Xbox One, PC
May 13, 2020
Coffee Stain Publishing
Ghost Ship Games
Gather your gaming squad and launch into a new world of mining minerals, shooting bugs, and celebrating with a cold pint at the space bar. Deep Rock Galactic has launched out of Early Access and released in its complete form to both PC and Xbox One. The game is a cavalcade of Dwarven comradery and sets a high bar for what a cooperative gaming experience should be.
Coming to us from Danish development studio Ghost Ship Games, Deep Rock Galactic builds upon a relatively simple premise to create a captivating gameplay loop. You’re a badass space Dwarf hired by Deep Rock Galactic to go on expeditions to collect resources, kill critters, or recover salvage. Playable solo or in a squad of up to four, your missions will launch you into randomly-generated cave systems where you’ll be presented with a primary and secondary objective. The mines are fully destructible allowing you to mine steps into the side of a wall or drill a hole into a connecting cave system. Critters will also crawl out of every crevice so never turn your back for too long!
On many of your expeditions you’ll be accompanied by a Deep Rock Galactic M.U.L.E. (or Mining Utility Lift Engine) who follows you around the mines and acts as a mobile resource depository. Once you’ve completed your mission you’ll have to race back to your Drop Pod because your M.U.L.E. and all the precious cargo you’ve acquired are heading back to Deep Rock HQ with or without you.
Deep Rock Galactic isn’t afraid to be goofy and it’s to the game’s benefit. However the structure and gameplay are still tight and competitive enough to be entertaining in their own right. When you’re not mining for resources or exploring the cave you’re likely to be battling swarms of enemies who fly, dig, or scurry through the caves. The game is played from the first-person perspective allowing you to put your elite FPS skills to the test as you utilise the weaponry and abilities that will be unique to your class.
You can play as the Gunner who comes equipped with a zipline and Gatling gun for mowing down large swarms. The Scout lights up areas with his flare gun and comes equipped with a much more nimble grappling hook. The Engineer sets down turrets for defensive positioning and creates platforms of foam to reach higher areas. Lastly the Driller comes equipped with, you guessed it, drills that he can use to quickly excavate areas of the mines and a handy flamethrower to set the nasty bugs on fire.
The classes in the game are nicely differentiated and they all feel useful without being overpowered. I never feel disadvantaged if a certain class isn’t on my squad although there’s definite benefits to having one of each romping around the caves. Each class has their own sets of weapons which will have different utilities and firepower. Unfortunately cycling through weaponry to get to your utility can be somewhat cumbersome. Other games would map a grappling hook to a single button for immediate use although Deep Rock Galactic instead makes you select the grappling gun before firing. It’s only one extra step and certainly nitpicking, although in a game where enemies can appear right behind you it would be nice to have that extra second. As it stands the game doesn’t give you the tools to immediately react to your desires and as such things can feel a little slow and awkward.
Whilst the game’s controls aren’t perfect, it does manage to capture a near-perfect co-op experience. Clearly a lot of love and thought has been put into making Deep Rock Galactic one of the best coop experiences on the market. It’s such a simple premise but the implementation has been meticulously crafted to ensure a squad of friends is capable of having an absolute blast. You’ll often find yourselves splitting up and exploring the mines in different directions to help cover as much ground as quickly as possible and to all individually put in the work to gather resources and complete a shared goal. Although communication is still very important and grouping back up for moments of intense battle is likely. Large open caves may see two or more members of your team working together to get to the difficult to reach areas and clever mechanical interactions within the game, such as reviving a downed member or ‘catching’ a teammate who drops down from a high ledge, ensure coordination and comradery is still prevalent. The context dependant ping system is also a blessing, allowing team members to effectively communicate without voice chat.
Cooperative play is certainly built into the core of Deep Rock’s design. Even your hub world has a bar that allows players to buy a round for their mates as you listen to music and down a pint. It’s in these little touches that you can see the heart of this game and the dedication of the team who crafted it.
On your expeditions you’ll uncover resources not mandatory to the specific task at hand. This is good because when you return back to your hub you can utilise those resources and begin unlocking new equipment, perks, upgrades, and cosmetics for your Dwarven avatar. Deep Rock Galactic has a lot of longevity. Between the randomly-generated missions and dungeons and the huge amount of unlockable content and levels, there’s hours upon hours of game to uncover. You’ll also likely be surprised by just how much you’re yet to see in the mines of Deep Rock Galactic. For a randomly generated game I found a delightfully surprising amount of different content including enemy types, missions, cave structures and more.
It was good to have a cosmetic flair to the game as well but since it’s played in the first-person these cosmetics are mostly for the benefit of your squad. For all the customisation that was available it was also pretty disappointing to not find any option for female Dwarves. For a game that’s otherwise so feature-full it’s sad to think there’s a big portion of potential gamers who don’t see themselves represented here (in Dwarf form, that is).
- Incredibly well designed co-op experience
- A simple premise with so much promise
- Full of features and content
- A game clearly made with a lot of love
- Some awkwardness in the controls
- No female character option
Deep Rock Galactic has had a substantial amount of time to mature and develop during Early Access, and it shows. This is a game that feels very feature-complete, yet there’s still so much possibility. A simple premise has been expanded into an incredibly satisfying cooperative experience with heaps of content to unlock and enjoy. Despite some small stumbles, Deep Rock Galactic finds a way to create one of the most compelling co-op games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in recent memory.