Tag Archives: digging

The world is ripe for digging in SteamWorld Dig 2

While playing I, Hope and growing extremely more disinterested and disappointed in the whole thing, I began to tinker away at SteamWorld Dig 2. This was a seemingly sleeper hit for many last year, and I, like many, wish I had played it sooner. It was like experiencing polar opposite games, where one game was just learning how to program jumping code for the main character and then the other game was able to flawlessly nail the feeling of feet lifting off the ground in order to reach a higher platform. I know I shouldn’t compare the two, as they are vastly different in countless ways, but I can’t help it, considering I would use SteamWorld Dig 2 as a feel-good chaser after dealing with some frustrating areas on repeat in I, Hope.

Let’s start at the start. SteamWorld Dig 2‘s story takes place between the events of SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist, of which the latter I have in my Steam library, but have not checked out yet. Following Rusty’s disappearance at the end of SteamWorld Dig, Dorothy, a robot who he had befriended, travels to the mining town of El Machino in order to search for him. Along the way, she comes across Fen, a remnant of the Vectron that Rusty had previously fought, who joins Dorothy as a navigator. While searching the mines for Rusty and hearing rumors of him turning into a monstrous machine, Dorothy comes across a group of humans led by Doris, who claims that mysterious machines are triggering earthquakes. From there, Dorothy is off to investigate.

The gameplay is quite similar to the original SteamWorld Dig, but much more refined. The loop is very much the same–dig deep underground, collect gems and materials, unearth the terrors of the underworld, and return to the top to cash in your collected goods for upgrades to help you better navigate this “platform mining adventure forged in Metroidvania flames.” Those are the developer’s own words, but man do they nail it right there. You’ll also unlock fast travel points along the way, so you can hop to and fro with ease, and some areas will require backtracking once you acquire a certain ability or perk, such as the jetpack or grappling hook.

I ended up taking a long break from SteamWorld Dig 2 because of the time I spent in the hospital and a growing general disinterest in playing many games on my laptop, but coming back to it months later is a breeze. One of my favorite elements is related to cogs. All of Dorothy’s tools are upgradeable with cash earned from excavating gems, and additional features are upgraded with cogs, which are found for the most part in secret areas or puzzle rooms scattered around the map. So, for example, for your pickaxe, you can use modification cogs to unlock Hunter’s Edge, which gives +5 extra XP per enemy killed with pickaxe, or Bounty Hunter, which nets you a cash prize for taking out enemies with the pickaxe. What is super awesome about this is you are not locked in to any of these mods and can switch them out freely at will, similar to Functions from Transistor.

Graphically, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a pure delight, especially on my laptop since I sit so close to the screen. It reminds me of a Saturday morning cartoon, all bright and bouncy and safe to absorb. The robot designs are fun and imaginative, and there’s more to talk to here than the first game. The game’s soundtrack is strong, especially the song that plays in El Machino, which is important, because you’ll be returning there a whole bunch for selling goods and upgrading your gear. Sound effects are solid, especially the noise of you collecting gems and materials, which you’ll be doing a lot of; Dorothy’s pickaxe attack against an enemy is also quite pleasant.

I’m making no promises that I’ll see SteamWorld Dig 2 to its conclusion in 2018, but that’s okay. This is a gaming experience worth savoring and dipping back into now and then to get just a little further down the hole. I fully expect Image & Form to come out with a SteamWorld Dig 3 or another spin-off like SteamWorld Heist, as this world and its characters are too good to not do more with them. I’ll be ready, whenever they are ready.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Super Motherload

It’s been a couple of years since I played SteamWorld Dig, but, especially given that SteamWorld Dig 2 released this year to good praise, I think about that game often. Not because its story resolved in a way that left me lost and wondering, nor because steam-powered robot Rusty’s journey to rebuild Tumbleton was so distressing that it has forever left me scarred, but rather because that game was both a lot of fun and super, duper relaxing. Like, mega chill. I now have a greater understanding of why dogs like to dig, and the answer is simple–it is because digging is fun. Allow me to further back this claim up by talking about Super Motherload.

Let’s momentarily leave this trash-dump of a planet of ours and head for redder terrain. Set on Mars in an alternate Cold-War era, Super Motherload is a 1- to 4-player couch co-op digging adventure. Yup, a digging adventure. The game’s storyline was written by Image Comics’ Kurtis Wiebe and features a fully voiced cast of Soviet and American characters, with some aliens to boot. Also, it’s procedurally generated, which means no playthrough is ever the same in terms of how and where you dig down. The goals remains to go deeper, and you do that by purchasing powerful upgrades and supplies for your mining pod. These range from faster drilling speed to a large inventory space to taking less damage when you inevitably bounce it against a wall going too fast.

I put more time into Super Motherload than I initially expected to, something like eight to ten hours. Especially when this feature is meant to get in, grab a bite, and get out. So that certainly says something about the game. I really enjoyed digging deeper underground, gathering items and mix-and-matching them with the smelter in specific orders to create better elements, for more moolah. Finding the next base was also extremely rewarding, and I loved the freedom offered here, in that, if you wanted to and had enough fuel, you could just descend, descend, descend. Still, the game wants you to load up on stuff, return to base, upgrade what you can, and do it all over again, inching further forward each time. Actually, that’s not what the game wants, but what it rather is–a relaxing push deeper. Well, until the final boss.

Alas, I was unable to beat Super Motherload. I got all the way to the end boss fight after many hours of upgrading, exploring, and so on, but there’s seemingly no way for me to beat it. See, the fight is two phases repeated multiple times. The first phase is you zipping after this large machine as it shoots up towards the closest base, and you need to quickly follow it as lava is rising beneath you. Once you are at the base, the next phase begins, where you need to dodge it and drop bombs to deal damage. Rinse and repeat for each of the bases going back to Mars’ surface. The problem is I quickly ran out of bombs and money on the first base, and with no money or bombs or other way to get more resources due to the aforementioned lava, I could do very little save for hide in a corner until boredom set in. The switch from a super relaxing time to extreme action and emphasis on early preparation and inventory management–in terms of bombs–was one of the most off-putting experiences I’ve ever dealt with in videogames.

The good news is that, if I do get the itch to play more of this type of game (minus its final 15 minutes) and returning to SteamWorld Dig isn’t cutting the cheese just right, I can grab Super Motherload on Steam. Though me-thinks I’ll either go back to SteamWorld Dig or try out its sequel before I do that. Either way, that’s another PlayStation Plus title tried and uninstalled.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.