SteamWorld Dig PC Review

Gaming

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SteamWorld Dig
Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Platform: Linux, Mac, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 5 December 2013
Price: $9.99 – Available Here

Overview

SteamWorld Dig rocked the Nintendo 3DS eShop earlier this year by mixing platforming action with mining and exploration. Now, developers Image & Form has brought the mining platformer to PC through the Steam distribution service. The PC version boasts high resolution textures, new graphics, gamepad support, and Steam Trading Cards.

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Story

Rusty the robot visits to the old mining town of Tumbleton where his uncle used to call home. There, he is roped in by the residents to mine the tunnels his uncle once worked in an attempt to bring the town back to its former glory. Since his uncle’s death, the monsters have become active which has turned the tunnels into a dangerous place. Rusty must now unravel the mystery of the monsters and discover the fantastic technologies his uncle has left behind.

SteamWorld Dig’s plot is a classical JRPG tale in a unique and wonderful setting as the steampunk western is a memorable combination. The game is salted liberally with humour and a sad observation on the possible fate of humanity. SteamWorld Dig occurs after humanity has wiped itself out and is now buried underground. All that is left of us are ugly mutated troglodytes that are mere shadows of their former selves. The plot is a little thin, but the world is well crafted.

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Gameplay

SteamWorld Dig takes the mining genre that has gained popularity since the successful launch of Minecraft and mixes it with classic platformers like Castlevania and Metroid. The ground beneath Tumbleton is randomly generated, providing a brand new experience with each playthrough. The game is split between three main zones: the town will provide a place for Rusty to sell his spoils and purchase upgrades, the mines underneath Tumbleton is where Rusty will spend the majority of game mining and exploring, and the caves will provide Rusty a place to solve puzzles and find new technologies that will provide him with new abilities.

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In the caves are puzzles and platforming challenges. I found most of the puzzles were agility based, requiring the player to traverse deadly traps and hostile enemies to reach the end of the cave. However, there are a few logic puzzles that were surprisingly difficult in some of the caves. Luckily, unlike dying in the mines, there is no financial penalty for dying in a cave. Rusty will simply respawn at the cave entrance and everything will be reset. If a puzzle was done incorrectly, Rusty can simply exit the cave, re-enter, and make another attempt at the puzzle.

About 40% of the caves cannot be skipped as they contain technologies that are necessary to complete the game. The rest are optional caves that will provide bonuses on completion. Within the mandatory caves are tons of secret areas and extra bonuses. There is an achievement for speedrunning SteamWorld Dig, but there is also plenty of content for obsessive completionists.

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There is a good balance between the mining/exploration and platforming portions of the game. Most of the mining can be skipped over if players are willing to sacrifice a  few of the optional upgrades. The final boss is tons of fun, but it was so well done that it made me wish there were more boss fights in the game.

SteamWorld Dig supports both controllers and keyboards. Personally, I found the keyboard controls were adequate, but the inability to customize key bindings was frustrating as I did not like the default bindings. I highly recommend playing the game with a controller as the experience will definitely be more enjoyable.

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Visuals

SteamWorld Dig has a colourful eye catching art style that that melds steampunk with classic westerns. The character designs take traditional western archetypes and reimagines them as steam powered robots. The ground under Tumbleton contains three distinct areas. The first level is a traditional mine under the desert, the second layer is a toxic swampy mess that has entombed the remnants of humanity, while the final level is a grey high tech world full of wiring and robots. Image & Form have done a fantastic job in creating a memorable world.

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The PC port has brought significant improvements to the game’s visuals. PC gamers who do not keep up with the Nintendo 3DS could easily forget that the game is actually a port. The graphical customization options are a little thin. The game automatically selects the largest full screen resolution the monitor is capable of, though the windowed mode scales to however large the window is. The system requirements are pretty low to begin with, but sluggish computers will only have the option to remove the bloom effects to improve performance.

Audio

SteamWorld Dig has a great western themed soundtrack that reminds me of cheesy spaghetti westerns. Though the number of songs are a bit on the short side, I found that I did not tire of listening to the same few songs for extended periods of time. The sound effects are top notch as they match the world perfectly.

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Overall

SteamWorld Dig is a great buy at $9.99. The gameplay is a fun mix of platforming and exploration, the difficulty is at the right level, the visual and audio experience is well crafted, and the replayability factor is very high. Although there are some room for small improvements in the quality of the porting, Image & Form have created an excellent game.

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Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

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