Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor Beginner’s Guide & Tips

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor is a single-player, reverse-bullet, survivor-like spin-off to Deep Rock Galactic, currently in development by Funday Games. Several months after it was first unveiled to the public as a free demo it now enters Early Access bringing with it further refinement and more content.

As fans of the original title, there was no way we were going to miss the opportunity to see what Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor has to offer. If you’d like to know more about the game that it’s based on, and what it has to offer, we suggest you read our Deep Rock Galactic: Beginner Guide. That said, this is our beginner’s guide to Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor after playing and analyzing the game as much as we could.

The Basics Of Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor

We will start our Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor beginner’s guide with a view of Hoxxes 4, the most mineral-rich planet in the galaxy. The planet being home to a hyper-aggressive swarm of alien spiders also makes it the most lethal place in the galaxy. In such a hazardous environment only the toughest, bravest, and most well-armed can hope to achieve success..so naturally, that’s where you send in the dwarves.

You play as an elite dwarven combat miner, equally proficient at removing rock as well as anything else that finds itself in your way. Your task is to descend into the bowels of the planet and kill the toughest bug that Hoxxes has to offer, the Glyphid Dreadnought, or die trying.

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor beginner's guide Engineer
Engineers overclocked turrets opening fire on an elite enemy.

You’ll have to go through several levels first, during which you’ll have to fend off an endless horde of bugs and complete a few simple objectives. You always have to go through 5 levels but there are different biomes to keep things from getting too repetitive. XP collected from defeated enemies will grant you new weapons and upgrades on level-up.

As you progress through the caves, you’ll also grab resources that can be used in between levels to heal or buy even more upgrades. The final task on each level is to kill a boss-type enemy. Only after this task is completed will the company send the drop pod to take you further into Hoxxes.

However, at this stage, the bugs will become more powerful as time passes. In short, there’s no time to waste. This fact will quickly become apparent when the drop pod does arrive and you only have 30 seconds to get to it or get left behind. The result of all this is that Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor is a fast-paced and focused experience, which we personally appreciate.

It also keeps the runs short: another bonus in our book. The four classes from the first Deep Rock Galactic make a successful transition into the reverse bullet hell genre. In Survivor they have different stats to make them stand out from one another, as opposed to the first game where all classes had the same stats and their function was determined by their gear. These will be immediately recognizable to fans of the first game and are the Scout, Engineer, Gunner, and Driller.

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor Class Select

  • The Scout is a nimble class that relies on enhanced mobility to keep himself safe. Scouts have the lowest amount of HP but they get a buff to movement speed or dodge chance (depending on the loadout) as a way to compensate for their fragility. Finally, they get a massive buff to their critical damage modifier making them a good choice for crit builds.
  • The Gunner is almost the inverse of the Scout class. Gunners prefer to take the swarm head-on with overwhelming firepower. To help him survive in close-quarters combat the Gunner comes with extra armor and the highest amount of HP out of all the classes.
  • The Engineer class has the second lowest amount of HP in the game. Not that it matters much as Engineers will be aided in combat by a plethora of drones and contraptions they can put down. Additionally, as the smartest dwarves, Engineers gain a small bonus to the amount of XP gained, leading to slightly faster level-ups.
  • The Driller, everyone’s favorite war crime class, prefers to stick close to the action and afflict enemies with damage over time effects. A larger-than-average HP pool helps him stay alive in such proximity to the bugs. As the name would imply, Drillers can mine through rock and valuable minerals the fastest thanks to their sizeable mining speed buff.

Progression Systems In DRG: Survivor

During a run, after collecting enough XP to level up you’ll be presented with a choice of three random upgrades. These are generic upgrades that improve the stats of your dwarf, equipped weapons, or an all-around buff to a certain attribute (such as +15% damage dealt by electricity).

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor beginner's guide of progression
A randomized selection of upgrades will be offered on level-up.

These upgrades come in varying rarities, starting from common which are the weakest, and then going all the way to the much coveted legendary variants. In the player’s case, these would be upgrades such as crit chance/damage, move speed, health, armor, and so on.

Weapon upgrades on the other hand will buff some basic stat such as reload or fire rate. Weapon upgrades are the interesting part as each upgrade increases the level of the gun by 1. At levels 6, 12, and 18 your weapon will receive a choice of two random Overclocks.

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor First Impression Overclocks
Some minigun Overclocks.

Overclocks are the highlight of the upgrade system as they bring massive changes to the weapons stats and sometimes change the weapons function entirely. For instance, one of the Overclocks for the Engineers turrets grants them the ability to move via a small set of tank treads, allowing them to follow you into battle.

Another interesting feature are weapon “Paintjobs”, upgrades that don’t buff the weapon in any way but grant several weapon levels when selected. This sacrifices the performance benefit of taking an actual upgrade to get to the overclock faster.

During a run, you’ll also collect Gold and a Cherry red mineral called Nitra. Gold and Nitra are used in a shop between levels to buy player and weapon upgrades respectively. Gold is also used in the shop to heal yourself. Additionally, a small price in gold can be paid to reroll the shop’s inventory or even the upgrades you get during a level-up

The Shop in Survivor

As you’ve probably guessed these upgrades and resources are temporary, only being used during a run. Subsequent runs will see you start from scratch all over again as expected. That being said, the caves hold many more ores than just Gold and Nitra.

These are upgrade materials such as Bismor or Croppa, for instance. They have no impact during a run, but once a run is over you can spend them on permanent upgrades for your dwarves. These upgrades are mostly stat increases such as extra HP or more damage and they constitute Deep Rock Galactic: Survivors meta-progression system. So, as with most games in this genre, you will slowly become more powerful with every run.

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor meta-progression
Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor meta-progression.

Finally, you’ll have to unlock the rest of the classes (at first only the scout is available) and biomes and their difficulty levels. This is done by performing simple challenges such as completing a run on a certain difficulty, getting a weapon to a certain level, mining a certain amount of resources, and so on. The game will tell you what you need to do. Additionally, weapons need to be leveled up to level 12 for them to gain access to their Overclocks.

Core Mechanics

The core mechanics are standard fare for a game of this type and will be immediately recognizable to anyone who has played a survivor-like before. This includes enemies spawning off-screen, in ever-increasing numbers as the level goes on. Weapons will autofire at the enemy and the player has no direct control over them. Killing enemies drops experience that must be collected by walking close to them to level up, which as a mechanic is used to force the player out of their comfort zone and closer to the action.

So nothing fancy thus far. However, what makes Deep Rock Galactic interesting is the destructible terrain. We didn’t put much thought into this fact at first as digging dirt to get to the valuable minerals inside was such a natural fit for a game about being a dwarven miner.

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor digging mechanics first impression
Keeping distance while also funneling the swarm into a more manageable position.

However, it quickly became apparent that the bugs were not very bright. Their AI is a simple from A to B using the shortest path possible type of affair. This means that by digging out new tunnels We could manipulate the bugs to our advantage. For instance, forcing a swarm into tight spots where our AoE was most effective, or merging multiple smaller swarms into a larger one that`s easier to kite. Digging through rock will be used frequently to get out of dangerous scenarios.

The genius thing is that as you’re cutting paths through the rock you’re also creating new tunnels for bugs to spawn in and move through. So as you change the shape of the terrain you’re also changing the way bugs move through it. The final result is that you have to adapt to the new scenarios on the fly. This need to make decisions is what stops the game from being a brain-dead shooter. Digging is far slower than running (usually) so there’s an element of risk to it.

Resources take a decent amount of effort to carve out of the rock which in combination with the ever-pursuing bugs means you often have to put yourself at risk to get your reward. It’s quite fascinating how something so simple can contribute so much to a game.

Tips and tricks

Now that We’ve got the mechanics of Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor out of the way, We get to the actual tips and tricks section of our beginner guide.

Time to mine! – The start of a level, especially on lower hazards is the perfect time to go out, mine, complete objectives, and get acquainted with your surroundings. Mining valuable ores will award a small amount of XP which is enough to keep you going up the power curve at the start before the bugs start to spawn in bulk. And on higher levels, where the amount of XP required for a level-up can be quite high, mining can get you a few upgrades relatively fast..if you can make it to the end. Both gold and Nitra are valuable, so if you have to choose which one to grab, remember that Nitra always nets you weapon upgrades in the shop, while the gold is used for just about everything else. Choose accordingly.

Bird’s eye view – Pay attention to the minimap. At a glance, it can feed you a considerable amount of information but it often gets ignored. The edges of the level are presented as a yellow line: good for not getting yourself cornered. It will show you the layout of the terrain if you need to formulate an escape route or large open spaces where you can kite bugs easily. The supply pod will create a pulse on the minimap to aid you in locating it. Collectibles are lone white dots outside of the terrain. It will even show the egg locations on the final stage and magnet powerups.

Overclocks I – Get your new shiny weapons to level 12 as soon as you can so you can unlock their Overclocks. With so many weapons in the game this honestly just felt like padding. To the point where some players go hug a praetorian as soon as they’ve leveled up a weapon. We don’t blame them as the difference in power level between a gun with Overclocks and one without them is Night and Day.

Overclocks II – Prioritize getting your main weapon to their Overclocks. As We’ve already said multiple times, Overclocks are some of the most powerful upgrades you can put on a weapon. They can change firing modes, compensate for an inherent weakness of a weapon, or make it synergize better with some other aspect of the build. Because of this some of the stronger ones can quite literally double the power of the gun they’re attached to. The final overclock is usually the most powerful one..but it’s unlocked the last, at level 18. The point is, that you want to prioritize giving upgrades to the guns that make your build work. Having the one gun that carries the build maxed, is often a better option than having several of them with just one Overclock.


The bugs are about to have a bad time.

Plan Ahead – Have a goal or build in mind as you begin a run. Pick weapons with similar attributes..such as fire modes or damage type. Having weapons with matching attributes will cause the game to start dropping upgrades that benefit only that attribute. For instance, if you equip two weapons with the Heavy attribute on the Gunner, chances are you’ll see upgrades that give buffs only to Heavy weapons. These upgrades are often weaker than a single upgrade for a certain weapon..but they can potentially affect up to four of your weapons at once.

Resupply I – Unlock the Artefacts as well. Their usefulness varies on build, and some of them aren’t anything special. But getting a good one can change the tide of a run. One in particular, awarded for mining a certain amount of Nitra will grant you a 0.5% crit chance buff for every 1 unit of Nitra in your inventory. That being said, some of the unlock requirements can be quite bizarre.

One such will have you dodge an attack 100 times during a run. We’d recommend picking up a Recon Scout for its 30% dodge chance and then standing on fire patches in the Magma core on hazard one. Fire patches deal a set low amount of damage, and since the Scout can dodge the laws of thermodynamics this is a nice way to get the unlock and the achievement. Another one requires taking an absurd amount of damage during a run. With this one, We recommend taking the Juggernaut Gunner for his high armor and damage buff on hit and then hugging every single bug you can find. Stacking HP, grabbing health crystals, and healing in the shop along the way.

Resupply II – On that note. Make sure to grab the artifact from the Resupply pods whenever you can. The resupply pod can also be used as a weapon. It can outright instakil most elite enemies if you lack the firepower to do so. And it will deal considerable damage to the dreadnought, even. It does require some good timing though.


A full DoT build on an interrogator Driller.

Stick around – If you have sufficient DPS to quickly kill the elite enemy at the end of the stage, leave it alive for a bit longer. Use this opportunity to farm XP instead. Time is not on your side here as the bugs will start getting more lethal, so be careful not to overstay your welcome.

Not so fast, miner – A similar story repeats itself with the end-of-level drop pod. Again, instead of making a B-line for the exit, stay around it for a bit and farm some XP. It’s not much, but every bit helps. Use the minimap to see if the terrain is blocking the pod.

Time it right I – The +Luck upgrades increase the chance of getting higher-quality upgrades. Keep in mind that they provide more value the earlier in the run you get them. Level one and two in particular. Similar story with the +XP% upgrades.

Time it right II – Depending on the situation, you might want to save the Magnet power-up for later, especially if it drops early in a level. Simply leave it be, kill bugs, and when the level draws to a close collect it to get all the XP still lying around.

Worst enemy, best friend – We’re talking about the Glyphid Exploders of course. Their explosions will damage just about anything, bugs, and terrain included. Getting too close to them will trigger an explosion, but this isn’t an instant process so you have a split second to retreat to safety. Learn to trigger these explosions reliably and this bug can do a considerable amount of damage to the swarm. Sometimes their explosions can even be used to mine resources for you.

I also like to live dangerously – Take risks, don’t be afraid to take damage if it can make you more powerful. Its the nature of the game. Every action carries with it a risk of injury, but also a chance for a bit more power. If one bite is what stands between you and a ton of XP lying on the ground…do it, make KARL proud. If you’re running away from 1000bugs, mine while you do so. You get the point.

A need for (mining) speed. – Mining Speed and Movement Speed are second only to damage in terms of value. Being able to put one foot in front of the other quicker is obviously great for running away from the swarm but since this game is more objective-focused than the average survivor-like it’s so much more. It will get you to your objectives faster, cross the map more quickly, manage the swarm easier and dodge attacks better.

That`s more time spent getting powerful and less running. And in combat, it means less damage and more survivability. The same goes for mining speed. It`s incredible just how much more difference 10% extra mining speed/run speed makes in this game. In the game meta progression, this would be the most valuable pick in our opinion, and as such We highly recommend grabbing those upgrades as soon as possible.

Our Concerns Going Forward

Glyphid Dreadnought
The Gunner, getting the job done.

While most of what we’ve seen thus far has been quite positive in our Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor beginner’s guide, there are a few things that could stand to be better in our opinion.

First of all, it’s worth noting that the game just entered Early Access, so many of its aspects can and probably will change as the developers add new content and rebalance the existing one. That being said:

Weapon upgrades can feel bland some of the time. For the record, they do a good job, and every upgrade makes a noticeable impact on your weapon. However, as a large chunk of those are simple buffs to reload, damage, and fire rate it’s somewhat difficult to get excited over them.

Overclocks carry the weapon upgrade system as they’re what introduces some much-welcome variety to a run. The Gunners Leadstorm minigun has overclocks that let it shoot fire at the enemy. Another will let its shots penetrate through multiple targets. Combine both and your gun is now also a hybrid flamethrower that deals both heavy damage to big targets while crowd-clearing the swarm behind it.

That being said, many of the overclocks also suffer the same problem where they just shuffle around stats. We hope that going forward the game will introduce more upgrades that shake things up or allow the weapon to synergize better with the rest of the gear.

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor Driller in action
The Driller in action.

A similar thing can be said to a degree about the game’s meta progression. Again, much like with the weapon upgrades, it will get the job done, and the permanent buff to player stats will eventually make you significantly more powerful.

But again, they lack creativity and simply buff basic attributes such as health, damage, mining speed, etc. Uninspired would probably be the most fitting descriptor. This is a shame as in games of this type there’s a lot of room for creativity.

Maybe a chance for an overclock at a lower level, more opportunities to get resources, performing certain actions having a chance for an XP boost, and so on. But at the time of writing, that`s just wishful thinking. Hopefully, with time, the devs will add some more interesting options to the game.

One final, and minor, gripe would be having to get a weapon to level 12 before its overclocks can be unlocked. An argument can be put forth that this forces players to learn the weapon before they overclock it, but to use it just felt like unnecessary padding to make it look like there are more things to do.

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor Beginner’s Guide Final Thoughts

Despite our misgivings, our impressions and the whole experience of Deep Rock Galactic: Survivors remain a positive one. As fans of the original game, we feared that this would end up being a generic autoshooter with a coat of Deep Rock Galactic paint slapped over it. However, the mining mechanic and the weapon overclock system showed us that the developers took this project seriously. There’s still much to be done, and there are certainly bumps to be ironed out, especially in terms of upgrade variety and difficulty scaling.

Still, as it stands, We find that the quality on display, not to mention the amount of fun We’ve had playing it these past two days, is certainly enough to justify its price tag. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for this one, and we recommend fans of survivor-likes to do the same. Hopefully, our beginner’s guide of Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor will prove a useful tool in your upcoming adventures. Rock and Stone, survivor.

Image credit: Ghost Ship Publishing

Interested in more Deep Rock Galactic guides, check out our DRG Perk Tier List!


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