What is… Deep Rock Galactic?

Rock and Stone, Brother!

Deep Rock Galactic is a cooperative PvE first-person shooter. You and your friends are a team of space dwarves, mining ore among the stars. The core game is about you and your team of up to four other players trying to complete whatever dig you’ve signed up for this time. While the game does have procedurally generated maps and a variety of mission objects, the thing that sets it apart is how it handles its classes.

Deep Rock Galactic breaks away from the Holy Trinity of Heals, DPS, and Tank. Instead, any player can play any role when needed. The added spice is that each class also excels uniquely via pure utility by environment interaction.

The game’s four classes are the Engineer, Scout, Gunner, and Driller. Each of the four classes can do great damage, great support, and some form of escape or defensive mitigation for the team. For example, the Engineer has a platform gun that can create platforms in the environment. You can use these platforms to build choke points to funnel glyphids (the game’s bug enemies), or as a safe pad to land on in an emergency escape, or to make a bridge across great divides.

The Scout’s specialty is to provide vision to the team via his flare gun. Without his flare gun you could get surrounded by unseen glyphids in the dark at a moment’s notice. He is the most mobile role of the squad, best for filling in any gaps of defenses or daring rescues. Gunner has the highest sustained firepower, and also the best defensive ability in the game: the bubble shield which blocks projectiles as well as regenerates allied shields. Driller’s specialty is obliterating wide hordes of small glyphids through bombs or fire, or freezing boss enemies, making them stunned and vulnerable for the team to destroy. Driller’s drill gauntlets allows him to make tunnels straight to evac, or shape the terrain to his advantage as well.

There are also general character perks that you can earn that apply to all classes. These upgrades are generally straight increases to damage, survivability or cool new ability that’s always good. When choosing between upgrades of the same tier they are mainly trade offs or side-grades. Deciding which upgrades you want allows you to tailor your dwarf to play your way—which is really fun. If you are a min-maxer, you can look up guides for best upgrade paths to unlock first, but I’d recommend against it. Overall, experimenting with all of the upgrades and discovering what works for you is the most fun for getting longevity from Deep Rock Galactic. It’s a slow burn of a journey and not about getting max power ASAP.   

The game can be played in single player mode but I wouldn’t recommend it. Thankfully, the game enjoys a large player base where you can always find a lobby for whatever mission you want to do.

That said, I found the end game raid missions difficult to do with just random players. These missions are called “Deep Dives” and give out unique loot that can change your class by modifying what your guns do. Some modifications just swap the elemental damage type of the weapon, but others fundamentally alter your gadgets to do something entirely weird and new. For example, one piece of loot makes it so when you shoot your shotgun at the ground, you jump higher. This is just one of tons of possible changes you can apply to your gear, although the limit is one per gear piece so you can’t stack a bunch of modifications on one gun.

Deep Rock Galactic has limitless stuff to unlock, and I imagine it’d take hundreds of hours to unlock all the talents, gear, and cosmetics the game has to offer. The available missions are rather diverse, but you’ll probably find some you like more than others. The game has consistent updates, and is currently in the process of adding a 3rd weapon choice for all classes, as well as doing balance revisions to all current weapons and talents, with an estimated patch release in quarter 3 2021 (sometime between July and end of September).

If this sort of thing sounds exciting to you, here are some my tips for starting off:

  1. Feel free to mix up team compositions. For the most balanced gameplay, 1 of each class seems best, but for some mission types you may feel like more than one of a class might suit it better.
  2. Nothing wrong with taking it slow. When starting out I’d recommend a hazard level 2 or 3 mission at most (hazard levels are just difficulty level: 1 is easy, 2 is normal and so on). Then when you feel like you can handle it, increase hazard levels for better rewards. I’ve played about 90 hours since the launch and promoted each class about once. Personally I wouldn’t recommend trying hazard 5 or higher till you’ve promoted a class… but hey, you do you.
  3. Take advantage of those credits! Deep Rock Galactic has a deep character progression system where the credits and materials you earn from missions can buy tons of upgrades to specialize your class a lot.

I think it’s a gem of a game, and if you had to pitch it to a friend in like 10 seconds, I’d say, “It’s like a co-op shooter like Left 4 Dead, fused with looter-shooter talent leveling and survival game terrain manipulation like Minecraft, but you are an awesome high tech space dwarf squad, killing the zerg Glypids.”

4.5/5 Etrodons is my overall rating. And when you do play the game, remember to hit “V” to ROCK AND STONE, BROTHER!

Eximius: Seize the Frontline

Today, I am the fifth dentist.

I like Eximius, and generally speaking, I’ve enjoyed playing it. I think at $30, the price feels high, and I’d have a much easier time recommending it if it was like $10, or had some sorta bulk pack for multiple copies, because it is most definitely a game that is way better with friends. On the other hand, given what it took to get the game finished, I kind of get why they’re charging $30 for it.

My summary for this game is, “Today, I am the fifth dentist.” In my group of friends that I roped into playing the game I am the lone dissenter, the only one who enjoyed the game.

Like, the only person.

I’ve attached a video of about an hour of gameplay from a Twitch stream. I was gonna grab screencaps and stuff from the stream, but the quality at 720p felt too low. If you’re on the fence about the game, you’ll most likely get a better opinion of watching me play for a bit than from screencaps. Unfortunately, I also forgot to unmute my mic while streaming, and didn’t mute my friend, so you’ll get to listen to his lovely voice performing half a conversation.

Whoops.

My friends disliked this game enough that, at first, this article was gonna be about why you shouldn’t buy Eximius. But this is my article, and until one of my friends offers to write their own, telling you why you why they regret buying the game based off my stupid opinions, this article will remain the sole source of Gametrodon truth.

Okay, so let’s start by talking about Eximius actually is, for starters: Eximius is a combo RTS/FPS, played between two teams. There are five players to a team, with one player taking the role of the commander, with the ability to build structures, command AI troops, and get a top-down view of the battlefield, like a classic RTS. The remaining 4 are officers, with the ability to run about, shoot people, and generally cause all kinds of chaos. These other four can also have AI troops of various types assigned to them, and can give said troops fairly limited commands. (Gripe #1: I really wish you could actually order your troops to either stand in specific places or leave them somewhere to call them in later.)

You can assign general infantry troops to your officers, but you have to control special troops yourself. There are two factions in the game, AXE, and GSF, which stand for something I can’t remember, but all you really need to know is that the GSF are your typical generic future military dudes, with access to mortar and machine gun squads, infantry and engineers, and a few fairly typical vehicles. (Gripe #2: Vehicles can’t be manually controlled or ridden in by players, and have a tendency to get stuck between various things, due to questionable AI parking. On one notable occasion, I saw a tank sort of leap across the map after clipping into terrain.)

AXE, on the other hand, are more of your “future tech” faction, complete with outfits that make them look like something from Warframe, with smooth Exo-skeletons, and crisp weapons. They also get Ironguards, which for all intents and purposes you can just read as “T-1000 Terminator Units,” massive hulking exo-suits equipped with miniguns, that can just mulch 90% of unencamped infantry they come across. They have a selection of vehicles as well.

Let’s talk about one more thing before we get into why I like the game, and why my friends do not: the general structure of a game of Eximius.

There are two ways to win a game of Eximius. The first is to destroy the enemy base. This is easier said than done, because even if you’re crushing your opponent, their base is surrounded by 7-8 very high powered cannon encampments.

The second is to run your enemy out of supply points. More than likely, this is how you’ll actually win. Both teams start with a predefined amount of these points, and you take points from the enemy team by killing their units while they control less Victory Zones than you do. Different types of units are worth different amounts of supply.

In addition to the Victory Zones, there are also Resource Zones, which give either money, ammo, or power. Money is your base resource used for buying most units, with power used for buildings and other higher tier stuff. Ammo is used for activated abilities, like airstrikes, repair drones, and troop drops.

The end result of all of this is that you spend a lot of the game either holding points, trying to hold points, or pushing in to hold points. What I heard from other folks was that the game felt like Battlefield in that respect, except again, minus a lot of the polish you get on something like Battlefield. It’s not always the most thrilling thing in the universe.

And I don’t disagree with them. The hitmarkers that show up when you get shot are really subtle, and not necessarily enough to figure out where you’re being shot from. There’s also no difference between being shot with shields (HP that regenerates over time and out of combat) vs unshielded. There’s also no tracer rounds on most weapons, meaning that if an opponent is hiding in a bush, you can die before figuring out where they are.

They also had issues with some of the games economy system and power division, with the commander role feeling far more impactful to then the officers. And I can’t really disagree with that either. Officers really only have the ability to run around, capture points, and shoot stuff. You can’t use extra money you get to do things like call in buildings or extra ammo, so it’s fairly easy to get to a point where you are effectively just burning cash as an officer because you can’t have more than your cap.

And on the subject of the commanding/commanders UI. It’s not great. I would mark it as passable. I suspect my friends would go with awful. It disregards a lot of standard conventions for RTS controls (No shift queuing actions,), the action bar isn’t standardized across units, (infantry has an attack move, but vehicles don’t) and it can just be a pain to use. (You can’t assign officers to control groups for example.)

So the end result if you feel the same way they do is that it’s a game where you spend a lot of time either trying to hold a given location, getting into unclear gunfights, and being shot or blown up by encamped morters half a mile away when you round a corner.

On the other hand, I actually like trying to figure out how to break defenses, hold points, and stall for time. The fact that you can have gunfights with “winners” where neither person ends up dying is interesting to me. The mechanics of death, having to buy up your loadouts each time you revive, along with being able to use AI troops as cannon fodder/distractions is neat.

The big differentiator for me is that every conflict in a round has costs associated with it. While the moment-to-moment gameplay might feel similar to other shooters, the gunfights themselves feel more meaningful in the bigger picture.

Sneaking into a back line to capture Resource Points and harass the enemy’s economy, or trying to hold a point while fairly outnumbered until resources arrive are things you can do in other games, but in Eximius they have meaningful impacts on the rest of the war taking place, instead of being separate skirmishes. Where and when you choose to take fights is just as meaningful, if not more meaningful, than winning them. It’s not another shooter where if your K/D is greater than 1, you are a credit to team.

And that’s why I like it. There are a lot of elements in the game that could be improved, but they haven’t stopped me from enjoying the gunfights, trying to be sneaky, or desperately rushing in to try to salvage a win. The game does a really good job of creating organic set pieces and exciting clutch moments, and the fact that you’re playing against other humans makes it that much more fun. When you get to the end of round, it’s possible to look back and figure out what you needed to do differently, or what you could have tried instead.

Eximius is an ambitious indie game, when all is said and done, and more importantly, I find it fun. I might not be in the majority here, and there are definitely a lot of areas that the game could either use some improvement, or some hardening. But even in its current somewhat janky state, I enjoy playing, and I’m likely to continue playing it. I do wish I had more people to play it with, but y’know. Taste is subjective.

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin

Wrath is good, but it’s not finished. You should wait to buy it for now.

Editorial Note: The images in this article I grabbed from the Steam Page. Usually I take my own screenshots, because independence and other stuff, but I had some difficultly with that, and honestly, the screenshots are accurate. But I don’t want to give the impression that I got all these photos myself.

I really like Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. It gives me a wonderful sense of nostalgia for an era of games that I never actually played, that of the old Doom/Quake/Duke Nukem Era. It might be because you will spend most of the game strafing around gothic corridors with a bunch of weapons. It might be because you will use those weapons against monsters that look like they were pulled from a fire sale at low-poly Lovecraft R Us.

The screaming head dudes with multiple faces are legit fucking terrifying.

And it might be because it was actually built on the old Quake engine. I had a ton of fun playing it, which makes me feel a bit bad about what I’m going to say: Even if this is a genre you love, I don’t think you should buy Wrath yet.

My recommendation doesn’t actually have anything to do with the gameplay itself (despite the fact that I definitely have a few gripes with some of the game’s systems), but instead with the fact that the game simply isn’t finished. There are only four levels, and while they’re good and polished, they only took me about 8 hours to play through on the medium difficulty. I actually delayed this write-up a bit because another update was supposed to come out a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it just got pushed back to this month… so yeah. While I’m sure they intend to do their best to keep their promise, it may be a while before the game ends up in its final state, and as such, I think you can wait on this one. If you’re reading this article after the summer of 2021, you should probably check to see if it’s fully out, as that’s the current estimate for its release date.

Okay, so with that whole thing out of the way, let’s talk about the other simple truth of the game: I had a lot of fun with Wrath. It’s well polished, and very smoothly executed. It’s just fun to run around shotgunning demons and pulping zombies with a stake cannon. I played Wrath because the gameplay was fun. There was no point where I found myself pushing through a boring bit to get back to the story (there really isn’t one right now) or grinding for numbers. Wrath has more or less zero filler.

This doesn’t mean Wrath is perfect by any means. I have some problems, so let’s talk about them.

First of all, while the game is really fun, if you want to actually replay a level, you need to make a brand new save file. There’s no option to just reload a given level, or to skip to a certain point with weapons unlocked. This is annoying. The second part, that wasn’t super frustrating for me mostly because I was playing on the medium difficulty, is the save system. Wrath lets you save by either reaching a checkpoint, or by using an item called a Soul Tether, which you find and pick up as you play through the game. You have a limited number of these, and while this limit caused me zero problems on the medium difficulty, I can see it becoming frustrating super fast on the harder difficulties. Wrath is in some ways a puzzle game of “Connect The Bullets With The Enemies” and it’s entirely possible to get through a section of the game you’ve already solved, only to die over and over again in a specific area. This means you end up replaying the same parts a lot, and if you’re trying to conserve soul tethers, it can take like five minutes to get back to the point you were at previously, just to get another try at something.

Walking in a winter murder landdddddddd

These were my two main problems with the game. Wrath is fun, the levels are well made, and outside of a slight overreliance on “You touched a button, now we’re gonna spawn in 10 enemies in your blindspot” the game doesn’t really have any patterns that are frustrating. I honestly expected to be seeing the same levels over and over again, but the actual layout and design is quite varied.

So yeah. Wrath is fun, but currently it’s not finished, and it’s rather short. I have some gripes with the save system, and how you can’t replay levels, but outside of that, I’m excited to see what the full game looks like. If it maintains the level of polish and creativity that I’ve seen so far, it will easily be worth the $20-30 price tag I expect to see on it.