Space promises exploration of the unknown.
Yet, in Deep Sky Derelicts, we’re not breaching uncharted territory – we’re searching the stars for relics of the past. Our trio’s mission is to find the mythical “Mothership” among a sea of abandoned vessels. If they succeed, they’ll be granted citizenship, and all of the security that comes with it.
Plot takes a backseat to the joy of discovery. After fine-tuning a team of three, you’re given your goal, and thrust right to work! You’ll fund your search efforts by exploring derelict ships to complete contracts, which presents the meat of the experience. This all starts at the hangar. Here, you’ll accept missions, visit the shop, and heal (or beef) up. If you’ve lost anyone in combat, randomly-generated mercenaries are available for hire. Once you’re set, select the ship to fly to a derelict.
Each vessel’s map consists of squares which you’ll navigate through the PDA (+). Although moving through the menu feels disjointed, it’s easy to get into the flow of exploration. Many rooms have scrap to be scavenged, or side-splittingly hilarious NPCs to meet and help out. Each move costs a bit of precious energy, though; once you’re low on energy, it’s important to haul everyone back to the landing bay – or risk being stranded. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to boost your overall energy, or lower consumption.
Energy is also consumed during combat. To fight off gnarly aliens and scrappers, you’ll take turns playing cards. Some do damage, others buff your team – all of them are determined by how you’ve customised and equipped each character. For example, my Technician was great at boosting the team’s shields, while my Bruiser doled out the heavy damage.
Building out strong decks is necessary, but it can be overwhelming, as there is a mountain of weapons and mods with minute differences, and a lot of them have similar portraits. It would have been nice to see a classic stat-comparison bubble to see how items match up. The overall experience isn’t difficult per se, but if you don’t keep up with level and item upgrades, it’s a steep uphill battle.
The art of Deep Sky Derelicts looks as if it were ripped right out of a 1960s comic book. Thick black outlines and muted colour tones give off the ambience of a bleak society. Characters pop, attacks dazzle with their comic-panel animations, and even the backgrounds are drawn with loving detail. With such a striking scene, there’s no need for fancy music to distract you – light tones fill the void just fine.
The downside of this comic book style is the text bubbles. Although dialogue is easy to follow, tutorials present themselves as a wall of text in the environment. In handheld mode, the font can be too small to read at a reasonable distance from the screen. I made the mistake of getting up for a bit during one of these moments, only to find the massive text bubble had disappeared on its own with no button press – a frustrating start to the game.
Fans of Darkest Dungeon will feel at home here, which is fitting, since the overall goal is to secure a permanent home for the protagonists. However well the goal is woven into everything, it is unimportant compared to the journey. Although one playthrough is enough, the Switch’s Definitive Edition comes with two DLCs to keep the fun going.
Deep Sky Derelicts Definitive Edition £22.49
Deep Sky Derelicts serves up joyful space exploration, with an unbeatable comic book art style and a cast of memorable NPCs to meet. Barring the overwhelming item system and tutorial text, the experience is seamless and rewarding.