The great victory of Deep Rock Galactic is turning drudgery into something thrilling, repeatable and interesting. You work for a company that cares more about small profits than survival. You are sent into a dark cave to chop off a small amount of minerals. Compared with the risks you face, your rewards are insignificant, fighting against a large number of alien bugs who desire your meat. However, as a determined space dwarf doing what he does best, you have a great time, because the game’s system strives to turn this work into something magical.
An important reason is the clever structure of cooperative games. Deep Rock Galactic can play single-player games with the help of AI drones to help you with mining work, but its fun is greatly reduced. The best state of the game is that a complete team of four miners work together. Ideally, the available courses are complete. Thankfully, the fast-responsive backend allows quick joining or hosting of meetings, so you can group well even if your friends are not around.
These four classes have been well thought out and balanced and played well together, complementing each other’s skills. Scout’s speed, flare gun, and grappling hook allow him to quickly reach the desired location. Driller’s tunnel ability can accelerate any effort or escape, and his flamethrower is a boon for crowd control. The gunner’s weapons can stay ahead in any battle, and his zipline makes team navigation easy to manage. The engineer’s platform creation allows people to dig into places that would otherwise seem impossible to reach, even if his automatic turret helps maintain specific control areas. All in all, everyone adds invaluable treasure to the team, and I enjoy the time with everyone.
In any given mining operation, your space miners will be sent into the depths of a mineral-rich planet, and this behemoth happens to be invaded by hostile alien bugs. Sometimes you just collect certain types of rocks there, but other goals make things interesting, from destroying particularly annoying enemies to retrieving cargo left by the previous miner who failed to mine. Secondary goals provide interesting risk/reward dynamics, adding depth of time and danger, but significantly increasing your spending. As you climb the ladder of more difficult tasks, there are other secrets to uncover, from the cosmetics hidden in the long-lost collapsed caves, to the challenging “machine events” that trigger more challenging combat exchanges. . With a pickaxe in hand, there is a satisfactory balance in each mission, between figuring out how to reach the elevated gold vein, and then switching gears to avoid groups of attackers. Fighting is fierce and challenging, requiring constant teamwork.
In any case, the procedurally generated cave system is fascinating and expansive. The game encourages focus on discovery and exploration-maps and target markers are limited. This is usually a lot of fun, and it will be exciting when you break through the dirt wall to find a huge crystal room in the distance. However, sometimes focusing on free-form roaming can lead to a sense of aimlessness. Similarly, the game makes good use of light, because the dwarves will send out rechargeable flare (or the more durable flare gun for scouts) to investigate the area. However, the overwhelming feeling of suppressed darkness will fade after a period of time, and the ever-changing light source means it is easy to get lost.
Between shifts, there will be some interesting interruptions when you return to the space equipment, especially when sharing with others. You upgrade your beer brewing license with newly discovered materials, allowing you to toast each other before some silly effects take over, such as lighting your fire or changing your size. Some drinks can even provide benefits for the next task. You have a place to dance the dwarf jig on a nearby jukebox, and a button to temporarily turn off the gravity in the station. Or how about you just kick some barrels? All this is boring and interesting.
This space station is also where you gradually upgrade the equipment of the miners as they climb through the levels. A consistent game brings a range of benefits, but most of them have only a small impact on the chances of success. Some unlockable weapons await each class, as well as a series of armor and other weapon arsenal upgrades. However, many of the most important upgrades were obtained early, and the focus shifted to a very slow appearance unlocking path. After a while, I found myself wishing to have some more meaningful options and customizations; the game takes hours of investment to adjust your appearance exactly the way you like it, and more upgrades that affect the gameplay are welcome. You will eventually open the “Promotion”, which will add some new extended tasks and some additional upgrade options. Having said that, the upgrade curve is relatively flat, and characters of different levels can usually work well with each other, except in the most difficult environments.
Regardless of the small debate about progress or navigation setbacks, Deep Rock Galaxy is always a good time, and it is highly replayable. The dwarves complained and yelled at each other, complaining about their fate, but they happily dealt with every new challenge with tenacious determinism. Let your entire team enter a new cave and start working immediately, cutting rocks and bugs, which is very satisfying. Even if it is transplanted from the popularization of “Tolkien” or “Snow White” to the dark corners of space, the essence of the dwarf fantasy is abundantly manifested here, and it always makes me smile. Bring some friends, a handy pickaxe, and a grumpy attitude, and you will smile too.