SteamWorld Dig Review

By Michelle Balsan, 1 year ago
Like many games to come to Xbox One via the ID@Xbox initiative, Image & Form Games’ effort, SteamWorld Dig, originally made its home on another platform. Unlike many of those titles, which maybe only saw life on Steam or perhaps mobile, SteamWorld Dig has been released just about everywhere, including the PS4, Vita, and WiiU in addition to Steam. With it arriving fairly late to Xbox One, there may be a sense that anyone who did have an interest in the game has already downloaded and played it somewhere else. Thankfully, the world of gaming today is quite expansive, and this title is likely new to the radar of many Xbox One gamers and is, without doubt, very much worth the time to seek out.

SteamWorld Dig features 2D presentation and the gradual weapon and item improvement structure that leads to it having a distinctly Metroidvania vibe. Rusty, the main protagonist of SteamWorld Dig, finds himself drawn to the town of Tumbleton where his Uncle, Joe failed to emerge from his last dig. Tumbleton isn’t populated by many, but all of the characters have unique personalities and serve distinct functions, from converting the gold and jewels found in the mines below to money, or creating and selling upgrades that will help Rusty survive to depths previously unexplored by the town’s inhabitants. Through powers earned while tunneling in the mines, Rusty can dig, drill, or punch his way to pretty much any location on the map. While the map is randomly generated, certain key elements are always included – orbs and gold, which are used to purchase upgrades, and caves. While some caves include a cache of gold and orbs, others contain weapon and item enhancements that are not only necessary toward completing the game, but are made available at just the right times so the gameplay is always kept moving along with the promise of a new toy or upgrade making it easy to continue to dig deeper.

Welcome to TumbletonWelcome to Tumbleton

There’s a certain lack-of-urgency to gameplay in SteamWorld Dig that makes it very appealing. Players are tasked with managing three depleting resources – health, water, and light. The use of water to power Rusty’s drill and his ability to jump to great heights is used brilliantly throughout the game, as players can replenish this resource by finding pools of water in the cave, but they’re not completely abundant, so it’s important to ration use of those skills appropriately. Light serves to limit how long Rusty can go below as, with time, it’ll become increasingly difficult to return above ground for a recharge. While it may seem a little overwhelming to have to manage and mind all these elements, it really isn’t, and progression in the game goes along just about the perfect curve – when it seems like the going is getting just a little too tough, just the right upgrade appears to push Rusty through to the next cave within the mines. Returning to the surface to refill health and light is well done too, as there are several warp points built into the caves, or players can purchase a warp point that they can place at a location of their choosing.


In addition to collecting orbs and gold, the real goal of the game is to dig deep and find out what happened with Joe. The game is essentially split into three main components, Archaea, the Old World, and Vectron. Accessing each of these brings different gems with more value and new upgrades. Each section also leads to a new robot joining the crew in Tumbleton, often bringing with them a new set of items and upgrades. Also, each new major area includes some form of quick travel between the town and that location’s start point. The location of quick travel spots, acquisition of new skills and availability of upgrades all serve to contribute to what is SteamWorld Dig’s greatest strength: Pacing. There is never a point in the game where the player feels out of their element where the answer to getting through that problem is already available. Sometimes it involves finding a little more gold to fund the upgrade, but the right skill is always available when it’s needed. By the end of the game, when Rusty has acquired all of the necessary upgrades to reach the very bottom of the mines, going through and revisiting previous sections can be done with ease, and comes off as a nice reward for all the hard work put in to making sure that Rusty is as prepared as possible for the final push.

Dodging lasers in VectronDodging lasers in Vectron

There really are not many negatives to be found within the game. The presentation is great, with sharp looking 2D graphics letting players into the steampunk world occupied by the game's inhabitants. The sound isn't anything worth making special note of, but is completely adequate to the title. The controls are very responsive, with the occasional death being the fault of not accounting for a long fall (something a later upgrade makes a non-issue) or having not upgraded Rusty's pickaxe speed, so fast enemies manage to break through the button mashing. The one place in which the game does lack some is in enemy variety, especially with regard to major battles. SteamWorld Dig neatly lends itself to three such opportunities - one for each new area of the mines beneath Tumbleton - but instead settles for one at the game's end. Of course, this may avoid another problem in having such enemies be samey, but just a touch more of a sense of real danger would not have hurt the title.

Watch out for the acid puddlesWatch out for the acid puddles

For the most part, the achievements in SteamWorld Dig look a whole lot more difficult to obtain than they actually are, and that’s largely due to the fact that so few of them are obtainable through the story. In fact, only three are attached to regular game progression. Of the remaining eleven achievements, there are a handful that rely on the player being thorough. A late-game upgrade that gives players the ability to see where gems and orbs are placed on the map will make the process for collecting 150 orbs and collecting 20,000 gold significantly easier. In turn, maximizing all upgrades is an achievement that will surely be obtained. At the close of the game, players are given a rank in four categories: Gold collected, orbs collected, time to complete the game, and number of deaths, and earning gold stars in all categories in a single playthrough is necessary for an achievement. Seeing as there are achievements directly attached to not only gold and orb collecting, but also completing a run in under two hours and thirty minutes and never dying, it’s best to approach getting those achievements in a second run once the player is already familiar with the game following a more casual first attempt.


Steamworld Dig is refreshing against many other ID@Xbox games because it feels like a fully realized concept with a well defined beginning, middle, and end (well, and cliffhanger if we’re being technical). While the slow trek to get upgrades may occasionally feel frustrating, they are, in actuality, extremely well-paced, it just may be difficult to get that sense until having the benefit of looking back on the experience as a whole. The game’s only really major drawback is that it doesn’t do much in the way of boss fights - new areas are just unlocked via progress, which is fine, but a big battle before entering the different areas would have given the game just a little more. It’s a compliment to the developers, however, that the inclusion of more boss monsters is not a ‘need’, but rather a ‘want’ that would only serve to improve an already enjoyable experience. When all is said and done, in the great landscape of all the games available on Xbox One, SteamWorld Dig is a jewel that will make you feel your efforts to discover it was well worth your time. SteamWorld Dig is worth every bit of its $9.99 asking price.
4.5 / 5
  • Well-presented 2D graphics
  • Just-right size
  • All about that pace, 'bout that pace. No grinding.
  • Lack of boss enemies / major encounters
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 8 hours digging, drilling, jumping, and punching her way into the depths of Vectron earning 10 of the game's 14 achievements. A copy of this game was provided courtesy of the developer.
Michelle Balsan
Written by Michelle Balsan
Michelle is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueAchievements and has been a member of staff since 2010. When not contributing to gaming websites, she makes her living as a mild-mannered librarian. She can be compelled to play just about anything if there's a co-op component, and has been playing games with friends and siblings since the Atari 2600. As it's reportedly healthy to have hobbies outside of gaming, she also roots for some of the most difficult sporting franchises to root for, the New York Mets and New York Jets, but offsets that by rooting for the New Jersey Devils. She's also seen pretty much none of the movies you have, but she's working on that.