Deep Rock Galactic is a clever concoction of moreish gaming staples that makes you wonder why it hasn't been done before. Each co-op excursion is some combination of shooting down waves of enemies and mining or searching for resources, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable, highly replayable experience.
Playing as a group of up to four dwarves, you're tasked with toiling away on a hostile planet, chipping away at its natural materials for the titular corporation. Four distinct classes all bring something to the table with unique weapons and abilities, like the Driller's superior digging prowess or the Engineer's useful gun that fires platforms into walls. An optimal team brings one of each class down into the depths.
Those depths are randomly generated, entirely destructible caverns ripe with precious stones to mine and alien bugs to squash. There are many mission types that provide you with a couple of objectives, but you're left to achieve those goals with minimal guidance. Find your own way through the twisting caves, digging your own routes down, searching for minerals, setting up machinery, or whatever it might be. Enemies will spawn from time to time, disrupting your plans and causing chaos while you work. Once those boxes are ticked, it's a mad dash back to the drop ship to escape back to the hub — an interactive space station suspended above the planet.
That you're left to your own devices in levels that are often wildly uneven is some sort of evil genius. It's common to get a little lost, or fall down a chasm, or die in some ridiculous way, but it never feels like you're out of options — unless the entire party dies, you can always recover from setbacks. Of course, procedural levels mean there are some frustrating inconsistencies at times, and the environments themselves aren't particularly memorable. Still, the emergent gameplay from digging yourself into and out of trouble really shines through, especially playing with a group of friends.
The hordes of aliens can sometimes feel tough to deal with, coming at you from all angles in large numbers, but you're well equipped to deal with them. It's a well-balanced game, with skirmishes always feeling fraught but never insurmountable — as long as you remember to call in extra supplies. Depending on your class, there's some real firepower to toy with, like the Gunner's minigun or the Driller's flamethrower.
The core loop of digging, fulfilling objectives, and surviving attacks is constantly engaging and very addictive. It's absolutely at its best playing with two or three buddies, but a big server list means there are always plenty of other players to join. Some communication is lost playing with strangers, but from our experience, everyone seems keen to get on with objectives and utilise their classes effectively, so it's more than doable. Playing alone is possible, too — you're given a small droid to help you out in this case — but it's clearly built for co-op.
Aboard the hub ship, you can unlock character perks, weapon upgrades, cosmetic goodies, and more,with money earned from missions (and certain materials found within them). It means you steadily grow more powerful, and so can take on more lucrative, and more dangerous, tasks. The space is also one in which to wind down after a hard day's work; your party can fire up the jukebox and take to the dancefloor, order a round of drinks at the bar, play a barrel-kicking minigame, and more. These distractions serve little function, but it plays nicely into the game's likeable, humorous tone.
There's a lot to like about Deep Rock Galactic, although we did run into some rough edges during our time with it. As of now, joining other players is hit or miss, with requests to join servers failing about as often as they succeed, and sometimes dropping out anyway. Elsewhere, we found the hub to be quite confusing; there's a lot of stuff you can do, but it feels needlessly spread out, and it's difficult to remember where all the various terminals are. This would go away eventually if you play a lot and get used to the layout, but it's a bit more complex than it needs to be. The lack of crossplay between platforms also feels like a big missed opportunity.
With all that said, we've come away rather impressed with the game overall. There's a tonne of missions to enjoy, and that's without factoring in the free seasonal content that's recently been added. Despite any issues, the lasting impression is a well-designed, satisfying game with lots of potential for co-op chaos.
If you're looking for your next co-op addiction, Deep Rock Galactic could well be it. Brilliantly balanced character classes and engaging, emergent missions make for highly enjoyable underground antics, particularly with pals. Some networking issues and perhaps overly complex design decisions could frustrate, but it's a game worth sticking with for the moments where it all comes together. With replay value through the roof and satisfying gameplay at its core, this is one rock solid game to dig into.