Despite only debuting a few months ago, it feels like forever since I've played any of Ghost Ship Games' co-op space-dwarf mine n' shooter Deep Rock Galactic. While I've been absent, the developers certainly haven't, as its 14th major update just rolled out. Jokingly named Feature Creep, this new version adds new environment variety, enemy types, gameplay features and - most importantly - accurately modelled beard physics for your dwarven mining crew. The developers also reckon this is a great point for new players to start out.
Probably the most immediately important new feature in this update is a new type of operation - Salvage - with your objective being the repair of three damaged mini-mule robots, plus their drop pod. Unlike the more technical mining missions, these are almost pure defensive combat. Find the target, secure, patch it up while waves of enemies attack. Defence is a little harder with a new kind of enemy, the Grabber - a large flying bug that likes to pick up dwarves and drop them onto rocks from a great height.
Mine environments have gotten increasingly varied and complex since launch, with more distinct environments and biomes, some of which are now populated with appropriate hazards and gimmicks. Volcanic areas have magma-rock floors, sandy planets can have sandstorms blow through larger tunnels, and there are some harmless mineral-grazing aliens that you can shoot to harvest their contents, or hop on the back of because.. why not? There's also a mountain of balance tweaks and bug-fixes, which you can see in the full patch notes here.
Most importantly of all though, your dwarves' long and lustrous beards are no longer as inert as the stone you're mining through. The longer, the floppier (ooerr), so now there's even more reason to spend some of your hard-earned money on beard upgrades. And yes, that really is a thing in the game. While Deep Rock Galactic hasn't been drawing quite as large a crowd as I was hoping, it's absolutely worth a try. While ideal for co-op, you can also play solo with a robot buddy, and master spelunker Alex was so enamoured by its use of darkness that he gushed about it here.