Deep Sky Derelicts Definitive Edition is a roguelike with turn-based tactical combat that utilizes cards. It has a very distinct comic book art style and a well-executed sci-fi theme that pervades the randomly generated derelicts your crack team of mercenaries will need to brave. Your objective is to gain galactical citizenship by scavenging your way through derelicts and finding information on the whereabouts of the fabled mothership. In addition, the definitive edition of Deep Sky Derelicts includes the two existing DLCs, New Prospects and Station Life.
When you first start Deep Sky Derelicts’s campaign, you’re tasked with creating a team of three mercenaries. There are several options as far as avatars and classes and a few options as to how their on-field suit will look, but there’s just enough variety to form the basis of attachment to these characters. Personality also plays a part in character creation and will offer various benefits and drawbacks. After creating my crew of Cyber Kittens, a team name that I randomly rolled and absolutely loved, I was introduced to the station that would serve as the base of operations during my derelict diving. There’s the Station Hall where you can report progress on your main mission; the Mercenary Hub where you can pick up and turn in freelance contracts as well as hire additional mercenaries; the research workshop where you can craft weapons and purchase upgrades that will last the duration of this playthrough and will make it easier to navigate derelicts; the pawn shop where you can top off your energy stores as well as buy and sell various items from your inventory; Deep Sky Medical where you can heal your mercenaries for exorbitant fees, add implants which will enhance their combat and exploration abilities, redistribute ability points, or even change their appearance.
Roguelikes are meant to be challenging and Deep Sky Derelicts offers challenge in spades. Derelicts are separated into nodes that you can explore and find treasure or, more often than not, combat, at the expense of energy. Energy can be replenished using items or, if you’re lucky, someone or something can restore it for you. You have the option to move in stealth mode, which lowers your visibility but costs more energy, rush mode which uses the least energy and also poses the most conspicuous method of movement, and normal mode which is somewhere in between the two. How you move is up to you, just keep an eye on your energy! There’s nothing worse than running out prematurely and having to hightail it back to the landing page empty-handed. The point of entering derelicts is to complete quests you’re commissioned with and also to discover sources of information pointing towards the end-all, be-all: the mothership. There’s risk versus reward in that leaving too early will ensure that your space coffers run empty fairly quickly, while overstaying your welcome can lead to expensive medical procedures–or worse.
When you encounter an enemy, you’re thrust into combat. The person or other being with the most initiative acts first and actions are defined by cards in your hand. It costs ten energy per turn in battle, so the longer combat lasts the worse off you’ll be. Cards run the gamut from simple attacks to supportive buffs to enemy crowd control. During your turn, you’re also able to flee, but this is ill advised as it can take any number of turns to make your retreat and, meanwhile, the enemy will be handing out punishment. There’s also the risk of meeting that enemy again later and with greater numbers. Most character classes and enemies have a shield that needs to be whittled down before you can actually damage their hit points, though there are some exceptions. My favourite class was the Inventor, which had no shield but was self sustainable through life steal.
Combat forces you to think critically about your next move. Will you boost and add cards to your current hand, using precious energy (which is powering your life support), to end the battle here and now even though the cards you’re dealt may not help at all? Will you pass this turn to unleash a powerful combo next turn or cobble together some support skills this turn? Different situations will merit different approaches. If your entire party falls in combat, you’re given the option to reload your last save, which is typically before the beginning of your current run and therefore before you made a series of poor strategic decisions. How well you do in combat also relies heavily on the RNG. At any moment, you could possibly end up with a handful of status effect cards that do nothing to help your present situation and then have to spend a bunch of energy and turns attempting to level the playing field. It quite literally comes down to the luck of the draw.
As you fight and survive, you’ll find new equipment and level up your characters. The number of stats and how they work in conjunction with equipment and therefore the cards your characters are able to use in combat is a little off-putting at first, particularly if you’re looking for a title you can just pick up and play. Equipment is split into core and extension mods and each class can carry up to four of the former. Mods are used to add additional effects to the skill cards your characters can draw and can only be set into corresponding slots in core equipment. Nodes that match have the same shape and notches and will become more easily recognized the more you play around with them. Character skills are tiered, requiring you to reach a specific level before being able to add points to the skill and skill points are gained by levelling up. Abilities are split into active and passive abilities. Passive abilities are a permanent buff or situational effect while active abilities add particular abilities to the character’s deck. If you’re getting too many of one type of card from an active ability, you can actually adjust the number of cards and ability adds to their deck, which I thought was a nice touch.
In addition to a hardcore mode, where the difficulty is raised and losing a character means losing them permanently, there’s also an Arena game mode. In the Arena, there’s no Station to which you can retreat when the going gets tough. Instead, it’s you against the droves of enemies within a giant derelict and you have to fight your way to the end. In this mode, enemies come in waves and, upon victory, you’re given quality loot. Are you mercenary enough to handle the challenge? I was certainly not.
Deep Sky Derelicts looks and sounds great. The 80s sci-fi theme is prevalent in the enemies, NPCs, and snazzy one-liners when striking an enemy. There’s a lot to like here, particularly if you’re a fan of the genre. Unfortunately, after I reloaded a failed run, Deep Sky Derelicts decided to throw the ultimate challenge at me: it stopped functioning entirely. Upon trying to exit the derelict I had just finished exploring, I was presented with a load screen that never quite loaded. Upon reaching out to the developer, I was told that a patch was in the works, but it left a bad taste in my mouth to have my progress come screeching to a halt for reasons beyond my control.
This score would be a solid seven, but until that bug is fixed, I can’t comfortably advise anyone to pick up Deep Sky Derelicts unless they’re willing to risk having to start over from square one at some point. Maybe I’ll revisit it one day, because the combat really is engaging and I love the universe SnowHound has created. For now, hold off for some quality of life improvements and maybe a sale.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Deep Sky Derelicts Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
Draw up a sci-fi comic book, add a dash of stat crunching and a healthy dose of challenge and you’ve got Deep Sky Derelicts.
- Strong adherence to its chosen theme.
- Tactical combat.
- Risk versus reward factor is well executed.
- Game-breaking bug(s) present.
- Managing energy can feel like a chore, even during short runs depending on your luck.
- RNG plays (arguably) too significant a roll in the hand you are dealt in combat.