There has been a spate of ports from PC to console recently and to be honest, I am living for it. It used to be the case that unless you had a PC, your access to some of the finest indie gems available were pretty limited beyond a hopeful prayer that they’d someday get greenlit for a port to your favourite console so it’s nice to see that changing in a direction of inclusion.
We’re talking about a game today that fits that bill. Depth of Extinction, the 2D turn-based tactical RPG with flecks of roguelike peppered in from HOF Studios is one of those little gems that I can very thankfully say deserved a port to consoles. Already having seen success on Steam, I was excited to get stuck into some strategic action.
So, let’s give a run down of the story. Depth of Extinction follows a narrative that isn’t uncommon. The Earth has been flooded a la post-apocalyptic fashion and the world that we once knew is no more. The surviving population make their homes on platforms and traverse the infinite ocean in submarines. It’s kind of like being Kevin Costner in Waterworld… albeit underwater and with more gratuitous killing.
You open to a scene between your initial team having a conversation with a synthetic android about finding three keys to take down a big nasty AI that is creating a weapon that will destroy humans for good. Unfortunately, the conversation doesn’t last long when the poor little robot is flanked by two juggernaut-like mechs that deliver one to his skull. One of your team remains behind to hold them off and you set off on you adventure to foil the machinations of the androids.
Typical gameplay is very reminiscent of XCOM. You have a team of characters that you can move around the map with the aim to dispatch enemies to the afterlife or meet a particular objective. Movement follows the ‘two action’ system, in that you have a blue and orange overlay. Moving within the blue overlay will expend one action allowing you to follow up with another action like firing at an enemy or you can choose to expend both your action points to cover greater distances in the orange overlay. You have a multitude of actions available to you from firing, defending and using overwatch to preemptively attack your enemies. As the game progresses and your characters level up, you’ll have access to more varying skill sets which can allow you to one-up the plentiful enemies you’ll encounter.
Much like XCOM, your success in Depth of Extinction relies on your positioning and use of cover. Objects within the maps will have varying levels of cover and it is up to you to decide how to utilize them. Cover will give a range of penalties to enemy chance to hit, but keep in mind this is equally true for you too. Your chance to hit relies heavily on your ability to see, cover and the distance needed for your characters weapons to be effective. So, you won’t be firing a shotgun halfway across the map and scoring a hit and nor will you be able to point blank an enemy’s midpoint with a sniper rifle. Cover is also full destructible which keeps the action intense and stops you turtling entire engagements. It adds a nice touch of depth to the whole experience, and certainly makes for a more meaningful strategy experience.
You’ll come across various potential team members on your journey to facilitate your needs and will be able to field a squad of six on your incursions. These are all displayed with differing faces and sprites and some really mean sounding names like ‘Big Dog’ and ‘Scorpion’ to show you they mean business. I will say that there wasn’t a massive difference between how they look with deviation coming in the form of hair, beards or the occasional facial accessory. The characters also don’t have any individual personality traits beyond class. It didn’t take anything away from the overall experience, but naturally I felt less attached to my individual team members because they were just too rank and file.
After your first mission, the team will start to level up. You’ll have the opportunity to dictate a class that they follow for the remainder of their time in your employ. Classes come with archetypes like ‘Deadeye’, which is your a-typical sniper class with skills focused on maintaining distance and maiming. You have ‘Wildcat’ which works to unload with SMG’s and ‘Assault’ which focuses on getting close and blowing holes in enemies with a shotgun. These aren’t the only classes available either and I’d argue that this is where Depth of Extinction’s depth really shines. Each class is built really well to balance each other out and I enjoyed taking the time to really consider which classes I should choose to maintain success in missions.
Once you’ve chosen a class, you’ll have ability points to allocate into the stats Constitution, Awareness, Grit, Reactions, Speed and the class that you chose. Each comes with varying attribute increases that will make your characters stronger in particular areas like mobility or health. It isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before, but it compliments the class and gameplay mechanics just as well. You’ll also be picking up plenty of weapons, armour and items along the way which can be equipped to boost your stats. It’s worth mentioning that each armour worn will change how your character looks to reflect what they are wearing. A small feature, but welcome nonetheless to individualize your team.
In between missions, Depth of Extinction shows its roguelike elements. In the vein of titles like Faster Than Light, you’ll have a submap filled with platforms that you can travel to between your starting point and exit. The path you choose is up to you and there are various things to encounter. Fuel management is also a priority with it being a finite resource, requiring you to make some informed choices about where to go next to ensure you make it to the exit. Platforms can include merchants to buy fuel and equipment from, hostage situations to earn yourself another team member or just straight up unavoidable battles. You may also occasionally have a random event with varying effects such as ship damage, extra money etc… which can add a welcome tension to your movements. That said, the system is guilty of being easy to read once you’ve determined which platforms to avoid but it’s no less exciting for it, at least for the first couple of hours.
Depth of Extinction is visually, very appealing. The sprite work is exceptionally detailed, and the effects of explosions and weapon fire are equally well done. It captures the essence of the post-apocalyptic setting well. The soundtrack is very cool, eliciting memories of the 80s with its synthwave take on underwater apocalyptic vibes. Overall, both the visuals and soundtrack came together in a complimentary way and never felt out of place.
I played Depth of Extinction on the Nintendo Switch and I can honestly say that it was an absolute breeze to control. I regularly comment that one of the biggest barriers to strategy on consoles is control scheme. Each facet of the game from the menu to character control has been emulated in a way that sets a standard for future strategy/tactical titles to live up to, so the title gets a pass mark in this area.
There are hours of fun to be had with Depth of Extinction and plenty of replay value too. You’ll unlock better submarines to start out with, and there’s also enough randomness to keep it interesting even if it can be occasionally expected and avoidable. It might not have the staying power and complexity of other titles that are similar, but it has plenty enough of its own merits to be a winner in the tactical genre.
Depth of Extinction is a great inclusion to strategy on consoles and has all the depth to make for a genuinely exciting tactical experience. It’s balance of great control scheme mixed with a real focus on enjoyable gameplay mechanics makes it something that will no doubt stick in my memory for some time.
Sure, the game isn’t perfect. The random aspect of the game is at times very predictable and with the lack of any real variance or personality, it was hard to get fully invested in the characters. That said, these are very minor foot notes in a very well-rounded experience that I urge everyone to have a bash at.