Deep Rock Galactic came out of its two years long early access journey on May 13th, 2020. The debut game of Danish indie studio Ghost Ship Games, and published by Coffee Stain Publishing, Deep Rock puts players in the shoes of galactic Dwarven miners who deploy on procedurally generated missions to gather valuable resources on the planet Hoxxes IV.
The catch, because there always is one, is that Hoxxes IV is not a friendly place. Radioactive cave tunnels, lakes of lava, vastly below freezing temperatures, and exploding fauna. The list of deadly hazards is long enough to justify its own article, and we haven’t even touched on the Glyphids. A terrifying race of armor-plated spiders, telekinetic wardens, poisonous gas-throwing spitters, and exploders, Glyphids attack the miners in a constant onslaught with impressively large hordes throughout every mission. The enemy types all work together really effectively, and their different abilities are flexible enough to be devastating no matter what type of level is generated for the current mission. Luckily, to deal with the threats, players have four excellent classes to choose from that are also at the core of what makes Deep Rock‘s multiplayer such a resounding success.
There’s a total of four classes: scout, engineer, gunner, and driller. Scouts have an assault rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, a grappling hook, and a flare gun that imbeds lights in cave walls. The gunner has a minigun, a revolver, and a bubble shield generator and can set up zip lines to help the team cover large gaps or ravines. The engineer sets up turrets, has a shotgun, grenade launcher, and a platform gun that can shoot horizontal platforms onto walls. Last but not least, the driller has a flamethrower, a small pistol, a satchel charge, and a hand drill that chews through cave walls like nothing else.
Each of these classes are capable in their own right; they all have their own strengths and weaknesses while feeling very different to play. You don’t need a gunner to cross ravines or a driller to break through walls to new tunnels. But, it’s a lot easier to deal with those things if you have one.
At the risk of sounding like an office management meeting in the early 2000s, this all gets better when you consider the synergies. Engineers can place platforms under high up resources that scouts can zip lines to and collect. Gunners can place the bubble shield during a horde while the driller uses satchel charges to thin out the enemies surrounding the players. Engineers can place turrets to protect the group’s flank during an extraction while the driller tunnels an escape route for everyone. The interactions are flexible enough to be consistently helpful no matter what the mission type is or how the map is generated, impactful enough to make a big difference in how the missions play out, and straight forward enough to execute without much communication in matchmade games.
Each class also has a primary and secondary weapon they can unlock, and each piece of equipment and gun has a handful of different upgrade options to purchase with the extra resources you bring back from missions. While each upgrade is meaningful and makes playing the class feel different, the class’s core functionality is available in its entirety from level one. Having all of a class’s utility available from the first level is great because it makes playing with teammates consistent regardless of their level. That way, even if you’re paired up with a level one engineer, you aren’t left wishing that they were at least level five so that they had the platform gun. They already have everything they need to help the team, and the interactions are simple enough that it won’t take long to introduce it to them.
There is also a lot of heavy lifting done in the design of Deep Rock‘s missions. While deceptively simple in design, the procedural generation of the maps and the dynamic nature of the enemies keep the missions variable enough that they never feel old or repetitive. These aspects also allow the classes to shine and feel impactful at different times from mission to mission while gently nudging even matchmade players towards working cooperatively. Of course, there will always be the players in every game that want to run off on their own and not pay attention to their teammates at all. Still, the layout of the missions incentivizes working together in fun ways that make running into lone wolf players in matchmade games much less likely than other similar games.
All these factors come together to make Deep Rock Galactic one of the most engaging and fun multiplayer experiences out there, on top of it being one of the most egregiously underrated releases of 2020. With its dynamic classes, near-infinite replayability, fantastic community, frequent updates that add a lot to the game, it is a travesty that Deep Rock Galactic hasn’t gotten more attention, and I cannot wait to see what comes next from Ghost Ship Games.