Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt Review – Diggin’ Fer Gold

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I took to the mines one more time, in search of new treasures and answers that my robot uncle left behind. The deeper I dug down, the greater the reward – but the more dangers I encountered. Even though my lamp was nearly running out, that has never stopped me in my exploration of the abandoned mines.

Digging through a patch of dirt below me, I discovered a cavern filled with psychotic humans running around with a dynamite. Many explosions came after that, but I somehow survived, although barely, and then I immediately started heading back to town as fast as I could.

Steamworld Dig is filled with loads of experiences like this, although the mine in Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is randomly generated each time you start anew. Coming from this, no two mines are the same, so no two people will have the same experience. I couldn’t tell you how many times I went into an area thinking I knew what to expect, only to get my ass handed to me.

Overall I love the switch of point of view in Steamworld Dig, whereas fighting psychotic or murderous robots is common in a lot of games, you get to walk in the boots of Rusty, a young prospector robot. Rusty is trying to find his uncle, and hopefully find out the answers to the secrets that lie below their town.

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The mechanics in Steamworld Dig are for lack of a better word – excellent. Moving around as Rusty feels natural and not punishing at all, which is crucial in a game like this where so much of the game relies on your skills as a player. Even the jumping has somewhat of an old school feel to it as your jump gets better after you gain the running ability.

Whereas most of these types of power up catering games help you unlock new areas via your new abilities or weapons, Steamworld seems to feel like it’s helping you just survive and get back to town easier with it’s upgrades. Overall though, I think the upgrades are really well planned, from the digging tools to the various movement upgrades.

One of the major things to consider in Steamworld Dig is that even though the mine in each playthrough is randomly generated, the mineral deposits are different every time. A huge money sink in the game is death, as the developers naturally want to punish you for failing. Die too many times and you’ll miss out on the later upgrades when your source of resources starts to dwindle.

One of the coolest things about Steamworld Dig is replaying the game, whether it’s to have a completely new experience, to unlock all of the upgrades, or even to just whittle down your playtime while you try to reach the end of the game. If you’re smart enough, you can get to the end of the mine without a lot of Rusty’s abilities, although you’ll have to tread lightly.

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The art and sprites in Steamworld Dig are just fantastic. Characters really pop, Rusty’s animations are fluid and help really flesh him out as a character. Enemies are also really humorous looking, as I mentioned the humans in the game are basically psychotic mutants that throw things at you. There are also bugs and strange turtle like monsters that all behave differently.

Although the townsfolk look awesome, the town itself is a bit devoid of life other than the handful of people that end up living there. I understand the whole game is themed around a western gold mining/prospecting town, but it would have been nice to been able to go into the buildings or something and see some more flavor in the town.

The sounds in Steamworld Dig are excellent, every different type of soil or rock sounds different and they also sound differently depending on what kind of tools you’re using as well. Enemies and environmental hazards also have varying sound effects, eventually you’ll be listening for certain audio cues to help keep you on your toes as you explore and dig deeper.

All of the music in Steamworld seems to be a mix of spaghetti western overtures (that really work, considering the entire game’s theme), and haunting ambience. The ambience should really be applauded because not once did I want to turn down the volume, it succeeded in only bringing me further into the experience of digging deeper.

I started to develop a really intense feeling of synchronization between digging and bumping my head back and forth to the slow churning and rumbling of the ambience, as I dug deeper below the town. I really can’t describe it much better than that as it was a really awesome experience, and is really worth noting of.

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I really couldn’t put down Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt, and considering how hectic my schedule can be sometimes, it’s the kind of game that demands your attention. I kept thinking about what would be lurking next, deeper below the rock and dirt in the mines. I would literally keep thinking about different ways to approach possible different scenarios.

My first playthrough of Steamworld Dig clocked in at just under eight hours, mostly because I’m extremely meticulous and I explored every single nook and cranny that I possibly could. I also built way too many tall ladders as safe methods of getting out of gigantic chasms. My subsequent playthroughs were close in time, but I definitely shaved off time wasted in backtracking to the surface, dying, and so on.

Overall, Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is an amazing experience and quite the chunk of value for what you’re paying for, at $8.99, the game really is a steal. You’re getting an insane amount of replayability and sheer depth, combined with a really awesome experience. I dunno what it is about digging in games, but I love it.