Deck-based dungeon-crawlers are pretty common-place these days, but there’s no doubting that they can be a little intimidating to really get into. Just the thought of having to modify decks and ensure that you’re equipped with the right cards to get out of any situation is enough to terrify newbies to the genre, and I’ll admit that I have also found myself completely flummoxed in my previous endeavours with deck-building titles in the past. They can take time and commitment and some players are scared off before they really get to experience how fun they can be.
Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition alleviates some of that intimidation by giving you a deck-building dungeon-crawler that’s accessible to get into whilst still offering enough depth for veterans of the genre to really customise their loadout. It’s just made its way to the Nintendo Switch too, bringing together the base game and all of its DLC into one neat package, so players will be able to venture on this entertaining card-based sci-fi escapade on the go or on the big screen.
The narrative of Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition is pretty straight-forward, with the player and their crew (who you can customise from the off) tasked with seeking out a mysterious and mythical alien ship in order to earn citizenship on a hospitable planet. You’ll do this by exploring the derelict remains of ships in space as you look to unravel clues, gather loot, and battle enemies to make your way to your goal.
Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition’s combat blends together traditional turn-based battling with the use of cards to perform actions, with each member of your party equipped with a deck of cards that each of their different abilities are assigned to. These abilities will feel familiar to anyone who has played a typical RPG before, with them allowing characters to perform the likes of attacks, special skills, de-buffs, or healing techniques, though the random nature in which you draw the cards during combat does mean that you’ve got to be flexible and adaptive in your approach. There will be times when you’ll be waiting eagerly for a specific card to be drawn to get you out of a sticky situation, but with no guarantee it’ll show up you’ve got to be ready to improvise; that being said, the decks are relatively small in size, so you shouldn’t be without your favoured abilities for too long…
It makes for pretty enjoyable battling experience and one where the random nature of your card draws adds a degree of unpredictability and tension to each encounter. Whilst your assigned party do have their own class-based specific strengths and weaknesses, there’s plenty of room for players to adapt them to their own playstyle and add their own small touches to their deck to give them a personal touch – the deck-building elements of the game offer enough depth for veterans of the genre to really sink their teeth into, but they’re also accessible enough for complete newcomers to feel comfortable from the get-go. It just all comes together nicely to make for an enjoyable combat system and it was easily my favourite aspect of the game.
All of your actions in-combat are assigned to your energy points, so you’ll have to make sure you’re well stocked in order to survive. In fact, pretty much everything you do in the game is controlled via these energy points, with every element of exploration tied to them. Fortunately, you start each mission with a decent supply and you can also re-supply them via the loot you collect when exploring and battling, though there’ll also be times when you’ll have to head back to your transport ship to recharge. What happens if you run out of energy? Well, you’ll quickly find your party weakened and your actions restricted, so it’s definitely something that you’ll need to keep on top of if you hope to survive.
Unfortunately, whilst the combat of Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition is a lot of fun, I couldn’t help but to feel a little underwhelmed by its exploration mechanics. Now there’s nothing wrong with them from a gameplay perspective and it’s simple enough to make your way through each derelict ship, but they just lacked any visual appeal and just grew a little repetitive to explore. Everything simply takes place on a bland looking grid-based map, and whilst character interactions, combat, and key events do take you to more interesting looking areas, everything in-between just felt so samey. It just took away from the personality of the experience, which is a shame because Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition is otherwise a very visually appealing game.
Progression through the main story will take some time, but there are also side quests to complete, additional modifications to unlock for your gear, and you’ll also level up your characters. It’s worth noting that there’s a permadeath mechanic in place too, so if your crew perish on your missions you’ll have to recruit new members – luckily, it’s easy enough to do so at the home hub between missions, so you won’t be left solo for too long. You might not want to grow too close to some of your team though, because there will be plenty of occasions where Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition will push your skills and casualties can be expected…
Performance-wise, I ran into no issues with Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition on the Nintendo Switch, with it running smoothly in both the handheld (my preferred method of play) and docked modes. When you’re in the midst of the action, it all looks really pretty too, with the comic-book style battle sequences and the impressive environments looking sharp throughout. Add to that a fitting music score that keeps up with both the action-focused and the more explorative moments of the game, and it’s easy to see that the presentation of Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition is impressive throughout.
Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition offers an accessible and enjoyable take on the deck-building dungeon-crawling genre, with the fun combat and slick presentation helping it stand out in the crowd. It’s just a shame that its explorative mechanics felt a little lacking, with the grid-based maps just feeling bland in design and growing repetitive to explore.
Still, the game is a good starting point for those new to the card-orientated combat mechanics of the game, whilst deck-building veterans will find plenty of depth too. It might have some imperfections, but Deep Sky Derelicts: Definitive Edition is certainly a solid release in the genre.
Developer: Snowhound Games
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC