So it begins. Indie games are finding releases for both Vita and PS4 at the same time and with Steamworld Dig, you have the added bonus of Cross-Buy, meaning pay once, get both versions. This is the glorious future of Indie gaming on the Playstation ecosystem.
Steamworld Dig is a fascinating title, which is a cross between Spelunky and Mr Driller, but with some added resource management thrown in to the mix. For the most part this all blends together nicely, to offer a wonderful title that can be easily dipped in and out of at will.
You take on the role of Rusty, a robot who has been tasked with exploring his uncles mines, to discover more and uncover the secrets it holds. Rusty’s uncle couldn’t have been a great miner, seeing as pretty much none of it has been uncovered, but hey, it gives you a reason to dig.
The core gameplay involves you digging deeper and deeper into the mine, finding secret technology, ore and hidden caves along the way. You smash rocks, dirt and more with your pickaxe to make a route through, while at the same time collecting that precious ore that is hidden in the environment.
It isn’t just a case of going deeper and deeper at all times though, as there are a few constraints in place. Firstly, you can only carry a finite amount of items, meaning you need to return to the surface on a regular basis and trade it in for money. Secondly, you pickaxe can only affect certain types of environment, meaning you need to trade that ore for money, to upgrade for better tools, to dig new areas. You can also upgrade the amount you can carry, which allows you to do deeper and collect more before returning to the surface.
There are other constraints too, you have a health meter, which can take some pretty drastic hits from creatures that lurk below the surface, so pushing on and risking death or returning to purchase more health has to be taken into consideration. You also have a finite amount of light, so again, returning to the surface can replenish this meter also.
It isn’t just returning to the surface though, as you can decide to attack the monsters and collect what they drop, either a light bonus, or some extra health, but again it is a decision you need to make, as get it wrong and you die, losing everything you have collected.
The early game is a bit of a slow burner, as you are very limited in what you have and you also need to physically climb back to the surface. Later on though, with the various upgrades, new abilities and conveniently place teleporters, you can find shortcuts back to the surface, the deeper you go. It is then that the game really opens up and becomes a joy to play.
It’s not just managing the resources for yourself either, you also find you can upgrade the town, so again you need to balance what you do and when, as everything has the potential to help you. It is worth taking some time to decide on each new decent how best to work. The game teases you with new environments from time to time, before fully introducing them, giving you a clue that you may need a new upgrade before pushing on too much further, it is a very clever little hint system, as it never outright tells you hat is needed, but nudges you towards discovery.
All levels are procedurally generated meaning that no two games are ever alike…And you will play more than once, as a single playthrough is generally around five hours long, yet you never feel you have discovered all the game has to offer. With the grading system at the end of playthrough, you are tempted back into to see if you can beat that. Again a nice little system to get more out of what could be considered a short game.
The biggest disappointment though comes from the lack of Cross-Save, as it almost renders the Cross-Buy pointless. It is a game that is perfect for Cross-Save, as you may start on the PS4, but want to carry on while out and about, before coming home and playing more on the big screen. As it is you are better off at this stage choosing a platform and sticking with it, hoping that at some point Cross-Save is patched in.
That said, it is easy to lose yourself to Steamworld Dig (Editors Note: I was almost late picking my son up, the first time I played it), the game is designed to keep you busy and push you towards your goal, you never feel like you are doing things for the sake of it and that there is always something to aim towards, it is a very well put together experience. It becomes very difficult to find a point at which you want to actually stop.
On the whole though, Steamworld Dig is a fascinating game and one that will bring plenty of joy. It is a game you can take your time with and enjoy. Taking some elements from other games in the genre and tailoring them to make a wonderful experience. It is just a shame about that Cross-Save