REVIEW: SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

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SteamWorld Dig | oprainfall
Title SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt
Developer Image & Form
Publisher Image & Form
Release Date March 18, 2014
Genre Adventure
Platform PC, Mac, Linux, 3DS, PS4, Vita
Age Rating E 10+
Official Website

SteamWorld Dig is a mining game that is set in a Western Steampunk world. You play as Rusty, a cute mining steambot, as he uncovers ancient secrets in a small mining town. He shows up in Tumbelton to stake a claim in his uncles mine and gets more than he bargains for! When I saw the game had both Steampunk and Western themes, my first thought was – “How the hell does that work together?” Never have I played a mining game quite like this before. I wasn’t sure if that combination would be brilliant or a total failure, and I knew I had to experience it for myself to find out.

Rusty and I hitched up our britches and entered the small mining town to see what trouble we could get into.

SteamWorld Dig |  Rusty

So, what’s the point to the game? To help Rusty mine up the riches of the land and unlock the ancient mysteries buried deep within. Start digging and, when you think you have dug clean through the earth, dig some more! I love when something so simple can be such fun. You start off with a pickaxe that is so bad/weak that it takes you a few swings to break through even the softest of dirt. You will find Silver and other goodies as you dig around. Your loot gets stashed in a bag, and, once it is full, you need to go up top to sell it all since you won’t be able to hold any more. See Dorothy, located outside of the $ Trade building, to make your sale. You will earn much-needed money for powerups, as well as leveling up. The more money you make, the higher level Rusty achieves.

A puzzle aspect of the game is making sure you can get back to a teleporter to get to the town. As you dig, it’s easy to screw yourself over… or dig yourself under. Either way, it’s not good. You might be digging along, thinking you are doing great! You find lots of things that you can sell, and your bag is full… but then, if you can’t get back to the top, you are in trouble! You can use the self-destruct option in these cases. Once the game progresses, and you unlock a few upgrades, you won’t get stuck as easily. I didn’t get stuck too often, but I am not too proud to admit that it did happen once or twice. You can purchase ladders from one of the shops that help you get to where you need to be.

You will notice a light meter on the top right of your screen. When you go topside the meter fills up fully, and, once you are underground, it will start to deplete. You can stay underground for as long as you like, but, when your light meter runs out, you won’t be able to see much, if anything at all. In the picture below, I have dug out quite a bit, so things are dark but visible. When you are in an area you haven’t mined, you wont be able to see well enough to know if you are trying to dig into dirt or rocks.

SteamWorld Dig | Out of Light

Hitting circle allows you use whatever tool you have selected, like your pickaxe or later on your drill and other fun tools. To use some of the helpful items you may have purchased from the shop, hit triangle. Rusty will often need to jump over things or jump back up a long mine shaft, which is done by hitting X. If you need to jump back up a long mine shaft keep, tapping X and you will jump along the walls. You will unlock some other useful tools later in the game and each of these have an explanation, once unlocked, on how to use them.

Now, you aren’t stuck with the crappy starter pickaxe for too long. After you sell the stuff you have mined, you can visit the shopkeepers, and buy some upgrades — things like a new pickaxe, new armor, dynamite and so much more. Later on in the game, another shop opens up that offers new upgrades in addition to the ones Cranky sells. The bag you use to carry your treasures will get full pretty quickly, at first. Luckily, that, too, can be upgraded so that you can carry more and don’t have to go topside quite as often. Be warned, though, that, if you die while you are underground, you are going to lose the loot you have, as well as 50% of your money. With a bigger bag, you can waste more time if you end up dead. Anything you lost from dying falls to the ground, and can be picked back up if you can locate the spot where you died.

SteamWorld Dig | Picking Up Lost Loot

I mentioned a drill earlier. Keep playing and you will unlock it. The drill runs off steam, so you need to collect water to use it. To fill up your water tank, you only need to stand in water until the meter — located right below your health meter — is full. Small pools of water will be found underground in various places, and you can buy upgrades to hold more water. Dig around ’til you find them!

Once you are underground, you will see enemies littered around. Sometimes they are lying in wait, and, sometimes, they are stuck in the ground. The ones that are visible can be killed by hitting them a few times with your pickaxe. You can also throw dynamite at them! The ones buried will die if you dig the piece of ground they are stuck in. Most times, when you kill them, you will get some health, light or water.

SteamWorld Dig |  Later Levels

As you approach your next destination, a red arrow will point you in the right direction. Usually, this is leading you to a cave where you will get a new item to play with. Go in there and figure out how to get to what you need, and then go back topside. Usually, this entails putting all of your tools to use in order to navigate the cave. The game does a great job of letting you play on your own while giving you a gentle nudge in the right direction (again, once you get close enough – the arrow isn’t always there)

Sometimes, you can blend two things together and the outcome is atrocious. Other times, as with this game, the end result is pure beauty. In town, you can see buildings in the background that are definitely very Western-themed — things like a Saloon, Trade shop and Cranky’s Upgrade. The shopkeepers stand in front of their shops, and you can interact with them. The steambots should look out of place. They should look like aliens who have infested an old time town. Instead, they do a great job of  fitting right in. The Western hats and clothing placed on the steambots, and the steampunk touches to the Western buildings help everything blend together in an odd combination that works!

Click HERE for more on this mining adventure!

About Crystal Colwell

What's up everyone? Crystal here! I spend my time writing up the news for you all and keeping us all up to date with incoming game info from Japan. I do a little bit of everything else around here, too. 🙂 Happy Reading!


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