Deep Sky Derelicts Early Access Preview

As long as it builds on its current foundation, Deep Sky Derelicts has all the chances to become a corner of space worth coming back to later on.

By Woozie, Posted 18 Jan 2018

Deep Sky Derelicts’ comic book-inspired aesthetic infuses weight and grit in the interiors the player must explore.  During the first few incursions, the derelicts are dangerous places where robots, pirates and space worms are all eager to stop you in your tracks. You take a team of three people through ramshackle hallways, looking for information, in hopes of getting that new life the sub-governor promised in exchange. While referring to the game as “Darkest Dungeon in space” wouldn’t be entirely wrong, Deep Sky Derelicts does enough to set itself on its own path.

Deep Sky Derelicts, Early Access, Preview, Screenshot, PC

A good amount of time will be spent looking at Deep Sky Derelicts’ square-based map, contained in the PDA that also serves as inventory screen and character sheet. It’s how one goes about navigating through derelicts. Outside of combat, there’s a certain degree of path planning required. Your party depends on Energy to survive inside derelicts.  Moving, scanning and friendly turns spent in combat all drain energy. The reason why planning is necessary is because you not only need to get in and do what you’re supposed to do, but also get back to the entry point. It’s, thus, safe to assume that a couple of visits to each derelict are required before completing your mission.

Reaching zero energy means instant, unceremonious death. There are no recaps of any sort, just a game over screen after which the save is deleted, prompting you to start over again. It’s easy to see how proper energy management is absolutely necessary for survival. Enemies can also pursue the party across the derelict, so picking the time to retreat can mean the difference between getting out or losing your squad. Anything found in a level can be transmuted into energy, if a last-ditch effort is required to reach the entrance; however, doing so will come at the cost of not selling the item for credits. It’s only ever worth doing so in desperate situations and, after a bit of fiddling with the first playthrough, it becomes clear that it’s mostly overextending that will result in death. Right now, Deep Sky Derelicts’ difficulty only punishes big mistakes. At first, things seemed ruthless (especially if you’re not inspired enough to read the small text detailing the derelicts’ levels), but it wasn’t long until I breezed through battles. This is one area that requires revision as, right now, the difficulty curve falls flat a little too soon and, with it, so does the threat the derelicts want to represent.

Deep Sky Derelicts, Early Access, Preview, Screenshot, PC

The hub station allows for refilling energy and healing or reviving members of your party, provided at least one of them managed to get back. It’s also where items can be sold or bought, side quests can be taken up and, where the sub-governor awaits reports on the team’s progress. It’s not a particularly memorable place, but then again, you are, essentially, controlling a squad of mercenaries that only care for the status promised to them upon mission completion. On top of that, the turn-based combat is the star of Deep Sky Derelicts. The six classes come with their own specializations, being more proficient in using certain cards, determined by their main stat. Technicians are best at manipulating shields, while only Medics can have a guaranteed Energize, allowing a teammate to play two cards during their turn. Each class also has restrictions to what type of equipment it can use. Keeping in mind how every gun tool and shield core comes with a number of cards, this, alongside trying different class combinations could provide a lot of replayability potential further down the line. A weapon with slightly better stats isn’t necessarily an obvious choice, as it may not have the exact cards you’re looking for (or enough of them). Equipment can also hold up to two mods which can further better stats and add extra cards to the card pool.

Deep Sky Derelicts shakes combat up with the inclusion of ability cards. Instead of having a set number of abilities always ready, cards come into hand as if they’re pulled from an actual deck, adding an element of unpredictability and a requirement of adapting to the combat situation. Certain mods can increase the likelihood of certain types of cards “recycling” into your hand. Their do various things, from single target to area damage, shield recharges and various buffs/debuffs. Damage resistance can be lowered, confusion can be sown, resulting in a loss of control over the character, shields can be temporarily boosted; there are a good number of tricks up the character’s sleeves. There were moments when I ran into the exact cards that I needed, getting two stuns in a row and high damage cards for my designated DPS, as well as moments when I had to use the Boost ability, spending 10 Energy for the chance to draw something appropriate for that situation. There’s depth to be found in the combat, but adding further layers to it is something worth looking into. Damage over time effects make only a shy appearance and there is space to experiment with interactions between enemy types and certain abilities, as well as increasing the danger they pose.

Deep Sky Derelicts, Early Access, Preview, PC, Screenshot

As enemies are vanquished, characters gain ability points to put into a skill tree with two paths. The available choices are mostly passive increases to certain stats, or things like better chances to acquire more loot/get cheaper prices with merchants, but can also add cards to a character’s card pool. Characters do not heal upon leveling up, which does add some tension. There aren’t a lot of enemy types, at the moment, which does lead to combat getting rather samey quite fast. While justified by the world you’re going through (you are exploring derelicts, after all), the rooms in which combat takes place don’t stand out due to the color palette used. There’s nothing to take in, but neither are they oppressive, failing to prompt a desire to escape. Attack animations are rendered via comic book panels, which are, ultimately, an interesting take on things that fits with the game’s visual identity. Fight an enemy a couple of times and you’ll know what to expect in terms of damage or status effects. They’re more static and less kinetic than their Darkest Dungeon counterparts, though, which did end up eventually prompting the use of the skip button. The inclusion of the PDA makes sense, but looking at the map, as the party’s symbol move across squares, became tedious by the time I was reaching the end of my first playthrough, the design being a little too utilitarian.

Deep Sky Derelicts also has a couple of UI quirks. While things like character order and health are clearly displayed, clicking on enemy cards yields little info and lacks anything regarding the lore behind the foes you’re going up against. Targeting by clicking directly on the model, can sometimes be tricky due to the way they’re lined up on screen. This happens especially when four enemies are present or when dealing with the Cobra enemy type. The character cards at the bottom can be used for targeting, which is a solution, but clicking directly on the character feels like the more natural choice. When facing larger enemies some UI elements can end up not fitting on the screen. As for performance, aside from two crashes and slight stutters before each combat encounter, the game ran smoothly.

Deep Sky Derelicts, Early Access, Preview, Screenshot, PC

The current version of Deep Sky Derelicts provides just a taste of what it plans to offer and it does look promising. Indeed, most of the complaints would regard there not being enough content, which isn’t unusual with Early Access titles. While it could undoubtedly benefit from some extra layers, the combat does have the potential to fuel the repeated push for that one extra scan. There’s a decent amount of choice and decisions to be made while gearing characters, but the four derelicts available won’t provide a ton of replayability at the moment. As long as what’s on offer gets expanded upon, and there is a roadmap detailing the studio’s intentions, Deep Sky Derelicts has all the chances to be a corner of space worth coming back to later on.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): 1C Company
Developer(s): Snowhound Games
Genres: Strategy, RPG
Themes: Sci-fi, Indie
Release Date: 2017-11-15

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