Most modern video games seem to have forgotten subtlety and shove the story directly into your face. While some games can be straightforward and still create a fantastic storytelling experience, the enjoyment and reward for the player reading between the lines and piecing the details together themselves seems all but lost. Luckily a few titles release every now and then that still allow for a bit of investigation to unlock the full story. Submerged is one of these titles.
You take up the role of Miku, a young girl alone with her injured brother on a small motorboat. You arrive in the ruins of what used to be a great city that is now drowned in the ocean and slowly decaying to nature itself. After securing a small camp in the heart of the city, you venture out into the unknown looking for medical supplies to help aid your brother.
You’ll soon notice small supply drops littered around the city, presumably from before or during whatever event caused the collapse of society. Miku will have to climb, jump and sail to the various ruins searching for each supply drop. After collecting a drop you return to your brother whose condition dips and rises throughout your adventure. As I played, I found myself searching every place I came across, however, I soon realized this would end up taking much too long. Luckily the telescope you are given helps spot caches hidden around the world. That being said, it is a bit finicky. At times, the game would mark items well out of my line of sight and fail to mark items within jumping distance. Overall, the marking system is helpful in finding items, despite a few hiccups.
Miku is as skilled at climbing as Nathan Drake. She can scale ledges, ivy and other various obstacles as if it were nothing. The bulk of the game is climbing the ruins and it, much like Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed, feels more about how fast you can scale the buildings, rather than if you’re actually able to in the first place. The climbing mechanics work well enough, but it feels like more of the chore you must complete in order to get the reward at the top; be it the view or the medical supplies. This can become a bit repetitive as you’ll repeat this ‘mission’ around nine times before the game ends. But if you take in all the views and exploration, you’ll feel engrossed rather than bored.
While the game hints at the idea of urgency, you are not given any sort of time limit to retrieve the supplies for your brother. This can be taken as a good or bad thing. It allows for loads of exploration and freedom, but at the same time it somewhat defeats the drive of the story. While the story is there, it’s told through very minimalistic drawings you collect after certain accomplishments which help to piece together just what happened to the world and how you and your brother ended up here alone. The game’s story is as told as you want it to be. If you just want to collect the needed items and finish the game, you can. But if you wish to delve a bit deeper and get a good understanding of what happened, the clues are there for you to put together.
While the game’s story is somewhat basic and the gameplay itself not the shining star, what is the best part of the title is the exploration. Wondering around an all but forgotten city feels extremely isolating, and the fantastic musical score composed by Jeff Van Dyck only enhances this feeling. It’s a rare thing to feel truly alone in a video game, but Submerged nails it. If you sit back and take in the atmosphere, it’s a great and colourful change to the usual grim, dark, post-apocalypse worlds we seen in most other video games.
The visuals are beautiful. Vistas of the city mix with the changing time and weather, and always make for a pleasing view. I found myself drifting around with my trusty motorboat, whale watching at sunset and climbing towers at dawn. While the game isn’t up to par with most AAA titles, it still looks gorgeous once you get past the few muddy textures here and there. Sadly the animations do stand out as a bit underwhelming and feel fitting for a budget downloadable title.
In the end, Submerged is a title for players looking for a new take on the apocalypse. Colourful and mysterious, the game takes a basic story with basic gameplay and leaves the enjoyment of the game up to the player. If you are looking for a fast-paced, in your face title, move on. If you’re up for a visually interesting and fresh experience, then give Submerged a go.