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Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor review - Mining and gunning for the crown

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor review - Mining and gunning for the crown

It's like Vampire Surivors but dwarves, kind of

Ever since the release of Vampire Survivors and its huge successes over the last year or so, plenty of other games have come for the crown. We’ve seen some sci-fi attempts, along with outlandish cartoon brawling that tries to pin down the formula and capture that lightning-in-a-bottle success. Many have come, but few have been able to stand up and be counted alongside Vampire Survivors. Usually, because they overcomplicate the gameplay or lack the humour and wit we saw in the 2022 smash hit.

There is one, however, that is gunning for the crown and could very well compete. Deep Rock Galactic is not the franchise I foresaw entering into the auto-shooter roguelike genre and succeeding, but given how much I’ve played over the past week, I can safely say that there’s a contender here and it features grumpy dwarves.

If you’ve played Deep Rock Galactic you’ll know that you control a space dwarf and venture out to different planets on mining trips, digging for gold and other elemental materials, while trying to fight off a race of alien bugs. It’s an engaging game with a satisfying feedback loop of ‘drop in, dig, destroy, and leave.” So it makes sense that it fits this new genre quite well.

Deep rock
Deep rock

Your dwarf enters into a small arena filled with rocky areas, some of which are bursting with lovely ores and gold - both of which are used between rounds and in the main menu to upgrade and improve your dwarf - and of course, there are swarms of bugs intent on killing you. The little dwarf will autofire at everything that moves, all you really need to consider is movement and what to upgrade when the time comes.

These games are all about building a character - one that can not only survive the dangers of mining on an alien planet but can also kill big bug bosses and extract with plenty of goodies. An example of what you might get up to on a planet would be, collecting some precious flowers which then triggers a boss to show up. You kill it, extract within 30 seconds, and move on to the next round.

Everything you kill drops a gem of XP which you magnetically pull towards you and it levels you up, just like Vampire Survivors. Once the XP bar is full you’re presented with several random improvements to either your weapons, mining speed, health, or player movement speed. Slowly you’ll build a character who, you hope, will be able to finish all four stages and complete the run.

Deep rock
Deep rock

Much like the main game in the series, there are several classes to choose from, each of which comes with a unique weapon and you’ll be set bonus tasks to unlock new weapons or equipment. I enjoy using the gunner in the main game and they’re just as good here, using their minigun to mow down bugs with a satisfying splatter. The whole game is incredibly satisfying because the game has you wrestling with a steep difficulty that isn’t unwelcome but is tough to overcome. Taking out a boss feels like a monumental moment, rolling random rare upgrades gives you a rush of adrenaline, and escaping with seconds to spare as you haul butt to the escape pod will leave your nerves shredded.

Now I’ll admit, surviving here is difficult. Sometimes frustratingly so. The arenas you fight in can be hemmed in by veins of rock and if your mining speed is low, it’ll be tough to escape the hard-hitting bugs. It’s easy to not find the right upgrades and end up rolled over by a huge gnashing bug that looks like the predator made love to a spider. It can also take a while to earn enough gold and ore to improve your overall stats in the main menu. It’s here you can apply permanent buffs to damage, health, mining speed, and more. So, it takes a few runs to reach a point where you’re comfortable.

Deep rock
Deep rock

Aside from that, fans of the original game will be in their element as features from the game have been brought over to Deep Rock Galactic Survivor, although many of the voice lines sound reused. New players will find a great attempt at the Vampire Survivors genre that will keep you coming back for more. This being an early access title, we’re sure to see more dwarf classes and weapons, as well as new planets to explore. It’s remarkably great now, it can only get better from here.

Pros: Engaging gameplay loop featuring brilliant roguelike elements and interesting upgrade paths

Cons: Can be unfairly difficult at times, reuses assets from original game

For fans of: Vampire Survivors, Brotato and Deep Rock Galactic

7/10: Very Good

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor is available 14 February for PC. Review code was provided by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Ghost Ship Games

Topics: PC, Steam