As a gamer, you rarely get the opportunity to see a game come to life. Most of the time developers demonstrate a near-final product. On rare occasions, usually after the release of said game, developers are willing to share an in-sight look at early builds or prototypes. For a long time studios were dependent on the financial support of publishers. However, nowadays a handful of independent developers manage to gather sufficient funds through crowd funding or by participating in programs like EA Originals (which guarantees a large part of the profit to return to the developer). To secure these funds the developer usually show what they call a “vertical slice” or in layman’s terms a proof of concept. This usually does not represent the quality of the final product and because indie studios like to be open towards investors (or backers) you get the rare opportunity to see a project evolve over time.
This happened to us with Deep Rock Galactic. Deep Rock Galactic is a first-person co-operative first person shooter that tasks four players to explore procedurally generated mines for valuable resources. You play as a team of veteran dwarven spice miners for the mining corporation Deep Rock Galatic and need to venture where no one else dares: into the deepest, most dangerous cave systems.
After the game was revealed during Microsoft’s E3 Media Briefing in 2017, developer Ghost Ship Games was kind enough to invite us over to Cologne to come and play the game at Gamescom. There, we familiarized ourselves with the game’s co-operative gameplay and the different dwarf classes. The game was still early in development although the studio had locked down the art style – one that makes the game really stand out – and general gameplay mechanics. After the play through, we received access to the same build in order to replay the level from the comfort of our homes. Not long, after that second play through though, our access to the game was revoked and it more or less disappeared from our radar. Until we were invited again this year.
When we went hands-on again with Deep Rock Galactic again this year, the game did not look or play drastically different. The game might still be in Steam’s Early Access and Xbox’s Game Preview Program but it is noticeably no longer in the alpha stage. A lot has been added to the game in the meanwhile. For starters, we were one of the first to see the new Galacial Strata planetary region. You guessed it, new icy and cold planets to explore. The new environment also introduces us to new hazards: slippery ice floors, blizzards that hinder your sight, Cryo bombs that render you unable to move, new enemy types and much more. We also noticed the game now has a lot more customization options like a skill tree and vanity items. This more packed and beefier version of Deep Rock Galactic gave us the impression the game is getting closer to the version the developers envisioned to be fit for a “final” release. One aspect of the game I personally liked most is that teamwork is very important. The game is forcing you to combine the unique powers of each class in order to overcome obstacles in your path easy. You can always progress if one player would quit or die, but you will definitely notice the absence of his unique skills. While venturing deep inside a cave it is also easy to forget that, eventually, you will have to get out again. If you do not plan, you will surely get lost in the claustrophobic tunnels you dig along the way or the branching paths you come across.
The game is receiving updates almost every month, adding new features and functionality. Ghost Ship Games has recently published the new features they are planning to incorporate up until the end of December this year in their 2018 Road Map. Please note that plans can and most likely will change, but it is still good to see the developers are committed to look for new ways to better your experience. With each update, the game is nearing a release ready state. Trust us however, that Deep Rock Galactic is already a very enjoyable experience on both PC and Xbox: we left smiling!