Steamworld Dig 2
For: PS4, Vita, Switch, PC
There are few better things in video games than a satisfying upgrade loop. A new axe that chops trees twice as fast as your old one – or a jetpack that makes you realise you’ve only experienced a fraction of the game world despite hours of exploration – can be incredibly rewarding, and it’s this sensation that Steamworld Dig 2 does better than most.
In a beautifully detailed steampunk-cowboy world, players take the role of a robot named Dorothy, whose quest to find her lost pal leads her deep below the surface to glittering mines, glowing fungal forests, toxic human settlements and fiery lava-filled ruins.
At first you only have a pickaxe to make tunnels and the ability to climb nimbly up vertical walls. This is enough to get you down a fair way into the mine, but sooner or later your lamp will run out leaving you all but blind. The solution is to mine for gems and precious metals, returning them to the robot town on the surface to sell for cash and buy a better lamp.
This loop of digging, returning, selling, upgrading and repeating is extremely gratifying – as each new lamp, pickaxe or other equipment will get you a bit further, to places with more valuable loot – but Dig 2 has a lot more going for it.
Upgrades found underground impart entirely new ways to traverse, explore and dig. Hidden caves contain puzzle rooms to overcome that reward you with loot. Creatures and enemies lurk at every turn threatening to dismantle you. Upgrade cogs you find along the way can be used to improve your arsenal and abilities in surprising ways.
The idea at the core of this beautiful game might be simple, but the brilliantly paced upgrade system woven around it kept me coming back for more.