Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition developed by Snowhound Games and published by 1C Entertainment is a unique experience well worth your time.
There’s little story to speak of. You are a mercenary for hire, contracted by the Sub-Governor to find the Mothership, previously thought to be mere fable. Your reward would be tickets to live life on a mirror planet, safe from the violence inherit in your current world. You’re not the only mercenary looking for the Mothership, so you must act fast, visiting multiple derelicts in search of any data you can find on the Mothership’s location. Each derelict will be full of foes, lunatics, deranged robots, and other scavengers – each standing in your way of collecting the data.
Deep Sky Derelicts offers both a lengthy campaign mode as well as an arena mode. Upon starting the campaign you will be asked to name your group of mercenaries. Unfortunately you must choose one of the pre-selected names, but there is a good amount to choose from.
Afterwards you will choose your three starting characters. There are multiple specialties, names, classes, and bonuses to choose from. Don’t worry too much about your choices here – while important, there is an option to respec your characters or hire new mercenaries and the plethora of loot you’ll find throughout the game can quickly make up for any traits a specific character may be lacking.
Your roster can include: Bruisers, front line melee fighters; Trackers, combat specialists with precision strike abilities; Inventors, individuals who can combine supportive medical abilities with strong prowess in melee combat but unfortunately lack the ability to carry a shield; Miners, a heavy duty ranged specialist that lacks in defensive measures but can overwhelm enemies; Scrappers, those who have a knack for finding resources and creating new items but are able to hold their own in a fight; Leaders, able to boost the crew’s performance and demoralize enemies; Medics, who can keep the crew going with stimulants; and Technicians, experts in electronics, able to boost shields but unfortunately not very skilled in combat.
After choosing your crew of three you can then pick their names, pictures, the color of their armor, and – most importantly – their base attributes. Some attributes include Skittish, Aggressive, Charismatic, Crafty, Neutroitc – all of which come with their own unique boosts to various skills.
Once your crew is ready, you will be introduced to The Lair – a high tech space station which houses the Sub-Governor and various other important hubs.
In The Lair you will find the Pawn Shop, which allows you to offload junk and various items you’ve found throughout the derelicts as well as refill your energy and purchase supplies; Station Hall, where the Sub-Governor resides; Deep Sky Medical, where you can revive downed crew members, heal injured soldiers, respec your character or change their appearance, and install various implants to improve your abilities; The Research Workshop, where you can upgrade your energy, scanner, inventory capacity, and craft various weapons, tools, shields, and cores; and The Lair hub/bar, where you can view side quests and accept new quests or turn in completed quests.
Once you’ve become accustomed to The Lair and the various items the station offers, it is time to hop in your ship and head out to the Derelicts. Few are open at first, but many more will appear as you progress, each with markers telling you the appropriate level your crew must be before attempting to clear the Derelict.
The Derelicts themselves are procedurally generated, although they do maintain common goals and side quests. Placement of characters, the data, enemies, traps, and various items of interest will be different for every player.
Once inside a Derelict, only a small portion of the area will appear on your PDA map. To find the data and the rest of the Derelict you must slowly move, each step unveiling more of the map. You have various abilities at your disposal to unlock larger portions of the map at once, but you will still spend a considerable amount of time scouring the area for NPCs, the data, and various other points of interest.
Some areas can be searched for items, while others house enemies. You may encounter NPCs offering various quests or leaders with their own camps. How you handle the various quests and the other camps you encounter are up to you – you can do good and help, you can do bad and get the NPCs hurt or killed, you can trade with other camps, or you can decide to take down the camp and steal their supplies. There are no moral repercussions for your choices, so feel free to act how you see fit – but sometimes you may feel bad if you take the selfish route.
At its core, Deep Sky Derelicts is a turn based strategy game based around the use of cards. If this intimidates you, don’t let it. You rarely focus on the cards themselves; rather you focus on your character’s various weapons, tools, and shields, as well as the various cores which add distinguishing attributes to each category. The cards come along with the weapons and cores. So while yes, it is good to pay attention to what the cards say – you can also make do with just equipping your character with the best equipment available.
During combat each character draws a starting hand of three cards. This is done automatically and normally is a good balance of offense and defense. You can choose whether each character plays a card or if they pass. Passing normally grants you the use of two cards in the next round. The initiative of all characters involved in the fight determines the round order, although some cards allow you to stun or temporarily disable certain attacks to grant you an advantage.
Damage taken during a fight is permanent, although your shields regenerate after each fight. Of course, there are cards available which can heal your health and shields in the midst of battle. Characters who fall in battle remain unusable until you head back to The Lair and revive them or hire a new mercenary to take their place. Any health not healed during a fight must be healed at the medical bay. Reviving, hiring, or healing all cost money and early on, it is a rather large amount. Late game, it is negligible as by then you will have accumulated quite a bit of wealth if you explore all Derelicts 100% and sell off unused items.
Every movement, choice, attack, and action uses energy of which you have a finite amount. There are items you can purchase to refill on the fly, or you can always make a run for your ship and head back to The Lair to recharge at the pawn shop. Just be sure not to get stranded in an area far from your ship with no source of energy.
Thankfully, you can upgrade your energy to twice the starting amount which helps – but you will still find yourself needing to pay close attention to your energy level at all times and where the nearest exit is. At first, this is a bit daunting, but you quickly grow accustomed to it.
There are ways to minimize the amount of energy you use while traversing the Derelict, but of course – there is a drawback. Normal movement may cost, say, 10 energy. You can rush through the Derelict and use only 5 energy per move, but this leaves you vulnerable for an ambush. Conversely, you can sneak through an area avoiding traps but expend 20 energy per move doing so. There is a time and place for all modes of movement and the use of the various items you find throughout the Derelicts is a must for surviving the various traps and room conditions you’ll encounter.
Radiation, sand storms, booby traps, and laser filled rooms are just some of the various dangers you’ll encounter in later Derelicts aside from the enemies. Normal use of hazard suits is recommended. You’ll learn to identify each area based on the signs on the map and prepare accordingly, as long as you use your energy to light up areas of the map rather than blindly launching into the next open space.
You do not have to explore each area 100%, although if you’re anything like me you’re a completionist and anything less would not be possible. All you must do is find the data, normally hidden in an NPC filled room, although sometimes hidden behind a boss fight or behind a random task, and then report back to the Sub-Governor. Then you simply move on to the next Derelict.
Deep Sky Derelicts is incredibly addicting and wildly entertaining. I found myself playing in short bursts whenever possible and pushing myself to clear all Derelicts to 100% long after I had found the data in each. Combat is fast, fluid, and satisfying and not once did the use of cards frustrate me or cause confusion. Do yourself a favor and pick up this gem of a game immediately and enjoy the twenty or so hours of playtime the main campaign provides.
Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Linux, and Mac OSX. Thank you to Snowhound Games/1C Entertainment for providing Fan Fest News with a review code.
Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. When he’s not writing about video games on FanFest.com you can find him on Broadway World or in Graffiti Magazine. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can visit his website at facebook.com/richardallenwrites