Copyright Adam Schlosser

Copyright 2005 Adam Schlosser

Posted by Pip

R2A25- Finland Is Confusing

The Secret Service is for wimps. If your candidate for Baron can't single-handily fight off an attacker and then stab it into submission, why would you even think about electing that kind of demon? Now Greed? Greed gives a stirring speech, digs a blade out of its vast resources, and fends for itself. And Greed knows what the people like to see!

Quick Review: SteamWorld Dig- Fresh off of the excellent Guacamelee, the video game world has been kind to me and delivered another great mobility-power-based exploration game. If SteamWorld Dig is a display of anything, it's the value of an amazingly laid out and crafted experience. Every time I started to get stressed over prices, I found just enough resources to get me back on track. Whenever I started to get a little tired of the current setup, I found a new power that opened up something new and made the earlier content more fun to breeze through. When I thought I had a handle on how to approach all the situations, it gave me something new to see and deal with. It has a lot of the trappings of a free to play game, but since it's not, everything is all handled with the in-game currency and works to make the game more fun rather it being a money sink. Your progress is gated by upgrades but instead of it being something you have to grind for, you find new powers by exploring and having fun. You can only spend so much time underground but instead of it being a call to bug your friends to get an extra candle, it forces you to plan, play intelligently, and then when you unlock a new lamp upgrade, you feel that much better. You have to pay to revive when you die in the mine, but instead of this being a monetization point, you learn to approach the situation differently and it reinforces the need to return to the surface more often to deposit your goods and make clear paths (and then you remember all this, reset the game without saving, and do that run again with this knowledge so you don't lose that currency...). It really pays to take a few sessions to clean up and find all the stuff you missed, not only to make the extra money but to really see how far you've come and feel the rush of blasting through an area in a few seconds that it took you a whole train ride to clear out the first time. It does seem like you can get stuck though. Planning ahead prevents this from happening, but you can make items unreachable and run out of orbs or money because of that so it would really interesting to see if the game does have a complete failure state you can't progress through or if it just super slows you down.
It could be a little clearer on how some of the items operate though, given that resources are finite. I spent three of my orbs (the “premium currency” of the game) on a teleporter and then just found one two minutes later. You really should be able to pick them up or store them. Put it on a timer so just can't just keep picking them up and moving them around or only allow you to move it once before you have to return to the surface, but don't make it a poorly explained one time choice. However, I did buy every item and upgrade in the game and still had extra orbs and an extra few thousand dollars left over, so it's not super punitive, but it was a big hit at the start of the game and taught me to never spend resources on items. Even when I had orbs to spare, I still wouldn't buy teleporters because I never knew if there would be on just a little further down the mine. More problematic, the combat in the game kind of stinks. Enemies are too strong, can cause damage from offscreen, and through half the game you have to get right up in their faces and just trade damage until they die but then in the later half, you find an upgrade that makes enemies super easy so they're just an annoying bump in the road rather than a real threat. There's no middle of the road or balance. I went from dreading every enemy I met to blowing them all up in a single play session. The final boss is fun though, so I'd really rather that they didn't have any normal enemies and then had more than one boss that's more puzzle/experience than combat.
The game ends on an unfortunately short note and odd note. There's sequel opportunity but the ending seems to undercut a really cool message they were building. Slight spoilers are needed for discussion, so check out now if you want it to all be fresh and go play the game because it's good and worth your time. Okay. As you gain upgrades, they subtly start laying hints that the townspeople don't like the extremes you're going to and that you start to resemble a unit built for combat rather than exploration to the point that at the end, a character that has been your friend this whole time, just shrugs you off and disapproves of you because you're no longer the person he first met. There's a message there about losing your humanity (robotity?) in pursuit of wealth and power and a slight jab at the very concept of what the video game aspects of it make you do. You gain enough money to take care of yourself and rebuild the town about two-thirds of the way through the game, but because it's a video game, you keep on going deeper and deeper gaining more money and power just to see what's there. For a game in this genre, that's a fantastic knowing jab at itself. But then at the very end when your character doesn't return to town, everybody is instantly concerned about your fate and honoring you as a great man. Last time I was in town, you snubbed me because I had a rocket fist and could blast things with electricity and know you're building a statue to me? Bit of a disconnect there. But it's still a great game and one worth experiencing despite its faults.