I am of the humble opinion that almost everything in life is better enjoyed with a friend or two. Now now, don’t get your snarky replies up and insert foreveralone.jpeg. You know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s movies, music, games or pot, having a friend along for the ride makes the experience much more enjoyable. Hence, the fact that I’m a sucker for co-op games is not news. A cup of your favorite beverage, discord, games and your buddies riding shotgun is a feeling hard to match. It also explains why I have more than 600 hours put in Warhammer: Vermintide 2 and why I always find time for a game or two even in the busiest of days. I don’t think any random players would take kindly to me doing janky mimicry during the game or sing a song in my thick mallu accent in between. But not my friends. Whether they approve of me doing these kinds of weird stuff is not the point. The point is that they tolerate me for who I am and what I do. It’s all in good fun. Man, I adore my squad. (Mikoto, Avi, Flip, if you’re reading this, you owe me for the free promotion)
To be human is to not play the same game 24/7. This holds true even for me. The squad and I decided to take a little break from playing exterminators in Vermintide 2 last month. So, we were on the lookout for a suitable substitute for a while. Numerous extended searches led us to the perfect candidate, or so we thought. Deep Rock Galactic, an Early Access 4 player co-op game by Ghost Ship Games landed on our radar. Several YouTube research and a Steam sale later, the title was on our library, begging to be played.
The premise of Deep Rock Galactic or DRG is simple. It’s basically Left 4 Dead with Dwarves…in space. Instead of fighting your way from one end of the map to the next, your aim is to accomplish a set of objectives, such as exploiting the natural resources of an alien planet and driving the indigenous species to extinction for the Deep Rock Galactic mining company. Yup, capitalism has never felt so good. All jokes aside, DRG is its own thing- from the visuals to the moment to moment gameplay. DRG is a first-person co-op mining game at heart with a mix of traditional FPS gameplay. Not much to go on? Well, read on further.
Upon starting the game after a terrible tutorial level, you’re given the opportunity to play as one of the four Dwarven classes; The Gunner boasting “Lead Storm” Powered Minigun, “Bulldog” Heavy Revolver, Zipline Gun, and Shield Generator, The Scout with his ‘Deepcore GK2’ assault rifle, the ‘Jury Rigged Boomstick” shotgun, a reusable Grappling Gun, and a Flare Gun that fires sticky flares, The Driller with his signature twin drills, a flamethrower and satchel charges, and last but not the least; The Engineer carrying a “Warthog” Auto 210 Shotgun, Deepcore 40mm Portable Grenade Launcher, A ‘Platform Gun’ and two auto turrets. The Team Fortress inspirations are clearly visible, from the art style to some of the classes. Upon selecting a class, you can go on a variety of planets to exploit the resources for your employer, the Deep Rock company.
Mining, Minus the Lung Diseases
Speaking of gameplay, each level begins with the four dwarves (or you plus a hovering All Purpose drone nicknamed Bosco if playing solo) being dropped into procedurally generated levels by a drop pod and from there on, are free to explore the levels to accomplish objectives such as mine ‘x’ amounts of minerals, kill a particular number of dangerous enemies or salvage destroyed properties of the DR company and return to the pod alive. Regardless of the mission, the basic gameplay remains the same. Each of the dwarves is equipped with a basic pickaxe that can be used to explore the fully destructible terrain as you see fit. Mining is a crucial part of DRG and some missions require you to mine extensively to reach the next objective. It also adds a bit of experimentalism to the gameplay as you are not bound by linear level structure to complete objectives. I once remember me and my squad getting stuck in a level and were unable to find a way to proceed further. Being the smarty pants that I am, started to dig a miles-long tunnel from under our feet till we reached the next objective. Except that my squad had found the correct path while I was digging and it took me like 10 minutes of digging to reach them. Still, I regret nothing!
And of course, no noble extraterrestrial is going to watch idly by as a group of shorties exploit their land and steal their stuff. Naturally, the aliens come after you in droves and for the sake of survival, you shoot and they die…violently. There isn’t anything special about the FPS gameplay of DRG other than the class-specific gameplay and its nuances. It’s fun regardless. If you’re nimble enough, you can probably complete most missions without firing that many shots. However, this requires good teammates and proper communication and coordination to achieve. Since each class has its own advantages and disadvantages, it requires a full group of individuals who know the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates for the harder runs. If you’re reading this Mikoto, stealing my precious supplies in the last second is not frigging fun!
Camaraderie, Adventure and Beer on Belly
Each class has got their own set of equipment and their upgrade paths and it’s going to require some grinding to get it all. I feel like DRG handles progression a lot better than Vermintide 2 as each upgrade really impacts the way you move, mine and murder. You can find optional minerals in each level that can be mined and dropped into M.U.L.E, your mobile minecart who’s always just a curse-filled shout away. Expect to do this a lot, and I mean a lot, a lot.
Even though DRG uses procedurally generated levels, each planet has its own minerals, visual, structure and environmental hazards like collapsing terrain, sandstorms, blizzards, sticky goo and more sticky goo. Even though you often see the same level layout repeatedly, there is a bit of variety thanks to the implementation of these little touches. But like I mentioned earlier, you are free to shape the levels as you please and it’s exciting to find new ways to complete objectives each time. I can’t count the times of times I have fell down and died, trying to find new ways to do stuff.
Another plus point of DRG is its attention to detail. While outside missions, you and your pals are free to roam around in the space station aka the hub area and engage in all sorts of shenanigans. These include kicking explosive barrels into the launch bay, turning off the station gravity, getting drunk, puke and pass out, getting drunk, go into a mission with a dizzy vision or getting drunk and drop some Fortnite or Gangnam Style dance moves. I’m not kidding. Then there’s the ludicrous amount of customization including, hairs and beards worthy of a dwarf, headwear, armor and the likes. With these, you can make your dwarven hero look as uncanny as post-botox Mickey Rourke or as badass as Juaquin Phoenix from You Were Never Really Here…except really, really short.
As much as I enjoy DRG, there are areas that require improvement. The devs should really think about adding a dozen or so enemy types and missions. Then there is the thing about revamping the endgame, adding more cosmetic items, more dance moves, more beers and more voice lines. Judging by my love for co-op games, if I am to spend 500 hrs in the game, there should be more of everything. The game is still in Early Access and there is more content on the way. Even still, DRG is worth buying at full price if you’re a fan of these types of games.
If I have managed to convince you guys to give Deep Rock Galactic a shot, you’re in luck. The game is currently having a free weekend over at Steam along with a 25% discount. So, what’er yer waiting fer ye filthy space goat? Go on and give the game a whirl.