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 does make some much-needed changes to how weapon upgrades work that should make the grind a little easier. If you haven’t tried Deep Rock Galactic yet or haven’t played in a while, Season 2 seems like the perfect on-ramp.
Season 2 adds a new Performance Pass to the cooperative first-person shooter, along with 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, a new enemy type, a new mission, and new primary weapons.
Prior to the launch of Season 2, I had the chance to play through the new content coming to Deep Rock Galactic. Having only touched the game once or twice before, I was surprised how easily I was able to step in and find out 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 on from the little narrative threads introduced in Season 1. As the season name suggests, Season 2 sees the antagonist Rivals Amplify its prospecting efforts on Hoxxes IV, which means the team of four playable dwarves must first step up their own efforts to extract all the valuable resources.
Season 2 certainly feels like an invitation for new players. Although the Season 1 Performance Pass is no longer available, most, if not all, of the rewards it contains appear to be returning to the game in some capacity, whether through Lost Packs, Cargo Crates, from Matrix Cores or from the in-game store. So if you jump in now, you haven’t lost the cosmetics.
You’re going to have to grind or deposit real money to unlock items via the aforementioned methods of course, but it was cool to see new players not being punished for not picking up the game sooner. I wish more service games handled their battle passes this way.
Most importantly, I deeply appreciate the changes to weapon upgrades in Season 2. The new season introduces Phazyonite, a currency that is earned for leveling up Cosmetic Mastery or found in mines while completing your objectives. . Phazyonite can be used for weapon upgrades, which should ideally make the purchasing process a bit quicker and less of a hassle. There’s no way of knowing until the season is over and people spend enough time on the game to tell if there’s any appreciable difference, but I’m hopeful. At the very least, it opens up the possibility of saving your Credits – the currency previously used for just about everything in the game, including weapon upgrades – for other purchases, like cosmetics.
During my preview, I also had the chance to participate in the new seasonal event. Called Rival Signal, the event requires you and your team to hack and disrupt multiple data cells connected to a router, while a lot enemies shoot at you and a timer counts down until the router shuts down and explodes in your face. It’s a very team-oriented activity that rewards focused communication and preparation. I was lucky enough to play with two developers who were able to warn me in advance of the impending onslaught of new enemy types, a horde of robots that can quickly overrun a location. I was able to hold off most of them as my allies hacked into the first data cells, but they both had to provide covering fire for me when I went to look for one near me. By this point, the swarm had become almost overwhelming.
Nemesis, in particular, introduces an interesting wrinkle to Deep Rock Galactic. This giant, floating nightmare stalks you with terrifying aggression and can grab you with its massive tentacle-like claws. When it does, it will give you a good jolt and strong pressure, slicing an uncomfortable amount from your health. And since it can result in punishment, being cornered by someone when you’re alone can sometimes just mean you’re going to die. It’s been a while since I played a game that had me screaming for my allies to help me out.
Rival Signal is a fun addition to Deep Rock Galactic’s regular rotation of activities to complete, helping to spice up Deep Rock Galactic’s repetitive gameplay loop with something new to do. And you’ll have to cycle through this game’s loop a few times to see everything Season 2 has to offer – the free Performance Pass appears to have twice as many rewards as the one included in the first season, including more beards, helmets, weapon frames, resource caches, and paintings.
The new weapons are cool, but I don’t think they’re very interesting. Each looks pretty cool – especially the Nishanka Boltshark X-80 Scouts, a crossbow with a variety of customizable bolts – but they’ve all been carefully designed to ensure each class fulfills its own unique role. So while these new handguns are fun to play, they don’t add anything noticeably different to each class’s game – a Gunner with the hard-hitting Heavy Revolver plays like a Gunner with the armor-piercing Armskore Coil Gun, for example. The Gunner is a class that deals damage no matter what loadout you run.
This is certainly a useful limitation to ensure that classes play as they should, but it’s starting to feel too restrictive. Each class has the potential to evolve to allow more experienced players to better focus on particular strengths, such as giving the shooter a handgun that helps them fire for their allies, sacrificing some firepower to play 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 early as Season 3.
Deep Rock Galactic Season 2 launches April 28 on PC, then May 5 on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, and PS4.
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