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Lucasfilm Games Rewind: The Dig

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Could you survive on an alien world with only your wits — and a shovel?

In Lucasfilm Games Rewind, looks back at classic Lucasfilm Games adventures, discussing why we love them, their legacy, and why it’s not too late to revisit them today.

Today’s look back focuses on an amazing story that was based on an idea by filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Starring everyday heroes destined for a close encounter with extraordinary extraterrestrials, the world is forever changed after their harrowing adventure.

You guessed it: it’s The Dig! (Did you think we were talking about something else?)

The 1995 sci-fi video game set a serious new tone for LucasArts adventure games but maintained the familiar game elements of point-and-click interaction and puzzle-solving. Otherworldly, atmospheric, and immediately immersive, The Dig is a must-play for fans of the genre.

If this is the first you’ve heard of this one-of-a-kind adventure game, buckle up! It’s time to launch into The Dig’s orbit in this edition of Lucasfilm Games Rewind.

Inside Story

Spielberg’s concept of unearthing the secrets of an alien civilization first took shape in 1989 as a possible science fiction tale for the screen. The renowned director, famously a fan of computer games, brought the idea to Lucasfilm Games — where it would eventually become The Dig

“I decided early on that the game should be more than a story on an alien world — it should be a story in an alien world,” wrote designer and project leader Sean Clark in the foreword of The Dig’s game manual. “That is, you should be immersed (as well as can be done with current technology) in an alien environment…. Some of the scenes required up to 38 layers of individually drawn animation cels, which were all hand-painted and then composited. In short, wherever we found an opportunity to make the world feel more complete, we exploited it shamelessly.”

The fully-voiced game stars Robert Patrick as Commander Boston Low, Mari Weiss as Maggie Robbins, and Steve Blum as Dr. Ludger Brink. Their talents give the characters compelling and distinct personalities, and each of them could easily steal the scene in any sci-fi blockbuster. 

With an outline and guidance from Spielberg, dialogue contributed by Orson Scott Card and voiced by an outstanding cast, and almost 200 locations to explore, the pieces all came together to create a memorable experience for anyone who ventures to The Dig’s alien world.

Remarkably, the game manual also takes a moment to share the team’s design philosophy, which deliberately encourages exploration and discovery without the punishment of a game over. “[You] won’t find yourself accidentally stepping off a path or dying because you’ve picked up a sharp object,” the text says. “Anything potentially disastrous that happens to the crew of the Attila mission is supposed to happen to them.”


The Dig opens with the sudden detection of a nearby asteroid headed straight for Earth. An unusual crew, including a former NASA astronaut, an archaeologist, and a journalist, is quickly put together. Their job is to intercept the asteroid, codenamed Attila, and move it into a safe orbit. They’re successful, and the spacewalk team has the time to take a breather and get a closer look at the rocky surface. Low, Brink, and Robbins inadvertently discover that Attila is a spaceship in disguise, and it whisks them away to a derelict planet. Can the small crew survive there on their own? And how will they ever get home?

Gameplay is familiar for adventure game veterans; click the objects and points of interest on the screen to interact with them and advance the story. Spherical transports, light bridges, and consoles operated by geometric shapes make up just some of the advanced technology — and puzzles for the player to solve — on the strange planet. Low carries a couple of items in his inventory to help the team survive, including the cleverly named “Pen Ultimate” communication device and a handy shovel. (Seriously, if you’re ever going to get stranded in another solar system, bring a shovel.)

The culture and history of the alien civilization that once lived on the planet act as mysteries for the crew to uncover if they want a chance to go back home. Commander Low and his team are up to the challenging task, with the player’s help.

Lasting Legacy

Other than Low’s obvious fondness for quips, the tone of The Dig is much more subdued and serious than games like The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. The story takes a few unexpected twists and turns, which makes the stakes feel high for the intrepid crew stranded so far from home. Eerie and unearthly, the abandoned alien world evokes a real sense of loneliness for both the game’s protagonist and the player.  

The Dig is a standout title in the history of Lucasfilm Games — even if it’s not one of the most well-known. With a sweeping soundtrack and expressive, detailed animated cutscenes, this Lucasfilm Games classic feels like a cinematic experience from start to finish. The Dig is an adventure that stays with you long after the credits roll.

Ready to venture into the unknown alongside Commander Low? The Dig is currently available on Steam and

Kelly Knox is the author of Star Wars Conversation CardsBe More Obi-Wan, and Star Wars: Dad Jokes. Her brother-in-law Barry recommended The Dig and he can now say he told her so. Find Kelly on Twitter at @kelly_knox

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