Deep Sky Derelicts Review PC
key review info
- Game: Deep Sky Derelicts
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: No
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Since Deep Sky Derelicts was released on Steam Early Access, the game was unfairly compared to Red Hook Studios' highly-acclaimed Darkest Dungeon. Although they share some similarities, Snowhound Games' Deep Sky Derelicts offers a completely different gameplay experience.
I say it's unfair because the typical Darkest Dungeon player has certain expectations from a game that's compared to their favorite title, and might be disappointed to learn that Deep Sky Derelicts won't met. With that out of the way, let's plunge into what Snowhound Games' turn-based strategy game is all about and whether or not it's worth checking out.
Deep Sky Derelicts is set in a dystopian world where the humanity is now split into two classes: the poor and the rich. That wouldn't be so unusual if not for the fact that the poor have been exiled to live off scraps from derelict alien stations and ships in the outer space, while the rich live on the surface of hospitable planets and breath non-synthetic air.
You take on the role of an outcast who is promised citizenship and a place to live on any of the hospitable planets colonized by humans, if you manage to find a mythical alien derelict ship referred to as the Mothership.
In your search for the Mothership, you can employ the help of two other mercenaries, who should complement your combat skills. Before you start your quest for the fabled alien ship, you'll have to choose a class for your squad members from five made available by developers: Leader, Tracker, Bruiser, Technician, Medic, and Scrapper.
Each class has its own unique abilities and weapons, but more importantly, certain class combos are considerably better than others, something that you'll only find out after experimenting with them for at least a dozen hours. The best course of action is to cover a wide array of weaponry and abilities as possible, and then discover the best combat tactics while playing the campaign.
There are plenty of weapons and tools that you can loot or buy throughout the game. As a matter of fact, you'll be switching to better gear after almost every mission on a derelict ship, so don't buy anything unless it's batteries.
Combat in Deep Sky Derelicts is turn-based but uses cards to determine the outcome of an encounter. Your mercs have their own specific deck of cards they can use in battle to damage the enemy or boost your squad's offense and defense.
Besides some numbers that determine their effectiveness in battle, each piece of the gear your characters wear offer access to a number of cards. The sum of all these cards constitutes your deck, so every time you change your weapons, tools or mods, you deck will change. Despite the fact that it's easy to pick up, Deep Sky Derelicts' combat system is hard to master, especially that there's no tutorial to explain what tactics works better and which type of enemies are more susceptible to certain attacks.
Sometimes, it's better to go for the set of cards a piece of gear offers, while other times it's better to take the perks and stat modifiers over the cards. It very much depends on what strategy you're using and how much changes in your deck will impact the effectiveness of your characters in combat.
Apart from cards and gear, each class gains specific abilities every time they level up. You are free to choose what abilities to take, but bear in mind that the level cap is quite low – 10. Even so, there's plenty of variation to allow each player to find a build that fits their playstyle.
Deep Sky Derelicts has some interesting concepts unlike any other dungeon crawling turn-based strategy game that I've played. Each time you start exploring a derelict ship, you have a certain amount of “energy,” which power the life support system of your squad. When your energy reserves deplete, if you're not in landing zone, you'll lose your crew.
Although managing energy is a bit on the tough side at the beginning of the game, once you hit level 4-5, this type of resource loses it's meaning since you'll have plenty of currency to buy enough batteries that can replenish energy without having to return to the base.
Each derelict ship presents itself as a big map split in squares. When you land on a ship for the first time, you can only see the squares the around the landing zone, but as you're using the radar (which requires energy) you'll reveal more parts of the ship. Upgrading the radar and the energy reserve will allow your team to make fewer trips back to the base to replenish your energy reserves, and be ready for any ambushes that might be lying in wait for you.
Your main objective while exploring these derelict ships is to find the main AI and download important data that could potentially lead you to the location of the Mothership. However, you'll encounter various NPCs on these ships who will give you side quests that award you experience and money. Several side quests are available from the bar at your base as well, but you won't be able to finish all of them immediately after you take them due to the level difference.
There is no permadeath in Deep Sky Derelicts unless you want to. Usually, when one of your characters drops in battles, you can pay a hefty amount and revive him/her back at your base. Since your characters don't heal in-between battles, you'll have to pay to replenish their HP as well, so you'll be relying a lot on shields.
Still, the developers have added some settings that allow players to enable permadeath and the option to prevent saving the game during missions. Even without permadeath, you can dismiss any member of your squad at any time and hire another one in return. Also, it's not a good idea to run around with an incomplete squad hoping to level up faster.
Deep Sky Derelicts offers a retro-futuristic cartoonish art style very reminiscent to comic books. It perfectly fits the dark and gritty tone of the game and the dystopian setting. The soundtrack is fine but becomes repetitive quite fast, so I would have expected a bit more tunes to be added to prevent boredom.
- Solid combat mechanics based on cards
- Nice cartoonish visuals
- Plenty of gear to loot
- Bleak, gritty atmosphere
- Shallow world
- Dull main story, mediocre writing
- Steep learning curve, even for veterans of the genre
Even though it does many things right, ultimately, I believe Deep Sky Derelicts is a missed opportunity. Not taking advantage of a rich sci-fi universe properly is such a big disappointment, especially that other parts of the game are so well implemented.
If you're looking for a turn-based strategy game set in a dystopian world where you won't feel attached by your characters and don't need to pay attention to the story, Deep Sky Derelicts has a lot to offer. Keep in mind though that while it's easy to pick up, Snowhound Games' title is hard to master.