Deep Rock Galactic – Early Access Preview
PC, Xbox One
Four player co-op shooters basically peaked with Left 4 Dead. Well, that is an outlandish statement, isn’t it? But the thing is, it isn’t entirely untrue. Granted we have had some great action-FPS co-op shooters since then but really the formula hasn’t changed or evolved that much. The setting has varied, the enemies have differed but in essence, they still tap that formula that Left 4 Dead perfected all those years ago. Well, that is until Ghost Ship Games decided to blend the genre with, of all things, mining.
Enter Deep Rock Galactic, a new PC, Xbox One game that takes the four-player chaos of L4D and adds resource based mission objectives. Players take the role of one of four different dwarves, each a different class, and head to a randomly generated mine system to collect elements and minerals for a giant conglomerate. Things aren’t easy though and mining while being swarmed by rock insects and poisonous bugs is hazardous to your health so a wide range of weaponry is brought along for the ride. Each of the Dwarves has a different speciality and a different loadout that matches with traditional video game roles. There is the standard gunner, the engineer, the scout and the driller (who is essentially the tank/melee class). These four classes also differ in how they move around the caves and mine their resources. The engineer has a grappling hook to reach high places, the soldier has a portable zip line, the driller can make short work of any cave wall and the scout has a flare launcher.
Speaking of flares, light plays a big part in the gameplay of Deep Rock Galactic. Considering the game is set deep within caves and mines that is no real surprise. The lack of light is handled in an ingenious way with players able to throw out flares to light areas. Each player can throw three flares at a time, those flares then recharge and can be thrown again, so it basically works like a special power with a cooldown. It is a smart system and forces players to use light carefully. An added bonus to the flares is that the dead flares lying on the floor become a handy navigational tool, letting players know which areas of the mine have been visited.
The gameplay loop is an entertaining one with players finding their way through randomly generated tunnels, mining elements, looking for treasures and fighting off waves of bugs. Once the mining quotas are filled a drop pod is sent down to pick the players up, the catch is that it is usually quite a ways away and every inch of tunnel on the way to it is now jam-packed with nasties. It is in this last mad dash to the drop pod that things can unravel a bit. It is very easy to get lost and with a horde of bloodthirsty parasites on your tail and a ticking timer counting down the seconds until the pod leaves without you, there is simply no time to stop and get your bearings. There are visual cues to help guide players to the pod, but in the crazy rush they are easy to miss thus getting lost is a common event. What makes it even more frustrating is that some of the missions are quite long, so to fail in the final minutes is quite the blow to take.
The game is best played with four players but the single-player mode is still quite enjoyable. Players are joined by a handy robot that helps in battles and can mine distance minerals, so you aren’t punished for not having the right class and tool to reach an out of the way deposit. Playing solo changes the feel of the game to almost a horror experience as it is easy to get overwhelmed in the dark twisting caves. It really is a cool way to play so those who like adventuring on their own shouldn’t skip over this one.
Deep Rock Galactic still has a few things to be added to the game, but what is available now on early access is already worth the price of admission. The game is only going to get better as time goes on so it is easy to recommend this to anyone looking for an L4D experience with a twist. Now if you will excuse me there is mining to be done. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go.
You can check out Deep Rock Galactic in action thanks to the episode of Player 2 Plays below: