When Depth of Extinction hit PC in 2018 it was billed as a blending of a pair of classic games: FTL, a stellar roguelike, and X-COM, which is still one of the best turn-based strategy games of all time. FTL + X-COM is a tough billing to live up to, but – given the right expectations of a budget title like this one – Depth of Extinction somehow manages to be faithful to the legends it mashed together, even if it falls short of being truly amazing on its own.
Like FTL, Depth of Extinction tasks gamers with traversing a series of points on the map using their craft – this time a submarine, with each stop a different encounter: running into a merchant, finding enemies, or encountering an environmental hazard to name just a few. Not every node will need to be explored to clear the map, and on some of the larger maps a lack of fuel makes it impossible to explore them all – unless you’ve been lucky enough to gather up extra along the way.
Move to an encounter point and, if it’s an enemy-filled objective, you’ll disembark the sub and explore the area with your team of mercenaries – and here’s where the X-COM comparisons come in. The turn-based system and use of environmental cover will feel immediately familiar to XCOM vets, as will the ability to use overwatch to end your turn and provide covering fire on any enemies that move into the area. The combat is a bit basic compared to something newer like X-COM 2, Phoenix Point, or Gears Tactics, but you’ll still need to use careful movement and placement to ensure you can flank the enemy’s position while not getting surprised yourself.
Succeed in battle and you’ll gain experience to level up your characters in the class you’ve chosen from a list that includes the genre standards like snipers (Deadeye) and explosives (Wrecker). I found I was a huge fan of setting up a good Deadeye with my best weapon and Overwatch from a distance, then lure enemies into his range – just like in X-COM. It’s also a bit funny that there’s destructible cover, so when you’re moving from crate to crate, luring an enemy towards the ambush, every shot they take at you is destroying the very cover they’ll soon need…
The dialogue is well-written but the roguelike nature of the game, as with pretty much any roguelike, hurts the ability to tell a well-structured point-to-point story – the danger of giving players freedom. Personally, I’m willing to surrender a solid narrative to have the more creative freedom in character customization and deciding what missions to take and what to avoid, but I do wish I could have done more to customize my characters and make them a personalized squad.
What I loved:
- Solid strategy action
- Well-written dialogue
- Diverse character classes and skills
- All this for under $20?
What I liked
- Great pixel-art style graphics – simple, but legible
- Every bit the solid mashup of FTL and X-COM they claimed it would be
What I disliked:
- Some repetition in missions
- Inability to create my own characters or rename existing mercenaries
- A ton of potential left unrealized
What I hated:
The final word:
Depth of Extinction works surprisingly well for a small team targeting a mashup of two of the top games in their respective genres, doubly surprising when you consider it’ll only run you $18.99 Canadian.
Depth of Extinction is available on Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One. Reviewed on Xbox One X using code provided by the publisher. A PS4 version, originally slated to release June 11th, has been delayed.