Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor is a fine entry point into the auto-shooting depths

AI SaaS

Bugs overwhelming a player in Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor
Enlarge / Your author actually made it out of this, but not that much further.

Kevin Purdy/Ghost Ship Games

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor started as a talk over a beer between two development teams, according to Søren Lundgaard, CEO of Ghost Ship Games. Ghost Ship, ramping up its publishing arm after the multi-year success of Deep Rock Galactic, gave Funday Games license to graft its quirky dwarven corporate dystopia onto the auto-shooting likes of Vampire Survivors.

I’m glad they had that beer, and even more glad they’ve offered up the resulting game for Early Access on Windows PC via Steam (and Steam Deck, and Linux via Proton). Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor is my favorite of the genre I sometimes call “strategic walking.” I am, of course, biased by the flavor and familiarity with Deep Rock Galactic (DRG). But the elements of DRG Funday has put into DRG: Survivor make for a fun, cohesive game, one that’s easy to play in sessions and not be overwhelmed—mentally, at least. Bug-wise, you are absolutely going to get trampled.

Launch trailer for Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor.

We peeked at Survivor in June, and it has gotten a lot of polish since then, along with entirely new character classes, biomes, and upgrade mechanics. The basic mechanics remain the same: You complete mission objectives and mine resources while an increasing horde of insectoids chases you, and your weapons automatically fire at them. Some weapons shoot in wide patterns, some blast up close, and others do things like home in on the creature with the most hit points. The big decisions you make are where do you move to pick up dropped experience points and angle your shooting, and what do you pick for your upgrades when they become available.

You start out with only one class available, the relatively balanced Scout, and no bonuses. As you accrue resources, experience, and hit achievements, you unlock permanent upgrades to things like damage, item pick-up radius, mining and walking speed, and toughness. Play a couple of sessions, and you can see the build possibilities come to life, with things like critical hits and reload speeds able to be pushed far beyond balance.

That’s just the one class, though. Each of DRG‘s classes gets a spot in DRG: Survivor, and what they do in that first-person game translates surprisingly well to an overhead shooter. Diggers move through stone and harvest more quickly and have their weapons oriented toward protecting them from behind. Gunners, well, shoot a lot, which means a different kind of movement so that you’re looping back on enemy hordes and mowing them down from the front. Engineers set up turrets and shepherd the mobs through them. Each one offers strategic variants, too, like the Digger that leaves trails of acid behind them as they burrow.

Having played a few other auto-shooters since my first run with DRG: Survivor, what I appreciate most is how the procedural landscapes and inherent greed of mining challenge your thinking and reaction times. Rather than looping around a seemingly endless space, DRG: Survivor makes you think about the dynamics of a giant crowd of bugs that will always take the shortest route to get to you. I felt a bit like an ant in a glass-paned farm sometimes, digging into stone to avoid getting pinched or eking out an escape on the very edge of a map.

There are other DRG-related change-ups, too, like an upgrade station that will only land if you clear the space for it, and the familiar secondary resource objectives you can try and collect on each map. And there’s the core trade-off of stopping to chip away at a valuable resource with your pickax while the aliens not only grow in number but slowly get more powerful as time wears on.

I’ve only had a few hours with DRG: Survivor, but I’m already eager to see what kinds of builds can be unlocked through some combination of luck and stubborn upgrade choices. While there is likely tuning and some fan-requested upgrades to be added on (and the developer promises more capabilities for your robot assistant), it feels quite full for an Early Access release, and especially at $9. It feels like a good first risk/reward decision to make before the game puts hundreds of smaller ones on you.

AI SaaS

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