To say SteamWorld Dig 2 is built on a sturdy foundation is an understatement. The original SWD was hard to fault without resorting to nit-picking. With this in mind, Swedish developer Image & Form must have found themselves in a fortunate position when it came to this sequel’s pre-production.
With few criticisms and complaints to rectify, they were presumably free to focus on improving every aspect that made the original a joy to play.
So, how do you improve on something remarkably close to perfection? Simply double down on the good stuff. It’s immediately apparent that production values are far more lavish, boasting sharper, more richly detailed visuals, and ambient lighting. The storyline is more heartfelt too, with robotic cowpoke Dorothy (Dot) out to discover the whereabouts of Rusty, the likeable lead from the original SWD. She’s soon joined by Fen, a powerful glowing orb of light who’s rather fond of destruction. But in a good way – excavating is Dorothy’s forte, after all.
A lead on Rusty’s whereabouts brings Dot to El Machino, a mountain town sitting directly under a sprawling complex of mines and caves. After being hit by a mysterious earthquake the mine is back to being clogged with dirt, and no time is wasted getting back into the swing of digging and drilling for riches.
Dot starts her quest to track down Rusty with an assortment of crude but effective mining equipment. That’s to say, it’s slightly more advanced than the tech Rusty started out with. As such, the opening hour feels like far less of a slog. Dot later gains the kind of upgrades that Rusty could have only dreamed of, lending a whole new set of skills.
Upgrades and new items unlock at such a rapid rate that it’s uncommon not to return to the mine without a bigger backpack, improved pickaxe or similar. This adds a wonderful sense of progression, almost making self-improvement the central theme.