The Planet is the Main Character (aka Why You Need to Play Deep Rock Galactic)

When I first started playing Deep Rock Galactic from Ghost Ship Games, I have to admit that the game confused the hell out of me. There's a quick tutorial that teaches you three key things: how to mine, how to shoot the alien bugs intent on tearing you limb-from-limb, and how to run for your life when you run out of the ammunition meant for shooting the alien bugs intent on tearing you limb-from-limb.

And after the tutorial is wrapped up? You're dumped into the industrial space station that serves as the hub for queuing up missions. That's it – no more hand-holding for you, pal. It's time to go mano a mano with the hostile flora and fauna that inhabit this planet, Hoxxes IV.

The industrial space station that serves as your hub is hi-tech but dingy… It kinda carries an “Alien” vibe.

That being said, there's a sort of wonder and awe that's intrinsically built into the world of Deep Rock Galactic. I frequently find myself left with my thoughts in a mission loading screen, as I watch the dwarven drop pod that is soon to deposit me beneath the planet's crust zip through the cold, uncaring vacuum of space.

Knowing that I could switch on co-op mode and drop into a mission with up to three other players never truly made me feel any safer. Don't get me wrong, I always feel a sense of camaraderie with my fellow dwarves, and I rest easier knowing that they'll revive me if I make a costly misstep. But we're still all venturing into the great unknown, relentlessly carving out paths towards the dangers that lie in wait closer to Hoxxes' core.

There are four “classes” of dwarves in Deep Rock Galactic. A full co-op lobby can play like a well-oiled machine.

The game really shines when you play it alone, though. When you're dropping in solo, you get a little robot buddy, Bosco, to make up for your lack of companions. But the atmosphere is still far more isolating when you know there are no other real players that you can count on. Certainly, the dangers of Deep Rock Galactic are magnified when you drop into a mission by yourself – but the true nature of the game surfaces during these missions as well.

Glyphid Swarmers are ankle-biting nasties found deep in Hoxxes… but this many of them can do a real number on you if you aren't careful!

Left with only the sounds of the local wildlife and a pickaxe breaking apart shiny minerals, a solo player has no choice but to take in just how damn beautiful the planet of Hoxxes IV really is. I don't play missions across the game's different biomes just for the region-specific resources. I play them because each and every one of them is a unique visual feast.

While the actual twists and turns of the game's missions are randomly generated, the assets inherent to each region are unique. They build a strangely wonderful atmosphere, laying the groundwork for a distinct identity that you'll never be able to find in another game. When it comes down to it, Hoxxes IV isn't just the setting of the game, it's a character in and of itself. It is a living, breathing organism, and getting the chance to explore every part of it is a real treat.

Let’s delve into some of the best locations Hoxxes has to offer together, miner. We’ll explore just what it is that makes them so special!

A Dreadnought egg signals that you're gonna need a bigger Drop Pod in one of the underground forests of Deep Rock Galactic.

The "Crystalline Caverns" are a gem-lover's dream, filled with sparkling green and blue hues that are sure to catch your eye. The "Fungus Bogs" are stinky, slimy, and sure to gross you out with their puke-green haze. The floor is sticky, the bugs shoot bile, and you’ll have a nasty experience stepping foot down there. "Hollow Bough" is a place where even the plants are out to get you, featuring killer vines that see you as nothing more than a pint-sized pincushion. The "Salt Pits" and "Sandblasted Corridors" might appeal to you if you like the beach—well, as long as you’re ok with the beach featuring land sharks and absolutely no water. And the "Azure Weald" just might be the place for you if you fancy yourself a fantasy lover. It features mystical, faerie-like creatures who shimmer and dart around the caverns. Don’t let your guard down, though, because the planet certainly doesn’t stop trying to kill you here, either.

And Hoxxes IV only gets more dangerous from there! The most beautiful locales the game has to offer are also the deadliest (because of course they are). The "Glacial Strata" is a realm of ice… clear ice, black ice, and blizzards as far as the eye can see. You're quite literally liable to be frozen solid when plumbing these depths. At the other extreme, there's the toasty “Magma Core,” which sees you navigating lava plumes and burning-hot terrain while still dealing with the many nasties that would love nothing more than to make a meal of a dwarf. Finally, there's the “Radioactive Exclusion Zone,” filled with spore-like dust in the air and beautiful green crystals that emit lethal levels of radiation. Even the bugs here carry an aura of sickness; every step around an enemy is crucial here.

Both the alien eggs and the stalagmites in the Radioactive Exclusion Zone pulse with dangerous life.

All of these parts make up the whole of Hoxxes. As I got used to it, I found the planet itself to be strangely charming. Sure, each and every room has the potential for danger - but you learn what those potential dangers might be and the patterns of these environments. Hoxxes IV is, quite simply, an amalgamation of pure imagination. It's all the bombastic set pieces that you think sound rad packaged up in one.

I love exploring these places, seeing unique locations and events, and encountering rare enemies that want nothing more than to poke me full of holes and slurp up my innards! The world of Deep Rock Galactic feels epic in scale, brimming with life, which is something you can't always say about a randomly-generated, sandbox-y game.

If I can't sell you on the experience based on the environment and “feeling” that Deep Rock has to offer you, don't let that stop you from giving the game a go. The developers over at Ghost Ship Games are doing awesome things with the game even now! Deep Rock Galactic just turned 4 years old, but the first ever "seasonal" update only launched in November of 2021.

That update brought loads of content to the game, and you don't have to pay a dime for any of it. There's a new weapon for each character - introducing homing missiles, plasma rifles, a “smart gun,” and a corrosive sludge slinger into the game. There's a whole new faction of enemies, robotic drones, with new randomly generated events and a new mission type that lets you square off against them. And there's a bitchin' cosmetic battle pass that you can complete just for playing the game like you'd usually do.

The developers have just started teasing some sneak peeks at what season 2 will bring. They're working on some really awesome (and really wacky) stuff, like a wallhack gun and a microwave radiation gauntlet—three words I can guarantee you didn't think you were going to see put together today!If anything I've just said sounds interesting to you, I once more implore you to give the game a try. You can really feel how passionate the devs are about this game. It has heart, and we as gamers need to reward people that set out to make unique experiences within this medium.

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