Dig or Die – PS5 Review

The schtick with Dig or Die from developer Gaddy Games is that you’re a representative of Craft & Co, selling “automated fabrication tools across the galaxy.” At least until you’re marooned on a dangerous wild planet. What this means practically is you’re playing what amounts to a clone of Terraria with none of the tutorial aspects that players new to the genre might need.

There’s a guide of sorts tucked away in the menu, but the assumption that players will just be able to get on with it is a bit rich. Dig or Die just assumes you’ll hit the ground running with nary a mention of any of the game mechanics.

From what we can gather, there’s a little procedural map generation here though the biomes being tightly defined to stop you going off the beaten track too early. The gameplay loop here is essentially to craft the current level of auto-builder that the raw materials you’ve got available allow, get killed by enemies lest you inadvertently aggro them, then upgrade your auto-builder to unlock the next tier of items.

A little like Minecraft in terms of how it won’t allow you to gather resources without the correct tools, but let’s be clear, Dig or Die isn’t a patch on Mojang/Microsoft’s zeitgeist dominating behemoth. Dig or Die first came out on PC via early access in 2015, though it’s the first this reviewer has heard of it.

After a while you’ll start to hold your own by building a base of sorts, but even then you’re fumbling in the dark for the most part. Some mechanics are barely explained, if at all. For example, you can build solar panels that generate 1kW, though you need to run cables down to any items that require power. We’ve only been able to lay cables vertically, though for the life of us we can’t work out how to run them horizontally and make a power array to supply items that require 3kW, like our as yet unused teleporter gates for example. We don’t like games that require a Wiki to understand how to play, even moreso when the in-game documentation is so lacking.

Once you’ve garnered a few weapons, you’ll be better equipped to see off the creatures that inhabit the labyrinthine caverns in the immediate vicinity to your starting point. As a rule, they won’t attack unless previously provoked, though one crab thing had it in for us pretty much immediately. We got killed by that particular species repeatedly before we got a shotgun to see them off anyway.

Your progression is gated by your ability to gather resources at any rate. Your gathering tool is tied to the current auto-builder tier, so no getting ahead of yourself and finding yourself in areas you’re not meant to be in. For example, the tier four auto-builder remained out of our reach as the resource we needed to complete it is only found on floating islands that you have to build your way up to.

Building bridges and structures are essential here, though you can’t go crazy as you would in Minecraft or Terraria and build megastructures from the off. You see, bridges and towers are prone to internal forces, so you have to take that into account when building. You can unlock an item that shows the loads on structures, though this doesn’t really help much when you are trying to build across one chasm. In that case, you have to propel yourself across to the other side by using the recoil from your weapon.

Somehow, we got up to the floating islands, first by way of a concrete structure and a little luck, then with a lightweight metal framework with light wooden platforms that wasn’t going to collapse under its own weight. By doing so we got the arbitrary resource we needed to upgrade our auto-builder.

The weird thing with Dig or Die isn’t that it’s particularly refined or massively original, but more that we feel strangely compelled to play some more. Our kid, who’s mad on this sort of thing, was as frustrated at the outset as we found ourselves but found himself enjoying building a base with a little prompting to make sure drainage was taken account of. As a result of his experimentation, we had a little more success with our progression as a consequence. Dig or Die is probably best played as a shared experience in that regard.

If you’re playing on a smaller TV as we do on occasion, you’ll be struck as to how inadequate the UI scaling is. There’s no way to adjust it either. You’ll also notice that you don’t have a mini-map at the outset, though once again it doesn’t scale. You can’t zoom in to get a better look anyway.

Once you’ve crafted the next tier of auto-builder you’ll find yourself a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of new item options available to build, though from tier three upwards you’ll often be in the dark as to where some ingredients can be found. If you’re lucky you’ll already have some in your inventory, but more often than not you won’t due to not being able to gather it as yet.

In conclusion, Dig or Die is a fair survival base builder in the vein of Terraria et al. There’s a few rough edges and it assumes familiarity with the genre from the outset with very little in the way of handholding. Yet somehow, we found ourselves playing despite not feeling massively engaged. Young people might call Dig or Die mid, but we’re old so we’ll say it’s average.

Dig or Die
7 Overall
+ Fun enough in short sessions
+ Gameplay progression is compelling enough to continue
+ Once it clicks you’ll enjoy yourself
- Assumes familiarity with the genre
- UI scaling is non-existent so best played on bigger TV
- Shamelessly derivative
Dig or Die is a Terraria-a-like that lacks refinement but somehow proves compelling enough to continue with. It could do a better job of introducing new players to this sort of game though.

About Ian

Ian likes his games weird. He loves his Vita even if Sony don't anymore. He joined the PS4 party relatively late, but has been in since day one on PS5.

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