I started playing Deep Rock Galactic just this last February, and I was immediately hooked. The addictive gameplay loop, the chunky weapons, the hordes of enemies, and the obvious adoration the developers at Ghost Ship Games have for 80s action and horror movies, makes for one of the best co-op horde shooters out there. And with the release of Season 1: Rival Incursions, Deep Rock’s biggest update yet, we’ve gotten a huge amount of new content: new weapons, a new mission type, new random events, new enemies, and even a completely free battle pass.
Let’s talk about those new weapons first, because they’re my favorite part of the update. There’s four of them, one new primary for each class: the Hurricane Guided Rocket System for the Gunner, the DRAK-25 Plasma Carbine for the Scout, the LOK-1 Smart Rifle for the Engineer, and the Corrosive Sludge Pump for the Driller. From a presentation and feedback perspective, these weapons are amazing. The Driller’s Corrosive Sludge Pump, a weapon that was immediately given the nickname “poop gun”, has become a huge hit with the community, with its ability to cover swaths of terrain in slowing, damaging sludge, and even has its own unique death animations where enemies dissolve into a pool of goo — it’s *awesome*. Manually guiding the gunner’s Hurricane’s missiles almost feels like flying a remote control plane strapped with a bomb, and the super slick lock-on UI for the engineer’s LOK-1 allows you to see the path of travel for each bullet — all the weapons just feel right. Even the scout’s DRAK-25, which on the surface is just another plasma rifle amongst a sea of plasma rifles, feels punchy and impactful thanks to an almost comically high rate of fire and great sound effects that make it seem like it might fly out of your hands if you don’t keep a tight enough grip on it. In general, balance with the new weapons is still a bit iffy, with some weapon mods not interacting correctly and some overclocks needing buffs, but I trust these are things that can be adjusted with regular updates and hotfixes.
Next is the new mission type, which this whole update is based around. Deep Rock Galactic has some new competition on Hoxxes IV: the mysterious Rival Company and their army of robots, and it’s your job to get their grubby little hands off of all your hard-earned minerals. Industrial Sabotage has you going after a Data Rack full of information the Rival Company has gathered in the caves, but it’s no simple task. The Data Vault which houses the Data Rack is protected by a shield, powered by two Power Stations which you must deactivate by calling in Hack-C (a new addition to the DRG line-up of charming robotic companies).
Once you’ve done that, you must face the Caretaker, a massive three-phase boss fight. It’s a lengthy mission type, taking me and a friend around 40-50 minutes to beat on average, and we had an absolute blast. It fits somewhere between a regular mission and the lengthier deep dives, and this is supported by the mission’s scarcity and difficulty: you will only ever see one Industrial Sabotage on the mission screen at one time, it isn’t included in assignments, and it’s much harder than a usual mission. I’m glad they made this decision: Industrial Sabotage works best as a mission you do once in a while to test your skill, not to mention the rarity means every time you beat a Caretaker feels important.
Industrial Sabotage also serves as an introduction to the new robotic enemies, which include Sniper Turrets, Repulsor Turrets which emits walls of energy to push you back, Patrol Bots, and Shredders, which are basically flying robo-piranhas. These are beefy enemies that can take serious punishment, but they’ll die immediately if set on fire, a neat addition that adds a new layer of strategy to fighting them, although they can feel *too* beefy sometimes.
The Rival Corporation is also the cause of two new random encounters which you can face throughout any mission type: Prospector Drones and Prospector Drone Data Deposits. Prospector Drones are like flying Huuli Hoarders, and will flee and call for reinforcements once attacked. Prospectors can’t permanently flee like Hoarders, and once killed will reward you with minerals and a Data Cell, while Prospector Drone Data Deposits function almost identically to the Power Station hacking section of the Industrial Sabotage mission: call in and defend the hacking drone. Completing this also rewards a Data Cell, which leads into the last big addition of Season 1: the Performance Pass.
The Performance Pass is Deep Rock Galactic’s take on a battle pass: it’s 100 levels full of cosmetics, currency, and minerals. You can level up the pass from simply completing matches and challenges, or collecting the previously mentioned Data Cells. In addition, the first 10 data cells you collect this season will reward you with Scrips, a new currency which is used in the Cosmetic Tree: basically a skill tree except it’s full of more cosmetics, paintjobs, and even a new Framework collection. All of this can be accessed from a new terminal in front of the Drop Pod which can’t be missed.
A couple tips to make your use of the Performance Pass smoother: those Scrips you get as a reward from Data Cells need to be manually claimed, and the yellow dots between the cosmetics in the Cosmetic Tree aren’t just there to look pretty, those are nodes which must have Scrip spent on them in order to progress farther in the tree. Other than that, the Performance Pass has been implemented very smoothly and gives players new objectives to work towards, all for free. The best part? Once this season ends, any cosmetics you didn’t unlock will just be put in the random Cargo Crates and Lost Packs. I would have preferred the Master Chief Collection/Halo Infinite approach of just having the pass never expire, but this is still a great option to prevent any FOMO in the player base.
So, final verdict? Season 1: Rival Incursions is a huge success in my book. The weapons are fun and satisfying, Industrial Sabotage is great when you and friends really want to challenge yourselves without having to dedicate to a Deep Dive, and the performance pass adds a much needed sense of progression to the game that the Weekly Core Hunt and Priority Assignment just didn’t provide. Not to mention the laundry list of quality of life improvements they’ve made, like increasing the number of loadouts for each dwarf from three up to five and general UI improvements across the board. If Rival Incursions is indicative of what future Seasons and updates may bring to Deep Rock Galactic, then I’m very excited. Even more recently, they’ve announced that this hit space shooter will be landing on PlayStation 4 and 5 in 2022, which means Deep Rock Galactic is here to stay, and that’s something I can get behind.