Even as a huge fan of Deep Rock Galactic, I didn't quite get it when a Vampire Survivors-like spin-off was announced. How do you translate the feel of a four player co-op FPS into a singleplayer top-down bullet heaven game? But after just a couple of hours with Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor's new demo, I'm convinced. Not only does it faithfully evoke its bigger brother, it's a really compelling take on the nascent genre.
Like in DRG, you start out by picking a class of dwarf—for the demo, only Scout is available, with a focus on speed, agility, and sniping—and dropping into one of the planet Hoxxes' sprawling caves. As in Vampire Survivors, you're beset by hordes of enemies (in this case the series' menagerie of alien bugs), and have to maneuver around the map while your character automatically fires their weapons.
But you're still as much a miner as you are a warrior, and the game's best twist comes in the ability to burrow through rock formations in the environment. Chipping your way through stone makes you slower, but allows you to create entirely new paths and quick escape routes from bunched up hordes. You can even make bottlenecks for your foes, luring them into tight corridors for your AOE or piercing weapons to mince through them. It's a more subtle form of playing with the environment than proper Deep Rock Galactic, but it's impressively close in feel.
The game also plays with your greed in the same way. While you still level up (and therefore upgrade your weapons) through killing enemies and gathering the XP that drops from them, at the end of each stage you can also buy powerful bonuses with gold or nitra, substances that must be painstakingly mined out while bugs continue to mass around you. Throw in secondary gathering objectives (directly copied over from DRG) and unique ores used for gaining permanent upgrades outside of missions, and you're given plenty of temptations to lead you into danger and encourage you to stay past your welcome.
Once you've killed enough bugs, the stage is complete, and the drop pod appears—triggering a 30 second scramble to make it to safety while grabbing any last bits you can along the way. Complete a series of stages, and it culminates in a boss encounter inspired by the Dreadnought cocoon mission from DRG—essentially, a battle against an even more enormous and angry bug.
The use of familiar character models, enemies, weapons, and even voice lines gives it a welcoming feel for any fan of the original game, even if it does make it feel a bit… recycled. And a robust and interesting progression system gives you plenty of reasons to keep throwing yourself into the mines. I'm often unimpressed by Vampire Survivors' many imitators, but Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor stands out—the ideas it's transferred across give it a really distinct and interesting feel, and I'm already much more hooked than I expected.
The demo is available now and all through Steam NextFest, so you can check it out for yourself now. And yes, never fear, your character does yell "Rock and stone!" near-constantly.