Imagine if you will, that you’re happily doing your job as a representative of the Craft & Co Company selling automated fabrication tools, when your spaceship crash lands on an alien planet and the only thing to help you survive are the fabrication tools you were selling. Well, that’s the basic summation of Dig or Die a survival builder game developed by Gaddy Games.
The story isn’t complex or involved, but it doesn’t matter all you need to know is, that with a laser gun, a fabrication tool and a mining gun, you need to survive the planet you’ve crash-landed on long enough to build yourself a rocket and get the hell out of there.
Before we get into the gameplay part, it’s worth spending a few words on character creation. It’s not overly advanced but it’s detailed enough top allow for many different options. Once you’ve decided on hair style, hair colour, skin type etc your ready to start your planetary survival. There are various different start options such as starting underwater in a game, on a serious of flying islands, creative mode where everything can be built for free without worrying about resources, and Base defense mode which does not bother you with exploration, it’s all about base-building and defense. There is even an option for adding hazards into the game, such as volcano’s, earthquakes and acid rain. A multiplayer option allows you and a chosen colleague to build, defend and get off the planet together. I chose to avoid any additional difficulty so chose the standard option.
There’s also a tutorial which is worth taking a look it, but it’s not interactive. So you’re just reading a number of screens, that advise of the key controls and so on.
When you start on the unfamiliar planet you have your crashed ship, a machine that can fabricate items, a laser gun that helps you kill the various nasties of the planet and a mining gun, that helps you… well, mine for things.
The most important thing to remember is, that many enemies will attack you at night. More than you can probably deal with, with your laser gun, so you’ll need to build that first turret to make sure you survive. Don’t kill more different enemy types than you need to, once you kill a new enemy type that enemy will also attack you at night.
So, you wander around the environment picking up metal, destroying trees and mining for materials. You build your first turret and you defend yourself through that first night. However, if you’re going to build that rocket you’re going to need a lot of resources, which means getting through a lot of nights of animal attack. So, you’ll need to gather resources, upgrade your tools, build strong walls and powerful turrets, because those enemies want to get to you, and they’re not looking for a nice, warm hug.
The gameplay is a fairly simple affair from the outside but if you look a little further into Dig or Die there are areas of complexity. For example, rain flows and pools, filling up areas, and potentially submerging you. Physics is taken into account when you’re building structures, so if you build things too tall or architecturally weak, your structures will crack and eventually fall down.
One area, which may be contentious, but it’s something I do like, is that you have an infinite inventory. That’s right, so worrying about carrying too much stuff or having to drop important stuff because you need things around. They’ve dispensed with the micro management and put more emphasis on survival action than survival planning, though there is still a large planning element of course.
The world itself is a simulated world, so you can expect water cycles, a night/day cycle, and plants growing or dying depending on their growing conditions. All of which are a factory when you’re designing and building your warm and perfectly defensible fortress.
On to slightly more superficial matters. Graphically, Dig or Die is a bit simple. Though it’s not really something I consider to be a bad thing, certainly not within the context of the type of game this is (and the price). The graphics aren’t photo-realistic, but their bright and distinctive enough to work. Although, I would say that sometimes some of the materials you pick up of the ground are a bit too similar to other things (like fly corpses and so on). It’s not something that destroys the game or anything, but you can lose that distinction between the items you’re picking up sometimes.
The sound, in true dictionary definition terms, is fairly unremarkable. It neither raises Dig or Die to a new echelon of gaming, or annoys the living crap out of me. The sound just is, it exists to add background noises, that’s it but that’s all it needs to do.
There is a certain difficulty with the game but it’s not in the areas where you’ll usually find things tricky in Survival games. The difficulty doesn’t lie with finding food or water, or even the monsters that attack you (well, not in the early stages anyway). The true difficulty for me was figuring out the structural physics. I tried endless times to build a stone building on the hill, but it would always crumbled down. I finally realised it was probably better to dig out of the mountain than build on top. Water is another element, when it rains it really rains and if you happen to be at the bottom of the water, your entire base could get flooded. I guess, the clue is in the title – ‘Dig or Die’.
Talking about the difficulty of the monsters, you have a certain level of control over this. You’ll only be attack by a new type of monster when you kill one of them. You are in control of how many different types of monsters you’re being attacked by. Softly, softly, catchy monkey is definitely the way forward when it comes to animal control.
If you play Dig or Die for more than a couple of hours, than it’s fairly likely you’ll keep coming back. With all the different game types, and endless possibilities for base creation on a procedurally generated world, there are some very good reasons to get off that planet just one more time.