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This game was — like most games I end up playing — one of the Playstation Networks monthly free titles. Even though I added it to my library, I was not entirely sold on this particular title. The trailer was a bombastic mess of explosions and gunfire, to which the only redeeming characteristic seemed to be a wealth of fully destructible environments.
So, I let it go, thinking I would play it eventually.
Then I got a call from my dad (hi dad!) who really couldn’t speak highly enough about the game. After our conversation, I decided to fire it up and give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Deep Rock Galactic wasn’t quite the game I thought it was.
Its premise is simple.
You play as a Tolkien-style, wildly-bearded, gold-loving dwarf that works for the deep space mining company Deep Rock Galactic. The company is currently stripping any and all resources from Hoxxes IV. Unfortunately for you, Hoxxes IV is home to the Glyphids: a race of spider-like insects that are hell-bent on killing anything that moves.
Still, gold is gold, and you and your buddies aboard the Space Rig aren’t going to let a couple of bugs stop you from getting your pay.
The first, and most vital thing you do in Deep Rock Galactic is select your class. There are four classes in total, and each one is unique because of the equipment they carry. So, I’ll do a quick breakdown of their unique starting gear to give you an idea of what each class is capable of.
The scout is all about mobility and ease of access. He has:
- A grappling hook that permits zipping across huge gaps or quickly reaching high places
- A flare gun that can light up entire caverns
- Grenades that slow enemies within a limited sphere of influence
The engineer is all about preparation and defense. He has:
- A gun that allows him to shoot platforms against any surface, allowing him to make footholds against walls or bridges across gaps or to cover any kind of hazardous surface
- A deployable turret that automatically attacks nearby enemies
- A grenade that creates a decoy to distract enemies
The driller is all about digging and explosive damage. He has:
- A pair of large drill gauntlets that allows him to bore through any surface at several times the speed of the standard pickaxe.
- A satchel charge that creates a moderately sized, yet devastating, explosion
- A throwing axe that stuns and electrifies foes.
The gunner is all about damage with a dash of support thrown in. He has:
- A deployable zipline that does not disappear automatically and that any party member can use
- A deployable dome shield that reduces damage received while inside it by 50%, stops projectiles, terrifies enemies, and gives a small amount of automatic shield regeneration
- A sticky grenade…
Each of the available classes is, generally, just as viable as any other. So, I advise that you try each and discover which class you enjoy the most.
It should also be noted that you can level up your class and pick from different upgrades for their various equipment pieces.
As an added bonus, if you decide to play alone, you are given BOSCO, an upgradable drone that can attack enemies, dig through dirt, and mine minerals for you.
If You Choose To Accept It
Once you’ve selected your class you are ready to start your first assignment.
Assignments are basically groups of missions that confer a reward when all of the missions have been completed. The very first assignment is ten missions long and designed to get you accustomed to the variety of mission types that will be available to you throughout the game.
Missions include, but are not limited to:
- Mining Expeditions: You mine a certain amount of minerals
- Egg Hunts: You dig alien eggs out of biogrowth and secure them
- On-Site Refining: You cap at least three liquid Malkite geysers and build pipelines for mineral extraction.
- Salvage Operations: You go to collect gear and equipment left behind by a group of Deep Rock Galactic employees that failed to complete their mission.
- Escort Duty: You escorte a large drill rig on its mission, making sure it stays fueled and in good condition.
- Elimination: You find and destroy at least two Glyphid dreadnoughts
In addition to the main objective, each mission has a second objective that boils down to “grab 20 additional things.”
Risk vs Reward
There are several factors that add layers of complexity and decision-making when selecting a mission.
The first is location.
Some places are just easier than others. For example, the Salt Pits are generally a pretty straightforward place to explore with little diversity of terrain. The Azure Weald, on the other hand, is a glittering blue-on-blue Lovecraftian hellscape where you’ll have a hard time figuring out which way is up.
The second complexity factor is the hazard level.
Before each mission, you can select its “Hazard Level”—which basically boils down to its overall difficulty. For each hazard level, your rewards are increased by 25%, so you have to balance the difficulty with the location and decide how hard you really want your mission to be and how much money you want to receive.
The third factor is twofold: warnings and anomalies.
Warnings are variables that negatively impact a mission and include, but are not limited to:
- Low Oxygen: Raises hazard Level 20% and forces you to resupply O2 occasionally
- Haunted Cave: Raises hazard Level 30% and causes an invulnerable enemy to stalk your every move
- Shield Disruption: Raises hazard Level 30% and causes your shields to be inactive
Anomalies are variables that have a neutral-to-positive impact on a mission and include, but are not limited to:
- Gold Rush: The mission area is filled with extra rich gold veins
- Rich Atmosphere: Everyone’s voices are funny
- Double XP: The mission will grant double experience upon completion
When you add procedurally generated maps on top of all of the areas, missions, hazards, warnings, and anomalies, it ensures every assignment is a completely different beast.
It’s Called Ambiance
I would like to shine a quick spotlight on the lighting and biome design.
As every mission takes place within a subterranean cavern, light is very important. Your main source of light is from medium-intensity flares that illuminate an area for a short time when thrown. This means that, unless you’re the scout, you will spend a lot of time throwing flares so that you can see in the pitch black of Hoxxes IV’s depths.
The development team did an excellent job of balancing light and dark to create environments that can look one way when partially lit by your flares and completely different if seen with the high-intensity light offered by the scout’s flare gun.
I should note that while you do spend a lot of time in sparsely-lit areas, I never felt a sense of unease. Mostly, I was left marveling at the immense caverns. Even the Azure Weald, a place that makes me want to throw up because I can’t tell which way I’m going, was still an enthralling place to explore.
Oh, also, keeping track of spent flares is a pretty good way to figure out if you’ve been somewhere before. So, don’t be afraid to throw flares all over the place.
Sure, they do have a cooldown period, but other than that they are infinite.
Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho!
Overall Deep Rock Galactic is a great game. It managed to take a simple premise and weave a complex web of missions, upgrades, and classes to ensure that every time you step into the drop pod, you’re going to have a different experience. While the controls can feel a little wonky, and the button layout takes some getting used to, it is never really too bothersome.
Now, this game will never be a deep contemplative game that muses about the meaning of life, but it is very fun when played together with a buddy or two – or some complete rando’s. It’s even fun when playing alone, as the BOSCO drone can actually make your life easier than an extra teammate.
I’m giving Deep Rock Galactic an 8.5/10. It is a very good example of its specific genre. And, aside from some control issues, and a couple of irritating bugs (the computer kind, not the glyphid kind), it is an immensely satisfying experinece…
…except the Azure Weald.
Seriously, fuck that place.