When Terraria rocked onto our screens five years ago, there was scepticism as to whether a 2D Minecraft-style crafting survival would be any fun. After all, why take a successful formula and reduce the number of dimensions in which you play? Well for anyone who doubted, I’m afraid you were sorely wrong. Terraria has since spawned numerous crafting platformers, such as ‘Windward’, ‘Starbound’, ‘Craft The World’ and more! Not forgetting the focus of this article – Dig or Die. The premise is that you’ve crash-landed on an alien planet and you’ve got to survive long enough to craft a rocket and get the hell out of there. Several neat features in Dig or Die prevent a now not-so-new genre from becoming stale.
Dig or Die is a familiar concept as laid out above. You start by finding rudimentary materials such as wood and stone to build shelter; progressing on to concrete and metal constructs soon afterwards. Shelter is important in Dig or Die, as when night falls the mobs absolutely go to town on you. They will chew through any material to get to where you’re hiding, making surrounding yourself in concrete a totally useless plan. Turrets and traps provide great defence against the creatures of the night, but become more complicated to set up as time goes on. In Dig or Die there is a tier system for gear, you need to upgrade a crafting station to access said higher gear, thus unlocking electric-powered defence mechanisms. It’s a cool concept and means you don’t boss the game by stumbling upon one piece of epic loot.
Dig or Die eliminates the tired shambling zombies of yonder video game, bringing in waves of alien species at night. If you kill a member of a newly discovered species however, their kin will seek vengeance during the night-time raid; so think carefully before you blast a space penguin’s flippers off! I love this feature though as it adds a level of strategy to the game, and I guess there’s a moral and environmental lesson in there somewhere. Nonetheless you will have to kill some more advanced species to craft better armour, weapons and machines – just be prepared to do frantic battle!
Base construction in Dig or Die is also really cool. The physics-based system means that players can’t just build endlessly into the sky to prevent flying mobs getting in, or across gaping ravines to farm useful resources. In short it forces the player to think smartly about what materials they will use to construct a base, and which ones they’ll save up for future gear upgrades. Not only do you have to think about structural integrity in base building, but you need to consider keeping it water-tight. The planet you’ve landed on tends to flood fairly regularly, so building on high ground is almost essential to start with.
The combat in Dig or Die is fluid, easy to get to grips with, but hard to master. Each projectile weapon has a different level of recoil and will knock your player back accordingly. Sounds like a piece of cake but try jumping away from a swarm of rabid dog thingys whilst blasting them with a plasma shotgun! Taking terrain into account is pretty cool in these 2D platform games in general, hiding down a hole and popping up to blast your enemies is sneaky but satisfying with the right weapon. That said the combat isn’t complex and so it makes for an easy to jump into game – with each battle being fought differently.
I’m gonna try to write a few brief paragraphs on the cons of the game because I think they’re very minor and don’t really bring the overall experience down too much. The graphics felt a little bland in places if I’m honest (which I am). I appreciate that gameplay should never be substituted for the aesthetics of a game because at the end of the day if it’s not fun I won’t play it. Many AAA games miss that point entirely these days! That said I would have enjoyed seeing a little more life in Die or Die – the alien world felt all too human apart from the roving beasts, and that is a tad boring; creating few instances of spontaneous exploration. The UI is a little clunky and could do with some better thought out organisation in terms of the gear tier system, but that’s about it.
I’d love to see multiplayer in Dig or Die. Games are best enjoyed with friends and a title like this should have no problem integrating multiplayer as standard, yet for some reason it lacks this feature. With multiplayer I think Dig or Die could have a much larger and more prevalent fanbase, especially as it’s so cheap (£5.59 on Steam) – the price of two cups of coffee these days.
So Dig or Die then. It’s a great little game for the price. It’s got some fresh features that advance the 2D crafting platformer, as well as a fluid and fun combat system. It has the ‘jump in and play’ appeal that makes you want to just delve down one more mine or kill one more beast. It can be brutal and leaves little room for error, especially in combat – yet the difficulty only made me hungry to build better bases and work towards higher tier weapons. If you’re not sure whether to invest time or money into this one, don’t be a silly sausage – it’s a really great little game that will keep you entertained for just as long as Terraria!
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