Note – Diluvion’s developers have released an update for the game ahead of launch that has addressed a few issues we had (improved navigation, more checkpoints, etc.) – you can check out the list of improvements here.
In Diluvion the deep oceans span the entirety of the world thanks to a catastrophic flood that was caused by the Gods in order to put the arrogant and destructive human race back in their place. Centuries have passed since then and mankind have found some way to survive in the depths of the sea. They haven’t given up on the prospect of living across land once again though, so as a submarine captain you head out to explore the watery remains of Earth and try to uncover the grand ‘secret’ that might bring humanity some salvation.
You navigate your submarine by switching between a set of different movement speeds, something which I (perhaps stupidly) found a little difficult to grasp to begin with. Despite following the in-game tutorials, I found myself constantly looking for an ‘accelerate’ button. It’s not been my proudest moment in gaming, but it’s something that felt like instinct to begin with. Controlling the submarine is then assigned to the left stick where you’re able to turn directionally and also move your submarine up and down. It took awhile to get used to, though it’s probably down to my inexperience with the genre. Thankfully after the first hour with the game navigation became a breeze and actually zipping through the sea in the submarine was an enjoyable endeavour.
That being said, I did have beef with the game’s camera angle. For some reason the developers have opted for a camera angle that faces towards the side of your submarine – whilst it certainly looks more cinematic in-game, it could make navigation awkward when working through tight areas or whilst in an underwater dogfight. It’s a slightly unconventional approach and could make things difficult to begin with, though much like the controls it’s something you get used to the more you play the game.
Diluvion’s combat is surprisingly fast paced and intense – you’ll depend as much on your manoeuvrability skills as you do your shooting. You’ll be zipping around your enemies and blasting away at them with your cannons or blowing them to smithereens with your more powerful torpedoes. It has quite a simplistic approach to everything with shooting mostly boiling down to aiming and firing. Actually surviving in combat doesn’t just come down to out-muscling your opponents though and you’ll have to have fully grasped the game’s controls if you really want to live. You have to keep moving in order to evade enemy attacks or, more importantly, run away when things get a little sticky. Enemy showdowns are always fun encounters, but incredibly dangerous too – you’ve really got to pick your battles if you want to succeed.
There’s no denying that Diluvion is an incredibly tough game, something which is always apparent in the often daunting enemy encounters. It might be enough to put off causal players – if you’re hoping to succeed in the game you’re going to need some patience as you’ll meet your demise a lot along the way. There are some incredibly harsh difficulty spikes as you progress too, some of which simply can’t be avoided. Don’t go into Diluvion expecting an easy ride, because you’ll be in for a nasty shock.
A lot of Diluvion’s marketing has shone on it’s similarities to FTL, something which is demonstrated in the crew management system. Your submarine is split into four different sections (Helm, Gunner, Torpedo and Sonar) that you need to hire crew members to man. Each crew member has varying stats too, offering different boosts to each aspect of your ship in different ways. This boost is typically a fairly significant one, giving the whole crew system some significance when trying to survive the often deadly ocean. You recruit your crew from a variety of different seedy locations as you progress through the game, so you’re able to constantly shuffle them around if you need to improve the quality of your team or simply replace a fallen comrade.
The whole thing works quite well and adds an almost human presence to your submarine. You can constantly swap them around whilst out exploring too, so if you feel like you’re lacking in one area you can rectify it quite easily. The only real complaint I’d have is that they feel a little more like stats than actual crew members – there wasn’t always a whole lot of personality to be found to them behind their name and face.
Besides improving your crew, you’re also able to upgrade your submarine as well as purchase new ones. You begin the game with the choice of three simple submarines that offer different stats that might compliment different players’ play styles, though it won’t take long in the game for you to feel a sense of inadequacy when up against some of the tougher foes (that come in the shape of enemy submarines as well as malicious sea monsters). You can invest in new upgrades and weaponry, but I preferred the satisfaction offered by a whole new submarine. The more specialist bulking submarines have more significant improvements and actually offer a better sense of progression.
Of course, being able to actually afford these upgrades and new submarines requires you to actually seek out treasures in-game. Whilst completing missions and defeating enemies have their rewards, simply searching the sea to uncover treasure will help improve your riches too. Diluvion offers a real sense of freedom with exploration – whilst there are golden fish that essentially lead you to each objective, you’re always able to steer off the beaten path and discover things yourself. This has its risks, but uncovering something new or finding some decent loot is such a gratifying feeling that it’s always worthwhile.
The freedom to explore the open seas does have its downsides though, especially when you aren’t quite sure where you need to go. There were plenty of occasions where I’d get completely lost – whilst the game tries to give you some sense of direction, finding where exactly you need to go isn’t always that simple. There is a decent map to use and the compass on offer is huge, but even they aren’t always useful when you simply don’t know where something is. It keeps things realistic in a sense (you are an explorer after all), but it could be frustrating when you didn’t know what dangers were lurking around. Sometimes I simply wanted to complete an objective, so stumbling into the path of a ferocious sea beast instead would just annoy me.
For years and years I never took a great interest in games that took place underwater. I never really found anything all that alluring about the locale – it just always felt overwhelmingly blue. Bioshock changed that though and since then I’ve got a new found affection for underwater paradises. Of course, calling the world of Diluvion an underwater paradise might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s still a fantastic place to explore thanks to the fact that there are so many drowned remnants of human civilization for you to uncover. Seeing a world that has been submerged in water as opposed to one built for it is always interesting, especially when you see the corrosive effect the waters have had on the world.
Diluvion’s world is divided into three different sections that you’ll work through as you progress in the game. Each of these sections has their own distinct vibe to them and you’ll always feel like you’re seeing something new. Some of the locales you’ll uncover will leave you in awe, especially with the bright vibrant colours they bring that light up the often lifeless sea. That being said, for every fantastic sight you see in Diluvion there’s normally a long and empty trek in between – these are wide open seas you’re exploring, and wide open seas bring with them vast empty areas. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect from a game like this, but it’s also the sort of thing that can leave you feeling a little bored when simply trying to work from point A to B.
I found that Diluvion was a game I needed to warm to – my initial impression wasn’t a particularly good one, but after a few hours of blasting away through the expansive seas I started to find a lot I liked about it. There was a real sense of satisfaction to be found from venturing through the watery remains of Earth and whilst it definitely offered plenty of moments of frustration, it managed to keep me intrigued in what was going on thanks to its interesting exploration mechanics and the sense of discovery they offered. The nasty difficulty spikes and barren treks through the sea certainly won’t be for everyone, but if you stick with Diluvion you’ll certainly find some enjoyment.
Developer: Arachnid Games
Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
Release Date: 02/02/2017
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), Mac