Deep Sky Derelicts If It Ain’t Bolted Down – PC Review

Get the crew together for one last haul as it's time to locate the mothership in this turn-based card-building game on PC - a Deep Sky Derelicts review, yay!

When I think of 1C Entertainment, FPS titles come to mind, such as Ion Fury and the upcoming Dread Templar. But a turn-based tactical game using cards, set in space? That’s precisely what we’ll have a sniff at in this Deep Sky Derelicts review.

Choosing a crew of three, you search the galaxy for ships to loot – the derelicts of the title, earning your keep as a merc. At the start of the campaign, you’re tasked with finding the Mothership – rumoured to be bursting at the seams with treasure. If you’re able to locate this and salvage its secrets, the Sub-Governor will grant you three wishes. Scrap that (heh – scrap); you’ll get just rewards, including citizenship.

Why is citizenship a reward? Because it’s time to settle down. Regardless of who you choose to run your operation, they’re all battle-hardened veterans looking for that one last score so they can retire. It sounds like a Bruce Willis movie. But it’s better than that.

Deep Sky Derelicts Review - Sub Contractor
Sub-contractor. Source: Steam

There are three characters to choose from in the normal difficulty setting or hardcore. The latter only allows for one save game file, and when your crew are dead, that’s it. But Deep Sky Derelicts, developed by Snowhound Games, is pretty laid back when it comes to tying you down with class systems. There’s a wealth here to experiment with, and you’re free to do as you please.

I’m not going to run through all the classes. Some are obvious, but there are delicacies to each one, granting exclusive perks like support to the team, hard-hitting abilities, and digging in deep as an armadillo-fied tank. A complete list if you’re feeling saucy:

  • Leader
  • Scrapper
  • Miner
  • Inventor
  • Tracker
  • Bruiser
  • Technician
  • Medic

While it would appear that a leader is essential, you don’t need one. I opted for one in the beginning, purely for the sense of order, but my playstyle is a bit heavy-handed and either opt for damage dealing or the defensive stance. A leader provides support and buffs for the team. Support isn’t my bag, and that’s sorta what the leader does. Still, they were a charmer and got me out of my fair share of scrapes.

Anyhoo, you’re based on this space station and can venture out to do a run on a derelict. Think of it as a dungeon crawler in space. Before we go there, this station in Deep Sky Derelicts is a hub for creating load-outs, accepting missions and healing. 

To earn some dough, you have to complete contracts, plus earn on the side by selling items you loot along the way. The station also is a place to get a drink, and before you reach for the Alka Seltzer, you can hire new mercs to replace your existing ones to experiment with those classes. Best of all, their level will match the character you wish to substitute, so no grinding necessary.

Deep Sky Derelicts Review - The map is your oyster
The map is your oyster. Source: Steam

Once you’re out into the ether, you select an available derelict to explore or fulfil one of the contracts. This section is a little confusing at first as Deep Sky Derelicts isn’t a side-scroller where you click on a door to head into the next area. Instead, the scanner can serve as your map, representing a tile-based system where each tile costs action points or energy.

This same energy is also used in the battles, and once you’re out of it – you’ve had it. Thankfully, you can pick up the consumables along the way and terminals that will replenish it, but you’ll have to plan each run and perhaps return to your base to restore your health and energy. Don’t expect to finish a derelict in one run. Still, each battle, your shields fully recharge, but you will need to keep an eye on your health.

Depending on your scanner’s strength (upgradable with loot and from research at the base), you will find points of interest that feature treasure. By default, these spaces will be blank, and you’ll only reveal the contents when you move onto them. Sometimes it will be quest-related with optional dialogue paths, or perhaps someone to trade with, but mostly, it’s a combat sequence.

As a turn-based deck builder, you control all three of your characters. Depending on their stats, you only get one action per turn, such as an attack, replenishing shields or perhaps initiating a buff of some sorts using the cards you’re dealt. Of course, the enemy gets a turn too, and you can see the sequence in the bottom right of the screen, so target them as appropriate! 

Deep Sky Derelicts Review - Clobbering time
It’s kloberrying tyme (it’s trademarked). Source: Steam

Deep Sky Derelicts gameplay is typical for the genre, so nothing new in mechanics, regardless of how it’s dressed. That said, the presentation is very good, as if it were straight out of a comic book. It’s not the same style as the recently reviewed Dead Age 2, but the font choice and setpieces are more suited to Deep Sky Derelicts. Rather than animate the action, battle sequences are depicted as a comic book panel – and you know what? It works really well.

Deep Sky Derelicts took me a while to get into. That’s not because it’s overly complicated or counter-intuitive to learn, but you need to unlock abilities and skill trees to start seeing what’s really under the hood. Due to the way action points work (energy consumed for movement, scanner usage and battle), you’re likely to repeat-visit a derelict as you can’t do it in one go. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend an age ‘cleaning up’ one derelict at a time, with contempt for those giving you contracts – you’re aiming for 100% completion, for goodness sake! Looting has its advantages as you can sell everything on to the vendor at your base, then buy new gear or augmentations for a better run.

Fans of dungeon crawlers and card-based games will feel at home with Deep Sky Derelicts gameplay. Again, while it’s not overly complicated, it’s fair to say you’ll miss some of the features in your first runs, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty darn addictive – especially if you want to discover all those tiles on a map!