There’s an abundance of games these days set in a post apocalyptic Earth, the player struggling to survive through the after effects of a disaster that has brought humanity to a halt. We’ve seen some absolutely fantastic releases but we’ve also seen some titles that haven’t quite hit the mark. Submerged, the latest release from indie developers Uppercut Games, follows on the theme of a post apocalyptic world with it’s setting in a flooded city – is the game actually any good or is it a bit of a disaster in itself?
The game casts you in the role of Miku, a young girl who arrives at the flooded city alongside her injured brother with nothing but their fishing boat. Her brother is in a bad way and you’re set with the task of nurturing him to back to health. From there on the game tasks you with finding supply crates to treat your brother’s wounds and make sure that his well being is assured.
The story of the siblings is told through simple drawings – every time you progress the game rewarding you with an extra four illustrations that tell their tragic tale. It’s unfortunate that this is the only way the story is told – you’re left starting the game with no real back story of how they got into the situation they are in, or how exactly the world ended up in this state. There are collectibles to be found which again offer simple illustrations that tell the story of what happened to the world, but without any text or real context from the get go you’ll find yourself struggling to empathise with the characters and the desolate world they find themselves in.
As you progress through the story there’ll be encounters with mysterious, mutated figures that play a bigger role towards the latter half of the game. Again though, a lack of back bone to the narrative means the mystery behind them never really gets fully explained, the ending feeling slightly lacklustre and leaving you feeling almost despondent that you never really learn what is going on. It’s a shame really – whilst I’m a fan of a subdued approach to a story I feel Submerged could’ve benefited from a more fleshed out narrative just to immerse the player that bit more.
Whilst Submerged is lacking with it’s story it really manages to shine with it’s graphics. The drowned world looks fantastic; the derelict buildings engulfed in plants, birds and insects – it really brings the world to life. Skyscrapers tower over you and with plenty of landmarks to discover the game really manages to make you feel like you’re exploring the remains of a flooded world.
With tiny details like dolphins swimming alongside you, the wind blowing through the vines you climb or even the thunderstorms you encounter as you’re scaling a huge crane, Submerged has fantastic visual effects that really set the atmosphere alive for the game.
There are a few minor gripes that I had with the graphics – I did encounter quite a bit of pop-in within some locations and in certain cases I found that some textures on the buildings were drab. These are small issues though and nothing that really takes anything away from the good job that Uppercut games have done aesthetically.
Another area where Submerged shines is through the soundtrack. There’s a mixture of some pleasant tunes as you explore the submerged city that offer you the feeling of hope, but also a lot of melancholic tunes that really emphasise the mixed emotions of the game. It’s all effective to set the tone of the game and it’s another area in which the game really shines. I did encounter one oddity where a piece of music seemed to end and I was left with no music for awhile. Eventually the background music did start again, but it was odd. There was also the case that there wasn’t quite enough variety – despite their high quality it was disappointing that it was the same music pieces over and over.
Sound effects are a mixed bag in the game – whilst the noise of seagulls and the wind really adds to the ambience of the game there were times (in particular during cutscenes) that I felt that there was a clear lack of sound. It didn’t really worsen the game in any way or take away from my experience; it just seemed odd that some actions were met with no sound.
The core gameplay of Submerged has you exploring the city by boat, using your telescope to examine the remaining rooftops of the cities looking for any supply drops to help you. From there you approach the buildings and start to climb their walls, very similar to how you scale buildings in Assassin’s Creed, to get to the supply drop and find any collectibles along the way. There is no combat in the game, so the discovery and collection is how you’ll be spending your time playing the game.
Fortunately it is enjoyable seeking out these supplies. The buildings are well designed so it wasn’t a chore to scale them; with collectibles on the way it actually has you looking out for any hidden areas to climb. It was a bit of a mixed bag though – some buildings were more enjoyable to climb than others, while some seemed to almost have a fixed, linear path from start to finish.
Once you eventually reach the supply the game will automatically take you back to your brother, the game offering a short cutscene and then tasking you with reaching the next supply drop. Even though you’re constantly doing the same thing gameplay never seemed to become monotonous – the vibe of the game world keeps you engaged, and the allure (though lack of eventually) of discovering the mysteries of the city does keep you hooked. The city is a fair size too – large enough to seem like a grand city, but not so large that it looks empty and boring. There seems to be a bit of life to it, despite the actual physical lack of life and it’s sense of isolation.
Submerged also offers a set of collectibles to discover; there’s landmarks, creatures and the previously mentioned little mementos that tell more of the city’s story. There’s also boats hidden throughout the vast waters, each one offering you a power up to help you boost the speed of your boat. You can find a lot of these things by luck, or they’ll get marked off on your map if you manage to find them using your telescope.
Unfortunately the run time of the game does come in slightly short – I found myself finishing the game in two hours and that was after discovering all of the landmarks, finding over half of the city story collectibles and missing just one of the creature discoveries. I’d also uncovered a lot of the boat power ups. Whilst two hours was enough to play and enjoy the game it may be a bit of a deterrent to anyone who seeks a bit more bang for their buck.
There were a lot of things lacking from Submerged, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game by any means. The story could’ve been a lot more fleshed out, sometimes the sound seemed to be missing and the short running time could put a lot of people off purchasing.
Despite these flaws though, Uppercut Games have managed to deliver an enjoyable experience for all. At times the graphics are up there with any AAA release, the music is fantastic and the feeling of discovery with the gameplay is grand.
It lacks the polish of some of the games that it seemed to be inspired by (Assassin’s Creed, Ico) but that doesn’t stop it being a good game in its own right. With a bit more fleshing out to the story and the running time of the game, we could have had a real classic on our hands.
– Graphics are great
– Music really sets the tone for the game
– A lot of discoveries to be made on your adventure
– Narrative is lacking
– Sound effects seem to be missing in some cutscenes
– Short running time
Format Reviewed: Xbox One