Developer: Snowhound Games
Publisher: 1C Publishing
Rating: PEGI 12
Price Range: $24.99
Have you ever received a gift in a box, and you thought to yourself, “this is a small, simple box, which means the contents inside must be simple too!”…only to find that inside the box is a mix of multiple, numerous, and overwhelming items? This is how I would describe my time playing Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition. It gives off the appearance of simplicity, yet in its contents are an array of gaming elements that make up the package of this game.
Spiritual Content: Deep Sky Derelicts plays off the science fiction genre and tropes, and as such doesn’t delve into the spiritual realm. There is tobacco use, and thus an addictive substance in the game.
Violence: There are constant battles, some monsters, others androids, and some people. However, these battles are done in a comic book-panel, cartoonish way.
Imagine a game that lets you gather a crew and journey together through space to make incredible alien discoveries…no, I’m not talking about a game like Mass Effect. I’m speaking of the indie game Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition. The original game was released on Steam in 2017, and the Definitive Edition published for consoles with two DLC expansions included, New Prospects and Station Life. Both of these expansions add new features, content, and gameplay mechanics.
As I described above, DSD:DE is a unique mixture of a lot of different gaming elements. It’s a deck-building card game, but it’s also a strategy game…but it’s also a role-playing game. Oh! And it’s kind of like a comic book…and if I’m being honest, These elements make the game feel convoluted.
In DSD:DE, you begin by choosing your “outcast” or “scavenger” that is seeking to obtain citizenship and live happily ever after on a cozy planet somewhere in space. Once you pick your leader, it’s time to pick your mercenary crew, all of whom have different abilities and power-ups, not unlike team-based games with different jobs (medic, engineer, etc.). Once your crew is set, you’re taken to the station where the sub-governor (catchy name, eh?) begins to give you mission and goals to work toward your citizenship. To complete your mission, you’ll be traveling in your quaint ship to various alien and derelict ships.
The first big thing to note about DSD:DE is the graphics. The story is told through an engaging and unique comic book-type atmosphere. As I entered this world, I couldn’t help but think that I could go into a comic book store, pick up a sci-fi comic off the shelf, and see exactly what I was seeing here. The animation is severely limited to mainly battles, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The station, which acts as your hub, has all the areas and tools you need. There’s a shop to upgrade weapons and armor, a lair to hire new mercenaries, a medic wing, and a pawn shop. But while the station has everything you’ll need, it’s frustratingly hard to purchase anything, at least in the first couple hours of the game.
See, the world of DSD:DE works off two forms of currency: credits, which you spend on supplies, mercs, and weapons, and then energy, which is basically your fuel that’s spent every time you move through the derelict ships. The problem is you will burn through your energy fast as you search out treasure, enemies, and mission items in these ships. Once it’s spent, you need to return to the station and use your credits to buy more energy. Oftentimes I couldn’t spend credits on items because I was burning it all on energy so I could travel and explore.
The curve gets better as you play—there are tutorials in the form of comic book panels—and you do learn how to balance your resources and spend your credits and energy wisely. I just wish I didn’t have to learn through being frustrated. And this isn’t just in how you spend credits and energy, but also missions. One mission tasked me with installing power generators in three places of a ship. They were marked on my map, but when I took my characters to the area, there was no follow-up option to install the generators. I couldn’t figure out how to even complete the mission! Games should be challenging, but not to this level of frustration.
While some elements can be a little hair-pulling, there are also a lot of fun and engaging moments in the game. The combat is a mixture of card battle and turn-based RPG. When you enter into the battle, your characters are animated, but only in the “waiting” period. Once you select your attack or buff, a comic book panel zooms in and gives you an action shot. When you win, you’re given a victory screen, earn experience and collect loot. If one of your mercenaries dies, and you’re able to get back to the station, you can revive them or hire a new merc. Options are not limited!
And speaking of options, the customization menu is just as expansive, giving you opportunities to equip weapons and armor, mods to upgrade them, and spend ability points to advance your character—can I say it again? Options are not limited!
Spending your energy, you move from block to block, and as you do you might stumble on a computer terminal, trader, or hostile alien; alternatively, you can use more energy to scan the surrounding areas to give you a greater idea of where you need to go, where the battle awaits, and where you may need to avoid depending on how your crew is holding up. There’s nothing terribly complicated about traveling the map, as the game depicts you as a target reticle moving between simple blocks.
As I mentioned, you’ll interact with different types of characters on these derelict ships. Some aliens you’ll meet and have to battle…while some androids and humans will offer side-missions, or you can choose to attack them. There is some level of choice in the dialogue options, and again these conversations play out in an engaging comic book format.
In addition to the campaign mode, there’s also an arena mode, which eliminates the story and travel and instead has you choose three crew members and enter into battles to test your strategic prowess. It does help to highlight one of the stronger aspects of the game—the combat.
Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition is a hard game to score. There are things about the game that makes me want to turn it off and leave it on my “shelf”, while at the same time, I can’t help but be engaged with the combat and the journey of going to each ship. If you’re looking for a game that’s unique and easy to start playing, I’m not sure I would recommend this game to you. However, if you’re someone looking to play something unique, enjoy card building games and RPGs, and are willing to “struggle” through some gameplay to find a rich experience, this is a game you may want to try out.
Review copy generously provided by Evolve PR.
The Bottom Line
Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition offers a fun experience...if you give it enough time and push through some frustrations.