A lot of people have compared Snowhound Games’ Deep Sky Derelicts to Darkest Dungeon. On one level, that’s a great comparison, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that DSD lacks its own unique quirkiness. This is our Deep Sky Derelicts review.
You have been tasked the “governor” of a lonely corner of space to find the Mothership, the ship that literally started it all out here. What remains of humanity out in space needs all of the technology that is rumored to remain aboard. But no one is exactly sure what it looks like or where it is or much of anything else. As a result, however, your team of three are going to have to hopscotch your way across the quadrant and investigate your way through a literal sea of broken down space vessels. Along the way, you, a literal outcast from society, will have a chance to earn citizenship.
This story is all told via cel-shaded images that are reminiscent of a comic book, complete with conversation bubbles and a sepia wash over the lot to give it an “old-timey feel”. It looks and feels like a hand-drawn game.
You start with a random collection of three cards that essentially makes up your team. You don’t really play as a single player but as part of a trio. Each class (Tracker, Bruiser, Technician, Medic, Leader and Scrapper) has its own set of strengths and weaknesses across several stats including Weaponry, Tech, Medical, Scavenging and Mental. Your best course of action is to try to provide your party with a diverse array of stats and classes.
Once you’ve assembled your group and heard the task at hand, you and your squad will be sent to a central hub with a bar where you can pick up side quests, a surgery, a salvage vendor (who also recharges spent energy) and your ship. You can also revisit the governor to let him in on what you’ve learned along your journey. The interface is simple and intuitive and all contained within your PDA. Inventory, quests, map and squad control are all there.
Once you’ve picked up a few quests, it’s off to space. You’ll land on pre-determined derelict ships to look for clues to the location of the Mothership. You have to be mindful, however, as you have a limited pool of Energy that is used for movement, scanning, and fighting. The management of Energy is what gives Deep Sky Derelicts its edge. Deciding how far you can go or how many enemies you can fight or even which abilities to use in those fights is a hair-raising prospect. Remember, the journey to the destination takes as much energy as the journey back to your ship.
When you fight enemies you encounter along the way in these randomly generated maps, you’ll use a card system. Each character has a custom deck of cards that shuffle and deal themselves out randomly each time a character has a turn in the fight. Some provide buffs / debuffs, others melee or ranged attacks and so forth. Deck building and prudent energy use will be key to every exploration.
At level four, you’ll choose a specialization and from then on, each level you achieve (out of 10) will see you unlock skills that augment the specialization and the character’s basic stats. However, occasionally a level will reward a new card for the deck. It’s always nice to have new choices in battle.
If I had a bone or two to pick with combat, it would be using abilities on enemies. The way the battlefield is displayed makes it very difficult to target a specific enemy or an ally with an ability, particularly in larger scale fights. In addition — at least for me — the complexity of both arranging the best party composition AND abilities AND combat roles make DSD a very difficult game for those not more versed in this particular genre.
Oh, and by the way: Death is permanent, though you can immediately create a new party.
I didn’t get very far — I’ll admit that this game isn’t my usual type. But what I did play and experience was fun, if frustrating at times. Regardless, it’s a beautiful game lovingly created by a dedicated team.