Is There Such a Thing As a ‘Fun’ Grind?
Last night, as the post’s featured image above may give away, I gained a promotion in Deep Rock Galactic. It was my first one in the game, achieved on my Gunner. To get there, you need to first reach level 25 on the character you wish to promote. Looking at my ingame stats for the gunner class, I have a played time of 1 day and 40 minutes — basically 25 hours — or roughly an average of 1 hour per level. But as you might imagine this as an average figure is a poor indicator, as the early levels fly by incredibly quickly while the latter ones will take you several missions at the least.
In the grand scheme of things — especially if you consider it in the wider context of MMO leveling — 25 hours to hit max level and unlock the endgame for a given class isn’t really that bad. And possibly as a bit of a precursor to where my conclusion might go — I wouldn’t have called that time spent a ‘grind’ at all because it was fun and enjoyable.
If it was just the time alone… Well; we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.
To be clear — Deep Rock Galactic is fun. The missions are a masterclass in game pacing — with moments of calm, just long enough to build the tension for the swarm you know is coming. Then, when you’re done with your objectives, there is a crescendo of activity and tension. For most missions, this takes the form of a mad-dash to the drop pod, which will typically land back in your mission some distance away.
You need to beat the clock navigating back to where the drop pod landed, tackling enemies along the way. There is a real sense of the seconds passing by oh so quickly as you go. And should one of the team fall along the way? Well… It’s time for a tough decision. Do you have the time to get them back up? Can you do it safely? Because sure… Ideally it would be a case of no Dwarf left behind. There’s even survival bonuses for having more of the team alive at the end.
But… If you get yourself killed in the process… Well; then no-one gets anything, do they? If the team wipes — that’s it. No take backs. Mission failed.
In other mission types, you may be expected to hold a given defense point against an ever increasingly irate swarm of alien bugs.
So: Moment to moment gameplay? Major positive. Time to hit max level? Really not too bad.
The problem isn’t really one unique to DRG, not by a long stretch. But essentially DRG has a quest-chain concept known as ‘Assignments’. To unlock… things …you will need to complete anything from 3-10 or so missions.
This includes the promotion.
So you will hit level 25, and be unable to gain any further XP on that character until you promote. At which time you’ll be required to do another 4 missions of specific types in a specific order.
If you play solo — or playing multiplayer, but via joining in progress missions or hosting your own missions on demand for randoms to join — this isn’t going to be any sort of issue at all. If you’re playing with a semi-consistent group of friends, slightly more of an issue. Because the number of times we’ve had overlap on assignment missions, once out of the tutorial, could be counted on one hand.
More typically, everyone will have their own mission type required to move their particular assignment forward.
There are a number of ways to deal with this, and like I said — this isn’t really a problem unique to Deep Rock Galactic. But it is another thing that slows the game down, outside of the moment-to-moment mission play. Those last few levels might approach up to 2 hours of play each (depending on the difficulty of missions you run and how successful you are).
When I finally broke through and hit level 25; discovering I had another 4 missions before unlocking Deep Dives and the Forge (hidden behind promoting your first character), I just wasn’t up for it. And then? After doing it? … Another assignment required to start unlocking the blank cores necessary for the end-game progression system, to build overclocks for your weapons.
This assignment? Ten missions long. TEN!
Now, one of my friends who has been an amazing co-op partner through this, often sacrificing time we spend on his assignment missions in favour of helping me catch-up let me know that it isn’t quite so bad as it may initially look, as the rewards (including blank cores) for doing that assignment are in fact divvied out over the course of the ten missions and not hoarded solely for completion of the final one.
Thinking about it now, it probably didn’t help things that it was pretty late at night when we completed the promotion assignment track. I’d perhaps stayed up a little longer than I should *cough* to blast through the last two missions. To then find I needed another ten was when words like ‘grind’ even started to cross my mind in the context of this game.
So. Is it possible for there to be a ‘fun’ grind? It would appear… Possibly yes. Or rather; it might be more accurate for me to say there is certainly scope to enjoy a game very much even despite a grind element. And for all this complaining… I’m quite likely to voluntarily throw myself at it all over again for the engineer class. ;)
(Oh; it’s probably also worthwhile to note that you can promote classes repeatedly. It’s only really for cosmetics and to further the ‘player’ level (you gain a player level for every three character levels gained) though. All guns and gear modifications (other than overclocks, which come post first promotion) are available no later than level 18 for the character. And when you promote; even though the character’s level nominally resets to ‘1’, you don’t lose any of your unlocks in the process. It is just this ‘first’ promotion which uncovers the endgame for the first time.)
This was a post for Blapril 2020, the annual blogging event (albeit usually as Blaugust), brought forward to help bring a sense of community during the challenging time of COVID-19. Blaugust is an event aiming to welcome new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise those who’ve been at it a little longer.
The Blaugust Discord is still available to join in, year round!