Today’s industry is certainly no stranger to the onslaught of multiplayer looter games. From AAA series like Destiny and Borderlands to indies such as Risk of Rain 2 or Warframe, players of all kinds have dabbled in the genre. However, only one offers the long-sought-after fantasy of being an intergalactic dwarf delving into dangerous mines of a sci-fi planet. Deep Rock Galactic, developed by Ghost Ship Games, is an experience that fans of this genre should consider picking up. Especially since it has been nominated for a Golden Joystick award! After reviewing Deep Rock Galactic, I can say that despite the small scope, it manages to remain a tight-knit package that hones the best aspects of multiplayer looters.
Deep Rock Galactic at its core sees players joining up with friends or strangers to complete various mining missions. To do this, individuals must play as one of the four available dwarves: Driller, Engineer, Gunner or Scout. Dwarves have their own kit of specialized equipment to learn, upgrade and customize, emphasizing the cooperative nature of the game. On orders from the Deep Rock Galactic Corporation, players will be digging, mining, and gathering across procedurally generated biomes. Of course, all while fending off hordes of insectoid monstrosities looking to feast on dwarven remains. By finishing missions successfully, players will acquire materials and loot to personalize each dwarf, resulting in an addicting gameplay that rarely feels like a grind. In comparison to other multiplayer looters, Deep Rock Galactic does cut some corners to make it all work.
Story – Gets the Job Done
I will get this out of the way fast; Deep Rock Galactic offers little in the way of overarching story or deep character-driven plotlines. While the multiplayer looter genre is not typically known for groundbreaking tales, games like Destiny and Borderlands do provide narratives solid enough for fans to get into. However, what Deep Rock lacks in story, I believe it makes up for in atmosphere. I found that the lack of CG cutscenes full of pseudo-dramatic scripts does not have much effect on the immersion. Despite the whole game taking place on a Space Rig and the planet, Hoxxes IV, the experience is believable. Whether you are reading the assignment board descriptions or getting yelled at by Management, players will truly feel like a lowly dwarf cog in a giant mining machine. While missing a cohesive story could be a downside to some, I think players who are looking for an immersive experience, and not a juvenile exploration of the human condition, will enjoy Deep Rock all the same.
Gameplay – Suspense, Thrills and Craft Beers
In Deep Rock Galactic, the four dwarf classes are the true meat and potatoes of the game. Along with their unique personalities, each dwarf comes with equipment specific to that class. This includes primary weapons, secondary weapons, support tools and “throwables” which are grenades with various effects. For instance, while the “Driller” class gets a flamethrower and pistols, the “Engineer” class gets a shotgun and grenade launcher. Each class also has a choice of two primaries and two secondaries, along with three available throwables. With tons of modifications to unlock, players can begin to see the complexities hidden beneath the dwarven exterior. If every individual class had the same playstyle, I do not think Deep Rock would have as much appeal, but fortunately that is not the case here due to the depth provided through the class kits.
Class upgrades provide dynamic gameplay, but the support tools make Deep Rock Galactic such a great cooperative multiplayer game. The Driller has Reinforced Power Drills, the Engineer has a Platform Gun, the Gunner with a Zipline Launcher and the Scout a Grappling Hook. With each mine filled with extreme traversal obstacles, the support tools allow for interesting ways of overcoming those challenges. One of my favorite interactions while playing was when I, the Engineer, created platforms underneath hard to reach minerals that the Scout could then grapple hook up to and mine. Not only are these interactions enjoyable, but they also help to create the fantasy of a “well-oiled machine” that one would expect from a game about employees working for a massive corporation. I can say with confidence that the classes provide deep gameplay and meaningful contributions to the cooperative experience.
For Deep Rock Galactic, there are two tiers of questing: Assignments and Missions. When starting off a session, the player can view the “Assignment Board” to start one of these quests. Assignments vary in reward but always consist of completing a series of specific missions. For example, the “Equipment License” assignment which sees players completing multiple missions to unlock a new weapon for their dwarf. Essentially, assignments are the “story quests” of Deep Rock because they provide overarching objectives to complete while leveling up classes. Most assignments end once completed, but the versions that cycle weekly provide a consistent, structured goal to chase. Although, there are plenty of assignments overall, Ghost Ship Games could better utilize them to expand the game world.
Missions, however, are the actual levels where all the mining action takes place in Deep Rock Galactic. There are five different types of missions in the game currently, each completely different from the others. These range from the basic “Mining Expedition” to “Elimination,” where players must take down multiple bosses known as Glyphid Dreadnoughts. Missions also include secondary objectives to pursue and hazard levels, earning extra experience and credits (currency), upon completion. On top of that, missions can have random “mutators” attached to them, adding extra positive or negative effects to spice up the quest. If you still are not convinced there is enough content to warrant a purchase, Ghost Ship Games is adding two new mission types in their next update for Deep Rock on October 22nd.
Biomes & End Game
One of the coolest aspects of Deep Rock Galactic is the procedural generation for the different biomes’ caves. Though all the missions take place on one planet, Hoxxes IV, there are nine unique biomes to explore. Thanks to the cave technology in Deep Rock, no level will have the same layout. While I noticed similar structures and designs while playing, it felt more like being on a unified geography, rather than playing the same level over and over. During missions, players will come across different types of flora that can be collected. Seems trivial at first, but those resources can be used to make craft beers in the Space Rig’s, Abyss Bar. Nothing says “friendship” like crafting a Wormhole Special for your dwarven pals after some dangerous spelunking in the Fungus Bogs.
Deep Rock would not compare to other multiplayer looters if it lacked an end game to enjoy. The perfect “end game” is up to debate, but most players would agree that it should have addicting gameplay and exciting loot. Procedural generation varies the content in Deep Rock, unlike other looters which expect grinding the same exact quest and location. Biomes can occasionally house “Machine Events,” which are tough challenges that reward rare loot. After reaching level 25 and promoting your dwarf, players unlock a new mission type, “Deep Dives.” These mix-and-match primary objectives across three missions, which must be completed in one run. With diverse loot to customize dwarves being the reward for completing each tier. Like most in the genre, Deep Rock loot consists of weapon mods, “overclocks,” and “cosmetic” customizations. One downside for this Deep Rock Galactic review are the random loot drops. Unfortunately, players can complete these hard quests only to get loot for a different class.
Graphics & Audio – Immersion with Limits
Much like story, the graphics in Deep Rock Galactic are not going to be blowing anyone’s mind. Ghost Ship Games opted for a flat shaded texture look for Deep Rock, rather than a realistic, high-fidelity style. These blocky, cartoony visuals could be viewed as a limitation in comparison to other multiplayer looters. Despite cutting corners here, atmosphere and immersion never feel sacrificed while playing Deep Rock. Art style is a subjective topic, but the smooth visuals and diverse locations manage to do a lot with a little. The brightly colored, chunky gemstones have a quality made me want to reach in and grab them myself. In my opinion, Ghost Ship Games made the right choice with the simpler approach to graphics, because it matches the overall tone of Deep Rock and results in a functioning product.
Great game audio should support the experience while heightening it, and fortunately Deep Rock Galactic manages to succeed here. The dark, synth tones of the soundtrack submerge players in the sci-fi vibe of the game. During missions, the ambient background music changes with the moment-to-moment gameplay. Whether facing off with a terrifying boss or escaping back to the drop pod with only minutes left on the clock, the music of Deep Rock will absorb you in the situation. The voice acting is superb, perfectly capturing the spirit of each dwarven class. Even the regular sounds add to the overall gameplay. There is a very visceral feeling when swinging your pickaxe into a chunk of gold, in part due to the sound effects. In my review of Deep Rock Galactic, I think Ghost Ship Games and the musicians, Sophus Alf Agerbæk-Larsen and Troels Jørgensen, knocked it out of the park.
Deep Rock Galactic was reviewed on PC via Steam.