Dig or Die (PC) Review

By Paul McEnery 24.08.2018

Review for Dig or Die on PC

Crash landing on a mysterious and incredibly hostile planet, Dig or Die jumps right into a fast-paced experience in what is ultimately a 2D survival game where the goal is to leave the planet of which you are currently marooned on. Through resource management, exploration, and gun battle with creatures attacking you through a day and night cycle/ region, this is a title that will push players to move fast, as they slowly but surely build their spaceship back to an operable function while dodging the bad weather, predators and, oftentimes, even the terrain itself.

Dig or Die, created and published by the small studio Gaddy Games, is what looks like the first big project the team has released, amongst its previous Flash style titles of smaller scope. The plot is very straightforward. The main character is a representative of CRAFT & Co., selling automated fabrication tools across the galaxy. Unfortunately, you crash land on a hostile planet and must use tools, as well as found resources, to reconstruct the spacecraft to escape the planet. Mixing elements and game mechanics of Terraria and tower defence gameplay, Dig or Die engages with a dramatic and life-threatening position.

Escape this planet by collecting minerals, metallic scraps, and an assortment of other items necessary to mix and build with to not only reconstruct the spaceship back to working order, but to protect it from constant waves of predatory invaders hungry to kill you and destroy any of your work/progress to the downed spacecraft. The balance between combat, gathering, and building keeps the pace at what seems like a constant rate of evasion in a sizeable map, which extends deep rather than wide, thus the aptness of the name, Dig or Die.

Screenshot for Dig or Die on PC

Aesthetics maintain a similar look to Gaddy's previous releases, with a Newgrounds Flash look and feel. Keeping it simple can be a wise decision in many design theories, but this look tends to often come off as stock monochromatic UI assets. Upon booting up Dig or Die, a stock blocky font is used for the main options, with the background playing flat synth music (that could possibly be heard in a screensaver, lift, or waiting room.) There is a load screen displaying asset compiling percentage data as you wait for it to allow you to reach an options menu to choose the difficulty setting. This setting gives off a slight red flag, as each option describes itself with a warning of gameplay imbalance starting with: peaceful (you will miss all the fun), easy (isn't very easy at all), normal (sorry, I meant hard), and brutal, coupled with the tag line of "Forget it," which basically tells the player in no uncertain terms to not even try. The evident super simplicity comes out again, in the barebones customisation system.

Having as much variety as the classic South Park generator - possibly much less - players get a colour slider for skin, hair, and eyes, with a choice from five anime style hairdos or to simply go completely bald. During the customisation process, the male or female option carries very little significance in choice due to how both practically look identical aside from eye shape. Both "custom characters" are without a nose, utilising what looks like MS Paint circle eyes and a slit for a mouth, again, not unlike South Park. Also, there isn't much variety in clothing. Be it male or female, you will be both be dressed like you are playing trumpet in a ska band (black suit, white button-down white dress shirt, black tie). That's it. You will be wearing this either way. Not to say there is a problem with ska, but pointing at the lack of variety in this department is the point being made here.

Screenshot for Dig or Die on PC

Therefore, beginning Dig or Die, the character will be a space traveller basically wearing ska/jazz attire, rather than sci-fi style gear; fair enough. Once the game truly begins, the eye gets used to the visual style as the focus will generally be on running away and shooting, while remembering the hints and tips given on a quick tutorial screen as soon as the loading screen finishes.

It is surprising to say, though, that for a game with reasonably simple mechanics, there is no controller support whatsoever. Sticking to mouse and keyboard controls, "A" and "D" are used as left and right, with the space bar as the jump, as well as utilising the mouse for aiming and shooting. Once the basics are locked down, no matter what difficulty setting, it is clear that a priority is really emphasised in digging and collecting resources. Your spaceship will have the ability to speak to you when nearby, as the on-deck android AI is still intact, giving the character the illusion that they "are not alone." Time is not wasted by any of the native creatures detecting your presence, as they begin to attack immediately.

Screenshot for Dig or Die on PC

On the top level of the crust where your crash site remains and beyond, there are wild mutated dogs with back spikes and fangs, as well as wasp looking insects that attack with a laser from their stinger. Both creatures tend to attack in small-to-growing numbers quickly. Outrunning isn't difficult, but they do not give up easily, if not at all. Thus, the chase will often force you to shoot at them swiftly while running. This is where the experience tends to get deeper, so to speak, as running around on the top layer of the planet isn't going to do much for survival. Equipped with a device that acts like a vacuum, using it as a point and shoot is meant to create hallways inside the dirt and caverns below the top-level soil, while collecting metal scraps and other scrap resources within the collected sediment. The map begins to really show how large it grows, the deeper you delve.

Once having created a decent system of exploratory collection, and building upon the crash site, the game truly begins to take a better shape and experience. If gamers are into grindy styled affairs with a slower take off, this is for them. The main goal is to automate weapons systems all around the crash site/underground hideout to block off predators that become far more aggressive during nightfall. The weather having constant flash flood level rain, and a day-to-night cycle, will remind people to remain cautious in many ways. When attacking any new species, be ready for their response attack as they will definitely look to kill you as vengeance for the death of their own kind at your hands. This progressive build-up of threats is what the main focus is all about when thinking of "survival." It will always be a mix between managing time, travel, resource collection, construction, and gun combat. Exploration is rewarded with large item drops after a boss fight, or even stumbling upon a loot of resources all in one area, giving the feeling of stumbling upon treasure. If able to keep a good system of survival and base construction, you will eventually come back to many paths and caverns you have etched out personally until much of the map resembles an ant farm or, in a simpler sense, a Dig Dug level with tons of paths being made and used.

Screenshot for Dig or Die on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The experience is fun after really sitting down and giving this a try. There are plenty of moments where the grinding feels a bit tedious, but for those that enjoy exploration, collecting, and point-and-click shooting will love this approach to what is otherwise a survival game in a Terraria/tower defence fusion. Dig or Die has some aesthetics that look and feel unfinished, or just oversimplified in the audio-visual department, but when looking at the "style" of games made by this publisher, this may be an angle it is intentionally going for. One can only hope that as the scale of Gaddy's future projects grow, that so will its ability to breathe more life into the design theory. Dig or Die attempts to make up for its shortcomings with a simple-yet-engaging experience, where remaining active, steadily building, and fighting back, is a must.

Developer

Gaddy Games

Publisher

Gaddy Games

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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