Update 26 Brings Endgame Part II to Deep Rock Galactic

Late February, 2018 marked the initial release of Deep Rock Galactic as an early access game on Steam. Almost 2 years later Ghost Ship Games has been hard at work forming the game into the compelling, original game that it is today. With so many early access indie titles on steam (and more coming out every day), it can be hard to know which are worth your time. Though Deep Rock is currently not finished, update 26 ads a satisfying amount of endgame content that can be enjoyed alongside the previously implemented endgame activities. Here is everything you need to know about the current state of Deep Rock Galactic, if you should wait to play the game till it’s release, and what the newest update brings to the experience. Grab a hardhat, pickaxe, and a shotgun, you’re gonna need them!

For those who have never set foot into the giant alien-infested caves of Hoxxes IV, I’ll give a brief primer on how to play here before diving into the endgame content and the recent update. Deep Rock is a game that is built around a simple premise; You are a space dwarf working for an indifferent capitalist mining corp, which the game is named after. There are lots of different types of missions, but the base game is essentially about dropping onto the planet with a team of 1-4 players, mining veins of minerals and gems, navigating and traversing difficult landscapes, and fighting through hordes of alien bugs to make it back to your space rig. When the game originally launched in early access it was just simple runs in simple caves looking for veins of “Morkite” a fictitious mineral of huge importance to all dwarves (they make beer out of it). There were few enemy types, one loadout per dwarf class, and a handful of simple environments.

The current state of Deep Rock Galactic 

Log in to Deep Rock today, and you will find a satisfying amount of content added, all of which serve that original addicting gameplay. Now there are 8 unique environments to explore each with unique enemies, rewards, and environmental hazards. You can choose from dangerous ice caverns, molten lava tunnels, a dense biozone, barren radioactive caves, and more. Each environment also now has a dangerous rare unique creature with special attacks and movements. Alongside the mining missions, now players will now take on Egg hunts, Salvage Operations, Point Extractions, and boss encounters called Elimination missions. All missions have a random secondary objective, and there are several tough mini-boss encounters that can also occur randomly in any of the previously listed activities. Though new game modes have been implemented, all of them still have players doing the core activities that made Deep Rock an addicting and fun challenge from the start: navigation, teamwork, mining, and combat.

Meet the Employees

The 4 player classes remain the same: Driller, Scout, Gunner, and Engineer, but now all classes have an alternative weapon to unlock for both their main and secondary gun slot, along with 3 completely unique grenade options bringing the total grenade type count to 12. Cryo grenades, battle axes, landmines, neurotoxin canisters, debuff grenades, energy weapons, and several high damage variants are now all available to unlock.

What to Expect from Beginning to Endgame

Deep Rock does not have a traditional storytelling format or campaign, but this does not mean that players don’t have a goal or destination in mind when playing. The game can be thought of as existing in 3 stages, (Beginner, Promotion, and Endgame) and players who progress intentionally through those stages will likely have the most satisfying experience playing. I’ll lay them out here for you

Beginner – When you step onto the mining rig for the first time as a young green beard you have no resources, though you will have access to all 4 classes. After picking a class, pick a mission, and get to mining! The holographic globe is the console that players can select their next mission at, and you should get familiar with it. There is a rotating set of missions available, which are procedurally generated and always different, and regions will pass in and out of scanner range on a 30-minute rotation. Any assignments selected at the assignment terminal will highlight the required mission on the map with a black and white diamond on it. There is also a brief tutorial that can be accessed at a panel in the space rig, though it is not currently super detailed. (According to the current roadmap towards the 1.0 release the final version will include a full tutorial that on-boards new player more smoothly and in segments, showing relevant data when needed and hopefully explaining all mission types not just mining).

After you get the swing of things, and you settle into a class you like, the activities terminal next to the mission select globe becomes more important. This is where most of the game progress can be tracked. These assignments are mainly to unlock new weapons and promote your dwarfs (more on that in a second). This terminal is also where you can complete a weekly priority assignment that awards bonus credits and materials, take on the “Breach the Core” assignment to unlock higher tier weekly challenges called Core Assignments, and unlock the terrifying 5th level of difficulty “Lethal“. The main goal at this stage should be to level up the dwarves you want to play with the most and unlock all their various gear modifications, weapons, and perks. The next goal is to hit level 25 with a character.

Promotion – When a dwarf hits level 25 then they are eligible for a company promotion. Think of it as a nice reward for not dying at work, and making a dwarven CEO somewhere very rich. When ready, select “Promotion Qualification” for the desired level 25 character at the assignment board. This will trigger a multi-mission task as many of the assignments do. By this time your dwarf should be quite powerful and you will have all weapon and gear modification unlocked, make sure to purchase them all and pick combos that compliment your dwarf’s strengths. Once the whole promotion process is finished, you will have access to a whole new set of activities and powerful loot. You are now ready for endgame!

Endgame – Endgame in Deep Rock Galactic is in many ways more like the halfway point. Having a promoted dwarf means each of their weapons now has a powerful final modification available called an “Overclock”. Overclocks are collected by completing challenging missions called Deep Dives (only playable by promoted characters), which is made of 3 consecutive missions with random mutations applied to them. These missions are locked into an increased difficulty level, and there is an “Elite Deep Dive” also available for the most powerful and coordinated teams to tackle.

Promoted dwarves will also now notice they are able to interact with those strange machines they have undoubtedly noticed in the regular missions randomly. These are called “machine Events” and are fun but difficult mini-missions that start when the key is inserted (awarded to all promoted dwarves). If the team wins the challenge then they can ALL receive an overclock or cosmetic item if they have picked up a blank matrix core to infuse at the console. (NOTE: if no one on the team has any blank matrix cores there is no reason to play the machine event, as access to the infusion console is useless at that time.)

All 4 classes are very unique powerful characters and it not unlikely that you will want to promote at least a few of them, so playing the regular missions and just doing weekly core hunts is still very fun and engaging even after reaching the endgame. Play around with using different overclocks with different modification specs, some of the overclocks can change the whole feeling of a particular character. For example, the image below is an overclock for the M1000 (a powerful precision weapon that can be unlocked for the Scout which replaces his usual Assault Rifle). Overclocks can do everything from adding elemental effects like poison or fire to changing weapon stats, to influencing character mobility like the upgrade featured here. Modding weapons become very interesting at this stage in the game, even if it can be a bit of a grind.

Worth Playing Now?

That’s the current state of Deep Rock, but is it worth playing now? For players who want a very smooth polished product, there may be a reason to wait for the 1.0 release simply due to the lack of tutorial and introduction. A few minor quality of life features will also be added at some point in the future, like being able to save multiple character loadouts, which will more likely than not add to the game rather than changing it drastically. But if you don’t care about the “gift wrapping” and just want to jump into a fun co-op shooter, Deep Rock is a great game to play now. Though more additions are coming, the game in its current state already has a ton of charming details, like a huge beer menu with unique labels and effects, tons of silly (and profane) voice lines, the option to press (V) to salute each other (gives a toast when holding beer), and a working jukebox and mini-game in the pub. The main gameplay components feel like a finished product, and while some aspects of the game may be polished more in the future, the game has a strong core with plenty of goals to chase from day one.  Deep Rock Galactic is also a game that does take a bit of time to grind for materials, credits, and XP, so if you are a new player starting now, you will likely still have new things to do as new updates continue to come out, so if you already know you want to try it, it’s a great time to get started.

Bonus Seasonal Update:

Happy Holidays! It’s all snowflakes and ornaments in the space rig till the New Year! The team working on Deep Rock is great at adding little updates often so that the community has stuff to play with as the bigger changes and additions are still cooking. However, this season we got the endgame part II update AND a winter seasonal themed update shortly after. Now you can make your dwarves look like Santa! Environments also now have Christmas gifts you can find. busting them open usually spawns a few swarmers, but sometimes a delicious loot bug comes out instead! (these are small slug-like creatures that like to eat valuable minerals like gold, kill them for extra materials and cash).

There is also a new assignment available for a limited time! this assignment is fairly long and gives high-level rewards at each stage of completion including rare minerals, beer crafting materials, overclocks, or matrix cores. (HINT: The final mission reward is particularly lucrative). 

Deep Rock Galactic is still in Early Access technically, but with the last update bringing in the last of the endgame activities for the base game, it feels like a finished, well-made product, only missing a few finishing features around the edges.

“May your beards be thick and your gold satchels heavy!” Happy Gaming Dwarves!

Sky: Children of the Light Does Everything it Can to Only Leave Room for Positivity

If you have spent any time on the internet at all, you already know that it can be hard to get away from negative and toxic content, video game communities included. Hate speech, trolls, unwanted aggression, intolerance, and so on continue to poison many digital gathering spaces. One element to the creation of toxic digital spaces is the anonymous nature of the internet, but ThatGameCompany seems to have designed Sky with that cautiously in mind. Sky proves that anonymity itself doesn’t have to be fuel for negativity, but rather can exist in a system where everyone is uplifted. In this IOS exclusive the main way players progress through the game is by interacting with others in an anonymous format, and yet I was genuinely uplifted emotionally every time I logged on.

The gameplay goal of Sky is simple, the layout is somewhat similar to Journey The classic indie adventure from the same developers. Players progress simply by traveling the distance from the start to the end, while looking for Spirits and Ancestors to open each new area. Levels are made up of simple puzzles and large play areas that offer exploration and sightseeing as the main activities generally. Players spread their wings and fly through the open sky and narrow wind tunnels, through forests in the clouds, and into ancient temples and ruins. The players only resource/HP to really manage as far as world progression is the light that fuels your flight ability, which can easily be gained by standing near any fire, candle, friendly creature, and even other players. Players must locate ancestors in each level which somehow brings life back to the lost souls and allows for the next level to be explored. All Ancestors and Spirits found move the player closer to gaining new cosmetic items and allow the option to build relationships with other players and spirits themselves. This loop of gathering light to fly, flying to explore, and exploring to “rescue” the spirits and ancestors on each stage make up the body of the game. The game is certainly best experienced with companions, and many of the obstacles to success in Sky such as the flame draining rain or getting lost are also alleviated with a friend or two to help.

I wanted to enjoy Sky a lot when I discovered it but was concerned that the beautiful landscapes and scenic skies would clash with my player-to-player interactions. I was delighted immediately as I started my adventure, and quickly found I could not have been more wrong. Not only did the developers find a way to keep player interactions focused on the positive, but they built player reciprocity and giving into the actual progression mechanics of the game. It is clear that Sky is doing something great, and other games could take a note from it’s successful focus on positivity in it’s handling of multiplayer interactions.

Here are some of the mechanics that created such a positive a beautiful experience:

  • You name others, not yourself

When you encounter another player in the environment they are grey and without distinction, like a colorless ghost. Offering friendship to them is shown as you offering a candle to them, and rather than showing a name they picked for themselves, you will give them a name that is only for your reference. The grey melts off the shadow as light illuminates your new friend, and all their cosmetic items and chosen style are no longer hidden. This is when the player is prompted to name their new partner. No more immersion breaking names made of crass middle-school humor between the numbers 420 and 69, now the only names you see are the ones you give others. Sure if you wanted to you could fill your screen with silly and wildly inappropriate names, but if you did it wouldn’t bother any other player’s scenic pleasant experience. Names are only visible to those who named them. in a small way, this feature also has the secondary benefit of giving a small amount of creative control over their game of Sky. Someone who wants their world to be more mystical may name players based on fantasy names, or name friends based on the context of meeting (which is what I do). If I am playing and I meet someone in the rain who gives me fire when mine is out (a wonderful mechanic also just put in there to be nice and promote cooperation), I may name that person something like “Friend in Floods”, or “Shrouded Healer”. All friends are added to your progression menu (shown as constellations in the sky), and you can then freely boots all your friends light levels when you log on.

  • Giving and receiving is mutually beneficial, so everyone benefits from sharing the light

Though it does cost a lamp to friend another players (an item crafted by collecting lots of light), this is still essentially paying a small amount of candle light now to get more in the future, as boosting friends light is free and is the best way to get people to send you light back.

  • You can offer to help others by letting them tag along for a ride by holding hands

If you are having trouble finding some of the more well hidden spirits and candles you can always offer to take the hand of someone else and both characters will hold hands. One person is in control then and is free to fly or walk around the map without worrying about their new friend getting lost or falling behind. The ability to hold strangers hands and to fly around in an incredibly beautiful environment with someone else is magical. I’ve had a lot of good experiences just hanging out with new friends and bringing light to other players we come across. There seems to be no limit to the number of players who can hold hands and at one point I had joined a group that had 5 players all soaring and adventuring across the landscape together.

  • Actual player to player chat is always consensual, opt-in, and you must be friends first

Another feature that seems to help greatly in making sure that chat and social interaction is as positive an experience as it can be is that chat is only available to friends, and you actually have to sit on a bench in the game together, and both opt to have a conversation. This small barrier that requires consent and intentionally leaves little reason or room for harassment. It’s more about letting people talk one on one if they have spent time in game together and want to communicate, rather than a message board for anyone in the game to shout through. It’s more spontaneous and intimate, because the players have to find a bench first surrounded by natural beauty. Again, of course people can still inject negativity into another players experience, but if desired players can opt to just not see messages and just enjoy the music and scenery.

  • The setting of the game is clearly about wonder, beauty, collaboration, and sharing

With all the helpful steps that the developers took to ensure that players feel deep positive feeling while playing their game, the setting might be the strongest influence of player behavior. Though the various game mechanics make it harder for people to be a jerk while playing, it’s really the visuals, music, and story that make the player want to be respectful and kind to others. It is true that the specific themes in Sky may not always translate well to other more competitive games, but the concept still works. Things like being able to vote for teammate medals at the end of an Overwatch match are a great example of devs giving players opportunities to opt-into positive interactions in a competitive game. If the future of gaming is to reach bigger and more diverse audiences incorporating intentional mechanics and themes of positivity into future games is a vital element. Sky is a great example of how relaxation, collaboration, and entertainment can all exist within one game, bringing those who engage with it, closer to one another, and can even encourage compassion and other positive emotional skills that are vital to our national and personal prosperity.

If art is powerful, as I believe it is, interactive art has a particularly impactful influence on those who engage with it. I’m grateful to have a place as peaceful and simple as Sky to visit at the end of a day full of stress or anxiety.  Interactions with others are usually focused on exploring together or simply exchanging simple gifts, and demand little from players with social anxiety. And while the visuals and music are incredible and would make for a peaceful experience by themselves, the ability to experience the seamless immersion of Sky with other players is the most magical part of the journey. We are all in this life on Earth here together, let’s work to make physical and digital spaces both places that welcome all and encourage cooperation and creativity.

As always, Happy Gaming Friends