Is it possible to make a fun game around a core boring mechanic?
Genre: Roguelite, Exploration
Release date: 18 May, 2021
Galactic Mining Corp is a collectathon game where you explore multiple sectors of a galaxy in search for minable objects. Once you discover them, you can land on them (usually they are big asteroids or moons) and start digging to reach their cores and collect them. Digging is done through a drillship that also takes damage while piercing through the harder layers of ground, so you’ll have to find the safest path to the core. Oh, and in the meanwhile you also have to manage a Galactic Mining Corporation!
Managing a GMC Takes a Lot of Work
The main goal of GMC is, putting it simply, to upgrade every single aspect of your corporation. Being a collectathon game at its core, basically everything in GMC is upgradable, given that you have a certain amount of the required resource. Upgrading your HQ allows you to have more rooms, but it requires corporation experience. More rooms let you acquire more workforce, which must also get unlocked by completing special contracts in the exploration panel. Then, the single workers can be upgraded when they gather enough experience, making everything an endless levelling. This levelling brings, above all, increased stats for your drill, which allows it to drill faster and for longer in the harsh environments of the different big space rocks.
While the game features many different resources (including every tile that you dig, but more on this later), the most important is hands down the cores you will find at the center of the different space rocks you will dig. The core will allow you to unlock increased stats and, most importantly, new galactic sectors and increased size for your HQ. Along with cores, we can unlock new rooms using the research function of our corporation, which allows us to transform an accumulated resource type into progress to the next new room.
Dig, Die, Repeat
We reach now the main loop of the game on which everything is built around. Every upgrade you build on your HQ, every character you upgrade and (almost) every research you make is aimed at improving your performances in the digging sessions of the game. Digging start when you discover a minable space object in the exploration panel. This panel is divided into many tiles which can be destroyed, for a gold fee, allowing you to see if something is under them. I strongly believe exploration is something the developers could have improved the game mechanics a little, maybe introducing a ship movement range that could’ve been improved with upgrades, instead of a gold threshold to reach to “explore” a tile that could have nothing behind it.
After exploring the sector a little bit, you’ll surely find a space object you can land on and start digging. Once you do, you will quickly see of the core aspect of the game is, simply put, too shallow and repetitive, especially for the main loop of the game. Digging involves a planet map divided into many different little tiles you can dig with your drillship. Every tile has a gold value, which is the gold you’ll earn when destroying it, and a resistance value which represents how long will it take to destroy that tile. The more resistant the tile, the more hp your drillship will lose when digging that tile. It is thus important to find the safest path to the core without digging through particularly resistant materials. Every planet will also have some special boon tiles which will allow you to trigger different effects, like healing your ship, extending your vision range for a few seconds or increasing the gold earned at the end of the mission.
The problem is that digging through tons of different tiles just is fun enough. It would be ok for a side minigame inside a bigger and more complex gameplay, but this is literally the main activity of GMC. Click, watch your ship destroy the tile, repeat until your ship loses all hp. The special boon tiles and monsters that inhabit the depths of the different space objects try to create some differentiation, but quickly become boring after seeing them a bunch of time in different planets.
Initially I feared that I wasn’t understanding the game properly, but after a good amount of hours I can definitely say that I made my mind about Galactic Mining Corp: I would definitely enjoy the tons of different upgrades and long game replayability IF the game’s main gameplay loop was an enjoyable experience. But it just isn’t. It feels to me that more effort was put into making the game longer through the many upgrade mechanics, than into the core gameplay and what it has to offer. A real shame, especially considering that the title offers good art and, again, great longevity.