Deep Rock Galactic Review: One Of The Greatest Co-op Games Of This Generation
For a more in depth version of this Deep Rock Galactic Review, watch the video version here:
Deep Rock Galactic was originally released in early access at the beginning of 2018, marketed as a cooperative first-person-shooter along with these three words: Danger. Darkness. Dwarves. At the time I was initially drawn in by the unique premise, but as the game was in early access it lacked a lot of content.
Fast forward 2 years and version 1.0 was released after a whopping 30 updates. The result of all these updates has created a game which is not only one of the most rewarding games I’ve ever played, but one that still surprised me after my first 20 hours. In my humble opinion, Deep Rock Galactic is one of the best co-op games released this generation. That sounds like a bold statement, so over the course of this Deep Rock Galactic review, let me explain why.
Deep Rock Galactic Review
- Developer: Ghost Ship Games
- Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing
- Available: PC (Windows/Steam), Xbox One
- Played On: Xbox One
Solid Core Gameplay Loop
The core gameplay loop of Deep Rock Galactic is simple. You’re a dwarven miner tasked to explore the depths of an alien planet to clear out infestations, recover lost mining equipment and mine rare minerals. Everything you mine is used to upgrade your gear, unlock cosmetics, and so on. It’s not a looter per se, but there are strong progression mechanics to make every mission worthwhile.
At the end of every mission you dash towards an escape pod to return to Deep Rock Galactic HQ. If you’re not on board within a certain time, the mission fails and everything you’ve mined is left on the planet.
As you can imagine, these moments are extremely intense. For one, you’re exploring in the dark, using temporary flares to light the way. It is easy to become lost, disorientated and because every cave is procedurally generated it is impossible to memorise their layouts. This premise alone is genius. It creates incredible moments as you scramble onboard the pod at the last second. (And of course, it is soul crushing when you don’t.)
Along with nail bitingly tense moments, Deep Rock Galactic creates great suspense. Exploring claustrophobic tunnels in the dark is already anxiety inducing, but Ghost Ship Games go one step further here. They constantly make you feel paranoid due to the outstanding sound design of every enemy. The sounds they make always made me shudder, as they click, screech and scutter up behind you. I was pleasantly reminded of the psychological thriller moments in Metro: Exodus during a lot of these moments.
However, I wish the enemy design was as terrifying as the sounds they make. From their distance screeches I imaged a Ridley Scott-style Alien Necromorph. But in actual fact they’re more like cartoon bugs which can be easily squashed. After this point, and when the illusion is broken, the feeling of tension is never the same again.
Same Gameplay, Different Variety
Rather than completely overhaul gameplay, Ghost Ship adds slight variations each time. For example, different mission types, biomes and anomalies.
Most mission types are great, especially the Egg Hunts. Here you venture underground to steal alien eggs. Each time you take one, the Alien Mother howls in the distance. The first time I heard this, I was paranoid once again. Oddly though, the alien mother never attacks and again the tension never quite pays off. I wish Ghost Ship added a small chance she could attack and try to reclaim her eggs. It would make every Egg Hunt that little bit more suspenseful, knowing she could attack at any minute.
The visual identity of every biome was also jaw dropping. They range from a glacier to a magma cavern, where tremors cause the roof to cave in. I loved the environmental hazards too, like a sandstorm that reduces visibility or a chilling blizzard which freezes you over time. If you want to warm up here, you can take a quick dip in a thermal spring which was a nice, absurd touch.
The unique biomes keep missions from turning stale, but again Ghost Ship have gone one step further by adding an anomaly mechanic. Anomalies are like the Skulls from Halo, with certain missions having one negative and one positive variant. For example, a negative anomaly causes an invincible enemy to stalk you like Mr. X from the Resident Evil 2 remake. And positive anomalies can boost XP, create low gravity or even generate an atmosphere rich in helium. I genuinely laughed out loud when I heard my Dwarf’s voice go squeaky due to excessive helium. It was another absurd touch and highlights a team of developers who aren’t afraid to have a bit of fun.
The Four Dwarves of Deep Rock Galactic
There are four classes to play as in Deep Rock Galactic which range from a high damage Gunner, to a Driller who can cut through solid rock with ease. My favourite was the Scout though, mainly due to his grappling hook. This thing allows you to zip around caves like a Cirque du Soleil act. It also has a high skill ceiling as you can escape an enemy swarm, or even flank an enemy for high damage.
It’s also clear that a large amount of care and attention was put towards how each of the classes work together. For example, the Engineer class can create platforms on the side of cave walls. This means that a Scout can grapple to the platform and mine a hard to reach mineral vein. Or the Gunner class can deploy a bubble shield allowing the Engineer to safely build a turret. There are many more combinations between classes and learning how each class works together was really satisfying.
“This feature is invaluable for those who struggle to communicate with strangers”
All of this synergy happened without the need for voice chat, I might add, as Ghost Ship has included an Apex Legends ping system here. By using your pointer you can highlight objects, like mineral veins or hazardous enemies to create a waypoint on everyone’s screen. Your dwarf also shouts to the team letting them know you’ve spotted something useful. This feature is invaluable for those who struggle to communicate with strangers, or even for those who just want to relax after a hard day at work.
There are also other ways to communicate by using emotes. If you click in the right thumbstick your Dwarf holds up his pickaxe and shouts “Rock and Stone”. (Or something related to his beard.) Everybody online uses this to say a variety of things like hello, good job or simply to welcome a new dwarf to the team. It’s an extremely clever way of encouraging teamwork and I always felt a sense of camaraderie when our entire team held up their pickaxes in union. This was not only amusing, but it highlights just how friendly the community of Deep Rock Galactic is. I know in other online games, I’d have been kicked for being too low of a level.
“One of the Most Rewarding Games I’ve Ever Played”
In Deep Rock Galactic you always have the carrot dangled in front of you. It always feels as if you’re one game away from a powerful upgrade, a new weapon skin or an amazing cosmetic item. Some of these items even have a chance to randomly spawn in missions, like chests containing a unique weapon skin or the armour of a fallen dwarf with a customisable pickaxe part. It’s essentially the Eververse store from Destiny 2, except in Deep Rock Galactic everything is earnt in game. (That sounds great, right?)
There’s also a chance that a level boss will spawn like a gigantic weed monster. This boss was tough and took our entire team to take him down. But thankfully we were all rewarded with a large boost to credits and XP making the tough encounter completely worth it. This is one area of many that rewards you for every minute of Deep Rock Galactic you play.
Deep Rock Galactic Review – Final Thoughts
Deep Rock Galactic has a unique and interesting premise. Playing as a dwarven miner you explore procedurally generated caves inhabited by hostile alien creatures. Along with the randomness of each level, the varied biomes, environmental hazards and anomaly mechanic kept gameplay constantly entertaining in every second I played. My time was always rewarded as items were given out liberally and always unlocked in-game.
I have small issues with the appearance of enemies, partly because they’re not as terrifying as the exceptional sound design suggests. And I felt like some mission types which could be improved upon, although these issues are really only nit picking and never ruined my overall experience.
In the end I was left with an overwhelming positive impression, with Deep Rock Galactic being one of the best games I’ve played this year. It is an outstanding game, made by developers who continually put the player first and I honestly honestly believe it is one of the best coop games of this generation.
The goal of Ghost Ship Games’ is to take co-op to the next level and I’m happy to say, they have well and truly succeeded.
Thanks for reading my Deep Rock Galactic Review.