Recently we told you about the Deadrock Divide Kickstarter that is currently underway. Actually, I should probably qualify that “underway” by saying that it only has about three days left, so if you have been considering pledging for the game it is starting to get down to the wire. For this reason, time is of the essence for me to tell you about my experience with the game. Bootsnake Games was kind enough to give me access to a pre-alpha build of the game a couple of days ago, and I have managed to get a bit of Deadrock Divide pre-alpha hands-on time in amongst all of the other games I am testing these days (so many games, so little time).
I think I have said this before, but doing hands-on opinion articles regarding games that are pre-alpha or in an incomplete state, as is the case for many early access games these days, is always a bit tricky. We have to get a feel for the game, but at the same time we have to be cognizant of the fact that the game we are looking at is likely to change and improve heavily. We have to judge the potential of the game and where we think (or hope) the devs will take it in addition to what we see. And so it is for Deadrock Divide. The pre-alpha version I am playing is quite rough around the edges, but if Bootsnake Games continue to develop the game as they are promising to then it has some real potential.
As I said, time is of the essence for the Deadrock Divide Kickstarter, so I will try to be brief in this hands-on. Deadrock Divide is a sandbox space-faring RPG in which you command a ship and the associated crew as you try to carve out a living in The Divide. a region on the rim of the known galaxy where the precious Deadrock is mined. The Divide is being fought over by three main factions, which you can choose (or not) to join and fight for. Deadrock Divide will feature a complex economy which you can tap into with mining, production, and trading if you wish.There will be lots of upgrade options for both your crew and your ships at some point. Unfortunately many of these features are not yet in place. For example, the crew skill trees are visible but many of the skills are not yet functioning, and I didn’t see much in the way of an economy. No biggie…it is pre-alpha after all.
What is in place, and what represents the heart of the game, is an early version of the tactical combat gameplay. If I had to sum up Deadrock Divide, I would tell you to imagine a sandbox version of XCOM where you get to choose (for the most part) when and where and for what reason you fight. Attack and defend facilities and other ships as you see fit, although sometimes the baddies will bring the fight to you even if you aren’t really in the mood. If you enjoy tactical games like XCOM but would prefer to blaze your own trail rather than follow a set of missions, Deadrock Divide might be for you.
Anyway, back to the tactical combat. If you have played XCOM, you will feel right at home in Deadrock Divide’s combat. It is still at a basic level for now, but you can move your troops, take cover, use overwatch, deploy turrets, toss grenades, and take pot shots at your enemies. Combat maps use destructible terrain, so you can blast through walls if needed. I also like the idea of maps elements eventually being useable during combat (although I couldn’t get them to work properly when I tried them). Heal up at medbays or use mining terminals to use to collect crafting materials. Very cool. For the most part combat seems quite functional, and as it improves it should get even better. My only gripe is that the visuals are lacking, but the included documentation mentions that a lot of this is placeholder artwork so I am relatively unconcerned.
Outside of combat, The Divide is presented in what I can only describe a sort of retro grid-based Tron-like 3D-radar view. Like the rest of the game it needs some polish, but I rather like it for reasons that I can’t articulate. Movement is done through mouse clicking, and besides moving the only other things to do are to click on objects to examine and interact them or use your afterburners to speed up. Since fuel is a consideration you have to use the afterburners sparingly, but they are useful to outrun pirates if you don’t want to get boarded. As long as you keep your ship fueled up you are free to roam around The Divide as you like, exploring and picking up missions. You can even attack neutral ships if you feel like skirting the law. I tried boarding some neutral ships and taking their cargo. It worked well, although I didn’t notice any fallout from that action. Hopefully in the final game living life as a pirate will have its downsides.
On my second play through I skipped the included pre-alpha missions entirely and simply jetted off into The Divide. I was able to outfit my ship with some mining drills which I then used to set up a couple of iron mines on some asteroids, which ended up providing me with some decent short term income. Actually, the best source of income I found in the pre-alpha was to simply fly around and grab all of the floating scrap left behind after the pirates attacked the trading ships (strangely enough I noticed that the pirates were usually the ones getting destroyed…I guess you don’t need to be smart or skilled to be a pirate). Given that some parts of The Divide were teeming with ships (which was nice to see) there was quite a bit of scrap to be had!
Crafting is already in the game in a fashion (ammo, grenades, etc.), although I didn’t get a chance to try it because I lacked the required crystal materials, even though I did outfit my ship with a crafting room. Those of you who enjoy crafting will hopefully have lots to do in Deadrock Divide. Speaking of outfitting ships, I rather like the system they are shooting for. Already there is a small number of different ships to buy and fly, and each of them has a different number of room into which equipment can be installed. What is really cool is that the installed equipment will create a different layout, which will come in handy when you are boarded. Equipping a med bay will allow you to heal, and a cargo bay will be full of crates and will restrict firing and movement. Apparently there will even be automated defense systems that can be installed, although I didn’t find any that I could purchase. You can install scanners for scanning asteroids, drills for mining, different engine types, and so on.
I mentioned crew skill trees earlier. Deadrock Divide uses a classless system where all crew members have access to the same skill trees (Rifles and Shotguns, Mini-guns, Medic, Engineer). The skills trees were largely non-functional, although it does give a nice overview of what will be eventually included in terms of passive and active abilities, such as ability to unload an entire clip into an enemy with full auto, being able to shoot poison darts, laying down a spray of bullets, and repairing turrets in the field. The skills trees should give players some nice options for improving their crew.
So that is about the extent of my experience with Deadrock Divide. If you haven’t already done so you can watch the gameplay video to get a better idea of what I am talking about. The big question is whether or not I think the Deadrock Divide Kickstarter is worth pledging for. I am always leary about giving such advice because that really depends on what types of game that you like. But I will say this…despite the rough edges, there is real potential within Deadrock Divide (and in case you are wondering, I did in fact back the Kickstarter). My big wishes for the future of the game is to improve the visuals, because I can already see that the gameplay mechanics have a solid foundation, and to get the economic game implemented. Once the full economic side of the game is implemented, I can see the sandbox elements being a lot of fun. The tactical combat framework is already there and should improve over time, and so fans of XCOM-types of game should have something to dig into without all the fuss of trying to finish missions while attempting to keep all of your council countries happy (you XCOMers know what I am talking about).
So check out the gameplay video, and have a look at the Deadrock Divide Kickstarter, and consider supporting the game if it looks like your sort of thing. Even if the funding isn’t successful I really hope Deadrock Divide keeps moving forward, because I think it could be a really great game when finished.
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