Deep Rock Galactic is a new Left 4 Dead style FPS and “miner” game hitting early access on Steam. Developed by Ghost Ship Games as their first title on the platform, DRG aims to scratch that itch for some jolly good Co-Op with big bushy beards. Creating a group of up to 4 players you will dig into expansive caverns, mine minerals all the while fending off against the native creatures with bullets, explosives and pickaxes. Will these indie miners’ strike gold, or will they be giving out coal?
DRG is mostly a level-based game, with no real story to be had besides that of mission control speaking to you through comms. Currently, there are 7 different sectors in which you can select between 2 and 4 different missions, varying in difficulty and length. You cannot choose from all of them at once, however, as you are restricted to only 3 sectors at a time, with the selection cycling around every hour or so. The different sectors hold different resources, so you may be waiting around to actually go to a mission you need.
Each level takes around 30 minutes to 1 hour to complete, based on its length and difficulty. With plenty of them having the main objective of mining a certain amount of the main resource, with a secondary objective of collecting or mining another separate resource. For example, you could be asked to mine 200 Morkite, the main resource in the EA, with a secondary objective of collecting 25 Hollomite in the level before leaving. These resources can be found in varying locations, from the floor and walls to high up in the ceilings as well as hidden crevices. After you have mined enough, you can call in the drill to take you back, which results in a mad dash back to it, as it returns without you in 5 minutes.
Besides traversing deep mine shafts you will also be able to play missions more suited to defence, with a platform drill placed in the centre of a cavern. During these missions, you will still need to mine a certain amount of ore, but comes with more aliens to kill, bigger waves and a stationary drop off point for your minerals. In normal missions, you have a robot you can call around, even to the ceiling, but this different style brings a fresh take on the mining runs.
In its early access, DRG has a wide range of different levels to partake in, while also feeling rather constricting due to its rotation of said maps. Since a level takes so long to complete, this won’t harper too much on you, as you can ignore it for the most part.
Gameplay in DRG is rather straightforward if you’ve played L4D or any FPS game, move your vision with the mouse, shoot your current weapon with the left button and mine with your pickaxe with the right button. You have 4 weapons or gadgets depending on your class, your main weapon which is the minigun for the gunner or shotgun for the engineer, the secondary gun which would be revolver and grenade launcher respectively. You also have your tool, from zip lines to platform creating guns and finally a satchel charge or sentry gun to place down. Everyone can also throw flares with F, which recharge over time, grenades with G, sprint with shift and jump/climb with the spacebar.
There are currently 4 classes on offer, Engineer, Gunner, Driller and Scout, each offering a tool or purpose to the full team. Engineers help defend a location and make platforms to help you mine, gunners defend on the move and create zip lines to hard to reach locations, the Driller comes with 2 drill hands for faster wall mining and the scout can shoot flares into surfaces to allow everyone vision. A full crew of the 4 classes allows for a smooth expedition, but are not entirely needed, you can go 4 gunners if you really wanted to.
As you complete levels you will gain EXP in your selected class, allowing you to upgrade your weapons and equipment. Your gear will take Credits and a specific mineral, from Croppa to Bismor, which are mined in the separate levels in differing amounts. It becomes a bit of a grind fest to get enough of these minerals though, as you will mine something in the area of 10-30 per level but require up to 300 to upgrade 1 aspect of your gear. You can upgrade damage, clip size, max ammo, reload time, cooling rate, amount and more for your weapons, pickaxe, gadgets and tools.
Mining isn’t all safe, you will have to fight off randomly spawning creatures in the mines. These are mostly arachnid and bug-like aliens that bite, claw or spit at your crew. After so much time in the mine you will also be attacked by a bigger wave of aliens, promoting quick excavation. If you run out of supplies you can call in a resupply, for ammo, health and tools, but this costs 80 Nitra, another mineable resource.
Unlike Left 4 Dead, there isn’t really an endgame to Dead Rock as of right now, focusing more on its replayability, grinding and team play within its selection of levels. The maps themselves don’t really flow from one to the other with a story, rather becoming stepping stones and loot halls for your character to return to and gather from to make the best miner you can. Instead of following a narrative, you will be wanting to build yourself up to complete higher difficulty levels.
DRG is rather quiet, with the main hub being filled by ambient noises of machines, with a very quiet underlying track. The same can be said while you are mining, allowing you to keep an ear out for the scuttles of aliens. A hint of synth and long piano notes follow you as you dig deep. When it comes to waves the music kicks in with some nice synthwave, reminding me of the 80’s in their view of the future and their music. Kinda unbefitting the game itself, but appealing to my own taste in music. As you run to the drop pod to exit the level it continues the same sort of style, but a bit more subdued with some extra drums thrown in.
The difficulty in DRG is well balanced and has a good curve to it, with allowing players to pick and choose their difficulty based on length, amount and danger of the aliens themselves. Harder difficulties require planning, team play and better equipment, and being able to accomplish the bonus objectives all add to an enjoyable experience.
Sadly DRG does suffer from early access bugs, mainly graphical and positional. I had an entire match where I was stuck under the world, hopping up and down to try and get out, with the aliens phasing through the world to come get me. Both aliens and the mule robot also have either glitchy or downright cheating pathfinding, as they wrap around models and force their way to their destination in the weirdest of ways. Though this could be down to the fully-destructible levels causing havoc with their pathfinding.
As it stands, Deep Rock Galactic is a fun co-op game, bringing back fond memories of the Left 4 Dead days. It stumbles here and there to normal early access issues like glitches, unstable connections and rough edges. The gameplay is fun with a rewarding levelling system if a bit gated and slowed down due to its rotational level mechanic. It is being updated regularly, alongside a roadmap on show for players so we can be sure they don’t drop it too soon into early access like some other failures recently. However, the price asked right now may be a tad high for some people with the game in its current state.