So far, 2015 has been rather hit-or-miss with its gaming line-up. It’s not a huge trainwreck like it was last year, but for every good and well received game, two other games would come up and be underwhelming or terrible. I think one of the weirder cases for me this year was Toren, an ICO-style game that had a lot of promising elements, but was clunky in areas like the graphical presentation. However, I didn’t feel like that two-hour game was a waste of my time. It took me on an experience is sorely missed on big budget gaming. Unless you count Team ICO and the upcoming release of The Last Guardian, the downloadable scene is the only place where you are going to find these experiences. What’s even weirder is that I feel the same way about the game for today’s review that I did about Toren. Submerged was developed by Uppercut Games, and is quite an experience in terms of gaming. It has its flaws, but I will say that this was one of the more interesting and entertaining journeys through the indie scene that I have had in 2015.
The game takes place in a world that has been flooded. You play as a girl who left her home with her younger brother, who was injured by her father. As they stop in this sunken city, it is your goal as the girl to find the right items to heal your brother. Not only that, but you are apparently being watched by unknown beings. During your time with the game’s story, you will find out what exactly happened, and learn about the world around you. It’s rather depressing, and definitely one of the sadder worlds and stories from gaming this year. I do have my problems with the story’s ending sequence, but we will get to that in due time. One of the more unique elements is that there is really no script or lines. It’s totally silent. It goes for a more show-don’t-tell style story.
Submerged is all about exploring the sunken city around you on your boat, and platforming your way on tall buildings to get to each supply crate to find something your brother needs. Outside of the main goal, you can collect engine parts that you can use for a boost to get around the map more quickly. You can also find and collect pictures that help expand on the backstory of the game. If you are just going for the essential items, you will beat this game in about two hours. After you beat the main story, you can go around and get all of the collectables you might have missed. There really isn’t a whole lot to this game, which is more about the player experiencing the journey.
Graphically, I like the look of the game. Sure, the humans look a little weird, and it can have some minor graphical issues, but I love the world you are put in. You instantly get sucked in once you see a large whale for the first time, or watch as dolphins cruise by your boat. It’s quite enthralling to be in this world. The piano score that plays throughout the game is beautiful. It’s very somber, and I have, on a couple of occasions, climbed to the top of the largest structure to look at the world around me just to listen to the music.
Sadly, there are some problems. The first issue comes with the story. I respect that the developers wanted to do a story where they showed you visually what was going on instead of telling you, but I would have liked more attention put into the story. After the first one or two days, you realize these human-like beings are watching you. At the end of the game, you encounter them, and there is really no backstory about who they are or how they got there. They just show up, do something good, and then you leave without knowing anything about them. Why have them if you are not going to give them any backstory? This is where showing more, or at least telling us with images what these guys are, would have made the story much more engrossing. Since we are talking about the story, I felt like the ending was rushed. All throughout the game, the main character will get this infection that covers her body, but at the end, the white human-like beings take it away from her. She then leaves with her now-healed brother back to their home. It literally ends with them leaving the city. No ending credits to show what happened afterwards or anything. It doesn’t feel satisfying, since you also don’t get an explanation about how the girl was getting infected, or any closure with the daughter and son getting back with their dad, or finding a new home altogether. I also found the mission variety a little repetitive. All you do is explore, find a tall structure you need to climb to find a specific item, and then repeat. It’s cool that there is a day and night cycle, but it doesn’t change anything in the game. I wish there was more to do in the game, and variety in the mission types. I wouldn’t want it to be a straight-up survival game where you can die in one hit, or have to worry about food and thirst, but maybe having more variety in its platforming, and some missions that require you to visit other villages that are above the water. Maybe have time to be with the white humanoid-like beings and learn about them. That would have been kind of cool.
Even with those major issues, I still found myself enjoying Submerged. It has its issues, but I found myself enjoying it as much as I did with Toren. It’s creative, if a bit flawed, but you get the passion from the product at hand. I would rather play Submerged than Godzilla, Evolve, and Yasai Ninja anyday. You can get this game on the PC or PlayStation 4. Again, if you are into experiences like ICO, Toren, or the upcoming Rime, then you will probably like this game. There is no problem however, if you want to wait for the games to go on sale.
This game gets a 6 out of 10.