Friday
May022014

QCF: Steamworld Dig

hen developers attempt to shove a veritable smorgasbord of buzz-worthy elements and tropes into their games, they’re banking on killing that sales bird among consumers with the two forecasted stones of expectations in the video game marketplace. The first is being able to promote a distinction of unique gameplay that’s conveniently composed of familiar elements that gamers know and love from other titles—it’s an assumptive projection for success that mostly results in being a shallow disaster than an innovative title.

Which is what makes Steamworld Dig from Image & Form Games a completely unexpected surprise that gloriously earns the title of being a worthy exception to the trend—The titles has now expanded to Steam, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita and is now, more than ever, one of the easiest must-own games to obtain out of 2014 to this very day.

Chasing after the whereabouts of your uncle, you discover that the mechanical prospector has left the western mining shantytown, Tumbleton, in some dire straits, and you pick up where he left off while starting your search. It’s in the initial few minutes when the descent into town’s rich min below that it that the brilliantly paced course of play that Steamworld Dig follows through within its design that make it like no other game currently out there.

The biggest theme that gameplay emphasizes on is the process of growth, starting off with nothing more than a Pick Axe, dynamics are engineered to naturally encourage gamers to go wild with the devices they have at hand and consistently enforces that attitude with every advancement you earn,from start to finish. Blazing routes is frenetically controlled mix of exploration towards equal parts impulsive and strategic. Delegating where to chip away in our personal makeshift tunnels hinges towards where you can loot valuable ore that represents two significant objectives of progression that creative an ingenious cycle of incentive extensive quest of digging down to the shockingly grand depths of Steamworld.

Obtain vast quantities that measure in both vaolume and rarity of grades  not only nets you Tumbleton currency that you can used to purchase items and upgrades to improve Rusty, but it’ll also bank experience that earn an expansion to very same inventory that determines the growth of Rusty with every subsequent level reached. The impact of this mechanic alone makes it to where nearly every action and trip back into underground a worthwhile effort that efficiently builds towards something that’s genuinely rewarding with every hour you lose to the campaign. Toiling away at gathering  the copious amounts of capital required to increase the utilities of the iron diggers tools and consumable assets is what bridges over to second-half and most important aspect to Rusty’s development are the Metroidvania-like talents that will be needed to conquer challenges ahead as well.

The familiar additions of movement abilities not only make traversal much easier to the custom trails that have been chiseled but they play a major role in dominating different obstacles encountered where digging through or around these stage hazards aren’t enough. The more you play, the more the subtly false sense of absolute freedom becomes less false. The tight relationship of the open-world and the gameplay fueling its discovery it, makes for effective layout that’s constantly evolving from polarizing yet surprisingly solid dichotomy.  The persistent exchange of moments where Steamworld is composed of inherently deliberate design one minute and teeming with setup rich with sequence-breaking potential that’s only limited by the skill and imagination of the player at hand the next minute is this game’s it factor.

Even though trips generally yield a favorable take of profit from the resources gathered, Steamworld Dig is no walk in the park (or mine rather) and goes out of its way to keep you on your toes the deeper you go.

Building upon the liberally lifted bullet points of Minecraft and Metroidvania in its resume, the familiar elements crossing up components of Spelunky and Dark Souls by punishing careless adventurers who don’t respect the trial of danger from the enemies and traps unearthed in the caverns below. The consequence of meeting that big robot factory in the sky will not only cost players their current cache of collected loot in the present expedition, but will also penalize a loss to your overall funds calculated in a percentage slowly increases the amount lost every succeeding death incurred. It’s in these instants where player efforts can be render journeys down under into a complete and utter waste of time, but the possibility of these setback only set to enforce that aforementioned philosophy of digging with tactics before blind instinct that propel the degree of Steamworld’s engagement to an elegance that’s hard pressed to follow.

The only slight I could give my time with time with Image and Form Game’s unique platformer is how short it was. I reached the end within 6 to 7 hours of intensive completion, and had the game applied some sort of new game plus mode where I could continue towards completing all of Rusty’s upgrades from the shops, this shortcoming could’ve been forgiven, but that’s unfortunately not the case.

In the crowded market of indie platformers, one that keeps getting flooded with platformers attempt to be the new edgy thing by shoving 12 pounds of game design into a shitty 3-pound sack, Steamworld Dig arguably sets the best example in how to craft this sort of eclectic design in a game. One that can be both a respectable love letter to video games past, and a wholly unique experience all on its own.

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