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Deep Rock Galactic Is All About Perilous Mining With Your Space Dwarf Friends

And shooting alien bugs. That too.

Given their penchant for digging vast underground kingdoms into mountains, space isn’t exactly the first place you’d expect to find your traditional beardy, precious metal obsessed dwarves. Yet maybe we should? After all, all those planets out there? They’re ripe with minerals just begging to be dug up.

That’s exactly what takes these technologically adept dwarves into space in Deep Rock Galactic, as a mining expedition to the planet Hoxxes IV. Rare minerals and resources are just asking to be dug up in this co-operative dig ‘em up, but I have a feeling the the indigenous bugs and monsters might lodge a complaint with the intergalactic senate. If they could talk, that is.

Heading onto Steam Early Access and Xbox Game Preview on 28th February – it’s an Xbox One console launch exclusive as announced at E3 last year – the basic idea is pretty simple. Dropping from orbit and coming out of the pod already deep beneath the planet’s surface, it’s straight to work for the four of you. There’s a handful of different objective types, from simply venturing through the procedurally generated tunnels and digging for particular resources and treasures, to defending a mining platform from waves of bugs, or going on the offensive and trying to hunt down three of the larger monsters in the game.

As you go about your business, the bugs come at you in dribs and drabs, with occasional mass floods of them coming at you with only a little warning – there’s shades of Left 4 Dead in this regard. There’s the little, rather innocuous looking critters, bigger bugs, and even bigger bugs. There is some variation within that though, such as the big monster with an impenetrable carapace on its front, but a weak spot on its bum, the Praetorians which leave a nasty poisonous cloud behind, or having to deal with nests that also love to shoot this poisonous goop at you.

There’s four classes, but all of them are pretty adept at taking out the bugs in their own way, though you’ll want others alongside you to try and avoid being overwhelmed. Each class has its own bespoke and set loadout, so the Driller – when he’s not drilling – can wield a flamethrower or whip out some explosive charges that are more dangerous to your team if you’re not careful. The Engineer is similarly about the high explosives with a grenade launcher, the Scout has a shotgun, and the Gunner naturally has a minigun.

Even with that variety of weapons, it’s in the actual mining and exploring where the class differences come to the fore. You don’t have much in the way of guidance as you explore, and there’s no map for you to follow either on your way out or as you head back to the pod to complete the mission, though you can bring up indicators for an objective and your friends if you must. Part of the game is simply learning how it works and getting better, which is perhaps more important than levelling up your characters. Spotting the minerals you want to mine and the clues where certain deposits and secrets might be hidden will be some of the things you want to pick up on quickly.

The four classes do compliment one another quite nicely, but they’re all stout, burly dwarves with great big beards (if you customise them so). The Driller has drilling arms that let you simply make a path straight through the rock if you have a marker you want to head to, while the Scout has a grappling hook and a laser pointer and the Engineer can shoot platforms at the walls. The Gunner naturally has a great big gun, but can also place zip lines so that you can easily cross a great big chasm.

What Deep Rock Galactic gets just right is a kind of claustrophobic feel, even as you burst into some of the biggest caverns. It’s so easy to get lost and turned around in the maze of natural and dwarf-made tunnels, lit by thrown glow sticks and the mining lamps. Even just diving into the game briefly, the “co-op makes things more fun” rule applies, and I enjoyed getting lost, finding our way through, uncovering the objectives and then getting back out together, even if we did resort to having the Driller simply make a path for us.

Though there’s seven different biomes in the game, the few that I’ve seen could do with being a bit more distinct, which is something the team are working on. There’s also an upgrade system that’s fairly minimalist and could potentially do with more variety, as well as tons of locked away rooms on the orbital space rig, and obviously plenty of general polishing still to come. One thing that won’t be fixed are the brilliantly awful barrel physics though, by popular demand from the community built up during the year long closed alpha.

There’s still a way for Deep Rock Galactic to go before a final release, but even as it enters Early Access and Game Preview, it feels like Ghost Ship Games have found a rich vein of fun co-op gaming to mine.

One Comment
  1. TSBonyman
    Since: Dec 2009

    I’m getting a The Lost Vikings meets Halo vibe.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2018 at 10:30.