Our Dig or Die Review

Plumbing the depths with an eye on the clock.

I have an interesting relationship with Minecraft-style games. I love the thrill of exploration, the discovery of new and exciting biomes, and the high focus on the last part of the name: -craft. Anyone who has played an MMO with me knows of my enjoyment of a well thought out crafting system and its accessibility to the player. It’s borderline neurotic. Moreover, I love the 2D Minecraftian spin-offs. There is one caveat to this: I often find myself getting overwhelmed by their sheer scope of procedurally generated worlds or bored once I have reached the higher heights of crafting. Could a change in the formula hit the sweet spot? This is our review of Dig or Die for PC.

Dig or Die is a Terraria-esque 2D, side-scrolling, exploration, crafting, and survival game. This description is a mouthful for sure, but they are the pillars that Dig or Die is built upon. The art style gives it that new old school feeling while setting you loose to unearth the mysteries lurking below. 

You play as a nameless representative of CRAFT & Co. with automated fabrication tools to sell for the terraforming of planets just like the one that you find yourself stuck on. Your job is to use the tool that you have – that shiny fabricator you have been slinging – to survive the hostile wastes, build a new rocket ship, and get out of dodge before anything on the planet eats you… and they WILL try to, especially at night!

Dig or Die has a day cycle that’s length is dependent on the difficulty that you choose. A lower difficulty will have a shorter night cycle because that is when the wild life will come en masse to snack on you. What is interesting about this is that once you kill a creature type in the wild, at night time it will be added to the menagerie of foes seeking your death. This is where a well-crafted defense strategy comes into play and where the title is a little bit of a misnomer.

In games like Terraria, a game which Dig or Die’s French developer Gaddy Games sites as a major influence on this project, defensive holdouts are fairly simple: build a box around yourself and wait out the night. This strategy doesn’t work because everything in this game has the nose of a bloodhound and will dig to your location to get to you… so, you will likely dig AND die if you are not careful. 

Fortunately, this is where the great products of CRAFT & Co’s automated fabricator come into play. Turrets, lighting, and reinforced barriers aid you in your ability to stave off the hungering hordes with mighty bolts of plasma fury. Don’t get too comfortable, they can only take so much of a beating. But where nature would pull you into its gaping maw, CRAFT & Co has you covered with automated repair turrets. I guess automation really is the future… and turrets, too. Turrets are the future.

Building structures in Dig or Die takes an interesting departure from the genre’s “build anything, anywhere” trope by adding a physics dimension to it. Water behaves naturally and structural materials have weights associated with them. If you aren’t careful, they will crumble under pressure if you place too many pieces on top of the blocks bearing the load. This also makes fortresses susceptible to having weak points. If that load bearing block goes, so does everything dependent on it. This does make tearing down a building easy if you are seeking a new location to settle.

It is a neat system, but I have to be honest: even after several hours with Dig or Die, I am still a bit confounded by how it actually works. I was able to craft Augmented Reality goggles to see the paths of pressure, but the system is challenging to learn when the game’s day cycle is nagging that things are preparing to eat you. 

As procedurally generated worlds go, Dig or Die keeps it pretty grounded. But, that is not to say that it is without its oddities. Gaddy Games’ intention for the world is to be a science fiction backdrop consistent with the genre. It achieves this fairly well in both flora and fauna, as well as the items crafted within.

Note: Our copy was reviewed on Steam with a code provided by PR.

COMPARE TO: Terraria, Starbound, It Lurks Below

If you like games like Terraria and Starbound but are looking for something new, Dig or Die is definitely worth your time. At $12 USD, it provides an incredibly challenging and new twist on the genre. But be advised: they aren’t kidding about the dying part. You’re going to do that… a lot. Don’t be too proud to start out on easy mode. If you take my advice, you might just live long enough to blow this popsicle stand and hustle some more of CRAFT & Co’s automated fabricators!
  • Beautifully serene soundtrack
  • Physics-based building is an interesting new twist
  • Having a main objective drives exploration
  • Punishingly difficult
  • The steep difficulty makes learning the game’s systems a challenge 
Written by
Born in the heyday of mullets and the El Camino to a tech-foward family, Damien (a.k.a. Dame, PastorDame) quickly embraced the reality that “normal” is just a setting on a dryer. Damien is a pastor by trade and loves talking with anyone who is interested about life, God, and video games (in no particular order) - so, much so, that he and fellow MMORPG/GameSpace writer Matt Keith (Nexfury) create a podcast dedicated to that conversation. At the end of the day, Damien is a guy who loves his wife, his Mini Schnoodle, and crafting gourmet bowls of Mac N’ Cheese.

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