Preview: Deep Sky Derelicts

Thanks to games like Spelunky (2008), The Binding of Isaac (2011), Rogue Legacy (2012) and FTL: Faster Than Light (2012), the video game industry has benefited from a revolution in the roguelike sub-genre of RPGs. Recently, a wave of hybridized tabletop-like games such as Hand of Fate (and its sequel, Hand of Fate 2), Hearthstone, Antihero, and Gwent, have been met with success in the digital space. Combining roguelikes with tabletop concepts, Snowhound Games has recently released Deep Sky Derelicts for Early Access purchase on Steam.

Maps are randomly generated. It took me about four trips around this map and back to base to recharge my energy (under “Legend”) before I could find the objective. Get used to this image, because it will be on the screen regularly.

I name my first team of mercenaries the Valkyries; I liked the idea of an all-girl team, and few people are more en vogue than Valkyrie(s).  Currently, the six possible character classes include leader, tracker, scrapper, medic, bruiser, and technician; I first rolled a leader, tracker, and scrapper. After passing through a menu that I barely heeded, I arbitrary selected my mission. My first fight took about ten to fifteen minutes to finish, which I found to be excessive. This, I learned, is because I had selected a level 3 mission for a level 1 team. I double back, but end up at the game over screen because I ran out of energy points which are also used to attack or power the team’s suits so that they my thrive in space.

Running out of energy was my fault. One can return to base to refill at any time. But not drawing good cards to fight simply sucks.

I restarted, this time rolling an all male team called the Bruhs, including a scrapper, medic, and technician. I actually read the prompts, some of them useful, many of them not, and proceeded to select an appropriate level 1 mission. Besides the battle screen, gamers will invest a significant amount of time looking at the PDA map, where players are represented by a flashing dot. I find a few energy cells here, a couple of equipment augmentations there. Then I fight, faring far better this time than I did with my last squad. I explore the entire area, and end up in a “boss” confrontation that I cannot win, because only the scrapper manages to draw cards that do damage. My technician and medic are all but useless.

The medic class is useless, not providing the kinds of buffs or heals that I would expect in an RPG/tactics game. Right now, the scrapper and technician strike me as out of place. Hopefully, in the finished version of the game, their roles will become more distinguished.

Lessons learned, I roll my Valkyries again, and this time, I utterly crush everything in my wake. With the leader’s Inspire ability, everyone on the team draws two extra cards, ensuring that I always have multiple lethal options to dispatch foes before they wear down my shields, for in this game, shields are reset in every fight and easily restored during battle while health is ultra expensive to replenish at base. I also luck into some powerful weapons that give me abilities that either hit multiple targets, or hits a single target with overwhelming damage force. Too bad that Deep Sky Derelicts is only three missions long so far; I was on a roll!

Best ability in the game.

No offense to fans of tabletop games—especially those in our tabletop department, Deep Sky Derelicts is not much to look at outside of the battle screen. Unlike most video games which feature animations, I would argue that the screenshots in this preview are accurate in demonstrating precisely what one will witness. Thus, Deep Sky Derelicts is very much reminiscent of a traditional board game. There is a static, one-screen “scene” for each of the following components: side quests, main quests, the shop, the medical bay, the shuttle hangar, and the map screen that represents exploration. Granted, the comic book-style framing of action sequences during battles is neat, but I would like to see more variety than what the Early Access game offers. Additionally, the music lacks distinction.

I love the artwork thus far, but I would like to see more of it. .

Overall, Deep Sky Derelicts plays like an extended demonstration, lasting just a few hours for the campaign. There is an arena mode for those who wish to experiment with the combat mechanics more. There, I rolled the Bruhs again and could not even get past the first encounter, suggesting to me that some class balancing is in order. I did experience a crash, and the prompt instructed me to send it to the developers, which I will indeed do. Therefore, of this writing, Deep Sky Derelicts is neither too sparse as some offerings I have encountered in Early Access, nor is it robust. I would recommend it for those who simply cannot get enough of tactics-style games, while urging others to click “follow” on its Steam page to keep abreast of its development.

The best classes in my opinion. (De)buffs and damage everywhere!

Preview code generously provided by 1c Publishing
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Maurice Pogue

Since picking up an NES controller in 1985 at the age of 2, Maurice and video games have been inseparable. While most children aspired to be lawyers, doctors, or engineers (at the behest of their parents), he aspired to write for publications such as EGM, PC Gamer, PC Accelerator, and Edge. After achieving ABD status in English at MSU, Maurice left academia and dedicated his writing to his lifelong passion. He is currently the Video Game Editor at Geeks Under Grace.

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