Deep Rock Galactic Is The Best Aliens Game Ever Made
That’s Aliens, plural. You know, James Cameron’s action-heavy follow-up to Ridley Scott’s pant-wetting horror. We all know Alien: Isolation nailed Alien. That one is a wrap, but we’ve never had a good Aliens game. Deep Rock Galactic is a whimsical co-op action title where a team of space dwarves burrow into various planets to mine the rare materials hidden underground – all while beating back waves of chitinous enemies.
The famous tagline for Alien might be: “In space, no one can hear you scream”. But it could easily have been: “Space capitalism – it’s bad!” The crew of the Nostromo are a ragtag band of working class grunts who argue about long hours and low pay. Returning to Earth from Thedus, the Nostromo is essentially a space truck, towing ore from a distant planet. When aliens show up, the company in charge instantly looks into that gaping, saliva-covered mouth within a mouth, and instead of death, they see dollar signs.
Deep Rock Galactic doesn’t have the same tone as Alien or Aliens, but it, too, shows space as another battleground for capitalists. The dwarves are the lowliest caste and they’re forced to work in dangerous conditions for low pay – even buying their own protective equipment and weapon upgrades.
This is most apparent when you come to the end of a mission. There are a variety of objective types, but most end with you filling the Mule – a robot on legs that follows you and the team through the mines – with the required ore, then slapping the button on the back to call for extraction. At that point, the Mule scuttles back to the escape pod at speed, leaving behind flags to mark the way back for the dwarves. You get a few minutes to make it – the noise of the escape bringing the entire hive down on your heads – or the pod leaves without you. All that matters to the company is the ore. Like the crew of the Nostromo, you’re expendable.
Also like Aliens, Deep Rock Galactic’s missions are perfectly paced. They generally start off relatively chilled, with you and your friends (it’s playable in co-op with up to four players) finding your way through the mine, chipping away at veins, and pouring ore in the Mule. At certain intervals, you’ll come across a hive of enemies and burn them out with flamethrowers, chainguns, shotguns, and explosives, but these are usually just small pockets of combat.
The real action kicks off randomly and increases in intensity the longer you spend in the mines. The more you mine, the more you earn and the more you can lose. At certain points, you get a warning from command that a big wave is inbound. Your Engineer sets up turrets, the Driller creates tunnels to force choke points and drops C4 traps, the Gunner sets up zip lines for a quick escape, and the Scout lays down flares to light up these pitch black tunnels so you can see the insectoid army bearing down on your team.
There are a bunch of different mission types as well, from laying down pipelines to finding specific resources in the dark, procedurally generated tunnels of various planets. Some missions require you to dig into organic walls to scoop out alien eggs (the company wants them for “reasons”), and you use a 3D map display to find them – it’s not quite Aliens’ motion sensor, but it’s not far off either. It’s a game about overwhelming odds, teamwork, and camaraderie, where anyone who runs ahead will either be skewered by an alien or fall into a dark chasm.
It’s masterful how the AI peppers conflict throughout each mission, like playable high-intensity interval training. The space station hub adds to this pacing, too, giving you a place to kick back and mess about between missions, kicking barrels into the engine shafts or knocking back pints with your comrades. Take a sip for Karl, have a boogie on the dance floor, and sound your battle cry. Rock and stone, everybody. Rock and stone.
If you want to try it yourself, it’s playable on Xbox and PC right now, and it’s included in your Game Pass subscription.
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Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief at The Gamer. He likes Arkane games a little too much.
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