Better with Friends – The challenge of reviewing Deep Rock Galactic

I’m Kinglink and let’s start this video off by talking about Deep Rock Galactic.  

I found Deep Rock Galactic to be incredible. It’s a clever game that is a ton of fun, and I enjoyed myself. There was a lot of hype about this game, and I finally picked it up and had an excellent time. and yet I struggle to judge it.  

Deep Rock Galactic is worth the purchase in my case. Three friends and I tried it out during a free weekend. We had a great time. We all picked it up after that weekend session and played quite a few more sessions since and we have had a lot of fun with the game every time. You’ll be seeing my group playing the game in these videos. 

So Deep Rock Galactic is a fun game, we’re having a blast, we’ve enjoyed ourselves multiple times, that should be an easy game to review, right? 

It should be, but the fact is Deep Rock Galactic is an example of a problem I have with the review process, and I’ll give Deep Rock Galactic a short review at the end, don’t freak out, I like Deep Rock Galactic a lot. 

But the thing is, I got impatient with my friends. I like to play a game fully and move on, or at least see more of the game so I ultimately can review it, and Deep Rock Galactic dangles a lot of really interesting mechanics in front of the player, so I played some of the game alone. It was fun, and I also enjoyed playing with some random players which worked quite well. 

But Deep Rock Galactic is really about grinding, you play similar missions over and over, and while it has amazing technology to allow infinite digging in any direction and has very solid mechanics, I realized I wasn’t having as good a time without my friends. The game was offering the same trinkets to collect, I was finding groups within seconds of looking for them, the community is some of the friendliest I’ve ever seen, but the experience changed. 

Quick side note, I want to point out that infinite digging reminds me quite a bit of Red Faction and the Geomod technology, a slight plug for a former employer. It’s cool to see someone else do that. There was a time I thought I’d never see anything like this again, so that’s awesome. Side note over.

Deep Rock Galactic is intended as a multiplayer game, though you can easily play single player with a friendly AI which is important. However, it has the common symptom that it’s better with friends, and if you saw the thumbnail or title of this video, you know that’s what I want to talk about this week. 

Some games, probably every game is better with friends. That’s not a controversial statement, and I think it’s one that quite a few companies understand and promote. The problem is when it comes to reviewing or recommending games how are you supposed to deal with that? 

If Deep Rock Galactic is enjoyable even in solo, let’s talk about the opposite situation. Wolfenstein Youngblood, AKA Why am I playing this again?

The thing is there’s a lot wrong with Wolfenstein Youngblood, the combat isn’t that good, the weapons have special damage types that will matter too much, the enemies are boring, it’s a looter shooter without any interesting loot, I mean why is there an experience levels in a freaking normal shooter.

In general, people seem to dislike Wolfenstein Youngblood, and I agree. I gave it a 2 out of 5. So why am I talking about it? 

Well, some people like it, and of course people are entitled to their own opinion but I dug into why, and the few people I discussed it with gave me a chance to understand their point of view. In Wolfenstein: Youngblood’s case, the answer seemed to be, people who enjoyed the game, played it in co-op 100 percent of the time, with very close friends. 

That doesn’t mean that people who hated Wolfenstein didn’t play it with close friends, but the fact that their partner was their friend, must have had some important effect. 

And if this was the only game where this happened, I wouldn’t talk about it, but it’s not. It’s something I keep finding examples of happening even with other professional reviewers.

Destiny 2 is a big one. I played through Destiny 2, disliked it, and moved on, but I keep hearing people talk about it, and it seems to be popular especially with a rather large group of people, which is great and of course if you like Destiny as a solo player, that’s perfectly fine as well. This topic isn’t “my opinion is right”, it’s a bigger piece than that. 

In Destiny 2’s case, the absence of matchmaking for raids and their hardest strikes makes Destiny 2 even harder to play without friends. There are options and clans and other things but ultimately Destiny 2 is a game that is far better with friends, whether they are friends you met playing Destiny or friends from outside of Destiny. 

There’s a litany of games that this is true for. Such as Risk of Rain 2, a game my group played before Deep Rock Galactic, and is a particularly good Roguelite, Left 4 Dead is far better if you play with other people, especially a friend group, Borderlands Anthem, Avengers, The Division all of these games work far better if you’re playing with a pre-existing group. Some of them are fine in single players, and some of them are Avengers and Anthem. 

We can also expand this to other games as well, Binding of Isaac Repentance just came out, and on launch day, I played a game with a group of three of us, it was a blast.  I probably had a better time working in that group than I ever had playing solo.  Outriders as well has just been released, of course that game too will be better with friends without knowing anything else. 

I have had this happen to me too, I played the original Gears of War with my buddy at the time and we had a blast, we laughed at all the cheesy dialogue, especially Coletrain. I remember both of us shouting to each other and helping each other out through the game and we had a really fun time. It was a great game, I recommended it to other people. 

And a few years later I replayed the game and… Gears of War kind of sucked. It’s still the same game of course, but… well Gears of War wasn’t as fun and after a lot of time, I realized, having a second player added quite a bit to my experience, especially when you were voice chatting with them and knew them well. After that second playthrough, I wouldn’t recommend Gears of War to anyone.

So the question becomes which of those experiences are the most accurate, which one should I make recommendations from, which experience was… true? The answer is of course both. In fact who you play with matters just as much as playing with friends. Playing with a close friend you share a lot with is going to be different than playing with someone you barely know. If you’re going through a personal fight with someone, That will be different than if you’re playing at the height of your friendship. Some games are far better in person on the same couch and some are amazing when everyone has the whole screen to themselves.  

And this is the real problem with the concept of multiplayer games.

If Left 4 Dead is a 6/10 in single player, a 7/10 playing with random players, and an 8 or higher for playing with your friends, which of those ratings does it deserve, and more importantly how do you get an unbiased opinion? 

And I see official well trusted reviewers who seem to fall into this trap. They absolutely love a game, and you can even watch them playing it on their streams, it’s clear their enjoyment doesn’t seem to be from the mechanics of the game, or the experience, but rather them sharing time with their close friends. That’s not a bad thing, and some games do rely on that, but I come back to how to judge these experiences.

For a numerical system when reviewers have to give an ultimate score, do you rate the game with your best friends, random people online, potentially partnering with the devs who might be answering questions, or solo? It is important because both Opencritic and Metacritic discard pretty much everything about the review and summarize it in a blurb and a score that gets factored into their overall rating. 

On the other hand, when talking about experiences with games, how can we separate the “friend” quotient. When one player advises another to pick up a game that can be played in multiplayer, do they have to say “it’s better with friends” even though as mentioned before, every single game is better with friends? 

I honestly don’t have an answer, because I don’t think there is one. It’s more important to be consistent in how you review games, whether that means always playing with the same group, or never focus on your group play and focus on solo play. Of course, relying on randoms also becomes a problem because those players will always be different. There’s also the level of the metagaming, and how welcoming the community is to new players that will change, but ultimately, those are issues for all multiplayer games.

I also think your friend group will matter, if they’re more into First Person Shooters, and not as much into Real-Time Strategy, are you going to play Starcraft 2 with them? That’s a question for someone else to decide.

My personal philosophy is that I review games with a focus on single-player, and random groups rather than friends because, as much as I enjoy spending time with my friends, it’s not constant where I can expect them to play every single title with me.

So let’s give this a shot, going back to Deep Rock Galactic, let’s take out the friend quotient.  

Deep Rock Galactic is a really enjoyable game that will stick with you for quite a while. There are seven types of missions, but multiple different locations, difficulties, and lengths that will keep the game engaging. There’s a lot of stuff to keep you coming back to play more and try to earn just a bit more.  

The single-player is good, with a very strong AI that is almost as solid as another human. However, it’s also very easy to find other players no matter what game you’re going for. The ability to join in progress with no penalties makes playing online a joy.  

The four classes are unique and interesting and most of them are great solo, but they all shine a little brighter when you play with a mixed group of classes. The difficulty varies, but there’s everything from extremely easy, to very challenging, so players will find a challenge that’s right for them here. 

Ultimately Deep Rock Galactic is a fun game, though I would recommend playing online, as the solo experience is good, but playing with a group who all are working to the same goal at the same time makes the experience shine. The community is also extremely welcoming and helpful, probably due to the fact there are absolutely no competitive aspects of the gameplay, but rather a goal that all players should assist with. 

I’m giving Deep Rock Galactic an 8/10   

Though of course, It’s better with friends. 

Truthfully that’s not my final review of the game, I’ll do a much longer one on my website one day, especially once I see the deep dives and promotion, possibly, maybe, hopefully, this year. I’m not going to fall back into reviewing games in video format, but I felt like doing one for this topic.

I hope I’ve at least made you think about how you evaluate multiplayer games, or games with multiplayer components and understand the challenge of talking about multiplayer games in a critical capacity. It’s part of the reason I tend to avoid multiplayer games because the game itself can vary far more based on who else is in the game with you, rather than the mechanics themselves.

Anyway, that’s what I have, I hope you’ve enjoyed this video, and if so consider subscribing, ringing the bell, or just giving the video a simple thumbs up. Also, is there a game I didn’t mention that you would say is better with friends, or perhaps only good when playing with friends? Let me know down in the comments. 

I’ll pop up two videos here, my video on music games, with a focus on Fuser, and my video on Open world games where I discuss a few issues with those as well. 

Until then I’m Kinglink and thanks for watching.

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