SteamWorld Dig 2 takes place in a colourful world inspired by Western movies. “Is there such a thing as something too western-y?” Image & Form CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson wondered to me over email. If you look at the game, apparently not.
The first SteamWorld Dig was not-so-subtly modelled after some of Clint Eastwood’s classic starring roles in Westerns. “The game has the subtitle ‘A Fistful of Dirt,’” Sigurgeirsson said. “The plot—and Rusty himself—draws quite a bit from a lot of Eastwood Westerns; perhaps most notably Unforgiven, where this guy without a name arrives in a small Western town in need, and puts everything back in order.”
After taking a short detour into a steampunk aesthetic for SteamWorld Heist, Image & Form were set to return to a Western for SteamWorld Dig 2. “Until just a couple of days before we shipped, the working subtitle for SteamWorld Dig 2 was ‘For a Few Gallons More,’” Sigurgeirsson said, “just to stick with the Eastwood references.” They changed the subtitle to “Together We’re Not Alone,” which they felt represented the themes of the game. “SteamWorld Dig 2 really is about being stronger as a group or collective than as an individual,” Sigurgeirsson said. “In Sweden we say ‘ensam är stark’ which literally translates into ‘alone is strong.’ Which most of the time is complete bullshit.”
SteamWorld Dig 2 is littered with references to Westerns, as Sigurgeirsson is a huge fan. “There’s one guy who works for the mail company, and he’s a definite throwback to all of those brave mailmen who delivered letters no matter what before the west was won,” he said. You can find him in El Machino, the hub world you return to between mining stuff. He’s the robot centaur hidden on the second level of platforms in the town. According to Sigurgeirsson, SteamWorld Dig 2's mailman has a fear of open spaces, so “he prefers to hang out in El Machino pretty much full-time.”
Indeed, El Machino is stacked with the tropes you’d expect to find in a fictional town along the Mexican border in a Western. There’s stucco roofs, cacti, and a flashy casino, as well as a chilled-out soundtrack that has touches of the flutes and trumpets so often found in classic Westerns. In the world of SteamWorld Dig 2, El Machino is the kind of small, quaint town that Western heroes are driven to protect in movies like The Magnificent Seven.
One character, however, was distinctly not taken from the genre of movies. “We wanted a selfish mayor to run El Machino,” Sigurgeirsson said, “and we didn’t have to look any further than top-drawer American politics.”