Deep Rock Galactic is a cooperative, squad-based first-person shooter similar to games like Warhammer: Vermintide and Left 4 Dead. If you’ve ever fantasized about being a dwarf and mining ore in space for a faceless, uncaring, megacorporation, then Deep Rock Galactic may be the game for you.
When you first launch the game, you see the husk of an asteroid that the dwarves have split in half, fragments of rock drifting lost through the void of space. It makes the Alberta oilsands look like a nature preserve. The good thing about mining in space is that you don’t have to worry about the environment. However, the locals do tend to get upset that you’ve drilled thousands of miles into the crust of their asteroid to pull rocks. Thankfully, Deep Rock Galactic provides its employees with an array of weapons to make sure the mineral extraction goes smoothly.
These weapons are given to each of the game’s four classes. There’s the Driller, Engineer, Gunner, and Scout, each with their own unique weapon and skill path. The Engineer has automated turrets and a gun that shoots goo that solidifies and forms scalable platforms. The driller can tear rapidly through the game’s procedurally generated levels with his massive drill. The gunner sports a mini-gun and a zip line, and the scout has a grappling and flare gun.
The anti-colonialists need not worry, the life-forms encountered by the dwarves aren’t sentient or even humanoid – they’re a race of aggressive insectoid cave dwellers. The only group that needs to spin up their twitter outrage machine is the animal rights activists or, in this case, the invertebrate rights activists. But just like the real world, it’s hard to hear the ping of an incoming tweet over the sound of heavy mineral extraction, and at the end of the day, courtesy of the Deep Rock’s well-stocked bar, the dwarves are too drunk to care.
From Deep Rock’s space station, you’re loaded into a drill that’s launched from orbit onto a nearby asteroid or planetary body. It slams into the rock and drills thousands of miles through the crust of the earth. When you break through the stone, you’re accosted by the glint of gold, gemstones, and rare cave fungi, each of which, once loaded into your mechanized hauler, nets you profit and experience from the Deep Rock mining corporation. The only caveat is that you must escape from the caverns in order to receive payment. If you perish, the Deep Rock corporation might send a team to recover your equipment, but they care little for partially completed jobs. As you drill through the earth, the noise attracts denizens from the deep, which range from ant-like insectoid warriors to hulking, building-sized monstrosities.
The worst part of Deep Rock is the voice acting. It’s so out of place with the rest of the game that it seems like developers hired a bunch of their neighbors and recorded their ad-libbed voice lines. Deep Rock’s procedurally generated levels have all of the flaws typical of this kind of level design system. Players begin to see algorithmic variations of similar biomes and cave configurations, which is exacerbated by the closed nature of levels in Deep Rock Galactic.
One cave wall looks exactly like another despite minute variations in size, depth, or configuration. There are differences in terms of the native flora, fauna, and other world obstacles like magma caverns, but once you’ve seen one of these levels, other variations blend together. Thankfully, the gameplay in Deep Rock doesn’t depend on level variation. The core gameplay loop of combat with insectoid cave dwellers, acquiring minerals and other materials, and spending them on upgrades, skills, and cosmetics are not dependent on varied and unique level design to maintain interesting gameplay.
Despite these two flaws, Deep Rock Galactic is still quite fun. I wouldn’t recommend it as a single-player game, but if you have a group of friends who like to play cooperative shooters together, Deep Rock Galactic is a great game, and only $30 on Steam.