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Deep Sky Derelict: Definitive Edition Review

Jordan over at SwitchWatchTV got his hands on Deep Sky Derelict and put together a lovely review. As always with the SwitchWatchTV guys, you can check out their video below, or you can scroll down to read their reviews here on SwitchWatch.co.uk. Without further ado, let’s get into the review for Deep Sky Derelict!

What’s up, guys? Jordan here today with my review of Deep Sky Derelict: Definitive Edition. I’m going to tell you why fans of Darkest Dungeon and Slay the Spire are definitely going to want to keep an eye on this one.

I’m not gonna lie. This is not a game I would normally review. But the stars somehow aligned, and it ended up in my lap, voluntarily of course. Why would I not normally review this game? Well, because as some of you guys know, I am highly allergic to card games. Yes, they make me come out in a rash of irrational disapproval. Don’t worry, though. It’s not contagious. But anyways, tangents and made up medical conditions aside, I am actually quite glad I did end up with this one. Yes, I am very surprised.

STORY

The story of Deep Sky Derelict is slightly unceremonious. You start the game. Generate three random but editable crew, and off you pops. You’re in the game and been told to find an almost mythical mothership out in space among the vast array of derelict space craft that litter the galaxy. If you do so, you will be granted citizenship to a world, something which you and your team lack. From here, you travel to various wrecks in search for clues as to the Mothership’s location.

The story is minimal and almost cold. I was a bit taken aback at first, but a cold, heartless nature is a theme throughout the game and it seemed to fit perfectly. The little moments found in each of the derelicts, conversations with weird broken robots, convicts, or treasure hunters was enough to keep me happy.

GAMEPLAY

Deep Sky Derelict is a very old-school type of game. It’s a dungeon crawler to put it basically, but the old-schoolness runs deeper than that. While it does have visuals, as you can see, the way they have gone about it almost reminded me of those old text adventure type of games like Zork. You move your squad of three around the dungeons in a very impersonal way.

It’s all done from a monochrome, sterile map screen as you move them on the grid. Each grid signifies a room of sorts. Yes, you can actually look at each room and the brilliant environmental artwork they may hold, but you do feel very distant from the exploration side of the game. No matter how many hours I went through the game, I never could stop being bemused that you need to press start to access the menu in order to move your team every time.

It gives a great feeling of trepidation as you can only see what you’ve already explored. You can send out a radar signal to reveal a bit more in front of you, and this is very useful for finding where monsters may lie, or which direction as some juicy loot or quest marker. But it does use up energy, and energy is a major resource of this game.

When you begin the game, you only have 1000 units of energy. Each step you take in the wrecks will use up some of it. The amount used can vary depending on the environment and if you’re walking normally, stealthily (to avoid encounters) or rushing through.

Not only that though, but battle actions take up some of it, too. What I’m trying to say is, you only have a bit, and it tends to run out pretty quickly if you’re not careful. If you start running low, you need to head back to the transport ship and your home base to pay up and replenish it. I never did find out what happens when you run out mid-level since I’m far too cautious for that, but it’s probably not something that’s desirable.

As mentioned in a terrible attempt at comedy from myself, Deep Sky Derelict has cards within it’s battle system. I don’t know how or why card draws became so popular within the indie RPG scene, but I can’t say that I’m thankful.

Anyways…

Each of your characters, depending on which class they are will have some cards already at their disposal, attacking and supporting. When you level up and head on down the skill tree, you can also add more. Most of the cards, however, will come from the equipment you have and the mods placed upon them.

The battles are turn-based. Each of your fighters gets 3 or 4 cards drawn per their turn, and they have to choose one which suits the situation best. This of course means you can’t always do you favorite attack, nor do a specific thing you may really need to do (like heal). There’s a lot of RNG and deck-building needed. There are a dizzying amount of cards and attacks, all doing all sorts of stuff, with numbers, percentage, clauses, and effects. It’s a lot of numbers pulled out of a lot of arses. But somehow, it works. It just works. It’s fun, it’s tactical, and occasionally frustrating and eternally bewildering. I can’t say I approve, but I concede. It comes together and works.

If that’s not flummoxing enough, then perhaps turn your attention to the equipment and inventory menu which is just a kaleidoscope of nonsense. You have slots for weapons as well as tools, each of which has slots for a couple of mods. Finding which one should go in which place and if that one is better than this one, and you’ll start coming out in a cold sweat. It’s just crazy.

Because not everything can fit together and so, to give the developers credit, they really did try something interesting to combat which tools and mods can combine by using different color codings and hilariously minute-shape variations of the slots. But it’s still an absolute nightmare. Thankfully you can press a button to do a quick view of which mods are only compatible with the tool or weapon you’re on, but in all honesty, this should have been the default way of showing.

And again the equipment, it’s a vomit fountain of numbers, and trying to compare which mods are slightly better than others is a chore. I mean, do I really want 6% extra damage, or do I want the 4% extra damage with a 12% stun thing. I really don’t know. But sadly, it is quite important to keep your crew on top of things. Getting new equipment and better cards, leveling up, and applying mods. It’s the key to getting by in this game.

I wouldn’t say it’s a tough game. I mean, it has it’s moments. But it’s more of a slow game than a tough game. Very meandering, making each step count and making sure all your equipment is up to scratch. I found it hard at first, but once I adjusted my play style to appreciate the slow nature, I found it much easier in the long run.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but in actuality, Deep Sky Derelict comes together very nicely indeed. What the game set out to do was achieved excellently. You do very much feel like an explorer, a scavenger in the cold, dangerous depths of space. The exploration is incredibly tense. It’s engaging despite being done from a menu basically. The combat, despite being at the will of the gods and having the occasionally unnecessarily exhaustive card description, the gameplay comes together well and is engaging and visually very pleasing. It’s a good game. If you’re into games such as Darkest Dungeon and Slay the Spire, this will be to your tastes, I’m sure.

VISUALS & PERFORMANCE

Now the visuals for me, are what really charmed me. The style is of 80s comic books, pretty much. And it works very well indeed. The color palette is low-ish, but the designs and the lines are bold. There’s some great sci-fi stuff in here. A bit of Star Wars and a bit of Aliens. The artist who worked on this did a fantastic job. Yes, many of the room designs are repeated, but considering there are probably thousands of rooms in the game, I was actually surprised at just how many different ones there were here. I love the presentation too. The attacks are in comic book panel style with all the awesome over the top poses and minimal animation.

See Also
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In terms of performance, obviously a game like this runs well on the Switch, but interestingly, after delving into the options menu, I noticed that you can choose between 30 and 60 frames per second, with 30 being the default on. I tried both and I literally could not tell the difference. But it’s an option for those who are more sensitive than myself.

AUDIO

The audio is top-notch. I really enjoyed the soundtrack for this one. It’s a low-fi synth wave job, and it’s very prominent in the mix. It’s really powerful and adds so much atmosphere to the game. The composer of this one has done a fantastic job in helping the presentation feel really good. It’s moody, chilled, and tense. The soundtrack for this one just about has it all.

VALUE

The publisher 1C Entertainment are asking for £22.49 and 24.99 in Euros and US dollars. That’s on the premium end for indie games, but not unheard of for a game of this type. Yes, it seems the publisher has done the research, and you’ll find games of similar ilk, like Slay the Spire and Darkest Dungeon around this price or even higher.

While I personally can’t compare this title to those, it does strike me as a little bit ambitious. Yes, this is a game that can be played many times with different class builds, but I think after the 20 hours or so campaign, you will probably have had your fill of what Deep Sky Derelict has to offer. One nice thing, I suppose, is that this is the Definitive Edition. All the DLC and quality of life updates the PC version received are all present here. But still, I would have liked to have seen this a couple of pounds cheaper. $20 would have been a sweet price for this.

As of the time of this review, I don’t believe a physical release of this one has been announced. But to be honest, this seems like it could get one in the future. It seems like the type of game Super Rare Games would add to their catalogue.


Okay guys, if you’re into this game, also perhaps check out Luke’s review of Alder’s Blood which has a similar kind of vibe, and perhaps check out our old review of SteamWorld Quest which also has a similar type of gameplay. And of course, my weekly physicals releases video. Every Monday, be there to get all the latest news on all the latest Switch games. Take Care!

  • Story - 7/10
    7/10
  • Gameplay - 7/10
    7/10
  • Audio - 7/10
    7/10
  • Visuals & Performance - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value - 7/10
    7/10

Summary

Overall, Deep Sky Derelict: Definitive Edition is a game that took me by surprise. I was expecting to have to review a total slog of a game in a genre that I don’t particularly enjoy. But I came out pleasantly surprised and did enjoy playing it despite the often bewildering amount of numbers and ill-thought out equipment system. Perhaps it is the presentation I enjoy even more than the gameplay. The comic book art style mixed with the low-fi synth wave soundtrack made for a very compelling experience. The exploration is minimally presented but it has a surprisingly profound affect on the vibe you get from the game. There’s depth here, no matter how much I tried to fight it. If you’re looking for a slow paced dungeon crawler then this may be a good one. It was never brilliant for me, just pretty good, better than expected. The price could have been a smidge lower though.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • Good story
  • Great visuals
  • Top-notch audio

Cons

  • Confusing gameplay at times
  • High price
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