Deep Rock Galactic is a co-op multiplayer game from small indie developer Ghost Ship Games. Taking the role of a dwarf, you can customize, you and up to three other players will travel to different locations to mine material. In this review, we’ll see if the journey provided in this game is worth taking or if your time is better spent elsewhere.
Reviewed On Xbox One X; Also available on PC.
Such a satisfying gameplay loop Deep Rock Galactic provides. Essentially, your goal will be to go to procedurally generated planets to collect resources which will then be used to upgrade your dwarf and gear back at the base. The entire flow, concept, and implementation is done with nice fluidity and polish that is actually pretty impressive. Very unexpected.
The way Deep Rock Galactic works is that you’ll approach the computer scene in your small hub area and select a mission. The missions are offered in different hazard levels or difficulties, and it’s the old tried and true method where the harder it gets, the better the rewards. These increase in difficulty actually makes a difference, making the generated maps more complex with more verticality and deeper caverns. It’s very different than most games where these just increase enemy health and quantity. What’s really cool about selecting a mission is that the game allows you to prepare beforehand. For example, the mission screens will tell you how long it may take to complete this level, a description of the region, and what resources can be found here. This allows you, or your team, to make any changes or adjustments to combat the different conditions you may find yourself in.
So, what’s the point of selecting these missions and getting all this loot? That’s easy, to customize your dwarf. That’s right, you control dwarfs. It’s different and awesome. You’ll be traversing these unique environments, battling against unforgiving arthropods, and scavenging for materials all to level up and upgrade your character. That’s one part of it, you’ll also need experience points and money to make all of this possible. All of these elements are acquired by simply completing missions and playing the game.
Even though a mission will ask for a certain amount of a mineral to be mined, you’ll come across other materials that can be worth risking to get. There have been times where we found one member of our party at one point getting distracted and going to gather some other shining mineral sparkling our attention away. Just like in real life, gold is so, so tempting. Mining is also, for some unexplainable reason, satisfying beyond comprehension. You could just lose yourself in the experience and it’s the first time it’s happened to me. A buddy of mine mentioned it and I didn’t take it serious until I actually succumbed to it. Oddly enough, no game has ever been able to pull this off besides countless ones offering mining.
Leveling up your dwarf actually matters and makes a difference. You see, each class of dwarf has their own weapons, abilities, and strengths that can make an experience more streamline and simple and finding a healthy synergy of balance is important in this game. Everything also runs on energy to provide a balance to the experience. The simplest example to provide is the difference between the pickaxe and the drill. The pickaxe is slower and uses less energy whereas the drill uses more energy but burrows deeper and quicker. It’s little things like these that can actually make a difference and I appreciate the developers actually taking the time to do that. You can also make those elements better for your playstyle, so if you prefer the drill, for example, the game offers ways in helping you to be a better driller and making your drill better. Depending on the class you choose, you’ll have access to an assault rifle, shotgun, or minigun. With four classes, it’s ideal each member pick one and learn to be that class because a team that can successfully work together is a team that will see the best results. Some of these special skills are the ability to drop turrets and the ability to shoot a wire to escape. The former is great because it shows you the remaining ammo, can be reloaded, and auto locks onto enemies. That last part is great when enemies begin to pour in, and you may not have noticed them at first. The latter is great at escaping tricky situations quickly, while making you feel like the Dark Knight. You can use the pickaxe to do some light damage to enemies and other items at your disposal are C4 and a zip line that’ll take you to higher elevations on the map. You also have glow sticks to mark your path to make it back to where you’ll turn in resources (I’ll elaborate further down) and these can be useful. Unless you play with my friends who decided to throw them around like LCD rave enthusiasts.
Let’s talk about enemies in Deep Rock Galactic. They can be formidable foes if you aren’t careful and they’ll swarm you as a bunch comes at you. Running away is not a very good strategy and makes the whole thing feel like a spin-off of Sharknado. You know, except with giant bugs. Oh, and in the midst of the chaos, be mindful of where your teammates are because there is friendly fire. Now you can play with up to four players online and this is when the game is at it’s best, especially when you are fighting with enemies. However, with some dark areas and everyone searching for minerals you can get lost. When you fight these Eight-Legged Freaks, you’ll have to be cautious as some of them will drop gas when they die and it’ll eat at your shield and, eventually, your health. These gas drops are even more dangerous when in tight corridors and locations. They can become like landmines as you tactically maneuver through different death gases coming to take your life like wraiths in the heat of the night. You also have environmental hazards to deal with as well and with everything accumulating at once, it makes Japan’s ring of fire look like a nursery rhyme. Deep Rock Galactic does a great job of alerting you of when an incoming swarm is about to unleash its plague on you, and when one has successfully completed, but if you’ve taken a lot of damage you can heal with crystals found around the arena.
Let’s say one of the husbands from Little Women: Atlanta is killed, then what? It’s not game over. You’ll have time to reach the fallen dwarf and revive him, his items stay in his bag. Now, let’s say you’ve all been healthy and collecting resources, especially those rare ones that are worth the risk, you’ll load them in a machine that is always nearby because there is even a limit to what these mini Hulk Hogans can carry. Once you’ve filled Wall-E’s cousin, it’s back to the ship to take off and return to the hub base. Sometimes, it’s not a peaceful return. I’ve had an adrenaline filled rushing back to the ship while fighting enemies, I’ve gotten lost because we thought this was a rave and everything in between. Each time was a great time. Once your back at the base, you can level up your dwarf’s abilities, customize their appearance, and even make purchases for some materials. The game has even added this weirdly cool barrel mini-game and a bar because all dwarfs are alcoholic. That’s just science. You can change your dwarf’s beard, hair color, armor, headgear, and upgrade your weapons. It’s not deep like an RPG but it offered more than I thought it would. Plus, beards are life. After you’ve taken care of all your upgrades and customization, it’s time to jump back in. That’s the loop here and it’s something that may cause players to get bored. The constant grinding for new gear but the ever-changing map design and limited resources always stopped that from happening to me.
Deep Rock Galactic creates a level of immersion that I didn’t expect. When you are drilling into the world, you actually feel like you are entering deeper into a cavern or cave. It’s brilliant. When you ascend, you feel like you are scaling higher. Making holes to fall through is really cool and can later come back to haunt you because it becomes a potential entry point for enemies. The fact that they thought of that is brilliant. Yes, it can become repetitive, but the mechanics work so well and provide you with a real sense of fun and adventure that I never got bored. And I don’t even think I will.
Having limited resources might annoy some players but I felt it was the perfect way to make sure you commit to an action and to not waste carelessly. You can order supply drops, at a cost, that tear through the ceiling and offer you a replenish of your equipment, but it also allows entry to enemies, though you can also damage them with these drops. It also is set up in a way where all players get equal amount of the care package, though if you play with less than four players another can get more. The game also doesn’t hold your hand and only guides you subtly but even that lessens the higher the difficulty. Oh, the scanner! I forgot to mention your scanner. Barely used it.
As you are throwing C4 to blow up new openings, you can use the scanner to identify minerals and see through walls. The latter I found more helpful than the former, but I never messed with the scanner as another member of our party was already taking care. I much preferred the compass and flying around the map to get minerals with the zip line. Though if you are playing alone, the scanner becomes helpful because it allows you to direct the A.I. in place of human players. I will admit that playing by yourself can feel lonely, like your Matthew McConaughey floating in space in those scenes of Interstellar. Yes, the A. I. is actually effective and will go about collecting resources, but this game is infinitely better with other humans. The chaos you all cause by acting idiotic, the war stories you create together, and mining minerals with ammo because why not makes it all so much fun. We were agents of chaos. Communication is important and coordinating with real-world players cannot be replicated with A.I., regardless of how advanced it is.
I actually want to start with the effects in the game. I normally don’t do this, but these are really good in this game, more so than I thought it would be due to the graphical choices made in this product. That’s not a knock on the game’s graphics, I really like them, just an unexpected discovery. A good one. The fire effects from the flamethrower are excellently done, a step above most games. Bright yellows and reds in the flames, with the tint of blue as it first comes out of the large gun, is impressive to look at. Makes it addicting to perform and watch. The smoke effects from the game are impressive as well, thick green clouds of poison intending on infecting you and draining you of your life and shield. Splash effects, from cutting the different types of fluid-filled masses around the map, are pretty solid as well as there is a level of comedy as the spray hits you like someone grabbed a water hose and aimed for your face. Some enemies throw orange sludge like substances at you that splatter and it’s very colorful and pretty to look at. All the effects are nicely animated, and the developers have done a nice job with them.
The map itself, and the different areas that you’ll be visiting at Deep Rock Galactic are wonderful as well. You would think they would run into a corner or lose the ability to diversify scenery in caves and caverns, but the team has managed to make wondering around these areas different and fun, unique and special.
The use of color and light is excellent in this game and can create some great visuals. You see the entire games uses this simplistic art and graphical style that emphasizes shapes and symmetry, elevation and decent, low polygon and low textures. They could have gone for a more photorealistic style, like everyone else, but they chose this more cartoon style and it’s great. Due to this choice and where you go in this game, the light becomes the focus and most important resource. It has to be near perfect then, the light effects and purpose, and it practically is. Flares give off that small glow to a small space, ambient light gives you just enough to barely trek forward, and your flashlight can direct your feet but not much further. The bright flash as you throw a flare is also a work of art. The limited sources of light, the limited uses, and the limited duration adds a spectacular layer to the game. Some truly brilliant, hauntingly beautiful displays are created with this game’s graphics, lighting, and colors. The colors are also used to direct you, subtly, and even catch your eye to a new area, distracting you and causing you to explore.
Character models are nice looking as well, charming in this art style. The dwarfs look like pudgy biker Santa Claus lookalikes with their father bodies and thick beards. They reminded me a lot of Torbjörn from Overwatch. Their industrial gear looks cool too and there are a lot of customization options for you to express yourself. The insect-inspired designs of the enemies are awesome too and when the light is used to make them glow, in different ways and areas, it makes them more ominous and intimidating. The graphical style in which they are portrayed in, works well with their designs and none of them look or feel out of place. I love their designs. The U.I. and menus complement the rest of the experience. Deep Rock Galactic is a beautiful game with its simplicity and attention to detail with its environments, lighting engine, and effects.
When it comes to the weapons, they all sound like they pack a punch and fit the sound you would imagine that respective weapon to have. None of it feels weak or out of place.
Explosions have a thick impact to them as they go off, easily identifiable regardless of where you are in relation to them going off. That’s a contrast to the pickaxe, which sounds pretty weak and the rocks breaking apart fall like a whisper. It’s nothing major, just odd, and doesn’t fit the satisfying experience.
There is a nice sense of seclusion, a satisfying silence, when you maneuver through the environment. When everyone is working on different things, like mining and fighting enemies, all the sounds blend together in a good way. No sound overpowers another and it’s all layered better than most games. The voice acting, though not much besides trading barbs between the dwarfs, is pretty great and the dwarfs sound like how you would imagine dwarfs would sound. As a whole, the audio department was handled with care and detail. It’s a great job.
Deep Rock Galactic is a great online co-op shooter, it’s beautiful and a ton fun. The low polygraphical style and art choices are great and help the game to stand out against other games.
The game is best when played with four other human players but that doesn’t mean solo players won’t have fun, you will. I really am impressed with the effects and the game’s graphics, I really like it. Each dwarf can play completely different and balancing it all out so that all four players know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it can make all the difference in an encounter.
The use of color and light are also excellently done with a ton of detail going into the design. I can praise this game all day, so I’ll leave you with this: get it. Especially if you have a solid group of friends to play with. Be warned though, it can be addicting and the endless loop of going to a cave, mining materials, and fighting enemies can really take a hold of you.