Dwarves, Mining, and the Friends We Made Along the Way
I have spent the last thirty minutes mining for ore with just my pack-mule robot M.O.L.E. and a flying automated defense turret by my side. I have done enough to finish the mission if I want, but I keep pushing to get that extra bit of coin the corporation is dangling in front of me. All I need to do is find one more ancient fossil stuck in the wall. Suddenly, a warning is shouted out over the radio: “Giant swarm incoming, this one is a doozy!” I give in and call in the drop ship to try and get away, but already I am being overrun by hordes of half-spider half-scorpion alien bugs. After a white-knuckled 250 meter climb, I make it to the dropship with only seconds to spare on my five-minute timer. My character exhales and lets out a cry “Rock and Stone!” while thrusting his pick-axe in the air. This is Deep Rock Galactic.
Rock & Stone
Originally released to Early Access in 2018 Deep Rock Galactic is a run based co-op focused survival shooter. Developer Ghost Ship Games leaned on their community for the nearly two years that it spent in Early Access (also known as Game Preview on Xbox One) to craft what is a truly fantastic blending of multiple genres. Version 1.0 launched in May of 2020 and the game will be receiving its first major content patch in October, maintaining the developer’s solid track record of support. The game features excellent terrain deformation which is accomplished either through your pick-axe or the multitude of destructive equipment each class type possesses. Each class also has a flare which operates on a short cooldown with up to 4 charges (you can get more through leveling). These are key as areas are pitch black without them.
The Head of Its Class
You play as one of four classes as you head down to the surface for a variety (of ever expanding) mission types. For the classes: first we have the engineer (my personal favorite). Initially armed with a shotgun and a grenade launcher, his specialty is a platform gun. This can be used to help climb up sheer cliffs or give footing underneath a resource you otherwise could not obtain. The engineer’s final tool is the automated turret he can build for defensive purposes. The Scout starts with an assault rifle and double-barreled shotgun. His class items are a grappling hook and a flare gun that shoots bright and long-lasting flares connected to a spear to light up hard to reach areas. Next is the Gunner who has a mini-gun and revolver combo for combat. His class utilities include a zipline gun which is great for group play as anyone can use the line, and a portable shield generator which protects any dwarf lucky enough to be inside it. Finally we have the Driller who uses a flamethrower and semi-auto pistol for combat. His class abilities are two drills for hands which allow him to quickly bore through the environment and a satchel charge which is useful both for combat and exploration.
Ground Control to Major Dwarf
You can have up to 4 dwarves per mission and there is no limit to how many of each class you can bring. This helps in the online matchmaking where people seem pretty keen to main one class and not care about having one of each. Each class has an upgrade path for their weaponry and class gear. Each has a pickaxe which can be upgraded for more damage/faster digging, various grenade types specific to the class, and even unlockable new weapons which you gain access to after completing specific mission paths that are tied to your level. There is a perk system, of which you can have four, including things like boosts to character speed or other standard upgrades. There’s also the more exotic, like taming an enemy for a set period of time after hitting him in the head with your axe.
The mission types vary from collecting certain amounts of resources to taking on the biggest and baddest giant bugs. Extra mission types are promised for the October patch and while this is only a positive, I honestly have not felt tired of the already included missions despite completing each dozens of times. The procedural nature of the levels is done well enough that while every run does feel different, it never feels unfair or broken. There is always a way to succeed no matter which class you’re playing as, though occasionally the timed five-minute run back to the drop pod after you call it in certainly can be quite difficult when it’s 250 meters straight above you.
Cooperative Play Perfected
The game is quite fun solo as you are given a flying turret companion to help even the score, and you can level them up to allow for higher difficulties to be more easily completed as you do. Where the game truly shines is in cooperative play. The classes complement each other well and it’s clear that the years of Early Access development and community-driven feedback had a large focus here. The community on Xbox Live and Windows Store PC has been surprisingly positive and I generally find myself on mic working with people in matchmaking lobbies. The game is also crossbuy/play for those two. I’ve only run into a few trolls in the hundred or so runs I’ve attempted online, which is not the norm for online gaming today to say the least.
There are few better examples in the industry than Ghost Ship Game’s use of Early Access. Deep Rock Galactic is a tightly-honed and laser-focused cooperative FPS that stands toe-to-toe with the best in the genre. With a mix of excellent gameplay, solid graphics, and brilliant gameplay concepts, I strongly recommend it to anyone looking to play either solo or especially with their friends.