SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt Review
Digging in the dirt isn’t a new concept in the video game world, but none do it quite like SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt. Being dubbed a “platform mining adventure” by its developer, SteamWorld Dig is exactly that, a 2D platformer with adventure elements and, of course, mining.
You play as a mining steambot named Rusty. Upon arriving in the mining town of Tumbleton, Rusty assumes the role of miner to provide the town with resources, the same role previously occupied by his late uncle Joe. As Rusty digs through the depths of uncle Joe’s mine, he begins to uncover not only an ancient civilization, but also a new source of power.
Story elements are slowly revealed as you play. The citizens of Tumbleton will exchange small snippets of dialogue with Rusty; some conversations reveal details of his uncle’s mining expeditions. In general, the story isn’t particularly compelling, but the mystery is enough to keep you digging.
Of course, SteamWorld Dig is a game about digging, an enormous amount of digging. Rusty starts with a humble Rusty Pickaxe that can only dig in soft ground. As you dig through the underworld of Tumbleton, you’ll come across certain blocks of dirt that contain resources. After mining these resources, you can take them back to Tumbleton to exchange them for cash. With this cash you can buy upgrades for Rusty’s equipment, and a variety of additional items that will make the adventure a little easier. This is something you will be repeating often throughout your time with SteamWorld Dig.
Exchanging resources also increases Rusty’s level, which is essentially like gaining experience points in an RPG. As Rusty’s level grows, you’ll unlock new upgrades for Rusty’s equipment. There are a lot of upgrades to buy in SteamWorld Dig, and each one will make digging less of a chore. Also, new shops and locations will open in town as you gain levels.
While mining for resources is a big part of SteamWorld Dig, to continue your adventure you must uncover a number of uncle Joe’s caves. Each cave contains a new ability that Rusty must use to continue his descent. Some of these abilities take advantage of Rusty’s steambot features and will consume water. One of these abilities is a steam powered drill that Rusty can use to drill through hard ground.
My favourite part of SteamWorld Dig is the large interconnected map and non-linear progression. You literally get to dig your own path through the earth, and that path will be represented on the underworld map. Personally, I think this is a nice touch, and because the game is structured this way, you will inevitably uncover different paths each time you play. While your path isn’t a predetermined one, a marker will appear on the map which indicates the position of the game’s important caves. Lastly, controlling Rusty is extremely easy, and it’s a lot of fun to use his large repertoire of abilities and equipment.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of things I didn’t like about SteamWorld Dig. First, while there are enemies in the game, they feel like a complete afterthought. Combat is practically non-existent and the enemies hardly pose a threat. My second complaint is the digging in general; this activity is quite boring and can be compared to the monotony of doing chores. Thankfully, upgrades do help lessen this painful task.
Back on the positive side of things, SteamWorld Dig looks fantastic with 3D enabled. Its gorgeous sprites pop nicely against the layered backgrounds, offering a nice sense of depth seen in the best Nintendo 3DS games. Also, I really dig (I couldn’t resist) the game’s western themed soundtrack, though nothing really stands out.
SteamWorld Dig is an interesting game, but is weighed down by some small flaws. In general, you can tell there was a lot of work put into the development of the game, and that can be seen in its upgrade system, and inviting non-linear structure. Personally, I would have liked the digging mechanic to be less of a chore, plus it wouldn’t hurt to add more variety to the gameplay. I was able to finish SteamWorld Dig in approximately 4 hours, but you could easily get more out of the game if you continue exploring and upgrading Rusty. SteamWorld Dig is $8.99 and is available now on the Nintendo eShop.
7/10 – Good
Purchased on the Nintendo eShop