Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder PSVR2 Review. If I wanted to be really reductive, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder could be described as ‘merely’ some sort of odd manifestation of the SteamWorld Dig games with VR bits tacked on the end of it. Though such a comparison is both tantalising and not entirely without merit, what VRKiwi has wrought here is also something else very different that takes full advantage of the VR platform while also staying true to those aforementioned influences. Put simply, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder has you delving into procedurally generated mines, caves and long forgotten ruins as you chip away at geodes with your trusty pickaxe in the search of ore and treasure, blasting away at all manner of monsters, solving puzzles and attempting to escape with your stash (and more importantly your life) intact.
Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder PSVR2 Review
A Fiendishly Compelling VR Roguelike Action Adventure That Keeps You Coming Back
Where the comparisons to SteamWorld Dig games come to the fore is in the setting and how progression is handled. Tasked by the shady Merchant Trading Company to delve into all manner of caves, caverns, mines and ruins, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder very much boasts a similar western dieselpunk setting where you find yourself anchored to the frontier of a mysterious planet and must quite literally dig and loot your way to fame and fortune all the while foot-tapping, heavy western riffs play in the background (the soundtrack *is* great, it must be said).
With everyone dressed in neo-western garb, bottles of whiskey laying around everywhere and plenty of wanted posters plastered around the place which you can take on for additional rewards (more on that in a bit), Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder really does a great job of bringing that same dieselpunk game world depicted in the SteamWorld Dig games kicking and screaming into VR – and I’m absolutely here for it. The comparisons with SteamWorld Dig extend beyond merely just the aesthetic too.
The way that you progress in Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder will certainly prove familiar to anybody that has put even just a brief amount of time in on the SteamWorld Dig games. Once you’ve managed to escape with a haul of ore and treasure from whatever cave/mine/ruin you’ve emerged from, you essentially dump all of it into loot dispenser machine, turn the crank and then you’re given an approximate number of dollars based on the loot that you’ve managed to escape with. Once you’ve got a pile of money in your hands, there is no shortage of ways to spend it.
From buying new tools such as hammers, pans, better guns and dynamite, to upgrading and purchasing buildings on your frontier settlement and then when you’ve got enough money (we’re talking high four figures here) being able to unlock new frontiers in the valley for you to migrate to, the progression systems of Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder arguably do hew pretty closely to those glimpsed in the SteamWorld Dig games. The thing is, that’s completely fine – it’s a great system which keeps you playing and it’s one that plays directly into the risk/reward dynamic of Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder – if you’re in a mine and have a lot of loot but have taken a lot of damage, do you extract now with the loot you have, or, do you risk losing it all by going right to the end and maximising your loot sack?
As such, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder makes ample use of its roguelike leanings with each run being not only being entirely different from the last but also in how it empowers the player to take the decision on any given playthrough whether to cut and run with the loot that they have, or stick around with the promise of a greater reward but also much more risk as a result. So certainly, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder leverages the roguelike aspects of its design extremely well and manages to make every playthrough feel like a fresh experience with real stakes.
There’s much to each run then just procedurally generated content too. Not only can you pay a flat fee to effectively apply a random number of positive (and sometimes negative) modifiers to your next run, but you can also take on specific contracts (see the screenshot above) which task you and your merry band with collecting specific items or killing specific monsters in a given run, providing yet additional incentives to plumb depths of Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder’s numerous subterranean environments.
As it turns out, there’s also something of a surprising narrative thread that runs through the entirety of Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder, too. In addition to mashing monsters and obtaining ore, you’ll be following in the footsteps of Clayton, a former explorer of the Merchant Trading Company who disappeared under questionable circumstances. As you progress through the valley, unlocking new locations and delving into new environments, you’ll find comic book pages that chronicle Clayton’s exploits and which eventually lead up to the final few areas in the game, revealing the secret behind the valley and has multiple endings for players to uncover in the process. With each of these endings providing an entirely different perspective on the story, this represents yet further reason to replay Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder beyond the substantial content offering that already exists.
There’s also a surprising amount of nuance built into the game mechanics of Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder that double up as meaningful QoL (Quality of Life) features while also serving to deepen the feeling of immersion. Your loot bag, for example, has a very finite amount of room in it and when you max it out you can only collect ore and loot that is more valuable than what you already have in your pack – with the lesser value stuff being jettisoned duly. It’s a great little thing to have because it completely eradicates the need for the sort of inventory micro-management that would arguably tarnish the experience.
Another nice little wrinkle in Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder’s design is how your equipment is stored and maintained. When you’re blasting away at enemies and hacking away at rock marbled with gold, it can be all too easy drop your equipment or just make a mistake and drop whatever you have in your hand by virtue of releasing the trigger button that acts as your grip. Thankfully, if you drop your gun, your shovel, or whatever it is that you’re using, you can simply just pull another one right away from your inventory immediately and continue on doing what you’re doing without having to worry about losing your equipment in the game world. Again, it’s just one more example of thoughtful game design that would otherwise result in a frustrating experience.
That clever design extends to the level of immersion that Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder tries to provide at every turn. When you’re using your trusty pickaxe or hammer for example to pry wealth from the earth, you can progress much faster when you’re doing two handed strikes with a big wind up, rather than just tapping at the rocks gingerly with a one-handed grip. Sure, it might not seem like a big thing on its own, but when you consider how that matches how you might use those tools in real-life, it helps to make Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder feel more immersive and by proxy, more accessible to folks who don’t usually play games in the first place.
It’s also worth noting that though Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder can be played perfectly well in solo, it’s really when you get up to three extra friends together that it really comes alive. Bolstered by full support with crossplay for the PC and Meta Quest versions of the game, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder is just superb when played with friends as you’re all rooting around the place, calling out ore locations, blasting enemies and generally filling your pants when enemies the size of caverns appear and threaten to wipe out your group entirely.
As enjoyable as I found Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder, I’m also acutely aware that it won’t be for everybody. The loop of blasting enemies and spending a whole chunk of time hacking away at rocks for minutes on end might well prove too monotonous for some. Elsewhere, it’s also clear that Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder is neither the most attractive PSVR2 title on the market or the most polished. With low detail textures, basic environments and character models, it’s certainly fair to say that Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder isn’t a massive leap beyond what the OG PSVR version of the game achieved when it released earlier last year and doesn’t really make the most of the PSVR2’s impressive visual capabilities.
Where the PSVR2’s capabilities are used however, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder acquits itself well enough. Though the additional fidelity provided by the PSVR2 doesn’t necessarily translate into a superlative upgrade over the PSVR version of the game, the addition of eye-tracking for the multiplayer side of things results in some hilariously goggle-eyed character models, while the implementation of haptic feedback is keenly felt whenever you let off around with your trusty six-shooter or swing a pickaxe into the side of a cave wall. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s well implemented all the same.
In terms of polish, Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder still feels like it could do with some additional seasoning. Though odd visual glitches such as items occasionally convulsing into spasms when placed in the environment manifest every so often, there are also some more serious bugs that rear their ugly head too. One such issue that I encountered was at the beginning of the game where after purchasing my first firearm, I was supposed to pull it off the wall and put it into my inventory for my next run. The problem however, was that I just couldn’t pull the gun off the wall and progress with the game, which annoyingly resulted in a reset and reboot of the game to correct the problem. Hopefully these bugs and the other assorted glitches can and will be resolved by good ol’ fashioned patching in the near future.
Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder is a tremendously fun, roguelike adventure with a hugely compelling neo-western, dieselpunk aesthetic that is best played with friends, so long as you can ignore the current choice selection of glitches and repetitive nature of its core gameplay loop. If you’ve ever wanted to play a SteamWorld Dig game in VR, this is currently the closest you’ll get to it.
Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder is out now on PSVR2. If you already own Cave Digger 2: Dig Harder on PS4/PSVR the upgrade to the PS5/PSVR2 version of the game is completely free.
Review code kindly provided by PR.