Dig or Die10th July, 2018
Going into Dig or Die it's impossible not to notice what influenced the game. It started with Minecraft, the game that inspired what is now a genre of the block-building survival games. Minecraft inspired games like Terraria and Starbound, these are the clear inspiration behind Dig or Die.
Starbound is by far the closest of the building-survival games to this. But this isn't to say Dig or Die is any more a copy of Starbound than it was of Terraria, and that was of Minecraft. These games have stood out by adding their own unique features and other aesthetic choices. Dig or Die certainly stands out from the rest with the choices it makes.
One of the core differences is a defining goal. All of these former titles started and launched as sandbox titles. Make your own story. Of course you can do that here in Dig or Die but there is also an overarching goal of escaping. The premise is simple. You've crashed on a strange alien planet and you want to escape. Starting with whatever scrap metal there is from the remnants of your ship, you're going to have to build up, defend and eventually build your very own rocket to escape.
Building will be a core feature of your time in Dig or Die and, frankly, I love the building system here. For those used to the titles I've mentioned before, this will be a difficult learning curve. Why? Physics, that's why. Your structures have to be supported at least somewhat realistically. Too much weight and what you're building will come tumbling down to the base blocks, ready for you to pick up and start again.
Of course there are some issues with the physics system implemented in the game. Blocks you place do seem to place too much stress on a block to the side of it, even when supported with a column. Fortunately for me, this only has a large impact if you're foolish enough to build above ground. If you do as the first part of the name suggests, dig, then you'll find that the background supports any structure you want to build. It's not very well explained, though, with just basic tutorial screens to explain the game.
Make sure you have a hard roof though, because you'll need it. For multiple reasons actually. Monsters are one of the main reasons, but these I'll get on to later. For now, let's talk weather. Much like the building physics, the weather and, particularly, water is also done brilliantly. It rains a bit too heavy, that much is certain. However, I just love that the water, and lava, flows perfectly. It permeates every gap it can absolutely brilliantly. As well as this, if you're building a cavern under permeable material like Clay, then you're going to notice a leaky roof.
One advantage of the heavy rainfall is if you decide to build a defensive moat. This is something you're going to need because the creatures are vicious. This is particularly true at night where swarms will head in your direction, stopping at absolutely nothing to turn you into bloody pulp. Any type of creature you've killed will join in the fray. They'll come from the sky, above ground and even underground, digging through the soil beneath you. It is possible the pathfinding could do with some work, the creatures just seemingly taking the most direct route from A to
B your death.
You can defend yourself of course. This is a further element to the building. You can use the building item to generate improved and more powerful weapons to take care of the creatures yourself. Or, and this is the best way, fortify yourself better than the Death Star. Place turrets above and to the side and these will protect you, even better if you build a power generator and a repair turret to keep both your defensive turrets and the walls they're on repaired.
Once you're well defended it'll be time to go out and explore. This is essential as the boss creatures hold the items needed to build your rocket ship to escape this blasted planet. Fighting is simple and easy, point your cursor and click to shoot the bad things. Or are they bad? Aside from the starting two creatures, the others don't attack you until you kill them.
Combat and exploration is entertaining, that much is true. Specifically later on in the game, when it's opened up with items like the Jetpack. Personally I find it to be a slog early on. Moving around on foot can be painfully slow, to say the least. The map is, simply, huge, which can slow it down a lot. For replayability, as with similar titles, the world is is procedurally generated. However, specific locations always appear, which keeps a good level of progression in each game. One thing to note is that it is very difficult, even on normal difficulty and has an insane curve like hitting a brick wall with some bosses.
Of course if you want to just play around there is a sandbox mode. More important for me is what opens up when you finally escape. Your intrepid adventurer decides to come back to the planet with 'the latest tech'. In otherwords, you get insanely powerful weapons, armour and an unlimited building capability. Essentially it's god mode, and a great feature to mess around with.
In all, I really do enjoy Dig or Die. The aesthetic design is enjoyable, particularly the movement and flow of liquids. More interesting is the impact of the physics on buildings and how you work around them. It's certainly doing enough to stand alongside other, more popular, titles.
Copy provided by the publisher.
Dig or Die is more than just a clone of the titles that inspired it. It adds challenging gameplay in the form of aggressive and fearsome monsters, as well as a building system that requires some thought. In addition to this, the unique art style and audio that sets the scene perfectly lets the game stand out from others.
- Interesting use of physics to add complexity and thought to building
- The physics also make liquids a joy to watch, and utilise
- Thrilling encounters with waves of vicious wildlife that adds meaning & excitement to the day-night cycle.
- Aspects, particularly building, could be explained better.
- Very steep difficulty curve, challenging in general which could be offputting.
- The pathfinding of creatures is non-existent.