Developer: Uppercut Games
Publisher: Uppercut Games
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Version Reviewed)
Release Date: August 4th (PC, PS4) , August 7th (Xbox One)
I’ve always found video games to be anything but relaxing. Whether its a tough single player campaign or a competitive multiplayer battle, I’m always on the edge of my seat, striving to do my very best. Even Minecraft has the ability to get my pulse racing when I’m faced with a bombardment of enemies trying to take away my precious items. Submerged doesn’t let any of these feelings begin to manifest themselves, because there’s no way to fail. There’s no enemies, no timed challenges, and no pesky ledges to fall off. We’re provided with a city which appears to be doomed, a boat, and a selection of buildings to explore. Does this translate into an entertaining game? Well…sort of.
From the outset you’re introduced to Miku, a young girl who arrives to a mysterious flooded city with her wounded brother. As Miku, you’re tasked with exploring the city and collecting 10 boxes which contain supplies ranging from first aid to food, in order to heal your brother. These boxes are scattered across the various rooftops around the city, and with a small fishing boat at your disposal, you set off on your journey. You’re given a map and a viewfinder to aid you in your quest, which help to pinpoint the locations that you need to visit.
Navigating the watery world in Submerged is relatively simple, with the trigger buttons controlling the boat’s acceleration on Xbox One. The boat’s movement feels natural and it’s easy to control, and the addition of a boost (which can be upgraded) is a nice touch. When you’ve docked your boat, the game’s climbing mechanics feel fairly reminiscent of those from the Assassins Creed or Prince Of Persia series, albeit much more basic, and without the fear of failure. Each supply crate is usually located in the tallest, furthest location away from your docking point as possible, and there’s plenty of ledges to climb, ladders to scale and poles to slide down in order to reach them.
The game tries to confuse you at times as to where you need to go, but anyone who’s fairly experienced with games that include a climbing section will struggle to find any difficulty in these “puzzles.” Navigating buildings is accomplished via the analogue stick, and it works just fine, but it starts to feel a bit monotonous after a while. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s not much variation.
The game’s campaign is explained via a series of very short cutscenes, in addition to images of drawings which unlock after each box has been collected. Although the cutscenes are short and basic, it’s the unlockable drawings which really caught my interest. Each sequence of images begins to tell the story of how Miku and her brother ended up here, and more of them can be collected at various locations across the map, which reveal the city’s history. These images merge together to create an interesting tale, which sparked my imagination and left me wanting to learn more.
Each strategically placed obstacle feels like it’s guiding you towards the end goal, rather than making you work for it.
I completed the campaign in just over two hours, and you can go back and collect any additional items that you may have missed when you’re done. It appears as though Uppercut Games really want you to take your time and explore the city to get the most out of Submerged, but in all honesty there’s not that much to see. Sure, there’s a lot of buildings and landmarks across the map, but you can only interact with a specific number of them, and the rest just start to blend into each other.
That’s really where the game’s biggest problem lies. It’s an exploration game in which you rarely feel like there’s any need to explore. Although each structure has plenty of walls and ledges to climb and discover, each strategically placed obstacle feels like it’s guiding you towards the end goal, rather than making you work for it.
The added graphical effects in Submerged are generally impressive. At its best, the game presents you with a beautiful sight of the sun reflecting off the water as you cruise around in your boat, while a giant sea creature swims by. It looks spectacular and it’s a great example of what the Unreal Engine can produce when placed in the right hands. The graphical downsides come in the form of some odd looking textures in the game, especially when scaling a structure, and the frame rate takes a hit fairly regularly on Xbox One.
The soundtrack is a beautiful orchestral arrangement, which compliments the gameplay well and aids the relaxing tone of the game. There’s some basic sound effects for elements such as the boat’s engine, but there’s hardly any vocal work throughout, aside from a few rare spoken lines from Miku. Although the lack of vocals is a bit jarring, it actually adds to the mysterious tone of the game.
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Submerged holds your hand for its duration, and ensures you that no harm will befall your character. That scenario means that it alienates a large portion of the gaming audience, and it’s left with the requirement of excelling in other areas, which it only succeeds at to a certain degree. It’s the type of idea that has the ability to appeal to a wide range of people but struggles to reach its potential, mainly due to its small development team combined with its ambitious nature. As it is, Submerged is a game for a niche audience. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, and as someone who occasionally feels over-saturated with FPS shooters and rehashed ideas, Submerged was an interesting change of pace for a few hours, even if it wasn’t quite what I had envisioned.
A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.