Tuesday, 23 September 2014

STEAM WORLD DIG - Gamertroll review - Wii U, 3DS

There's a clear ancestry to Steam World Dig, think Boulderdash, Rockford, Repton, Rocks and Gems. All those classic gem hunting, monster dodging, digging games had bite, they all could inflict instant and unexpected death. 

Sudden death by crushing or explosions, usually due to the forced panic of indecision or a simple lapse of concentration. It's all part of 'the hook' with these games, an essential ingredient without which the whole recipe would go 'tits up'.

SWD's Developer, Image and Form has clearly studied this recipe inside out - managing to incorporate the modern essentials of progression and up-gradables, without
compromising the core ingredients that make this old skool genre so enjoyable. More to the point, Image and form have produced a game that exponentially improves on every established facet of those classic digging games and best of all, places it into a persistent world.   

You begin with one hole (shut it!) from which to begin cutting out the entire game world. Everyone will excavate their own, unique mines, placing lamps and ladders, dropping ill-conceived mine shafts that they keep falling down..
The more minerals and genuinely exciting technological archaeology you unearth, the more the wild west-style steam-town grows around your success. You're a one-robot goldrush and such, it's just another added motivation to push your mine ever deeper into the perilous unknown


SWD's presentation is not to be overlooked either, without going overboard it manages to be pleasantly atmospheric. The excellent music is chiefly responsible for this as it changes the tone wonderfully with each new area, neatly book-ending locales.

Shops and objects really are fantastically well implemented. They motivate a fever to collect jewels and other minerals to purchase upgrades.

There's plenty of 'depth' (sorry) to be found here. Some enemies present a challenge and at times it will be better to avoid them. do you use the drill bit instead of your pick to excavate and use up your precious reserves of water? You will have to carefully plan out the shafts and cuts you make in order to optimise your yield of minerals and mitigate dangers. Dig a vertical shaft too deep and you could fall and hurt yourself, don't leave yourself enough points of respite along a vertical shaft and you could have trouble getting out again or difficulties in mining horizontal cuts.

You will be punished for greed. You'll get carried away, blindly drilling only to get crushed because you couldn't see an imminent collapse. You'll find yourself digging in the dark even after your lamp has gone out because you just can't return to the surface until you get those diamonds you thought you saw nearby.

It may seem unprofessional not to expose failings with SWD, but beyond the natural limitation of only having an Indy-game-sized budget; Gamertroll honestly can't fault it. It's a simple game with layers of complexity neatly laid upon a solid premise, it doesn't put a foot wrong in this.

Many will see nothing beyond it's old-fashioned looks and likely be put off from engaging with it, but that is really a shame - shallow, inexperienced gamers will miss out on it in their droves.

Ho hum, screw 'em, you're reading this so you're not daft - If you can get access to a Wii U or 3DS, you should be getting access.

The game is a slow burner, but once you have dug beyond 200ft, Steam world dig will have you. You will have to see how deep that 'rabbit hole' goes. (And It goes very deep).


The cost? A paltry £6.99 - hands down, gaming deal of the year. Just do it and expect to be delighted.

9/10

Not an overwhelming technical or graphical achievement, but a triumph in execution, a game that nails precisely what it set out to be in the first place.