Deep Rock Galactic Season 2 Feels Like A Great On-Ramp For The Co-Op Dwarf Shooter

Whether you fell off Deep Rock Galactic early or just never found the chance to try it, Rival Escalation seems to be the ideal place to jump in.

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Deep Rock Galactic Season 2: Rival Escalation is about to begin. Rival Escalation doesn't feel like a transformative push--it adds similar things to the first season--but it makes some much-needed changes to how weapon upgrades work that should ease the grind a bit. If you haven't yet tried Deep Rock Galactic or you haven't played in a while, Season 2 feels like the ideal on-ramp.

Season 2 adds a new Performance Pass to the cooperative first-person shooter, as well as a new enemy type, seasonal event, and secondary weapons. So it's a lot like Season 1 in that regard, which added a Performance Pass, new enemy type, new mission, and new primary weapons.

Ahead of the launch of Season 2, I got a chance to play through the new content coming to Deep Rock Galactic. Having only touched the game one or two times before, I was surprised at how easily I was able to jump in and know what was going on.

It helps that Deep Rock Galactic still seems to be in the early days of its story, with Season 2 following up on the small narrative threads introduced in Season 1. As the name of the season suggests, Season 2 sees the antagonist Rivals amping up their prospecting efforts on Hoxxes IV, which means the four-man squad of playable dwarves needs to escalate their own efforts to mine out all of the valuable resources first.

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Season 2 certainly feels like it's an invitation for new players. Though the Season 1 Performance Pass is no longer available, most--if not all--of the rewards in it seem to be returning to the game in some capacity, whether that's through Lost Packs, Cargo Crates, Matrix Cores or the in-game Shop. So if you're just jumping in now, you haven't lost out on cosmetics.

You're going to have to do some grinding or drop real-world money to unlock items through the aforementioned methods of course, but it was cool to see that new players aren't being punished for not picking up the game sooner. I wish more service games handled their battle passes this way.

More importantly, I deeply appreciate the changes being made to weapon upgrades in Season 2. The new season introduces Phazyonite, a currency that is earned for advancing in Cosmetic Mastery levels or found in the mines while completing your objectives. Phazyonite can be put towards weapon upgrades, which ideally should make the process of purchasing them go a bit faster and be less of a grind. There's no way of knowing until the season is out and folks are spending enough time on the game to tell whether there's an appreciable difference, but I'm hopeful. At the very least, this opens up the possibility of saving your Credits--the currency previously used for pretty much everything in the game, including weapon upgrades--for other purchases, like cosmetics.

During my preview, I got the chance to play through the new seasonal event as well. Called Rival Signal, the event sees you and your team needing to hack into and interrupt several data cells connected to one router--all while a lot of enemies are shooting at you and a timer is counting down to when the router shuts off and explodes in your face. It's a very team-oriented activity that rewards focused communication and preparedness. I was lucky to be playing with two developers who were able to warn me ahead of time about the coming onslaught of new enemy types, a horde of robots that can quickly swarm a location. I was able to hold off most of them as my allies hacked into the first few data cells, but they both had to provide covering fire for me when I went for one close to me. By that point, the swarm had become almost overwhelming.

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The nemesis, especially, introduces an interesting wrinkle to Deep Rock Galactic. This giant, floating nightmare hunts you down with a terrifying aggression and can grab you with its massive, tentacle-like claws. When it does, it will give you a good shake and strong squeeze, carving out an uncomfortable amount of your health. And since it can take a punishment, being cornered by one when you're alone can sometimes just mean you're going to die. It's been a while since I've played a game that had me screeching for my allies to help me.

Rival Signal is a fun addition to Deep Rock Galactic's regular rotation of activities to complete, helping to spice up the repetitive loop of Deep Rock Galactic's gameplay with something new to do. And you will have to go through this game's loop quite a few times to see everything that Season 2 has to offer--the free Performance Pass seems to contain twice as many rewards as the one included in the first season, including more beards, helmets, weapon frameworks, resource caches, and paintjobs.

The new weapons are cool, but I don't think they're much to write home about. Each one looks pretty cool--especially the Scouts Nishanka Boltshark X-80, a crossbow with a variety of customizable bolts--but they've all been carefully designed to ensure that each class sticks to their own unique role. So even though these new sidearms are fun to play with, they aren't adding anything substantially different to playing each class--a Gunner with the hard-hitting Heavy Revolver plays just like a Gunner with the rock-piercing Armskore Coil Gun, for example. The Gunner is a damage-dealing class no matter what loadout you run.

It's an admittedly helpful limitation to ensure classes play as they should, but it's beginning to feel too restrictive. Each class has the potential to evolve to allow more experienced players to better focus on particular strengths--like giving the Gunner a sidearm that aids him in tanking shots for his allies, sacrificing some firepower to take on a more protective role. These classes are defined well-enough that the foundation can now grow, but Season 2 doesn't give it to them. Hopefully, such a change can be implemented down the line--perhaps as soon as Season 3.

Deep Rock Galactic Season 2 kicks off on April 28 for PC, and then on May 5 for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, and PS4.

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