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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.