I was prepared for this to be bad news. One of the things I appreciate about Deep Rock Galactic is that it gets new, fun updates every few months without desperately clinging to players the way so many of today's live service games do. It's a great game to hop into co-op for a week or two, then set aside for a few months until the urge to go mining and bug exterminating strikes again. When Deep Rock's developers told me they were switching to a seasonal model and introducing a battle pass, I assumed it was following the Fortnite model: pay for the privilege to grind every day to unlock a whole bunch of cosmetic fluff. I'm happy to be wrong.
Deep Rock Galactic's Performance Pass is free, just like all of the game's updates so far. It's just a new way to unlock more stuff, on top of the game's existing leveling system. You'll earn points for completing missions and specific challenges, and those points can be spent on a big unlock tree peppered with dwarven cosmetics and emotes, crafting materials and credits, and even some new weapon frameworks.
The seasonal update cadence won't be too different from how Deep Rock's been updated so far: the developers said they're aiming for three or four updates a year, though this first season will last a bit longer, into next spring. And there will be some way to unlock items you missed even after a season ends, so you won't have to worry about missing out even if, like me, you only go spelunking on occasion.
"Rival Incursion" is the name of Season 1, and it refers to the new competition you'll encounter down in the mines. It isn't just bug swarms you'll be fighting off, but a rival corporation's army of mining robots.
There's a new mission type, Industrial Sabotage, which is a big, multi-stage boss fight with a machine called the Data Vault. The automated army has been collecting prospecting data from across Hoxxes and storing it in this one spot. It's time for a heist—that's something brash, trigger-happy dwarves should be great at, right?
Luckily Industrial Sabotage is more about blowing ship up than being sneaky: the mission requires your dwarf posse to find two power stations within the caves and hack them to lower the vault's force field, then shoot it (a lot) to bring it down while it fights back with pincer claws and big guns of its own. Bugs will naturally show up from time-to-time to hassle you, too.
The rival tech company introduces a whole slew of different robots to fight, including mini swarming shredder drones, a variety of turrets, and a patrol bot you can hack to sway its allegiance to your side. While you'll only go after the big Data Vault in that one specific mission, the rest of the robots can show up in other mission types, too, spawning mini events to deal with as you find them. If you spot a prospector drone and chase it down, you can grab a data cell that's worth points towards your performance pass. You can also find data deposits to hack for the same bonus. In either case, just be ready for the robots to call in a horde of reinforcements when you start jacking their data.
Season 1 is packing one last exciting addition: a new weapon contract for each dwarf class. They all look like a good time:
- Gunner: Hurricane, a micro-missile launcher that fires "volleys of remote-controlled rockets"
- Engineer: LOK-1 Smart Rifle, which can lock onto enemies and nail them wherever you're aiming
- Scout: Plasma Carbine, "a high capacity, rapid-fire plasma thrower" that doesn't need to reload (but can overheat)
- Driller: Corrosive Sludge Pump, which fires piles of acidic goo not unlike Unreal Tournament's Bio Rifle
Each weapon contract comes with the usual upgrade tree, overclocks, and variety of frameworks for further customization.
Deep Rock Galactic Season 1 launches on Steam next week, on November 4, and two weeks later on Xbox Game Pass.