Another benefit of being thorough in your exploration and excavation, aside from getting the gold and supplies you’ll need to upgrade your gear, is that you’ll find a variety of caves along the way. Some of these will unlock new gear and are absolutely vital for you to find but there are some others that are more optional but that will have precious resources you’ll want to make your way to in order to aid in your overall success. In almost all cases these will involve puzzles of various kinds that will force you to effectively utilize the skills you’ve accumulated as well as a degree of planning and skill in executing. They’re not typically very elaborate but they do offer satisfying bites of puzzles and action that will also help you get better gear more quickly.

Of course if you’ve played the sequel already one issue is that all of this, of course, will sound incredibly familiar. On a general level the gameplay is mostly identical, just in the case of 2 everything is a bit more hand-crafted and refined. The satisfaction of the loop is still very much in place but the most notable difference between the two games is very much the depth of the upgrade system. In a general sense the original Dig system is far more linear, the additional layers added in the sequel lead to far more of a feeling you were customizing your build in some way. Here you can certainly choose what to upgrade first and how quickly but here your choices are simpler. It’s also quite a bit shorter in content and runtime, but at half the price of the sequel it also feels like a fair deal.

Ultimately, even getting on in years a bit, Steamworld Dig still works very well and is almost immediately as addictive as it ever was once you get the ball rolling. The “just one more run” feeling doesn’t have quite as strong a drive as with its sequel, where there are far more things you’re hoping to unlock, but it is still a highly satisfying experience that is well-implemented. Ultimately priced as a budget title it offers a great time for a reasonable investment.

Score: 7.5

  • That satisfying and compelling loop
  • Looks and controls great on the Switch
  • As long as you pace yourself if maintains a very even and fair challenge

  • The sequel eclipsed it in every way and is a better game
  • Aside from the aesthetics it is still the same core game originally released on the DS
  • Not a terribly long experience

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