The lure of grandiose single-player video games is ever strong, but when we think back across all the best gaming moments in our lives, the times we spent playing with friends consistently rank at the top of our list. Games designed to be played cooperatively require designs that differ from single-player or competitive multiplayer offerings and are at their best when requiring the playgroup to work together to reach a common goal (or in some games, simply survive a level). After spending what seems like an eternity in Steam’s Early Access program, Deep Rock Galactic officially launched as a complete game this year. Developer Ghost Ship Games has managed to polish the experience into a smooth, glistening co-op gem that stands above all other contenders in a year where many of us spent our days quarantined at home in need of escape.
The setup for Deep Rock Galactic is rather simple, a malevolent mega-corporation requires an endless supply of mineral resources from parts of the galaxy that more reputable companies steer clear of due to safety reasons. Known as Deep Rock Galactic, the corporation enlists the services of roughneck space dwarves for missions that normal folks would never dare accept. Players begin these missions and ride in drop pods that burrow deep into the middle of various planets in search of minerals. Simply mining these death spheres is dangerous enough, but they also happen to be infested with millions of pissed-off space bugs.
A satisfying mix of Left 4 Dead and Helldivers, Deep Rock Galactic offers a gameplay loop that remains engaging, even after hundreds of drops. Securing the required materials for each mission requires exploration and cooperation from the team while the ever-present threat of space bug annihilation hangs over all the proceedings. Should the materials required by the mission be gathered, you and your space dwarf crew must then escape in the drop pod while being pursued by angry waves of space bugs. Should your group not get eaten, you gain money and XP that can be used to upgrade your character and equipment.
Players can choose from one of four dwarf classes, each with their own special strengths and specialized equipment. Each piece of equipment and weaponry is fully upgradeable and customizable, offering an enticing carrot on the stick to keep players coming back for increasingly dangerous missions. Downtime is spent on the Space Rig where the dwarves work on their gear, get rest, and get wasted at The Abyss Bar, a watering hole that serves the finest hooch in the Outer Rim. You’ll have to travel beyond the edges of this universe to find a better co-op game.
Check out the other winners from The Shacknews Awards 2020 in our Year of the Games: 2020 article.
Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin’ tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don’t @ him.